I often do some Slovakia bashing, which could mainly be a sign that I’m becoming more and more Slovak myself. Nobody bashes Slovakia and Slovaks more than Slovaks themselves.
In the morning I wake up and ask myself how the hell I ended up here (why am I not in the United States???), but my experience hasn’t been entirely negative.
Two things come to mind.
I have the most amazing Slovak family. I can’t even label them ‘family in law’, they’re simply my family. If I would write with more details you’d think I’m making up characters that would fit well in a novel about supergenerous and sweet hobbits in a magical land where everyone is always smiling and helping others. That’s the first thing. I never imagined I could have such luck finding the perfect wife and the perfect family. I often think: the price am paying for this incredible luck is that I sort of have to be in Slovakia…
The other things that comes to mind is the experience I had teaching at Adlerka. I still can’t believe I could have 105 wonderful students, with a great sense of humor, good manners, an almost abnormal level of maturity, and just lots of warmth and kindness. Plus, they had more intelligent things to say that quite a few ‘adult’ Slovaks (or Belgians for that matter). I had the great privilege of having them under my care, every class, for three hours a week. I had nice students in Belgium as well, but these Slovak boys and girls were somehow just more fun and a lot more pleasant to work with. Ok, they didn’t like school all that much (and can you blame them?), but they were never as antagonistic as they can be in certain schools in Belgium. They displayed the same behavior as boys and girls at one of the best Belgian schools.
Not continuing to teach them was a decision I lost a significant amount of sleep over, but in the end three factors were too big to overcome: I was making far too little money, and the school is on the other side of Bratislava. It took me far too long to get there. And the third factor is that it was too time-consuming. On top of all your lessons Slovak schools are really good at inventing reasons to making a teacher spend more time in school than is needed, a lot more than in Belgium. Administratively there was only one major advantage, and that is that during teacher meetings they don’t analyze the results and behavior of every single student… in Belgium this causes dreadful marathon meetings. That they don’t do in Slovakia, but they do have much more administrative duties than in Belgium. Like you have to fill in forms to get the regular school holidays. In Belgium you get your holidays automatically. Also: in Belgium they reimburse your train or bus card, in Slovakia you pay for your transportation to and from school, which, given the much lower salary, is an extra financial disadvantage.
If I’d be a billionaire I’d build a modern school in Bratislava and let those 105 stylish hellraisers enroll for free 🙂