The biggest event in our Czech and Slovak Rotary Multi-district is the District Conference in May. There, hundreds of Rotarians from all corners of the Czech Republic and Slovakia gather to discuss their projects, catch up with distant colleagues, bestow awards for exceptional service and meet the year’s exchange students. We inbounds play our part by preparing performances to reflect our own cultures and skills, as well as the things we have learned throughout our exchanges.
Months ago Czech students and Slovak students separately decided upon songs (from our new home countries) to perform. We Slovaks decided upon the folk song “Hej, Sokoly”. It is originally from Ukraine, but has recently been translated and popularized by the Slovak singer and songwriter I.M.T. Smile.
We practiced for months, at least whenever the students could gather at events. Nevertheless, the group as a whole was still a bit rough when it came time to perform. Desperate to improve the performance, Rotary asked the most confident student with the lyrics (though not with the most singing experience) to lead. That student was me.
That is how I found myself standing before 200 Rotarians come the night of the performance, about to entertain them through the means I am most uncomfortable with—and I was happy to do it. I was happy to do it simply for the fact that one year ago it would have terrified me, yet now it does not. I found confidence that night in the very fact that my exchange has given me more confidence!
Our group choruses were followed by individual and country-based performances. I was enchanted by the creativity that my peers exhibited. Everything from poetry to traditional (and not-so-traditional) dance graced the stage. A number of the American students staying in Slovakia teamed up to organize what we hoped would be a spectacular act.
The original idea was to perform dances from all eras of American history. We settled on five different types as being fairly representative and fun; Folk, Swing, Disco, Hip-hop and 2018. Splitting into groups, we chose our categories and started to plan. Tricia and I chose to do Swing alone since it would require a lot of practice and we were one of the few pairs of Americans that live in the same city and had the time to train.
As the District Conference came around, we all rushed to perfect the routines and splice them all together. Even though the final product was a bit rough, I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. (Below you will find videos of the various performances. The first includes ones I participated in, while the second is all of the individual and country performances. Thanks to Ondrej and Karolína Kollár for taking the photos and videos used in this post.)
The District Conference was one of the last times Czech and Slovak students will get to interact and I bid bittersweet farewells to all the students I wasn’t go going to get to see again. Though, I suppose the future is not certain in that regard. With so many new friends across the globe and a wanderlust which grows by the day… perhaps my travels will bring me to many of my fellow student’s doorsteps.