There’s a part of me that really loves sitting in airports. Not the stress of just-at-the-weight-limit baggage, or the endless security lines (or security mob, if you’re at Fiumicino), or the person in front of you who doesn’t seem to understand that yes, that industrial-sized bottle of hair gel is, in fact, considered a liquid. What I love is the time between the security gate and my seat. Those couple of hours when you can walk around and observe, without speaking to anyone. You’re free to–even justified in–eating that giant Cinnabon and reading your book, and no one can interrupt you. (Can you tell that I do most of my traveling alone?) All around you people are rushing, talking, making connections, leaving loved ones, experiencing relief and anxiety and everything else imaginable, and for me, it’s calming. To me, the sounds of an airport are just background noise, signifying nothing.

It’s almost like Prague in the snow.

Prague is not a noisy city to begin with. There isn’t really traffic to speak of, the metro is underground, it doesn’t have an outdoor marketplace. But when it snows here, as it has been for the past week, the few sounds that you do hear are muffled. People’s footsteps, often loud on the cobblestones, are muted. Most of the cars are snowed in and untouched. And in the park at night, people walk hand-in-hand but do not speak as the snow falls heavy and silent, adding inch upon inch to the unshoveled paths.

During the day, the park is full of dogs romping through snow that comes almost up to their bellies, and children dragging old-fashioned wooden sleds up the gentle hills, waddling under layers and layers of winter clothing. People leave their houses despite the cold to take advantage of the deepest snow that Prague has seen in nearly twenty years.

Moving on toward the eventual destination of spring, which I look forward to, remembering the days when darkness fell well after nine o’clock, I’m nevertheless perfectly content to watch people stomping, plodding, running and whatever else through the snow, knowing that it’s only an interlude between other things.

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My friend M (who wishes to remain internet-anonymous) just moved to Thailand to work at a women’s shelter, and writes a blog that is infinitely funnier and more insightful than mine.  You should all check it out.

There are times when it’s hard to know if things are “Czech” or not.  When people behave in a certain way, when someone reacts to me as a non-Czech, I always have to wonder if it’s a matter of nationality or personality.  I can’t tell, for instance, when the person at the restaurant I’m trying to make a reservation at sighs and says, “Well, I guess you can come at that time,” if it’s because they’re genuinely unpleasant, or if it’s because we’re speaking English, and they, perhaps rightfully so, are tired of dealing with foreigners who can’t be bothered to learn the local language.  There are certainly times when I’m sure they’re just being obstinate.  My conversation with the receptionist for my building manager, for example (written phonetically for explanation and emphasis):

Me: Ahoj, Petra Navakova, prosim?  (Hello, Petra Navacova, please?)

Her: (Czechczechczechczech) (Something clearly along the lines of, Who? I can’t possibly think of anyone who works here who has a name remotely like that.)

Me: Um…mluvite anglitsky?

Her: Ne.

Me: Ahhh…Petra Navakova, prosim?

Her: (Czechczechczechczech)

Me: Petra Navakova?

(Several seconds of angry silence.)

Her: Ah, Petra Navakova.  Dobre.

I mean, really?  I understand that proper emphasis is important, but I feel reasonably confident that if someone called and asked to talk to Lindsay Lohan instead of Lindsay Lohan, I could still figure out who they meant.   It’s the same feeling I get when I’m in a movie theater, and the Czech part of the audience and the expat part of the audience laugh at completely different parts of the film.  2012? Not so funny to the Czechs.  Paranormal Activity? Absolutely hi-larious.

There is no time that I feel quite so American, though, as when I go out to lunch with my Czech co-workers.  I never thought of myself as a particularly American person.  Not that I’m ashamed of it, I just never identified one way or the other with the word.  It is here, though, that I realize how strongly my American-ness is bred into my actions.  Because, you see, Czechs (at least the ones that work at my law firm) are not very chatty people.  I never thought I was either, until I got here.

Every day, we go to lunch.  We talk about three things: What did you do/are you going to do this weekend?  Are you busy at work today?  Why are lawyers such jerks?  These topics last for roughly ten minutes, or, the time it takes to walk to wherever we’re eating, plus the time it takes for us to order.  And then we sit.

And sit.

And I get uncomfortable.  I am an American, and we make small talk.  We do not sit in silence while contemplating our napkins and the choice of cutlery sitting before us.  And so I ask questions.  Where do you live in Prague?  Have you always lived here?  I even brought out the big guns once by asking, How did you meet your husband?  I mean, who doesn’t like to talk about their significant other for at least a few minutes.  “On a bus.”  And… “That’s pretty much the whole story.”

And so it is, it seems.  The whole story can be summed up in a sentence: in the conversational cold war between America and the Czech Republic, I am destined to lose.

I’m sorry it’s been a while since I updated.  Somehow the last few weeks have really gotten away from me, which I guess could be either a good or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it.

My birthday last week was lovely.  My coworkers brought me flowers and tiramisu, and after my book club meeting I went out with some friends for dessert at one of my favorite restaurants.  That being said, I don’t know how much I like being twenty-three–I feel like perhaps I should be doing something more important than a temporary proofreading job.  Then again, I guess this is the time for temporary jobs.

On a completely separate topic, I walk past these strange statues every day, and I’ve been meaning to take a picture of them for Kathryn, my cat-lady friend.  (In case you can’t tell, this is a cat dressed up as a sailor.)  They’re carved out of chocolate, and there is no explanation given as to why the cats all appear to be very, very drunk.

I’ve been doing a lot of food-related things lately, which are, of course, some of my favorite things to do.  Heidi and I have made apple cider doughnuts, lots of curry, and most recently, gingerbread apple upside-down cake. We also ventured out into the Prague suburbs to visit Little Hanoi, the Vietnamese neighborhood, where we had noodle soup. It was wonderful, even if the area itself was a little unnerving. I don’t think I would visit there after dark, meaning after 4 o’clock here during Prague winter…

I come home in just over three weeks, and I’m so excited to see everyone who will be in Chicago. I think having a chance to see the people that I’ve known forever will help fortify me to get through January and February, which are, by all accounts, pretty miserable here. But you know, positive thinking and whatnot. I’ll try to keep more up to date on this blog, since keeping in touch with people will also make surviving the winter easier.

I’m so, so tired. I’m two weeks behind on responding to anyone’s emails (sorry!), I’m behind on my book club book, I keep messing up the scarf I’m trying to knit, I’m just tired. But it’s not really a bad thing. Actually, the last two weeks have been pretty HPIM2260good.

1. I found peanut butter. Actually, I think what I should say is, I found Marks & Spencers. It’s so much cheaper here than it is in London. I nearly cried when I went in for the first time a couple of weekends ago. They have tea biscuits, and parmesan cheese, and smooth AND crunchy peanut butter. And I can afford all of those things.

2. I spent almost a week in London with my mom, and got to eat a lot of really good food and see this exhibit, which was great.  She also brought me 7 pounds of brown sugar, a bottle of vanilla extract, sea salt, two cans of pumpkin, and peanut butter M&Ms.

3. I found a dog!  I had her for one night, and I called her Sadie.  She was really sweet, but I knew I had to find her real owner.  I was walking her to the police station the morning after I found her, because they can scan her for a microchip, and we ran into her real owner.  He said that she had wandered away when she was in the park, and that they have two small kids, so I’m glad she’s back with her family.  But here she is curled up on my bed.HPIM2258

4. I also have a dog to dog-sit.  His name is Sparky, and we’re going to watch him when his owner has to work late nights and weekends and doesn’t want to leave him alone in the house.

5. I come home in 48 days.

A lot of things continue to amaze me about my life now. I’ve graduated from college. I’m a grown-upCIMG0609–when did that happen? Because I don’t feel like one a lot of the time. Yes, I technically have a lease contract, and I’ve learned the ins and outs of dealing with my property manager when I still don’t have curtains four months after moving in, our oven is broken, and our heat still hasn’t been turned on even though it’s been snowing. (Persistence, to the point of obnoxiousness, is the key, it seems.) I have a job, but a job where I can wear whatever I want and I spend large portions of my day reading Jezebel. Is this what real adults do?

And every once in a while, I will be walking down the street and think, “Oh my god, I live in Prague. Since when? And how? Are you sure I’m not just visiting here?” But I’ve actually made a life. I get up in the morning, I make breakfast, I go to work. I’m in a book club and I go to yoga classes. I have friends here–actual friends, not just semi-awkward acquaintances. And I still don’t know how any of it happened.

And while I may like my life here, having moved a few inches out of my not-liking-Prague phase (though perhaps not at full-blown adulation yet), I miss being in school. I look forward to my book club every two weeks just so that I can go and argue with people about agency and symbolism. I have seriously considered suggesting that we CIMG0669include supplementary theory articles with the books, but I’m certain that I would be overruled. I don’t know if I’m ready not to be a student.

The real world is a strange place where you have to work very hard to make friends, to be social, even just to keep yourself busy. I still don’t know how I feel about that. I think that graduating, leaving all of my friends, and moving to another country all in one fell swoop was a big, not entirely thought-out move on my part, even if it’s one I’m glad I made. I’ve always done that, though. Sure, I can go to Ecuador without a guidebook when I’m sixteen. I can travel around Thailand by myself. I might as well go to Egypt if I’m already in Europe. For all of my impulsive decisions (mostly involving going to other countries), I haven’t made one yet that I really regret.

I have no idea where I’m going with this at all, except that I still think that a conversation I had with Ali a really long time ago holds: you know you’re a grown-up when you stop using the word “grown-up.” I’m pretty sure.

The girls who work in the office next to mine usually play the radio during the day, and it’s usually tuned to what I assume is the American “hits” station.  This is a sample of what I have heard so far:

Shaggy–It Wasn’t Me
Journey–Don’t Stop Believing
Lou Bega–Mambo No. 5 (We also used to hear this all the time in London.)
Celine Dion–My Heart Will Go On
Nazareth–Love Hurts
Kelly Clarkson–The Trouble With Love Is
Taylor Swift–Love Story (I hate, hate, HATE this song, and I hated it before Kanye West had anything to do with it.)

And one that I haven’t heard but I love:
The Violent Femmes–American Music

Last week I had my first film class, which was…underwhelming. The professor didn’t ask us a single question. That might have been all right if he had lectured well, but instead he just showed us clips of different films and occasionally said things like, “This is a really good example of film noir.” He also told us that film noir deals with “a little thing he likes to call the unspoken.” I’ve got news for you, Professor, you didn’t coin that phrase. The readings are good, but the class isn’t great, and I just can’t decide if I want to spend a lot of money on something I’m not crazy about, considering my rather small salary. Because of the way the class is structured, and the fact that it ends at 9:30, I don’t really think I’m going to make any friends in it, either. I don’t know what to do. I have another class tomorrow, so I’ll go to that. If it’s just as bad, though…what should I do?

Unrelatedly, when someone finds this blog through a search engine, I can see what the terms they used were. A lot of people come across it by searching for “nemluvim cesky” or something similar. However, a few days ago someone found it by searching for “the cutest most tiniest puppies in the world.” I have a feeling they were disappointed when they found this instead.