Thursday, June 16, 2005

sumo wrestling vs. ballet

“This is how the game goes. Go up to a person. Read one of the statements on the sheet of paper and ask if it applies to them. If it does write their name next to the statement. For example ...”

Paul, one of the TEFL trainers, came up to me, “Hmm, okay, let’s see ... Do you have a birthday during the course?”

I was shocked. Of all people he came up and asked me as an example!

“Um, well, Yes, as a matter of fact ...” I stuttered.

“Really?! When?!”

“June 15th. Ha! I guess everyone can put my name down next to that statement. Christine. That’s spelled C ... H ... R ... I ...”

As the big day drew near, my classmates asked me how I was planning to celebrate. I was hesitant to answer, certain that if I mentioned attending a ballet that the others would scoff at my love affair with the arts.

Surprisingly, however, many of the girls in the course appeared more envious than amused. “You wouldn’t want to go with me, would you?”

“Are you serious?! You don’t mind?! How much are the tickets?”

When it was spread around that tickets to see The Swan Lake at Prague’s National Theater cost a mere 50 crowns ($2), I had four girls signed up to join me.

Sadly I waited till the day of to go to the box office. The kind lady conveyed to me in broken English that they were sold out for that night’s performance.


I dodged drizzle and headed for the theater near the Mustek Metro stop in the vicinity of Wenceslas Square. I hoped that perhaps the girls and I could substitute ballet for drama.

“Dobry den. Prosim vas. Nemluvim dobrzha Cesky. Lovita Anglicsky?”

“Ano. A little.”

“Oh, good. Is there a performance here tonight?”

“Skola summinsumminsummin ... but it’s not good for you. It’s only in Czech. You will not understand.”

“Oh, that’s okay. My friends and I will follow the acting instead.”

But the woman at the box office insisted that there were too many characters and too much chaos on the stage. We wouldn’t be able to follow it. With shoulders slumped, I turned to walk out. On my way out, I noted that night’s performance’s poster. “Skola ...” Hmm, School of somethingorother, by Richard Brinsley Sheridan.

As I thought about it on the way back to the National Theater, I realized that she was right. In college I had designed a fine arts poster for the college’s performance of Sheridan’s The Rivals. The memory of characters like Mrs. Malaprop brought back memories of the confusions of words and actions on stage. If I had difficulty grasping everything in English, imagine the complexity of it in Czech!

I approached the National Theater’s box office again. “Do you have any seats available for tomorrow night’s The Swan Lake?”

“How many do you need?”


“Yes, but they are not together.”

“That’s fine. I’ll take them.”

It didn’t occur to me then that I wouldn’t be able to go tomorrow. I was teaching the odd Thursday evening class. I was more concerned that I didn’t disappoint the girls. All day they couldn’t stop talking about how excited they were about the ballet.

So there I stood, waiting for them to arrive at 6:30. It was drizzling. I had blisters on my feet from walking to and from the theaters in the rain. And by this time I realized the mistake I had made. I would miss the ballet altogether because of my stupid procrastination!

Jennifer was the first to arrive. “Well, were you able to get them?”

Sigh. “No. They were completely sold out. I just got these ones for tomorrow instead.”

“I won’t be able to go tomorrow. I have my one-on-one lesson.”

“I can’t either. I’m teaching the upper-intermediate in the evening.”

“On my way to meet you, I saw a man by one of the theater doors scalping tickets. What do you think?”

“How much is he asking?”

I sent her over to ask him, while I waited for the others.

We ended up paying 200 crowns (a 333% markup from the ticket’s original price) each for lovely balcony seats. Sure, we were on the back row of the balcony, but wasn’t a single column obstructing our view. We may not have been able to see the scenery, but the dancing was in plain view. All in all, we were quite pleased with ourselves for having bought scalped tickets to Swan Lake.

The following day I was able to fork out the unused tickets for that night to some of my classmates. I was more than happy to promote the city’s finer entertainment to the uncultured masses who had been to see sumo wrestling the weekend before.

(Note from the editor: The above sentence is a literary ploy to make it seem the author is above being a spectator of this honored traditional Japanese sport. However, in the presence of two witness, she admitted that had she been among more familiar acquaintances she would have poked her head in to see what it was all about.)

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