when i left seattle last july–almost a year ago–i didn’t have a goodbye party… something i sometimes kick myself for. although that’s what most people do when they go away for a long time, it didn’t seem real to me then. i told everyone where i was going and when but i didn’t feel like the occasion warranted a full-out goodbye party. sometimes i downplayed my departure. that seemed too definite at the time.
when i packed my clothes in anacortes last august, i didn’t quite understand what i was packing for. even though it was august, i forced myself to pack a warm winter hat and a sweater or two…. not fully believing that this was really all i would have for at least the next twelve months, maybe more. again, it wasn’t real.
there was no way to realize then how real this trip turned adventure turned life would be. staying in europe for six months was my minimum goal. i told friends, “oh, six months to a year” when they asked how long i’d be away for. but the longer i’m here, the longer it seems that i can continue to stay here. my six months to a year back then looks a lot more like “oh, a year and a half to two years” nowadays.
and boy do i have my bouts of missing home. especially brought on by any bouts of crappy weather here. alex and i often trade our starbucks stories and sometimes i would give anything for a good ‘ol karaoke night at the wheel. and a senor moose brunch. and a cup full of yo-zen and a walk down market street. you get the picture. but when it comes down to it, i have a job i really like. so does alex. i feel like us being here really matters in this community. and there’s only so many trips around the continent you can take with semi-limited time and money. the longer we stay, the more we can travel. spending money on plane tickets to visit home seems tempting but i know at the same time it would take a big chunk away from traveling– basically, the reason i’m here.
and another realization: at first getting certified to teach english was just a means to live abroad. but alex and i are both making great strides with our teaching and are becoming better and better every month. “by next next fall, we will be awesome.” and i’ve found that leaving so soon would mean that i couldn’t teach english anymore, something that i’m really loving now. i feel like i’ve really become a teacher.
today i had a meeting with my school to sign on for another school year. “we are going to fill up your schedule massively!” the headmaster exclaimed. “massively? well, that’s a serious word!” i joked. giving a verbal commitment to be here in budejovice for another year is kind of a scary thing. but time seems to pass so quickly. i mean, i’m already at over 9 months in europe– when did that happen?
the czech republic isn’t exactly the sexiest european country to visit. if i was in london, paris, florence, or berlin i think there’d be a good bit more interest, as these locales are famous, romantic, easy to fly to, and everyone knows a lot about them. many people still call the country where i’m living czechoslovakia, although it hasn’t been for over twenty years. many touring bands don’t even stop in prague. (how woefully uninformed they are!) it’s on the “B list” with places like hungary, finland, slovenia, latvia, cyprus, lichtenstein, turkey. many americans don’t know a lot about these places. all the better a reason to check them out and learn some history, yeah?
the czech republic has a great climate, excellent location between germany, austria, slovakia, and poland with plenty destinations to trip to, and lots of tourist value– especially in prague. the food is cheap, the beer is cheaper (i would never think of paying over $2 for a pint, $1.25-1.50 is normal), the buildings are cheerful, colorful and historic (i used to live a block away from one of franz kafka’s old residences) and its a nature lover’s haven in the summer time with abundant hiking and water sports. ruins and castles galore. it’s bohemia, for chrissake! how wild is that?
although a visit to czech republic doesn’t fit on everyone’s europe itinerary, it’s definitely worth a stop if you’re around central europe– germany and austria especially. only a stone’s throw from vienna, berlin, dresden, or munich!
photos above: house facades in mala strana(prague), a view of charles bridge(prague), hluboka castle(hluboka nad vlatavou), mala strana(prague), alex in pine forest (near trebon), cynthia in the square(budejovice)