Saturday, April 17, 2010

Reporting Live from Slavkova

Note: I wrote this a few days ago but I did not have reliable internet service to post it until now. Enjoy.

"What is all that black stuff in the soil here, manure?" I ask. My Czech minder gives me look that tells me he does not understand what I am asking. "Do the farmers burn off their fields?" I get the same look.

We have been stopped on a small two lane road out of the village of Slavkov, I am driving us back to Brno to pick up the other two people from my company, we are all heading to the train station but I was the only one that had to go to work this day. We had been pulling long 10 and 12 hour days (and I worked through lunch each day) the other two being the Executive representatives had spent the week negotiating the terms and conditions, financing, payment schedule and work share of our contract with this small engineering company here in the heart of the Moravia. I on the other hand spent it going over design documents, both hardware and software for the many simulated military items that this company will be manufacturing.

This company's share of the contract is more than $60 million US so they not only provide me a minder to make sure I do not drive off into oblivion they send a second in a car behind us.

The road is blocked and we have plenty of time. I turn off the Skoda Combi and get out, standing there admiring the landscape.

Gentle rolling hills, most of which are covered with green something, grass or early wheat. In this area a farmer has tilled a large plot exposing rich black soil that looks odd against the surrounding green. The contrast. The air is crisp and clean, it has been cold while we have been here, cold and rainy every day. Sleet and sometimes snow. I exhale and it condenses out, it feels good. I walk to the edge of the road and kneel down. I take a hand full of this earth in one hand and I weigh it, feel it, I squeeze it in my fist to judge how wet it is and determine its organic composition. It is good soil, smells rich. I could grow anything in this dirt.

Behind me I hear my two companions talking; they speak softly between themselves, no doubt judging if I have lost my mind. It was a long week.

I stand and hold out my hand to them, the soil spilling from between my fingers.

"It is good soil here in Slavkov, we grow many crops. Many large, eh, vegetables, yes." My ride says. He shakes his hands in a motion together as if he himself were tilling the ground in parallel grooves.

"Yes, yes I am sure." I say to him.

"How much of this do you think I could take back with me." I ask. His eyebrows arch up and he smiles at me, it is a slight smile, the kind you give out of politeness when you are not sure someone is joking.

I nod my head up and down, "You think they would stop me if I shoveled a bunch of this into my bag?" I turn my back and toss the dirt into the field it came from, I dust off my hand and stand their admiring the beauty around me here in the land of Austerlitz.

"You are funny American guy." He says. I turn back and say "No really, I have a very large bag with me, it could hold a half yard easy of this dirt."

He says something to his friend, not sure if I am serious.

This is the land where the battle of the three emperors was fought, the Battle of Austerlitz. The dark almost black strain is in legend thought to be the blood spilled by the tens of thousands that died here in the way back when.

"That's ok," I say, "I brought the big back so I can take some wine home with me." They both break out into smiles.

We return to the cars as the jack-knifed truck ahead has finally been cleared. I drive the roads; make all the right turns to get on the motorway and 18 kilometers later I pull into the hotel parking lot once again. I thank the two fellow engineers for their time and hard work. I look forward to our partnership in this particular job and I am sincere in that, they are more than competent and dedicated. This long week proved that to me at least, they matched my early morning arrivals and late night departures stride for stride. Though I am many years older than they are, I kept a hectic pace wanting to instill in them that measure of devotion and willingness to do what it takes to complete the task at hand.

I am glad to be leaving so I can work my own soil back home in PA. Its planting season and I am loosing precious time in the growing season.

BT: Jimmy T sends.


Buck said...

It's a great good thing to get out and about when you're "on the road." Clears the head and all that. One of the few good things I can say about my bid'niz experiences in Moscow is our hosts insisted we take a "cultural day" one day a week, wherein they would take us around to various sites here and there in Moscow, and once out into the countryside to an old monastery. "Cultural day" was also a euphemism for getting us seriously drunk in the process, too. It ain't no stereotype about Russians and vodka, lemmee tell ya.

The work ethic you encountered in the Czech Republic and the work ethic (or lack of same) I had to deal with in the former Evil Empire were/are world's apart, Jimmy.

JimmyT said...

Buck, I know that is a great idea, getting out and about. Both times I have been here were whirlwind visits. I will be back in a couple of weeks and will have at least one weekend day free to explore. And I will.

On the work ethic, they are really trying hard. Software Engineers are scarce in these parts and this little company offers them all kinds of perks to get them onboard and to stay. And the place is a one stop shop from molding parts in plastic and fiberglass to outright machine work they have built really good replica items for us and then put state of the art optics inside. I think they all want to be like us in the U.S. rather than the normal 'stink' they have from being Easter European.

BT: Jimmy T sends.