I never thought that I could feel so comfortable in a country halfway across the world from my family and friends. But here I am, three months into my semester abroad in Prague, and not only do I feel at home in this foreign city, but I feel comfortable enough to pee next to a strange Polish woman behind a truck stop in rural Czech Republic.
Peeing Polish women aside, I honestly never believed I could grow to love a place in the way that I have grown to love this city. Everything about it is beautiful—from the buildings, to the history, to the people. Oh, and the food. Please don’t forget about the food. If you are into clogging your arteries with the most delicious mixtures of meat, cheese, and bread, then Prague is the place for you. After you eat the classic Czech goulash and bread dumplings, you won’t want to eat anything ever again for fear that the taste will be forgotten. This may sound like the epitome of gastric gratification, but that is just because you have not heard about Smazeny Syr yet.
Imagine that you are walking through Wenceslas Square with a serious case of the late night munchies. All around you are food carts, selling their wares, and you order a Smazeny Syr sandwich. In layman’s terms, this would just be a fried cheese sandwich. What you need to do, however, is think of the most perfect mozzarella cheese stick ever made, stretch that into a patty, and add curry ketchup. Instant bliss.
Now, believe it or not, there are things other than food in the Czech Republic. I know; it came as a surprise to me, as well. Here I have gotten the opportunity to intern at the Multicultural Center of Prague, working on a program called La Ngonpo, which encourages cross-cultural education and development. We work with a school here in Prague and a school in Ladakh, South India, creating a methodology for the classrooms to follow and an Internet portal so that the students are able to communicate freely with one another. This project has been one of the highlights of my time here, and has given me such gratitude for my time abroad. Hearing what these students say to each other and how they respond to questions about the world and their place within it makes me realize how important it is to be open-minded, and how much more there is to learn.
Being in Prague, I am constantly reminded of how inexperienced I am. I feel as though it comes with being from such a young country. In my classes, we discuss the journey that the Czech Republic has been through and how just over 20 years ago, this country was under communist rule. It is so interesting to hear my professors speak of a time when they were forced to be silent and static, and how that has shaped their lives, and the lives of all Czechs.
As for everyday life, it goes on as usual – the only real difference is that I am in one of the most beautiful places in the entire world and I don’t understand what anyone around me is saying. I find myself staring at the buildings, wondering how anyone could even conceive of something so gorgeous, let alone build it. That is what is so wonderful about Prague: it doesn’t ask you to stare, but you always end up doing so anyway.
Now, in order to reach my height of pretention, I will quote Franz Kafka in saying, “Prague never lets you go…this dear little mother has sharp claws.” I know that even after I leave this city, it will have made a mark on me; in fact, it already has. And even if I may not physically be in Prague, it will always remain with me. But, man, if only I could say the same for those fried cheese sandwiches.