Posted on July 22, 2010
Growth is the only evidence of life. ~John Henry Newman, Apologia pro vita sua, 1864
We have a globe in our house– you know, the normal kind with the light blue ocean and different colors for every country in the world. But before we moved to Europe last summer, our youngest son, age 6 at the time, had a funny way of talking about the countries on the globe. He would stand and point out the various places he knew as a kindergartner: one land mass was “Grandma’s House”, another was “School”, and with a spin of the globe, he’d point out other places like the post office, and church, etc. I can’t help smiling. It’s easy in a comfortable environment to know only what we know– the rest, well, is out there.
But now, our lives are significantly different. No longer is the world out there, because we are out there as well.
As of this week, we have made a significant milestone– the marker of our family’s one year in Prague.
You can bet that our boys, now almost 8, 9, and 11, have absorbed all of the countries we have visited. They know exactly where they are. And the language spoken there. And the currency, and the landmarks. Not because we’ve taught them, but because they’ve lived it. I’m amazed. And the countries they don’t know from personal experience usually correspond to their friends’ native countries from class, as the school our boys attend here in Prague has a representation of about 60 countries around the globe.
We have all learned so much, and GROWN. Travel does that, as does living in an environment not very similar to the one from which we came. It’s been an incredible year, living here in Prague, Czech Republic. We’re very grateful for the experience, and look forward to another year or two here.
To celebrate, the top 10 things I’ve learned from One Year in Prague:
1) Language: Okay, Czech, they say, is one of the most difficult languages in the world. I agree. We’ve learned enough to get around, understand some conversations, and discover that when we accidentally say “Nádraží” (train station) for “Na Zdraví” (cheers), everyone laughs. Similarly, when we say “Strašný Nový rok” instead of “Šťastný Nový Rok”, they gasp and become offended. (Terrible New Year instead of Happy New Year) Learning: There is no easy cover for language faux pas. OOPS!
2) Driving: Well. Let’s just say US and Czech share driving on the same side of the road. For that I’m very grateful. But the driving in Czech is treacherous, beyond scary. Most of my friends have flipped their cars from dodging oncoming Tatra trucks. It would have been very helpful to know that “highways” through Czech countryside rarely have more than an inch of asphalt as a shoulder, commonly have a few feet of height dropoff from there, and almost never have a centerline. Add that to: in order to dodge the lumbering Tatra trucks, the oncoming traffic must slow to a stop as they pass. Learning: Awesome defensive driving skills along with constant prayers while driving.
3) Refrigerators, Houses, and the General size of European stuff: Much much smaller. Freeing, actually, when we find we can only house a few extra things, and have no room for storage. We use everything we have in the house. Less clutter, more sanity. Learning: Living with less equals freedom.
4) Screens and Air conditioning: Having screens on the windows is incredibly rare, which means on 90 degree + days (which we’ve had a LOT), we open the windows and have a house full of bugs. Learning: Screens rock. I miss them.
5) Shopping: Kroger, unfortunately, doesn’t exist in Europe. And all of the comparable stores are quite far away. So we’ve learned to shop as the Europeans do, a few items every day (which is all our fridge can handle anyway). The little stores rival Stop and Shops in the US, or any similar convenience stores, except that they’re usually in couple-hundred-year-old buildings, which means– a couple-hundred-years’ worth of dirt. Learning: I’ll cry from happiness when I shop in Kroger in a couple years. Every time.
6) Quiet: Czech is a beautiful, mainly rural country of rolling hills that gather height into gorgeous Czech mountains. Learning: The Natural beauty here is stunning, something I will always treasure. I revel in it every day we’re here.
7) Snow: There are no snow days for schools here. Which means driving through the forest and down the mountain to the boys’ school is no cake walk for a few months of the year. Learning: Thank God for a 4×4.
8) History: Oh, wow– can I even express how much I love the history here? Every building, every place, everything has a soul. Especially the little places, like the church we attend built in 1175 ad, and the Shakespeare and Son bookstore under Charles Bridge. Learning: Richness of culture and history pours into the people. I love it.
9) Smiling: It might not be an overstatement to say no one smiles in Czech Republic. It just isn’t done. And when I do (which I can’t help, because I love to smile), I can tell they think I’m a little loopy in the head. Learning: Smiles are necessary for a happy life.
10) TRAVEL: In the US, we were known to drop everything and drive 30 hours to camp in the Tetons for a few days. Same with the beaches in Florida, the rocky coast of Maine, the mountains in Colorado, etc. Now that we are in the heart of Europe, the whole world is within driving distance. Rome, Dubrovnik, London, Stockholm, St. Petersburg. We may not make it everywhere, but experiencing the countries along the journey has been amazing. Read back through the past year’s blog posts and you’ll get the feel for traveling Europe. It is living a dream. I am so grateful. Learning: Europe is a dreamworld.
Thanks for sharing in the journey!
Starting the conversation: What things can you do this year to further your growth, to bring you a step closer to living out your dreams, toward being fully alive?