By 9 pm today I will have taught a bunch of Slovak women. Several are particularly attractive, charming, sweet, unbelievably considerate, interested in a wide variety of topics, passionate about culture, art, theatre, elegantly dressed and above all: they are vivacious, they want to experience things, feel alive. These women enjoy life with zest as much possible.

They have an incredible eagerness to talk, and yet they also listen intently. Once you are alone with a Slovak woman there seem to be no more silly games and you can talk openly and frankly. At the same time they never lose their delicacy. These are often hard-working women with degrees who also take care of the house-hold. Especially remarkable is their ability to appreciate the fine things in life.

They drag me out of my usual melancholy and for a while I feel energized, refreshed, my brooding frown has been washed away. For a while I think the world can’t be so bad after all.

It’s virtually impossible to hang on to this upbeat mood. Soon negativity creeps in again, the lashing of my own brain resumes, my mind gets flooded with pretty everything that goes wrong in the world and has gone wrong in the world. And to top it off my mind seeks to bombard me with all of my faillures and shortcomings, imaginary and real.

But for a moment I snap out of this acid mood and think how amazing it is that these sweet, caring people exist in the same world that continues to see genocides, vast economic equality, organized famines, wars, top politicians who mainly serve the interests of the rich, and disrupted social relationships with more and more people who are armored, stiff, anything but spontaneous, deadly afraid of not being good enough.

When I am down I always forget how being among people lifts me up. If it wouldn’t be for my work I am afraid I might isolate myself completely and would become one of those Japanese people who never leave their room anymore.

The crazy thing about being a human is that what’s bad for us is so easy for us to do, so tempting, and that what makes us happy, scares us so much, takes so much effort, requires so much hope and scary openness.

No pain, no gain, I suppose.

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