Wifi, grandmas, this blog

Today I’m thankful for: wifi, grandmas, this blog.

It is unbelievable that I have been living in the Czech Republic for almost two weeks! My journey here was simultaneously a blur and the longest 30 hours of my life—not knowing the family I was living with, not knowing what my room looked like, not knowing how I was going to communicate and just getting on the plane was one of the hardest and scariest things I’ve ever done.

(My goodbye to my parents was a little anticlimactic. I cried and hugged them both, then walked into the security line as if I could hear the poignant airport farewell music rising up behind me, then promptly walked back to them and said “Hi” because the TSA agent suggested getting into another line at the other end of SeaTac. My parents laughed, we said “bye” for real, and I left the country?!)

I chose to live in a homestay during my time in Prague because I really enjoy existing in a family atmosphere. Living in a dorm during the first two years of college was difficult for me—although I love living with my friends and I can’t wait to do so senior year at Whitman, I also love hanging out with parents (including my friends’ parents when they come to visit). I was really into the idea of a Czech family and me “adopting” each other for a semester!

My host family is amazing. My mom, Lenka, is an English teacher at a school up the street, and I have two host brothers, Matyáš and Adriano. Adriano is younger and lives at home with us; Matyáš is older and lives elsewhere in Prague. Another American student named Sam is living with me as well, and we each have our own rooms on the top floor of the house. It has been so great to live with another American, especially when it comes to getting used to commuting to the city from the suburbs. We also have two cats and a dog, Biggie, living with us!

My favorite part of my day is eating dinner with Sam and our family. We’ve already enjoyed goulash (beef stew with dumplings), head cheese (look it up, we loved it, yum yum), minced pork and sauerkraut, soups, and lots of bread. And of course, there is always beer and wine on the table.

Living in this magical homestay has also allowed me a respite from the “American bubble” that is so prevalent in most large study abroad programs like CIEE. On any given night, popular clubs, bars, restaurants, and tourist spots are swamped with young American students, to the point where the space feels more akin to a typical American college experience than Whitman spaces do sometimes! Luckily, CIEE has implemented a Czech Buddy Program wherein Czech students live with American students in flats, dorms, etc. and act as a kind of unofficial tour guide (and friend!) during the semester. I feel lucky to have met some friends in the dorms and have some Whitties living in apartments so they can introduce me to their Czech buddies; this weekend, we’ve already explored some less “American” spots in Prague so that we can attempt to feel a little more like locals.

Back to what I’m thankful for: wifi, grandmas, this blog. 

Wifi is fairly self-explanatory: without coffee shops’ wifi and my maps, I wouldn’t be able to find the Metro; without wifi, I wouldn’t be able to FaceTime my parents, friends and boyfriend to give them a tour of my awesome loft room with skylights that *OPEN* (!!); without wifi, I wouldn’t be able to watch “Ocean’s 11” with Adriano on Netflix, inspired by our post-dinner poker game.

Grandmas—or rather, one grandma in particular, our host grandma—inspires a separate kind of gratitude. On our first full day in Prague, when Sam and I were jet lagged beyond belief, our host mom introduced us to our grandma and told us that she would be taking us through Prague’s complicated-at-first-but-then-not-really-pretty-easy public transit system so we could make it to CIEE’s orientation program on time. Our grandma doesn’t speak English but still cheerfully led us through the icy streets of our neighborhood to our bus stop (I almost slipped, twice, and had to grab on to my grandma for support….oops). We took the bus for a few minutes while she explained to us, in Czech and lots of smiles, what was happening. We still didn’t know what was happening, until we got off the bus, walked down some stairs to the Metro stop, took the Metro, transferred, took another Metro, and walked under a bridge and up some stairs and then we were greeted by a view like this as we approached street level:

This isn’t the exact street we saw, but the spires, the intricate detailing on the buildings, the lampposts, the cobblestones—you get the idea. Sam and I actually gasped, and our host grandma laughed, like, “What’s the big deal?” Then we exchanged kisses and hugs, said goodbye, and miraculously made it to our orientation knowing no Czech and having never entered the city before. I am thankful for grandmas!

Finally, this blog—I’m thankful I am able to write and share photos and videos, and my friends and family and classmates and professors can view it all. I am eager to use this space as a place to reflect on things like what the heck am I doing living in Prague?!!? and who am I? and what does it mean to be an American? and what happens if I miss my Metro stop and can I have a dessert with every meal and where is the nearest Burrito Loco and this coffee is better than Seattle coffee and what typical “American” meal do I cook for my host family and it turns out this blog is secretly only structured around food, so enjoy!!

Na shledanou,

Mary

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