Hi everyone! It’s the last day of the 2019 Polyglot Gathering, that I’ve gotten to now in this series of blog posts about the event. As mentioned in the last post, I had a big day ahead of me. I was going to give a workshop. It was my 3rd time speaking in public (NYC, Jan 2018, and Bydgoszcz, Poland, Oct 2018) and this one was going to be on a grand stage in an international language conference.
Fulfilling a promise I made to this person a few days earlier, and catching up from briefly meeting last year, and seeing that she had a talk early on Sunday morning, I got up and got ready, and hurried on to the university for the first talk of the day. And I did make it, to watch Mariana Lisovska speak about how one can motivate him/herself to learn foreign languages. I sat with a Slovak friend and chuckled with her on a lot of stuff that we related to in the talk. I briefly also met some new people who sat in my area, and after the talk, as I watched baseball highlights from back home, where the New York Yankees faced the rival Boston Red Sox on Saturday night (I was not able to watch any of the games of the series that were taking place during the whole Gathering period, due to the night starts in New York, equaling late night starts in Bratislava, 1 AM to be exact) and sat down with one of my new friends from the past talk and learned that we had a like of baseball and softball in common, because she plays it in the Czech Republic. I took a little break from the later talks due to extreme exhaustion, which many of us started to feel at that point from the hyperactive weekend, as well as lack of sleep from some of us. Near the Assimil room to the left, there was a big space, and just like last year, there were these big blue soft bags where participants were able to take naps. I took advantage of this service, and caught some Z’s.
I woke up a little late to attend Anja Spilker’s talk, who was speaking about how to integrate physical activity into language learning. She filled up the room and had a great audience, so I couldn’t find a space to sit when I arrived. She had been doing this kind of thing for a while, and it made me think about how can I integrate this into the sports I do. One quick thing that comes to mind is just counting hits I get during batting practice or if I’m in the batting cages. I’m not the best with numbers, so something like this can help me out. After her talk, we stuck around to have lunch in the canteen with her friends. After lunch, I needed to head to the Esperanto Room, for it was my time…
The inspiration for my workshop, which from Spanish translates to, “The Regional Mexican Music: How I Used It To Improve My Spanish”, came from my travels back in the autumn of 2018. During my time in Poland, I visited 3 different Mexican restaurants in the country; in Gdansk, in Warsaw, and in Poznan. The scenery in the restaurants was pretty cool, some more extravagant than others, but what stuck out for me was the fact that neither place played music from Mexico. I mean, sure, some restaurants at home don’t do it either, but in this case, I felt that it was simply the fact that maybe some people in Europe just didn’t know about the music that we created, listen to, and dance to. Yes, we listen to salsa, bachata, and merengue, but it’s not our music. So, after hesitating to make this decision in February, I eventually gave in, submitted my application to give this workshop, and was accepted. Because of work, and other obligations, I spent more than a month working on the slides, doing research about the origins of each genre, and creating the playlist of songs to play as samples of each genre during the workshop. During the Gathering, I tried to make an outline of how and what I wanted to speak about. The funny little thing that I was also working on was the surprise dance at the end of the workshop. Back in my family’s village in Mexico, during big parties, the people would dance a genre of music in a circle, and it was so fun for them, then I thought that I should bring my village and culture to Bratislava and the Polyglot Gathering. I was struck with an ugly surprise on Saturday, however. I had made a playlist on YouTube with the songs I wanted to play, and I had got them from a particular channel, which I then discovered that the video channel was geoblocked in Europe. But because I was told to send them the songs due to possible problems with the Internet, I complied, and decided not to worry, but it was quite a scare. (Thanks, Michal!)
After trying to make sure everything was right, and trying to figure out the laptop (which I didn’t, as I learned a little later), I started my workshop. I decided to go from an only Spanish talk to a bilingual talk with English as well, due to other non-Spanish speaking friends deciding to attend the workshop. Being that my workshop was not being filmed, I then felt that I can be more relaxed, and have fun with it, and do the surprise dance afterwards. I stuttered a bit during the talk, but mostly kept my composure, and tried to make the crowd laugh, whether it was me or the music doing it. I invited people to dance in a space to the sides because it was a workshop with music, so why not? Because I decided to go bilingual in the workshop, I lost a bit of time, even though I meticulously measured every song and learned where to stop each track at to continue the talk. I ended up skipping a few songs, but for the most part, it went well, just under the 1 hour limit, and got to play the dance track at the end, a song of the “Merequetengue”/”Chilena” genre, played by a Grupero group. I had originally wanted the group of dancers to go around part of the audience, and even tried to make the space for it, but there weren’t many eager dancers, so I joined them in that space on the left, and got them in a circle, and showed them the steps of the simple, but fun dance that my relatives in Mexico danced. (My parents couldn’t believe I played something like that for everyone, and they thought it was cool.)
I got out of the room very exhausted, mainly of mental exhaustion. But I had a lot to reflect on. I’m usually an idealistic person, and often think so much about how I’d like many situations to happen, but sometimes it doesn’t always go that way. And when they don’t, it’s important how a person deals with such issues, not just if a solution can be found quickly or not. I had it difficult from the start, being in the same time slot as one of the founders of the Polyglot Gathering, Judith Meyer, who gave a talk on Script Hacking (she gave a talk about it at the Polyglot Conference in Ljubljana as well, and I attended the talk) and she’s someone who can definitely attract a crowd, as well as other speakers who had cool topics to speak about as well. It was pretty useless to worry about them, especially if I ended up giving a bad talk because I focused too much on everyone else and not on my own workshop. The worst part was the thinning crowds at the Gathering at that point. Many attendees left Bratislava on Sunday, either very early, or were in the process of leaving after lunch, so with less people, there was a smaller audience for all the talks on that day (but worked out for one thing that will be mentioned later). But I was very grateful for everyone that saw a bit of the workshop, that enjoyed the music, that learned about the music of Mexico, and that danced to the songs, including the “Chilena” dance at the end.
After using the last block to rest, the Closing Ceremony was upon us, and instead of meeting at the big auditorium like on Wednesday, we met in the E@I Room (due to the smaller crowds, it was assumed we could all fit in the room, and windows were opened to let in air to cool down the warm room). Among all the notes, the final attendance, the many statistics, awarding winners for the Language Challenges, and having a special guest from Ireland speak, the big announcement came. After 3 years of the Polyglot Gathering happening in Bratislava, the decision was made to move the Gathering to a new place. The location for the 2020 Polyglot Gathering is going to be at the huge hotel resort named Hotel Kuznia Napoleonska, in the town called Teresin, also near Paprotnia, smack in the middle of Poland, about a hour away west of Warsaw. There were some people who were divided about this type of location, but there were also people that were very excited about having our own “Polyglot Village”. There were also new dates for the Gathering: from May 26 to May 30, from Tuesday through Saturday, which for me was very interesting.
The type of hotel and its features is nothing new to me, neither to a friend of mine who put me on to the volunteer program that we did, called Angloville. The organization books exactly those type of places for a week to do the volunteer programs where we spent almost a week with local English learners. The features of Kuznia Napoleonska were similar to venues I have been to in the past: many rooms, a buffet kitchen, big open spaces outside, and space to party on the lower level (well actually, I have yet to see if the party space is on the lower level, but in the places I have been to in the past, they have been), which made me very excited about the next event, but because I am trying to make big changes in my life for later this year, I currently am unsure if I will be able to go yet, so I promise to keep you all posted.
Feeling sad that the event was over, I then said some goodbyes to participants who were on their way home, while many of us started to plan for the night. While some headed to dinner, and others went to a rooftop (well, not exactly, more like a first level balcony that was accessible behind the small cafeteria and some stairs near the entrance) that the university had, I needed to have dinner to prepare for the night. I was surprised to know that no one was eating at a small restaurant across the street from the university, so it put me off, and so, after going to Tesco to buy alcohol for later, I went into the Old Town and checked out a restaurant called Bratislava Flagship. It was a cool place, and big, and I did wish other attendees were with me, but I ate alone, and was surprised by a local waitress who was learning Mexican Spanish. I was amused and full, and then I decided to walk back to the hotel to prepare for the nightly shenanigans, but my plans changed when I ran into a friend and her group and went for ice cream. It was a hot day, so ice cream sounded like a great treat. Along the way to find them after we split, I continued running into other polyglots who had made their own plans for the night. As I walked the streets of Bratislava for the last night of the Gathering, I saw more of us. At restaurants, on the street, and on the ice cream line after we bought out ice cream. Then I managed to convince them to join us at the plaza bar for some drinks, but some of them went home instead.
Once at the plaza, we ran into more polyglots, and later on, more people kept joining us. It eventually got past 2 AM…3 AM. The people that stayed behind were mainly speakers of Slavic languages, mainly Slovak, Serbo-Croatian, and Slovene. We were speaking mainly in these languages, and making vocabulary comparisons at every turn. Although my memory has become a bit fuzzy due to the enormous amount of alcohol that I consumed, I had a fun night, I got the language practice that I wanted in both Slovak and Serbian, and had cool new friends. Getting back to my hotel at about a quarter to 6 sounded like it was one heck of a night.
I woke up late for my checkout, but they forgave me for it, and marched off to the Medical Park in the city for the annual post-Gathering picnic. It was another sunny day, and I not only proceeded to buy food for the picnic, but also breakfast for myself. A lot of attendees were still around and went to the picnic, and we just took the time to relax, and chat, and eat. The official end for me came when I decided to leave the park around 3 PM, and go to the Main Bus Station, to take the first bus out to the next city I was going to travel to, only this time, it was another big journey I was making alone.
Before coming to this Gathering, I tried not to set high expectations on it, and because there were different people attending, this was going to be a different event. I couldn’t help but wonder if new couples were made this year; I’m not involved this time around. Hehe. Guess we’ll find out in a year’s time…maybe. What I do know is, that the next time I go to Bratislava, it will never be the same for me. These 2 years there were really fun with everyone, and any future visits to Bratislava will be so different from now on. I definitely need to give a big Thank You to everyone involved in the organization of this, whether I’ve met them in person or not, and my bad if I didn’t. And to the attendees that spent time with me chatting about anything at all throughout those past 5 days. Thanks a lot guys! This was a lot of fun!