A conversation occurred this week (which I mentioned in this Instagram post) in which a certain secondary school-aged class of mine, when asked what they liked about České Budějovice could think of almost nothing, but then finally offered
1) The train station is near the bus station. (this is the case in almost every Czech city ever)
2) There are a lot of things and services here. (in comparison to a small village)
And that was literally it. No single teenager in my class likes České Budějovice. This is something which I take with a couple grains of salt, of course because one, they’re teenagers and they don’t like anything, and two, it’s hard to know what’s great about your city or place you live if you haven’t left it for a time. Still, I found this reaction curious and it got me thinking the past few days.
As a teenager, I used to covet the annual broadcasts of MTV Spring Break and wish that my parents had moved (or stayed, rather) in sunny California rather than bringing me up to gloomy Washington state. (‘Cause boy, even though our summers are incredible, it is, like, 9 months of gloom, people). In my slightly more learned years, I started learning from the cool eccentric locals that would hang around the all-ages music venue we always hung out at who actually (gasp) seemed to like our town and Washington. It wasn’t until I started spending more time with these wiser folks (who had lived other places first probably so they knew how great it was) that I started accepting it myself.
But, of course, it wasn’t until I actually left for this several year life-extravaganza thing I’m doing that I really valued where I came from. The advantage of this is not only learning to love where you’re from, but you completely appreciate a brand new place, so unlike the one you came from, that jaded locals might not feel so keen on. I always see my state or town differently through an outsider’s eyes, and I’ve been proud if I could help provide some sort of similar experience with bringing people closer to their home-region of the world, South Bohemia (or, just Czech Republic in general). This city, this place is absolutely gorgeous and though it’s a different sort of beautiful than the kind I grew up with (and have now learned to appreciate), I’ve completely become a SoBo patriot these days, as if it’s “my city” now. I don’t know how someone could feel nothing walking through our beautiful square.
Which leads me to my next thing in this rambly post: people here, lately. For the past week or two, I’ve noticed a strange phenomenon: random people are smiling at me. A lot more than usual. It’s not so normal to walk around smiling or anything here, so I definitely notice it. I first noticed it a couple weeks ago during our weekly grocery store run where Alex and I were somewhat loudly debating which loaf of bread to get that day as if all forms of life and the existence thereof hung upon that fateful bread decision, which is the level of intensity we use to discuss basically everything. Anyway, I noticed a guy smiling at me through the carrots and celery. “Do I know that guy? I don’t think I do. Why is he smiling at me?”, I say to Alex. “Maybe he’s your former student?” “No…. I really don’t think I’ve ever seen him”. I swear I haven’t seen these people, guys. Is it that someone recognizes me from Interwebs? From this space? I don’t know. But thank you for your smiles, people of Budejovice. Perplexing as it might be, I appreciate your smiles! I appreciate this warmth!
Could it just be this time of the year?
One Valentine’s Day when I was living in Ballard (Seattle), I had a day off from my coffee-slingin’ job. In fact, I probably took the day off just for Valentine’s Day because I used to do things like that just so I could stay home and do things like make heart-shaped cookies and listen to Etta Fitzgerald, or whatever.
I decided to walk to NW Market Street to buy a Valentine’s surprise for Alex. And just on that walk from my house to Cupcake Royale, I swear people were smiling at me left and right, up and down. So much that I still remember it today. I mean, I was in the USA, not the Czech Republic or anything, but it was still more than usual and somewhat memorable. Ballard can be sort of whimsical like that. So I get to Cupcake Royale and stood in line and some lovely stranger complimented me on my coat or something. Then I floated to the record store to buy Walk Among Us on vinyl (Note: Walk Among Us + a cupcake is the best Valentine’s gift). The whole interaction just felt entirely magical for a random-ass Tuesday or whatever it was.
Maybe it’s February vibes, this time of year? Maybe people are now coming out of their January hibernations and looking forward to facing humans again? I still maintain that you get what you put out, which is why I do really believe that when I think about the world in a whimsical way, it cycles on back to me. It could be that.
Or it could be all in my head. I will admit that I’m not getting out quite as much as I usually do these days. I will largely blame that on like four hours of The Bachelor this past week. (The Bachelor is officially and absolutely affecting my social life) But oh well, if there ever was a time to stay in and be cozy with a book or a TV show, it’s now. Although, not getting out does start to affect you in little ways. You’ll be out walking to work or whatever thinking “THOUGHTS-PRESSING-ISSUES-CONCERNS-THOUGHTS” to be suddenly bumped by a stranger who says “Muzu si zeptat??” and you’re like, “whoa, buddy!” and your brain needs an extra few seconds to remember where you are and what you’re doing. There are small consequences.
Next week, I am teaching at a primary school (in a small nearby village) for the first time. I have no idea how that’s going to go. But before that all comes to a head, I’m just looking forward to walks in this balmy weather, good eats, listening to Ozma, reading Icelandic newspapers and watching another Oscar-nominated film ahead of Sunday’s show. You know. Typical weekend stuff.
Hope you have a beautiful and whimsical start to the month.