My final month here has been full of many fun Czech holidays. April 30th is Čarodějnice in the Czech Republic, the day that winter is ceremonially brought to an end by the burning of straw witches. There are small children in costumes, beer, sausage, and bonfires. We enjoyed a festival in a park near the Kolej that featured good music and performances by fire-spinners. For May Day, the Czechoslovak Anarchist Federation (CAF) was hosting a festival against racism. There were colorful looking characters enjoying music in Old Town. I saw a sign that said, “Love music, hate Nazis.” It was enjoyable and uneventful. In the evening, I picnicked on Petřín Hill with some friends. We also day-tripped to Pilzen for the Liberation Festival that weekend. Again the festival included beer, sausage, and good music. I was happy to discover some halušky, too! It made me homesick for a good block party in Schuylkill County.
Kafka says, “Prague doesn’t let go. This little mother has claws.” While the image is a little unsettling, I really hope that this experience clings with me. I came here without many expectations (a bad habit that too often spoils my experiences) but I did expect to feel refreshed after my semester here. I really have experienced a nice shift of perspective. I’ve grown in my gratitude and taken small steps towards the ever-elusive goal of living in the present. Since living in Prague, I’ve become better at quieting my chatty and anxious mind. This experience has allowed me to continue to develop my sense of adventure and love of new things. I’ve learned to not be afraid of embarrassment or discomfort.
About halfway through this experience I really hung up on the idea that we all work too hard and that it’s wrong to exhaust ourselves the way we so often do. I was really not looking forward to return to the hectic pace and the constant churning at home. My four month vacation has really renewed me and as I enjoy the last final weeks, I feel very enthusiastic about my homecoming. I’m looking forward to returning to the obligations and hard-work that comes with “real life” and school at home. This semester, I’ve devoted serious time to my journal and it’s really peaked my interest writing. Being here has refreshed my ideas about theatre and acting and helped me to develop a more mature and relaxed perspective about where I’m headed. In Prague, I’ve learned to live more simply and more joyfully.
Things I am looking forward to about returning home: sitting on the sofa with a spoon and a half gallon of ice-cream. The mini-scoops of lame Czech gelato aren’t cutting it. The food is just fine, and most of my meals I prepare myself, so it’s standard Melissa cuisine. What I miss is restaurant/Mom specific foods: Cali Burrito, Maggie Moos, breakfast at The Coop, coffee and other late night snacks at QFR, Starter’s shrimp bisque and french fries, and Egan family outdoor dinners (especially Mom’s chocolate chip banana cake with fresh whipped cream and strawberries!) And, always my favorites: Gram’s chocolate chip cookies and her cooked carrots. (Mmm, suddenly I’m exceptionally hungry…)
I’m also looking forward to my full wardrobe. I’ve really worn out nearly everything I’ve brought with me and the shopping here isn’t great ( … looking forward to something beside H&M or TopShop). I can’t wait for flat walking surfaces so I can wear heels (the cobblestones are really killer!) I’m looking forward to walking around in my summer uniform, a sundress and flip-flops, without getting disapproving Czech glares. Czech people are always hatin’ on flip-flops. I’m also over the dogs and the cigarettes everywhere. It will be nice to sit and enjoy a meal in a smoke-free and canine-free restaurant. Also, I’ve eaten enough pork to last the rest of my life. I may never eat it again.
Things that I will miss: reliable public transportation, a schedule with minimal responsibility that provides the luxury of ooddles of “me time,” seeing lots of cheap theater/ballet/operas/concerts (I’ve seen at least one performance each week I’ve been here- exceptional, exceptionally awful, and everything in between), cheap nights out, being able to say incredible things like, “I’m off to Vienna for the weekend,” living in such beautiful and inspirational places and thinking of the great minds who came before me, regularly seeing famous and familiar works of art, feeling like the world is not so big and feeling like you can connect and communicate with people from everywhere (… on the good days! There are of course bad days when your helpless and overwhelmed by language and cultural barriers).
I will also miss smažený sýr. It might be the hardest thing to leave behind. I was a non-believer when I arrived. I, too, laughed at the single Czech vegetarian option: fried cheese on a bun. Being an adventurous personality I, of course, was willing to try this popular Czech treat, and since then am not only an advocate but a smažený sýr snob. I regularly will go out of my way to make the last stop of the night Narodni Trida because anything less than the best fried cheese is unacceptable. I order mine with mayonnaise (something more like tartar sauce or a herb mayo) and ketchup. I’m sure that the idea of eating this makes Prague friends drool and American friends cringe. Smažený sýr is delicious and also medicinal as it will prevent any hangover. It’s a proven failsafe cure.
I will also miss Free Sangria Tuesdays at Bukowkis (Free pitchers of sangria for ladies at a trendy little bar!) I will miss castles and bridges and breathtaking architecture on every corner. (I will, however, not miss the twisting-never-lead-you-the-same-way-twice streets of Prague. Sure, it’s charming to discover a new little street but it’s nearly impossible to give/receive directions or make it anywhere without getting lost at least twice.) I will miss delicious Czech beer and Moravian wine (made all the more delicious by how affordable they are!) I will miss lazy afternoons in Prague’s parks. I will miss tasting all of the fine European coffees. My favorite being the Czech staple: a tall glass of turecká káva or Turkish coffee. And, of course!, I will miss the new dear friends who have shared this experience with me.
School is wrapping up nicely with one week of classes followed by a week of finals – all of which should be pretty uneventful. I’ve got a paper for Czech Theatre, an exam for Expressionist Film of the Interwar Period, and a project for Literature of Czech Coffee Houses. I’m working on a series of self-portraits of me drinking coffee that are inspired by the places we’ve been and the artists/writers we’ve studied. It’s been fun putting it together.
This week also includes Svět Odsouzencův a show by the Spitfire Company at Palac Akropolis tonight, a second trip to Cesky Krumlov, a Saturday in Nuremburg, Germany with AIFS. Also, AIFS End-Of-Semester Dinner (a rare chance to get dolled up and put on a pair of heels!) My sister arrives next week. So, it’ll be a great chance to return to all the Prague hot-spots before returning home.
“A home is neither a linen closet nor a bird in a cage but the presence of a person we love.” Kundera.
If Kundera is right (and I think he is), I have several homecomings to look forward to.: my home in Robesonia, my shabby and lovable home on New Street, my home in Allentown (anxiously awaiting kisses and cuddles), PSF and DeSales (my theatre home), and my Bethlehem home (many exciting Vince and Melissa adventures this summer!)
Many new pictures for you to enjoy via my Facebook profile. Pictures include photos from a visit with my good friend Meghan, trips to Amsterdam, Vienna, and Poland. Check out photos from Čarodějnice, Liberation Day in Pilsen, the Prague Marathon (runners from 71 different countries!), and a delicious brunch at Radost (recognize the wallpaper? Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop the Music” video was filmed here.)