Some things, I have to say, are the same on the other side of the world. The sun often shines in a cerulean sky, mothers lovingly push babies in strollers, children wear bright backpacks to school, and harvesters gather ripe wheat before a rain. Somehow, living on the other side of the world from the States has opened our eyes to just how small the world really is.
But, in the same breath, I also have to say that some things are quite different. After living in Prague for over a month, we’re heartily aware of some of the differences. Instead of the alternative, we’re choosing to laugh—because in many ways, our learnings really are funny. And so, I’d like to share some of our Czech Follies, thus far.
· Driving: Yes, we’re driving in Prague. Many things are the same—cars speed, buses plod, motorbikes careen, and trams hit cars. In Prague, the trams do literally hit cars, because they apparently have the right-of-way. Yikes! I stay as far from trams as I possibly can in my little rented Sköda. Not only does the engine whine (like Americans would expect a tiny Eastern European car to do), but often flooring it just doesn’t quite get the desired result in the beautifully hilly, winding roads near where we live. In my ignorance to Czech driving signs, I did not realize, until a Volvo saleswoman instructed me, that here, on certain roads, the cars stopped and entering from the right-hand side have the right-of-way. (Ohhhhh! Now I understand why many Czech’s shake their hand in the air as I pass by. Oops!)
· Cell phones: For some reason, Czech cell providers don’t have many folks to help customers even in broken English. Armed with a few vital Czech words and phrases, I obtained a prepaid card soon after our arrival in Prague. But, as time has gone by, I’ve wondered what the plethora of cell provider text messages have said. (Have I mentioned that Czech is a very complicated and difficult language?) One night, with my husband still away at work meetings, my cell coverage stopped working in the middle of a horrific thunderstorm. With no other form of available communication, I linked onto the internet and ordered a recharge for my cell phone … or so I thought. The next day, I received six boxes of fifty Koruna phone cards ($2.50 apiece). Not quite what I thought I ordered, even with Google translator in action. Um … still haven’t figured this one out, except that last night, I was able to decipher the O2 text message: I’m completely out of coverage. A new adventure for today, I think.
· Grocery Store: The nearby Hypermarket seems so similar to our wonderful Kroger in the States. Of course the food is different, but we have everything we need there, which is such a relief. The one thing about the shopping experience that brings me to a cold sweat even now is the checkout. Let’s just say I miss having baggers, or someone to help me load and move my groceries before the cashier throws the next three people’s groceries onto mine. I’m learning to cope by telling new grocery stories at the dinner table at night, and enjoying sharing the laughter.
There’s nothing like a little laughter in the midst of a lot of change. Because a smile, I think, and laughter translates into every language, and can brighten any corner of the world.