It’s so strange, staring down my last week in the USA once again. I’ve done this 3 times before in the past two years, (always leaving for Prague), and yet it never fails to fill me with wonder, excitement, and most of all, a desire to pursue the moment, saturate myself with every bit of my family, friends and familiar life while I have it. Wandering through lively Pike Place Market with the smell of fish and saltwater filling my nose, drinking steaming lattes with best friends at our favorite cafes, smiling at Seattleites grinning their faces off at yet another(!!) sunny day in the Emerald City…these are among the millions of reasons I have to love home, and love it I do.
But in a week, I travel. I travel because leaving the familiar and embracing a new life, new land and new culture makes me stronger, smarter, more alive and awake to life. It’s an addiction I can’t cure, and have no desire to. It leaves me breathless, in awe of the world and gives me a great appreciation for both the differences among people, and similarities we all share. I travel not only because I seek an experience out of the ordinary, but because these are the experiences that are so important to help me grow as a person, learn about myself and the world and my purpose and place in this crazy thing called life. I believe this is why any of us should travel- to seek ways that we can leave behind a positive impression, however small it may be, in exchange for the positive experience we receive. To build lasting connections with people we never would have crossed paths with if we hadn’t exited our comfort zone. To let new perspectives, experiences and relationships change you, and bring you into the global community. From wine tasting in Moravia with a lively group of Czechs to learning to cook Sicilian specialties with my lovely Italian host family and having one of the most inspirational conversations of my life with a Dutch man on a train to Berlin, these experiences have led me toward the path I’m on today.
Which involves a Thai visa, volunteer commitment with an eco-tour company, a one-way ticket to Thailand and a plan to find a teaching job when I arrive. Yep, I would have thought it was pretty crazy a year ago.
I still think it’s pretty crazy.
But luckily, that’s kind of the best part.
What a lovely weekend! Traveled about an hour outside of Prague to Karlstejn, a small town with a castle (aptly named, Hrad Karlstejn), where a group of about 9 of us enjoyed a wine festival complete with costumed knights, kings, queens, jesters, serpent-charmers, and jousters! We feasted our senses on the colorful costumes, quaint village, billions (it seemed!) of visitors and feasted our taste buds on the sweet burcak (young wine) and Czech sausages and trdelniks! All in all, a perfect day. A train ride later, we were home in Prague and celebrated my flatmate’s birthday with a nice little party at our place. Today was for relaxing, leisurely running, journaling, and above all, cooking. An elaborate plan turned into an even more elaborate endeavor, as Hannah and I chopped, cried, chopped more, cried more, minced, sauteed, measured and simmered our way to French Onion Soup Heaven. Yes, it is a real place, and yes, I have been there. All I can say is, I would rather spend my Sunday night no other way than taking photos of our oozy, gooey, bubbling masterpieces broiling away in the oven, waiting to be consumed with utter delight. 2.5 hours of cooking has never been more worth it. A tribute to the small pleasures in life- because really, when you get down to it… aren’t they the best anyway?
I was bouncing outside this morning for a quick loop around Righrovy Sady, the park just by our flat. Stopping at the traffic crossing, I waited with an old man who appraised my outfit (t-shirt and shorts) with amusement. He said something that to me, sounded like, “Czech czech czech czech czech Zima czech czech czech” OH! I thought, I know that word, zima! Well, I thought it meant summer, so I gestured to my outfit and laughed, because yeah, I could practically see my breath and it was pretty chilly out… So we had a good laugh about that. And then about a few other things he mentioned that I pretended I understood. Although apparently, he was saying something about winter, because “zima” actually means winter… Anyway, it made my day to have a random interaction with a cheerful old Czech man. People like him help remind me to break down my stereotypes of Czech people (especially older ones) as grumpy, especially towards foreigners who do silly things like go jogging in shorts when it’s cold out. It just makes my day to share a laugh with a stranger in a foreign language…because after all, laughter is the universal language
Freshly sharpened pencils, brand new white board markers and stickers… it must be the first day of school! All I forgot were the rainboots…apparently, tsunami season has hit Prague before it’s even technically fall! Alright, maybe that’s a little dramatic…
Anyway, my job is to teach English to 1st, 2nd, and 5th grades, with a little preschool thrown in. I’m lucky enough to have a Czech aid for each of my classes, and my aid for today is super sweet and creative, and I know we’re going to have tons of fun together! We ran our first 5th grade class like the pros that we soon will be J
Last weekend I partook in the 2nd Prague Scavenger Hunt. Now this, friends, was the epitome of breaking all social appropriateness in the Czech Republic. Tasks included staging imaginary tennis and basketball matches in busy streets, running around like superheroes, darting Mission Impossible-style through Tesco, having a dance competition for strangers, asking for directions in ridiculous ways, having the man put on eyeshadow and ask for high heels from a very stern salesperson… the list goes on and on. We shared photos and videos at the end, and enjoyed some pints and grub with new friends!
*Arrived to my new flat at 1:30 am
*Finally acquired a bed in Prague that won’t fall apart if I move/cause me to fall off if I roll over
*Went swimming at a real swimming pool!!!
*Shot Prague through the eyes of a Canon Rebel
*attended a mini-fashion show and a VERY American bar which actually turns out to be quite fun
*Watched the laser show on the Astronomical Clock to celebrate its 600th anniversary
*Embarassed myself already far too many times in my new “I’m going to try to learn/speak Czech this time around” attitude. It’s going to pay off.
*Met my new team of teachers at the elementary school… can’t wait to get started and meet the kiddos!!
*Created my own planner/calendar in Czech (because they don’t carry the kind I like, and this girl is picky about planners.) But yay for homemade planners and learning the Cesky days of the week and months today!
*Landed a few odd jobs teaching at the Caledonian school, and private lessons
*Bought my 4th… yes 4th ticket to Bratislava, where I will have the fortune to enjoy the entirety of tomorrow on a bus for 8 hours to spend 15 minutes at the embassy. But, at least I can get my Bratty magnet. Does Bratislava deserve a magnet for remembrance purposes? Hmmm.
*Visited my favorite falafel man!!!
*Spoke Czechlish (in an INTERVIEW) …. “elicitate?!”
*Made plans to travel to Slovenia and Paris in the next 2 months GRIN!!!
Well, that about sums up the first week back….lesson planning and a run through my favorite park overlooking the city are on the agenda for this Pondělí evening!😉
September 5, 2011
Well, journey to Prague, parts 1 and 2 complete. I’m sitting in London Luton airport, sipping my last Starbucks (I swear this time! Pretty sure I just drank a Frappuccino in LA telling myself it was my “last” indulgence in the overpriced drink, even more ridiculously priced in Europe. Yet here I am, with 4 hours to kill before check-in, sipping a tall soy mocha that cost me £3.50, which I suspect is somewhere in the range of $6-7.) Whatever, airport indulgences. It’s the same way I justify calling a bag of Chex mix and Junior mints lunch. Or breakfast. Whatever that last meal was at what felt like 4 in the morning but was really noon… oh traveling!
Anyway. Score points for Air New Zealand! I guess I have never been on a Boeing 777 before…it’s always been 767…oh how I love huge aircrafts! Also, this airline features a Richard Simmons safety video, free spirits and Haagen Daaz ice cream with dinner, all quite entertaining. Unfortunately, I chose to watch Black Swan before the “fake night time” and as a result, couldn’t sleep when it was supposed to be sleep time. Then had a pleasant, slumberful journey from London Heathrow airport to London Luton (although I stupidly, and Americanly, prounounced it “Lut-ON” instead of “Lut-in” in that nice proper British way.) I needed £21.90 for the bus between airports, but unfortunately, the money exchange lady only gave me £21.65, which I unhappily realized as I tried buying the ticket from the machine. Hmm, what to do….ask a random British person for 25 pence, or search around on the ground near the concession store…. Went with option 2 for awhile, before sucking it up and asking the ticket lady if they could put the remaining 25 pence on my debit card…she laughed and said it was fine to pay only £21.65. Score! I have a sneaking suspicion that wouldn’t have happened in Prague. Mostly because I would have messed up the whole conversation, and the customer service isn’t necessarily as “forgiving” as they could be anyway. Anyway, just barely avoided sleeping through the Luton airport stop, which was fortunate. That could have been a pain. Well clearly, I have too much time on my hands with 4 hours to kill as I have just detailed my last few hours of traveling…Příští zastávka, Praha!