Matt is on sabbatical from his teaching job in Minnesota this year, so he is in Martin, teaching English and music at the Lutheran Academy. He is a volunteer through the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Global Mission program. He is enjoying working with Slovak students and his many new colleagues at the gymnasium!
What do you do in your free time here in Slovakia?
Walk, Skype, listen to music, grade papers, and sometimes play computer games! I’m looking forward to seeing more of Slovakia during the upcoming holidays.
Do you speak the Slovak language? Do you desire to learn the Slovak language soon? If yes, will you search for a teacher or will you prefer self-study?
I don’t speak Slovak. I studied some before I came, and I had studied Russian about 35 years ago! Since I’ve been in Martin, I have tried to learn a few phrases to help me in the grocery store and at restaurants. I’m interested in language and its fun to learn new phrases, but I know I will need much more than a year to develop any real skills.
Do you have some favorite Slovak words?
I suppose “káva,” (coffee) because I needed it first.
Which Slovak words have you learned? (Write a minimum of 4, please).
New this week: Všetko, kačica, spitatočny, and hej, hej, hej (it usually seems to come in multiples.) I like it when I hear one person speaking Slovak, and the listener is encouraging them: hej, hej, hej!
Have you tried our Slovak national food – halušky? Did you like it?
I do like it. It’s different each time I have it, so I’m not sure which is the most authentic, but I have enjoyed all the food I’ve had here.
What do you miss the most in Slovak´s shops?
I’ve been able to find most everything that I need here. There are two things that I miss: sweet potatoes and peanut butter. Occasionally, sweet potatoes will appear at the Billa, and I always buy them, no matter the cost!
Have you met any native English-speakers while here in Slovakia?
There are a couple others at school, and they have been very helpful! I also speak with other volunteers from the ELCA who are serving nearby.
Do you miss home?
I haven’t been homesick during my time here. Skype is an amazing invention! I think I am in closer contact with my family and friends while here than I was at home. People have been very interested in hearing about Slovakia, so I have been writing a blog and Skyping a great deal.
I do miss my dog, Lena. She’s a beautiful greyhound and she’s living with a good friend in Minnesota. Skype makes our separation worse. She hears my voice, but she can’t see me. She gets very agitated and it makes me feel a little sad.
What would you like to get under the Christmas tree?
There’s nothing that I need, that’s for sure. My family members are good at picking out clothes or books that they know I would enjoy.
This Christmas you spend in Slovakia or are you going to spent them at home?
I’m staying here! I’m looking forward to learning about Slovak Christmas traditions. After Christmas, I hope to do a little traveling around the area before school starts again.
What does Christmas mean to you?
Of course, the Christmas story is a powerful one. God lowers himself to become like us and to live among us.
Christmas is also a time of remembering for me. I have good memories of Christmas as a child, spending time with my grandparents and other family members, eating great food, and staying up late for church on Christmas Eve. I will miss being with my family this year, but I am looking forward to experiencing Christmas here. Of course the church in Martin will be beautiful, and I know we will hear great music and God’s words of hope.
Profile of Matt Hafar
Dr. Matthew Hafar is a member of the music faculty at Rochester Community and Technical College, in Minnesota. He is a graduate of St. Olaf College, and holds a M.A. in trombone and Ph.D. in music theory from the University of Iowa. At RCTC, Dr. Hafar teaches music theory, appreciation, world music, and brass instruments.