The 2019 Polyglot Gathering: Wednesday. Leaving Paris, the Close Call, and the Cultural Faux Pas

Hi everyone from Prague! My hostel has computer access, so I finally get to put these experiences of the 2019 Polyglot Gathering online for the world (or at least the language community) to read. It was an incredible 5 days in Bratislava, and although I did not meet all 654 attendees, I had fun with those I spent time with, especially outside the University of Economics. But it was a bit of a rough ride to even get to Bratislava…

I usually like to arrive to a Western European city if I’m flying from NYC, so this time around, it was Paris. At least a few times over the past few months, many people that I’ve met tried to agree with me on meeting in Paris, and all of these people took down my contact info. Fast forward to that day, and as expected, no one gave me a ring. So I went to a language exchange event, and enjoyed myself being outside while the sun was still out at 10:30 PM. The next morning, I was on my way to Paris Orly airport for the first time, to board a plane on Transavia Air, to go to Vienna, and take a bus to Bratislava.

The plane tried to take off once, and the reason for aborting the takeoff was to avoid a bird strike. After a second failed takeoff attempt, the pilot took us back to the gate where we started out, and told us that the plane may have had a mechanical problem with its alarm system preventing takeoff, and technicians were summoned to examine the plane. After 30 minutes, the plane was not in a condition to fly, and we were all switched to a backup plane, and after a 2 hour delay, I left to Vienna at around 1:30 PM. I’ve never had that sort of problem before, and it was an inconvenience, since I had the entire day planned after arrival, but I was just happy that I arrived well in Vienna.

I ran into fellow New Yorker Kevin who flew into Vienna from the other direction and faced flight delays of his own, and together we proceeded to Bratislava. According to the Telegram (app) group for the Gathering, another polyglot may have been on our same bus, but we did not meet this person on the ride. It was then 6 PM. I needed to rush to my hotel, buy something to eat, and head to the University for the Opening Ceremony, which was starting at 7:30, a later start time than the 6 PM start when former organizer Lýdia Machová used to organize the Gathering, which benefitted me and a few others. A bit stressed and rushing to get things done, I arrived to the University, and ran into my first polyglots of the Gathering: the Moscow Contingent. And as I saw everyone else, even the organizers, I told them of my challenges in arriving to Bratislava, and caught up with everyone, and wished that we all have an amazing time. And speaking of Lýdia, to make sure no one would bug her with Gathering inquiries, she wore a white T-Shirt, with the new Gathering logo on the right, and a message to the left saying “Not An Organizer”. The back of the shirt read “Don’t Ask Me. I Really Don’t Know.”

At the Ceremony itself, we were told of everything that we needed to know about the Gathering. The free transportation with the name badges, the talks, the amazing evening events, sponsors, and important local officials welcomed us to the city. And after that, as I met more polyglots, I went into the named Esperanto Room for a presentation on Cultural Differences and faux pas from all over the world. There were some differences pointed out that I knew of, from Greece and Bulgaria, and hand gestures from all over the world were involved as well. I was able then to find our New York Contingent, and we walked outside as we were headed to a bar to drink with other polyglots, running into Tim Keeley near the vending machines at the university to chat.

Dealing with the bad weather, being that it started to rain, a few of us proceeded to a bar in the Old Town, where we ran into more polyglots, and started eating and catching up. It was the first of many nights we were going to be together, and be out late, in some cases. It may not be easy to say that we were all warming up, because it was rainy and chilly, and it would continue into the next day…

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