This month marks my 3-year anniversary here in Prague. And it doesn’t seem like just yesterday that I got off an airplane in the middle of the night, scared and alone in a new and very foreign place. It’s been quite a long journey. I didn’t know a soul here, and I was running away from what I thought was home. What I didn’t know was that I was running towards home. Prague is my home now.
When I landed here in October of 2006 I had short red hair with black highlights. I was insecure and frightened. I had no job and no friends.
My hair is not the only thing that has gone through a transformation.
I have been up and down here in Prague. I have been gainfully employed, and I have been broke. I have been fired and found work when I had too. I have had over 10 roommates. I have lived in great apartments and I have lived in rooms with no heat. I have made Thanksgiving dinners with all of the trimmings and I have spent weeks eating nothing but potatoes and ramen. I have spent the last three Christmases here watching the snow fall with other ex pats that could not afford to, or didn’t want to go “home” for the holidays. I have traveled to great European cities with not more than an hours notice. I have been blessed.
The biggest blessing has been the people I have met here. Since my very first day in Prague, I have had friends. I remember meeting Ben and Christina quite vividly – walking down the street from the Villa and headed towards the Norma market in Prague 9. Ben turns to us and says in a slight southern drawl, “So, ya’ll passionate about teaching?” We started laughing and a friendship was born. I met some amazing people in my TEFL course that will be close to me forever. Some of us spent 2 years here together before making our way to new adventures. I consider the staff at TEFL Worldwide Prague to be family. Even when I wasn’t working there, Cheryl and Terry (and Hana!) have taken the best care of me and looked out for my interests. For this I can never be grateful enough.
I have gotten used to some of the crappy things about living here – such as being pushed daily. Whether I am waiting for the Metro or waiting in line at the Albert, an old Czech lady will push me. I have gotten used to the lack of spices in food here, and have devised ways of making my own food flavorful. I know that service will not come with a smile and that it might not come…ever. I know that going to the post office in a former communist country is as close to hell as I ever wish to be. And I know that taking the tram in the middle of summer here requires nose plugs. (Still haven’t gotten used to the men and children peeing in the streets…and I won’t. Not ever!)
But for all of its faults, Prague is home. I live in a city with an actual castle! I have amazing friends here from all over the world. I look back at the girl who came here and I don’t really recognize her. I have learned how to survive anything and just roll with the punches. I guess the biggest lesson I have learned here is that ultimately in life you have only yourself to rely on. For the very first time in my life I am completely independent. (I realized that somewhere on a bus in the middle of Mexico.) I am living my life the way I want to. I make my own money and have fought to stay here. The friendships I have here are not due to convenience or locality – they are friends I have chosen. I came to this place three years ago a victim and I have recovered. I am my own person now. Sure, that person is a little quirky and maybe crazy sometimes, but that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. Heck, without the sour the sweet just ain’t as sweet.
To all of the people who have helped me get to where I am I want to say thank you and I love you. You know who you are.