I have to show my Slovak ID about 3 or 4 times a day at every damn reception desk at every company where I teach. To receptionists who become sexier the more money the company has… (I know, a suspicious trend to say the least).

On Friday I lost it on the way from one bank to the next. After I was done teaching I retraced my steps but to no avail. It was about the only thing that sort of ruined an otherwise mildly enjoyable week. When I think of having to deal with public servants I get the words ‘the horror, the horror’ on a loop in my head.

On Tuesday morning I got a call from a surprisingly nice sounding police officer. They had my ID. Could I please come and get it?

I thought I would have to go all the way to the dodgy part of town where the alien police is located and pretends to work, but I had to go to a police station right smack dab in the middle of the city center.

The next dose of dread came in the form of:

I will have to wait for hours.

This ominious premonition also turned out to be false.

Once inside there was a small waiting room with one older guy waiting.

And a phone.

If you are familiar with Kafka your knees start shaking now.

The man explains what I need to do. I need to dial a number and explain why I am here.

I still hate phoning, but I had no choice. I explain in my most polite Slovak.

Soon a Putin lookalike opens the door.

Still way more friendly than am used to.

He takes me up to a stuffy room with a smell that is kind of mildewish. There are boxes with old stuff everywhere. It looks more like an attic than an office.

I have to explain where I lost it and sign my testimony. There are three police officers. They ask which languages we speak in Belgium. How long I have been in Slovakia. The usual routine. I am super enthusiastic about Slovakia. It’s part of my ‘winning of hearts and minds’ campaign.

The Putin lookalike takes me back downstairs, compliments me on my Slovak, shakes my hand and wishes me well.

I had planned to bring chocolate (being Belgian chocolate is my currency), but my students had advised against it. Now I feel sorry I listened to them.

There are several ways to get affection from total strangers.

For example, you can learn how to play rock and roll and climb on a stage and get applause from crowds of strangers.

I am an incredibly lazy person, so I went for the next best thing, I moved to a country with few foreigners, especially few foreigners who know the local language, learned the local linguo by watching ‘Friends’ dubbed in Slovak for weeks non-stop, and now from time to time am treated like royalty.

Would have preferred the rock stardom though…

For one thing it’s less geographically binding… and it draws larger crowds and more groupies (though not necessarily more attractive groupies, this is Slovakia after all).

The Happiness Project 2019