Every day in Prague I go home by hiking uphill. It is steep, unevenly paved, and its surface is pitted with bumps and potholes. It is only broken up by a couple set of steps. It winds around, and when nightfall materializes, it can become deathly quiet and dark.
I wonder how long the brick wall lining this hill has been here, how many years of graffiti and weather and eroded mortar lie behind its existence.
I am a stranger in a strange land.
A land where the beer is cheaper than coffee or Coca-Cola.
A land where you must pay for your plastic shopping bags.
A land where you can buy hot wine. Yes. Hot wine. Really.
It is when I don’t see Hass avocadoes in abundance at the local Billa market that I remember that I am a long way from Los Angeles.
Here we are.
And what is it, exactly, that we’ve gotten ourselves into?
We’d planned it.
Decided to do it.
But it’s all talk until you’re doing it. What does the future bring?
I drink freakishly large amounts of water. And, because of this, as a traveler, I must immediately know where all the restrooms are. I do not let on that I am thinking about this.
I’m a planner. I like to organize, check things off a list, and then have a back-up plan just in case. And back-up plan B.
Throws you a curve ball. Some things in life you just can’t plan.
It is when the cloudy skies linger in a heavy envelope and the frigid air slaps me across my cheeks that I remember that I’ve ] left Los Angeles.
It is during my ritual of unlocking and locking all the doors from the inside and corresponding outside as I exit my rented villa with my roommates that I realize that we have left our families.
It is during the first few footsteps down aforementioned steep hill on a wet, uneven walkway half paved and half lined with steps that I remember that I’ve left the country. We walk down some more and it is when we come to a crosswalk where the button must be pushed and the light will read ‘CEKEJTE’ on the post that I remember this is a European city that I do not know, with a language foreign to anything I have every studied, in a country I have never been to.
It is myself that I know. It is the warmth of a new friendship that I have come to know. It is my gut instincts and my word choices that are still familiar, but unfamiliar to those around me.
Every moment is truly an adventure.
Why is it that when I travel and experience different cultures that life is the most surprising? Unexpected. Every minute and banal aspect of life becomes an opportunity for discovery and proud achievement. A sliver of light, a glimpse of another world, another rung on your ladder of worldly endeavors and sophisticated understandings that never quite appear to be that way while you’re experiencing them.
It’s all exhausting of course. I am tired, I have a migraine, and my legs are sore from the many hikes uphill back to the villa.
These are not the leisurely hikes up dry dirt trails from the Griffith Observatory. These are not done in the morning into the early hours of the afternoon due to the inevitable sunny skies streaming light and heat into the arid blanket of air. These are hikes through snow and slush, or fresh powder atop a sheet of pure ice, or a mixture of slush and black ice.
Watch out for the puddles.
I may be tired, but I am tired in Prague.
I am not in love with Prague.
Shocking news, I know.
Not in love yet, anyway. People seem to rave on and on about how beautiful and romantic the city is. Not that I’ve had much time to see it – what with getting sick and being in class all day and preparing lesson plans. And hiking up a hill to get to my rented villa.
We will see what the weekend will bring. Perhaps some love. Or not.
For some reason I keep thinking about Spanish – how that is the language that would make me feel most at home in this part of the world. It is familiar, comforting. I was thinking about Barcelona – still not sure where I’m going to spend the holidays yet. Am hoping to stay in Europe but we will see. Also – come to think of it, Barcelona is the closest thing to home in Europe – not that I left the States with the desire to search for familiar and ho-hum things.
I went to the doctor’s office. It had been three days and my cold wasn’t getting any better, despite tea and over the counter medicine and a ton of EmergenC and Airborne. His name was Dr. Seifert and he spoke English, and was recommended by the TEFL program, so I gave his office a ring. After a short metro ride to the Krzikova station, I found the office and went in, waiting in the little room. No receptionist or open hatch desk for people to sign in, so I just sat there and waited with the other patient. After awhile, I am the only one in the waiting room. Sure enough, a nurse emerges – she is wearing white from head to toe – white sneakers, white pants, white shirt. She dons a pair of wire framed glasses and says something to me in Czech.
“Um…I’m here to see Dr. Seifert?”
“Ah…(something something in Czech) Anglicky?” (This, anglicky, I understood.)
“Ah, okay.” A couple minutes later she motions me to come on back.
The doctor sits me down in a chair next to his desk. I relay my symptoms, and my current situation. He asks if I would like to take a test to check for bacterial infection.
I am sitting in a chair in the little nurses’ room adjacent to the doctor’s office. There are two nurses – one with short dark hair whom looks friendly. The other one is taller, more heavyset, and has frizzy light brown-greyish hair – she is the one that dons glasses; she is the scarier looking one of the two. She ends up being the nurse to prick my finger and get a blood sample. I look away and anticipate the pain of the pricking.
I am sitting back in the doctor’s office.
“It’s a peak time for colds and the flu, late November,” he says. This should comfort me but somehow doesn’t. His slow speech in English and his posture are calming, though.
He writes on a post-it note the names of a couple of over-the-counter medications, as well as his recommendations. On it, he writes, ‘tea’, and ‘relax!’, which I figure he means as ‘get some rest.’
“You are a bit infectious, so you should rest at home for at least a day or two. You will get better, just take the Coldrex, drink lots of tea, and use the nasal drops.”
In conclusion: ‘Relax!’