Here I sit in a small dormitory room 5000 miles from home. How did I get here and what’s it all about, you may ask. The how-I-got-here question is easily answered: Delta Airlines. North to Canada, east to the North Atlantic, across the southern tip of Greenland, then south to Amsterdam. A 2-hour hop on KLM to Budapest, then 4 hours by bus to Martin. The WHY of it is even less complicated. A door opened and it seemed the right thing to go through it.
Doors that open and lead to adventure is a recurring literary theme, and vitally important in two of my favorite books. In one story, there is a great need to hide and an old wardrobe, with its door opened just a crack, beckons. In the other, an uncle tells his nephew “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
This is the second time I’ve let myself be swept off to this seemingly insignificant country in central Europe. I’m with a church group and we’re tasked with teaching conversational English to whomever wants to learn it. 25 years past communism, Slovakia is eager to find its place in the world market and English is seen as a necessary step. Well, if there’s one thing I can do, it’s talk. In English, even. A perfect fit, then.
But English is only the beginning of the story, I think. I just returned from an evening spent looking out over rolling green hills that could well have been part of a Narnian or Middle Earth landscape. I ate and drank with people–some of whom I’d just met–who are already good friends. Earlier in the evening, we had a church service in a tiny, circular building from the 13th-century where the music was so pure and the acoustics so perfect, all I could do was weep.
When I came to Slovakia two years ago, I thought it was so that I could be of help to others. I learned then and I’m sensing again this time that these visits may be even more about me than about what I can do for others. Yes, it’s a dangerous business, but I don’t want to keep my feet, anymore. I have gone through the door and stepped out onto the road, because, I’m pretty sure, there’s something I need here in Slovakia.