"Kam jdeme?" asked Kačy, her watery round blue eyes gaping up at me expectantly from about three feet down. Her inquiry: "Where are we going?"
It was almost exactly a year ago that I revisited Europe for the first time in seven years. Late last May, I arrived for what was then simply a three-week vacation, complete with visits to family in Poland, friends in Paris, and trips to Amsterdam and Prague. It was those three weeks that made me want more. So much more, in fact, that ultimately I opted for what I sometimes like to call the indefinite stay package. How that works is you basically move somewhere unexpectedly and without any real concrete plans besides crashing in your family's spare room on a fold-a-bed and hoping for the best. Perhaps my fingers got tired from crossing, or perhaps Warsaw simply wasn't the place for me – whatever the reason, eventually I couldn't stay in Poland's capital anymore. It was difficult for me there for a number of reasons, and the glorious cities that I'd visited beckoned tantalizingly, like sirens of the sea of Europe's vast continent. It was Prague that called the loudest.
Ask anyone who's visited it: Prague is a city striking in its ancient beauty as much as in its impressive and involved history. Though far from being one of Europe's largest cities, it maintains a calm, unhurried dignity that seems unshakable. It seemed the perfect next stop on my so-called Journey of Life: it was geographically close to Poland, which meant that moving there was no massive ordeal; Czech and Polish are similar, so the language didn't present that big of a problem; and, prior to relocating, I had made some acquaintances on my few visits there.
One such acquaintance was especially important. (Not to mention cute.) Andrew, introduced as an affable bald head in previous Wander Lost posts, and I, ended up dating once I moved to Prague. It's about a year since we first met, and besides Andrew's hair growing out and us both learning a lot about ourselves and one another, it seems time for yet another relocation in my life. This time, from the apartment that once seemed almost too good to be true, to what was my first taste of apartment living in Prague.
The apartment that Andrew and his 90-year-old grandfather share is located literally in Prague's center. One of the historic Charles Bridge's towers is located literally around the corner. It houses relics that are literally 200 years old. Needless to say, I feel literally overwhelmed with gratitude to be living in a place like this. If you'd told me a year ago what I would be doing this time this year, past-Kasia would never have believed you. She might have even slapped you for your audacity.
Predictable or not, in the best way, Prague has been a whirlwind. A roller coaster. A whatever-other-overused-cliché-one-employs-to-describe-an-unpredictable-adventure. But whatever I choose to call it, I feel that, in the past year, I've accomplished quite a bit. As mentioned, I've learned a lot about myself and about another. In addition to wiping boogers and butts for pay, I've gotten a job that actually makes use of that highly pricey piece of paper that officially entitles me to work as a journalist, and I've gotten to interview a number of international bands and artists. I've started writing poetry and studying for my GREs. (Note: I use the term "study" loosely, due to the fact that whenever I open my GRE book, the math still floats across the page and appears to me as Chinese.) I took a Zumba class and went on a run around my neighborhood once or twice. I've even – after a number of frustrating and sometimes excruciatingly embarrassing attempts – become relatively comfortable with my knowledge of Czech.
So, a year later, though my intended plans rely heavily on jam-packing the forthcoming, fast-approaching summer with self-motivated hard work, endless effort and a bit of fearlessness, I'm as confident about my future as I am in my ability to order coffee in Czech. Though I'm not supposed to, I've started speaking a little Czech along with the English I teach to the three-to-six-year-olds in the preschool where I work part-time. I find that, instead of forcing a foreign language down their tiny little throats and hoping that some sort of lesson or vague knowledge might be communicated, if I can say it in their own language, followed by English, it's a little – forgive the pun – easier to swallow. This is why when clutching my hand and Kačy earnestly asked where we were going, I suddenly faltered for a moment.
I remembered the Kačy I met months back when I first started at the school – instead of participating in morning exercise, day after day, the delicate little thing would sit on a pillow and cry. She would wail and cling to her mother when she tried to drop her off. She barely uttered a word. I was honestly worried about her. Eventually, I'm not sure what exactly happened, but after some time Kačy gained confidence. Now in the mornings she skips over to me, waits for me to notice her, then smiles, "good morning," sweetly, before skipping away. She rattles off stories about her weekend in Czech. She hasn't cried in weeks, maybe months. Looking down at her, I realized, she's going to be alright. She still doesn't think to communicate with me in English but at least she won't be a social outcast as I had worried she might. So, when she asked me, "Where are we going?" in her native Czech, I felt confident enough to reply, assuredly, "Ven."
Image courtesy of the author('s friend who took it but it's her camera so, y'know)