The language is oh-so humbling to those of us who think we are pretty decent at picking up languages.
Coming off that airplane, I was so happy with my “dobry den” and “jedna pivo, prosim” that I mastered from my pocket Czech card. Thought it would be smooth sailing; with my few years of German and Italian classes, what’s another language! Well, 1.2 years and multiple Czech classes later, I still go into a shop, ask a question in Czech, and receive either a completely boggled look or a reply in English. Guess I’ve got more work to do…
Comfort Food Extraordinaires
By the time my first meal in Prague rolled around, I was jetlagged and hungry beyond belief. I opened the menu, and ordered the first thing I saw, a sausage with potatoes. Oh, were those first few bites heaven. I don’t think I realized quite how many sausages and potatoes I would come across in over a year here….but let’s just say they are quite popular! (and can’t compare to that very first!) Other memorable culinary experiences include the endless joys incurred by breads, pastries and cakes here (carb-loving zone!), and the buckets of fresh carp sold near Christmastime (Czechs bring the carp home to keep in the bathtub until feasting time.) Speaking of Christmas markets, there is nothing quite like wandering the festive, snowlit stands, browsing Czech wooden crafts and ornaments while holding a trdelnik in one hand and steaming cup of mulled wine in the other. It is literally the scene painted on Christmas cards…I’ll take that over a Starbucks red cup any day.
Lightening up the rules
I was actually speechless the day we took our preschool kids horseback riding (not on ponies, on BIG horses!) It was my first Czech field trip, and hauling kids on and off buses, metros and massive horses completely changed all views I had of normal preschool activities! I mean, one of these kids actually body-surfed the gigantic metro escalator, having never ridden one before. In everything from sparklers in school to the (creepy!) open elevators that keep moving while you simply jump off at your floor, I notice the absence of rules and regulations I am so used to at home. While my American upbringing often silently gasps, “lawsuit waiting to happen!!”, it is refreshing to live in a country that isn’t so obsessed with rules and signs and protecting human beings from their own…well, stupidity.
Opening Their Homes to the Foreigner
“The foreigner”… yep, that’s me. As an English teacher, I travel to student’s homes to teach lessons, and this has truly opened my eyes to the Czech culture, showing me that these are some of the warmest people I’ve ever met. Every Czech family I’ve met has been superbly hospitable, offering slippers and tea (shoes are always removed and slippers worn inside; how has our country not caught on to this?!) But beyond that, they have opened their homes to me, inviting me for dinner, where we traded stories of our different cultures and traditions (they put up their Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, and can’t believe we put ours up so early!) I’ve made lifelong friends and admire and appreciate their acceptance of someone totally foreign to them. In a country so desperately frosty in the winter, the warm hearts of the people are what make living abroad in Prague worth every minute.