As an ex-pat, it’s easy for me to be completely confused about what everybody else takes for granted.
Take, for example, the large metal red and white box at the end of the schoolyard. When we first moved here, I asked my husband what it was for. “To hold water for the firefighters,” he replied, and then we got distracted by something else.
I thought of various reasons why that box would be there and occasionally saw a firetruck go into the schoolyard, but didn’t pursue what exactly it was all about. Was there an underground cistern or source of water? Did they need to keep extra water by the school for safety? SIX years later, I finally know.
Yesterday I was out walking with the children in front of the school when the firetruck went by, full of kids. We followed it, the twins quite excited by the big noisy (stinky) truck.
A gaggle of kids and a handful of adults set up a pump and pulled out some hose. “Is this a kruzok (optional school subject)?” I asked a mom watching. She looked a little confused and her answer didn’t help someone who didn’t have a clue.
When my husband finally joined us, he explained it to me, surprised that his answer years before hadn’t been sufficient because, of course, everybody knows.
Apparently it’s in every town in Slovakia, though it seems to be waning in popularity. Children learn how to set up a water pump and fire hose, and then go to competitions. That big metal box? They fill it with water from the fire truck to pump the water from.
After getting it ready, the children lined up. Ready, set, go! Each person had a job, from dragging a piece of hose to turning on the pump. Faster, faster, run! First they practiced dry, rolling up the hose each time and disconnecting other pipes. After a few dry runs, they turned on the water which, of course, was much more fun.
After nine years of living in this country, I’m still learning new things about it! I particularly enjoyed the firetruck.
What have you been surprised by in other countries?