Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Slivovice o Jirko?

Hi Everyone,
When I was reading through some expat blogs the other day, I came across this post from the DISPLACED NATION: Q: What is the Weirdest Multi-Cultural Celebration You’ve Ever Attended? This article is a great read—be sure to check it out. After reading the article, it got me to thinking. What was the weirdest celebration I’ve ever attended in the Czech Republic? A couple of memories came to mind (link to past posts). But there is one I’ve never told you about before: the first meeting with my in-laws-to-be. Now, that’s a good, funny story, though maybe not too weird.

First Visit to the Czech Republic

My very first visit to the Czech Republic was after Jiří and I became engaged in 2002. Jiří and I decided spring would be a good time for me to travel to the Czech Republic; Spring is a beautiful time of year—everything is blooming and growing. We also decided it was time for me to meet Jiří’s family and friends, along with me getting my first taste of what would later become my new home—the Czech Republic.

This was my third overseas trip—the first two were to Japan to visit Jiri while he lived and worked there. Thankfully, traveling to the Czech Republic wasn’t quite as traumatic as my first trip to Japan had been. I at least had a little bit of travel experience under my belt.My trip over to the Czech Republic was fairly easy that time, with planes on schedule, no bad weather or Icelandic volcanoes erupting.

I arrived to Prague tired, but safe and very happy to see my then fiancé, Jiří. He met me at the airport and what a joyous reunion we had. We stayed in Prague for a few days before going to Strakonice for my first meeting with Jiří’s mother. We were to spend the Easter holiday with Jiří’s mother and his family.

Meeting My Future In-Laws

After spending a day or two in Strakonice with Jiří’s mother and experiencing my first Easter beating with the pomlázka, we three traveled to where one of Jiří’s brother’s has a big house and a beautiful garden. The weather was pretty that year—not too hot and not too chilly. It was a perfect Easter to stay out in the family garden and talk and get to know one another. I was very nervous about this first meeting, as none of Jiri’s family spoke English. I wasn’t sure how things would go, or if I would be included in the family activities or not.

Introductions and Easter Dinner

Once all the introductions were finished--and there were many of these--we all sat down for a traditional Czech Easter dinner. We had the beranek (lamb-shaped cake), ham and other meats, along with so many side dishes I thought the table would collapse. As it was, the table was groaning with all that delicious Czech food.During our dinner, everyone was very nice to me and were asking questions about me, my kids, etc. Jiri did the translating back and forth, poor guy. He was a real trouper that day. During and after the dinner there were copious amounts of alcohol (which is also traditional for most Czech gatherings), though I didn't have too much to drink. I was grateful for that when we went outside to sit in the garden.

Fun and Games in the Garden

While we were in the garden, Jiri's sister wanted to get me involved with the family. My sister-in-law, Alena, is a wonderful person who just happens to be a real tease and funny. Alena stood up in the middle of the family gathering and motioned for me to stand up with her. Oh no, the fear ran through me...what was Alena planning to do?

I couldn't understand her too well and was afraid of making a fool of myself in front of Jiri's family on this first visit. Wanting to be a good sport, I stood up with Alena, in spite of my fear. We were standing in the middle of the family when Alena asked for some glasses. These were two small shot glasses that were about the size of a shot glass in the US. Along with the glasses, my brother-in-law brought out a pretty fancy, rounded bottle of some clear liquor. I had no idea what it was, but I figured that they were going to have some sport with me. I wasn't sure what form this sport was going to take.

Unidentified Clear Liquor

Alena filled both the glasses, to the brim, with this clear liquor. Then she proceeded to tilt her head back and chug down the entire contents of her glass. Alena then motioned for me to do the same. I was caught between a rock and a hard place in that moment. She expected me to down this unidentified liquor just as she had done.I wanted to make a good impression on my new Czech family-to-be, and wasn't sure how best to proceed. I decided it was best to follow the saying, "When in Rome..." I downed the liquor as Alena had done, and then started choking. That was embarrassing, but everyone clapped and cheered. They could see I wasn't a stick-in-the-mud American, and that I would adapt to Czech ways...at least in something!

Slivovice o Jirko?

After this first downing of the Slivovice, Alena proceeded to do another shot and I followed suit. It didn't take too long before I was having trouble standing. Come to find out, Slivovice is a hard alcohol typically made from plums. It's very good, though not many foreigners appreciate the taste. Back to the garden and Jiri's family, I was having trouble standing up and everyone was happy I was participating in this fun with Alena. Finally, just before our last shot together, Jiri's family began to ask me, "Jirko o Slivovice?" They were asking which one I wanted most--Jiri or Slivovice. I first answered Slivovice, but then added Jiri, too. My new Czech family was very happy, Jiri's mother said he was marrying the right girl, and I was from that time completely accepted into my Czech family. My brother-in-law to be then presented me with a huge new bottle of Slivovice. I still have this bottle at home in New Mexico.

Added Note

When I wrote this post yesterday, it didn't occur to me that some people just might take this event as more like some type of family hazing. I'm here to tell you this first meeting with my Czech family was not a hazing event at all. It was, indeed, a warm and fun gathering. You could say this Easter gathering with my new Czech family was more of a "let's see what the foreigner's made of" event.
This was my first introduction to my Czech family, and it was a fun, warm gathering. This was probably one of the strangest Easter celebrations I'd ever experienced (up to that point), but what fun we had.

From the beginning and over the years, my love for Jiri has surpassed my liking of Slivovice!

That's all for now! Have a great day!
God bless,
Sher :0)

(c) 2012 by Sher Vacik. All Rights Reserved.

1 comment:

Tony James Slater said...

Wow! I got pretty drunk this Easter, but not quite like that! I love the idea of the whole family getting involved - though I can't imagine my typical English mother being overjoyed at me drinking that many shots!
Na zdravi!!