With summer approaching, we have turned our sights to our balcony intending to make it our summer escape. We have visions of herbs and flowers growing on the balcony rail, 2 patio chairs and a small charcoal BBQ. Last week, inspired by the sunshine, we began to make this dream a reality when we bought a very small charcoal BBQ that would fit our good sized balcony.
We had some concerns over whether BBQ’s were allowed on balconies, but none of our Slovak friends protested the idea, and in fact at one friends house (who has a yard we should add), people were burning leaves and wood in giant oil drums. So, we thought we would be okay.
Last night we invited over four friends for the inaugural lighting of the BBQ. Well, shortly after lighting the BBQ I noticed neighbors whom I’ve never seen before with their heads out their windows. I waved and smiled nicely. A few minutes later our friends arrived. Before they even got their coats off and moved away from the front door, there was a loud, rushed knock. My friend opened the door only to be blasted by a lady, on a cell phone, wearing a house coat and slippers. She spoke too quickly in Slovak for us to understand so our friend intervened and got the the brunt of: “are you idiots? do you think you are in the park having a picnic? I should make a false report of a real fire to the fire company and have you fined. My neighbors called me to say my building was on fire. YOU ARE IDIOTS!”. With that we decided the BBQ was not to be.
Matthew went out to pour water over the grill as people were yelling at him from the street. More knocking on the door. This time Amber answered it alone as our company had already been subjected to enough. Two men stood there very angry, but once they realized Amber was foreign they became much nicer and told her we “cannot grill on our balcony” – we were painfully aware of that fact by that point.
So we ate baked chicken instead and had a good evening with our friends, though every time we heard sirens we all paused to see where they were going. Come bed time both Amber and I were feeling a bit heavy in the heart department. We were up until 2:00am unable to sleep. Because our language skills are limited, we have been very deliberate in building relationship within our neighborhood any way we can. We say hello and smile, we hold doors open, we help people carry things up the stairs (no elevator in our building) and the list goes on. It would be awful if this one small event undermines our time here in this apartment building – how awful to be categorized as the foreigners who tried to burn the place down.
We are looking for a way to make amends – door to door apologies are not really an option. Until yesterday we had never met a lot of the neighbors who came swarming and we do not want this first impression to last. Please pray that God would somehow make this whole situation a way for us to build good relationships in this apartment community, especially with the people we never before yesterday.