I’ve officially been living in Prague for an entire month, life is crazy. This is a quick update so that my friends and family know that I’m alive and well and eating way too many pastries. After 4 weeks, I finally feel like I actually live here and it’s not some weird vacation dream thing. I speak enough Czech to survive, can successfully navigate the metro, know what butter looks like at the grocery store and understand that “dort” is Czech for cake. Little victories but big victories. I feel comfortable adventuring on my own in Prague and am slowly learning enough cultural norms to kind of blend in—as long as I don’t open my mouth.
Once a week I volunteer at a local elementary school in Prague assisting in a classroom of Czech 2nd graders learning English. They are actually so perfect and cute and curious and stare at me in awe because I’m the first native English speaker + American they’ve ever met. They ask me questions like if I like hotdogs or what my house looks like and I realize how far from home I am. Their education system is so different from the US and I see posters on the wall of New York City and places that seem very distant from this little elementary school.
American music plays in all of the stores, though most people don’t understand the words. Portions sizes are smaller, on my desperate days I order two meals instead of one and the waitress thinks I’m crazy. Even McDonalds is different here—it’s way better. Post-communist buildings are painted light pink or blue, not torn down making way for something bigger. You have to pay for tap water at restaurants here and if you don’t specify they will give you sparkling water and it’s never not shocking. Beer is cheap, so cheap and the cuisine is built around the beer. They don’t hate Americans here like you’ve heard. Most people just want to ask us questions and assume that we’re from New York because that’s the only city in the US to them. KFC is actually inexplicably amazing in Europe.
Some days it is hard. I just want to walk into a store and understand everything the cashier is saying. Or be able to find the salami. Or ask a question without stuttering. Or sleep in my own bed. Or walk into my best friend’s room. Or not be perpetually confused.
But that’s not most days. Most days I look up in class and there’s a castle outside and nothing feels real. Most days I wander around endless Czech bookshops and pick books up and try to recognize words. Most days I order dessert that tastes like heaven. Most days I notice magnificent buildings that are older than my home country. Most days I take it in and realize how big and small the planet is at the same time. Most days I am in awe that I’m lucky enough to be alive in this exact moment in this exact place.