The 2019 Polyglot Gathering: Thursday. The Rain, The Cheese Vending Machine, and I Do Karaoke Again

Hi again! After arriving to Bratislava and then going to the first night of activities, I felt that this was going to be a different event for me than last year. There were a whole new cast of characters, as well as people that attended last year who I didn’t meet until this year, and on Thursday is when I had more opportunities to see everyone else.

The rain that started falling on Wednesday night continued all day on Thursday. As I am travelling light on this trip, I only have 1 pair of shoes that I wear, and they are not waterproof, and my hotel room did not have a blow dryer, so I had to come up with creative ways to dry my shoes when they, and my socks got soaking wet. With this rainy, chilly weather, I proceeded to the University for the first full day of the Gathering. Speaker Richard Simcott was going to speak first on Thursday morning, as a result of a swap that was done with him with another speaker on Saturday. I greeted him and then found a place in the room to sit with friends to watch his presentation. After his presentation, many of us split, and I chose to watch a presentation on Slavic Inflections: A Travel Guide, by Olga Diacova. As a learner of Slavic languages, I found the topic very interesting, but as I told her in person after the talk, I went into the talk thinking that the presentation would compare all of the Slavic languages, and not just Polish and Russian, which were languages that she was familiar with. Still, I enjoyed it and then, I felt tired from waking up early and being out late, that I took a break walking around the campus, speaking to people, and there was when I ran into Olga and had a wonderful chat. Soon after, it was lunchtime.

The New Yorkers gathered together and we had lunch along with some of our new friends, and stayed chatting for a while, until it was 3 PM, and the afternoon talks started. I debated on whether I wanted to continue to work on my workshop, or go into the city to find a football team store for local football club Slovan Bratislava. I did the latter, failed, but succeeded in getting more soaked by the rain, and made an emergency trip to the hotel, where some new socks and removing the wet shoe pads I was wearing fixed the problem. I made it back to the university for the last hour of talks, and I had intended to want to work on the workshop, but I was distracted with a group of people playing the Itchy Feet: The Travel Game card game that I brought over to the Gathering for the Games box.

Before the Gathering, knowing that many, many people were going to be there, and knowing that I know loads of polyglots, I anticipated always getting interrupted, and I always stopped to talk to anyone that approached me, and happily did it. I knew that I was going to eventually complete everything that I was going to speak about, so having polyglot interruptions never bothered me, because speaking with people was the reason I attend these things, and if I didn’t want to do it, I would have just gone somewhere else. Around me, many others were either working on their own presentations, or doing remote work, or other business, but the focus that they put into their work made many of them unapproachable to others, so me sitting in the center of what was called the Gufujo section (a section painted in red, with neon lights, chairs and tables) made it easier for others to come and speak to me, or was it because they just knew me or felt that I was easier to speak with than other people. I don’t know! But I was always happy to chat with anyone who came by to the table I was sitting in and have a conversation in any language that we had in common. It is simply nice to have human connections.

It was dinnertime. I chose not to buy dinner at the university, just like last year, and I chose to head to the Old Town for a quick dinner at a Middle Eastern place, and quickly traveled back, because it was the second night of Evening Activities at the Polyglot Gathering. Just like last year, the International Culinary Night was in full swing, and the main attraction for many tables was alcohol. The Slovaks proudly displayed and gave out shots of their Tatra Tea, a very powerful spirit. The Ukrainians gave out shots of their spirits as well. The second thing given away was sweets and snacks, which were being given away at the Russian and other tables. And then, it was time for karaoke. One of the hosts last year, Olivia, was not at the Gathering this year, so our friend Marta stepped in to fulfill the hosting duty. Many languages were featured, probably many more than this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, which included Turkish, Finnish, Hawaiian, and Greek, courtesy of myself, once again selecting someone from The Bronx, this time going for Greek-American parody artist So Tiri, performing his first parody hit “Feta Kai Psomi” (Feta Cheese With Bread, originally done using the sample beat of a song called “Down On Me”) and receiving praise for the performance. I also thought about how many Greek people were in the audience that could understand everything, but for some mysterious reason, the turnout wasn’t as great as that from last year.

It was still a fun night, and after the performance, a group led by friends took us out again, bar hopping in locations near Nový Most, and stopping by an unusual sight for many of us: a vending machine selling a variety of dairy products, mostly cheese. A person in our circle went and bought string cheese from the machine, and shared it to the rest of us. Tasty cheese, I might add. We continued drinking and chatting, and when we were out of open bars, we all went home. I had wanted to lead a group to a plaza with a bar near it, and drink for a while, but I was going to have to wait an extra night for that to happen…

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