Corona Čermák (33) from Tanzania fell in love with the Czech Republic on the very first day. She has lived in Brno for three years and appreciates that it has a bit of everything. “The city, the forest which is just wow, especially now in the autumn with all the colours. The forest here reminds me of my grandparents’ village near Kilimanjaro,“ she says.
It was love that brought her to Brno, even though she didn’t want to fall in love with the Czech man who is now her husband. They met in London where they worked for the same company.
“As an African I never thought I would be with a white European,” says Corona. Another downside: he doesn’t believe in God and she has been brought up in a Catholic family. “So I would always try to discourage him, saying it wouldn’t work.”
But the heart wants what it wants. Later he left for Leeds, and Corona’s world became empty. “I really missed him. Every night we would have long conversations on the phone. And once he asked me how to say I love you in Swahili. When I said it, it felt so good. I told him I meant it. Next day he came to see me, we had our first kiss and started a relationship.”
Now they have a son David who is two and a half years old, and Corona can imagine staying in Brno forever. ”We want our kids to grow up within the family, to see their grandparents, aunties and uncles. But you never know – the world is beautiful, and if there is an opportunity, maybe we will travel again. Don’t tell my parents-in-law,“ she laughs.
With her parents-in-law she speaks Czech. And English with her husband and Swahili with her son. She learnt Czech at a language school and also studied from books. “Some people say that Czechs are strange and cold, but I don’t think so. I think they are nice. It is when you don’t speak the language that you create a barrier.”
Is there anything she misses in Brno? Hairdresser’s. „There is no place where I can go have my hair done. I check tips on Youtube on how Africans style their hair themselves.“ And she misses her family. And food.
For example a traditional dish made of maize. „It is like knedlíky but you eat it with your hands. I also miss roast meat prepared in a typical Tanzanian way with spices. And vegetables and fruit.“ When it comes to wintertime, Corona thinks there isn’t a good variety in the Czech Republic and imported produce doesn’t taste as good.
She sometimes goes food shopping at the Vietnamese market in Brno. „There I can find things like green bananas which are Tanzanian staple food. We make porridge out of them and also cut them like potatoes and eat them with meat. Oh, it’s yummy.”
So is Czech food, though. „I like to try new things. Most food with knedlíky are my favourite. Hovězí guláš, pečená kachna s červeným zelím… I cook Czech food, too, my mother-in-law taught me.“
Another interesting observation: you cannot escape sweets in this country. „It’s over the top. You go to work and somebody baked a cake: To je moc dobrý, domácí, musíš to zkusit. Then at home my mother-in-law loves baking and she brings us a lot. And when it comes to Christmas, it is even worse,“ she thinks.
In Tanzania, they only eat sweets on special occassions. It is a treat for kids that comes once in a blue moon. Like at Christmas. At Christmas that is never white.
„It doesn’t snow in Tanzania, only at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro which is 5895 metres high. In wintertime it can get cold but not below 15 degrees Celsius.”
The Czech winter has taught her one lesson. „I don’t get dressed for elegancy or beauty but for warmth.“ It is a nightmare to her when it rains and then the temperature drops below zero. „I can’t stop thinking of falling in public,“ she confesses.
She teaches English in a kindergarten, even though she has a degree in law. “My current job has a lot of challenges, so I can grow and develop. I enjoy teaching and working with kids because as a mother who isn’t from this culture I also think about how to raise my son here.“
And what about her African family? It is a long journey to Tanzania and when she goes, it is at least for a month. Last time it was in 2012. But she speaks on Skype with them often. And they visited the Czech Republic when she was getting married.
For her parents it isn’t easy that she lives far away. Especially for her mother. “I am the only daughter, I have three brothers, and my mum always cries when I leave. But at the end she says: >Well, it is your life<. My parents are wonderful people. What also gives me peace is that they are happy together.“
You can also read a Czech interview with Corona that has recently been published in Mladá fronta DNES.
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