should they care?"
that the minister has arrived," said Olga, "the ski lifts will
instantly start to work."
She was right;
when the news spread around the hotel there was a great rushing about and
fastening of ski boots. Again, I was caught up in a wave of excitement, for I
was off myself to my first, and last, ski class. I was punctual, of course, and
immediately looked around for Romeo, the gorgeous ski instructor I'd heard so
much about. The other beginners had told me how kind and helpful he was.
"It's marvelous—if you're in any trouble you just lie there waving your
legs in the air and calling, Romeo, Romeo...."
turned up. He was called Gustav. He was 50, balding, with sticking-out ears.
Romeo had gone to Bucharest. Gustav didn't really present the same incentive,
but I did my best. I bent my knees and fell down. I snow-plowed and fell down.
I traversed and fell down. I did a kick turn and fell down. In the end I lay
there crying, "Gustav, Gustav," but it wasn't quite the same, somehow.
After a time I discovered the easiest way was to wait till he wasn't looking,
remove my skis, stand upright and put them on again.
down the beginners' slope in brilliant sunshine, I waited for the explosion of
joy I'd heard about. It didn't happen. I tried to remember I was a joyous,
arabesque-drawing lone falcon gliding along a glittering carpet, sipping powder
snow like vintage wine.
I'd been waiting
all my life for this. I'd paid a fortune to Sobadjeff. I'd been practicing and
exercising hard for weeks. I'd traveled 1,500 miles, clambered icy mountains,
gone to Asia, drank disinfectant—all this, and plenty more, just to achieve one
heavenly afternoon on skis. Now I discovered something.
I didn't like
All afternoon we
slogged across the slopes to Gustav's harsh commands. It was quite a relief
when I sprained my ankle, returned my gear to Room 13, bade farewell to Olga,
Doina and Ion and took the train back to Sinaia.
excellent progress, no?" said Madame Anna, looking approvingly at my
I flew home the
next day. I was quite satisfied, though, that I could face all my skiing
friends. They could come back from Obergurgl or Grenoble and try to impress me
with tales of the gaiety of resort social life, with talk of stem turns and
Christies, or even with their beautiful tans. But, really, could they match me?
For I had gone schussing behind the Iron Curtain and glimpsed the Bolshie Vita,
and I knew that there is far, far more to a successful skiing holiday than the
absurdly minor consideration of learning how to ski.