this bohemian life

i had one of my landlords over for tea the other day. she’s real sweet– in her sixties and working part-time as an english teacher at the czech-english high school here in town. i love her curiosity about english and english speakers, and how she always wants to know what textbooks i’m using to teach or what methods. she’s the reason we got this great flat in the first place… and the reason we pay much less for it per month than the list price suggested. she often says that she would never “kick us out on the street” and that there would always be a place for us here, at the flat that she grew up in.

we were talking about expats in české budějovice over the past twenty years, and she mentioned… “it’s like a moveable feast”! and a light bulb turned on in my mind. you know, all of the expats here are living in this sort of paradise where work is good and plentiful and they have plenty of free time to pursue any and all leisure activities, hobbies, and art. she’s got a point! české budějovice does have similarities to that beloved paris in the twenties era. they certainly have got the dog-shit-all-over-the-sidewalk issue in common, but i digress. the small group of expats here all know each other. and there is some respect invloved, because this city isn’t an easy one to come by. it’s nobody’s first choice unless you are in-the-know about czech cities. i mean, it’s completely unpronounceable to anyone untrained in a slavic language. the much easier pronounceable and more well-known prague is always the landing place for expats, and oh yes, there are hundreds! but when you move here, people get really curious about you. the first thing anyone wants to know is why did i come here? (said always in an incredulous but not rude tone)

in addition, czech republic (especially outside of prague) is CHEAP, super laid-back, and living is good, at least for us. i realized today that i live about as close to the city center without actually being right in the center… probably something that will never happen again in life after czechland. if there’s a party, everyone knows about it, and everyone meets each other in the expat circle eventually… although there are rumored to be a couple americans living here that i still haven’t met yet!
the main obstacle for me personally is, of course, the constant stream of frowny-faces. everyone typically maintains a general level of pissed-off here, and strangers will do almost anything to avoid talking to you. but why? i used to be discouraged by it, but i’ve met enough upbeat and positive folks to know that not everyone is like this. so i keep smiling. i wonder if they realize what a lovely place they live in; i don’t think they do. i know it. i’ve spent enough years walking under the ugly ballard bridge on the way home from my minimum-wage night shift job to long for something architecturally pleasant to look at.

this place seems easily like the kind that you plan on leaving and just never do. and when and if that time comes, it won’t be easy ‘cause i’ve definitely warmed up to this bohemian life. now if only everyone was closer or plane-tickets weren’t so damn expensive! and ernie, scott, zelda, sylvia, gertrude and the gang were here.

(some photos from here and here)