Gratitude Day 16

In August of 1996, I went to Prague with a backpack full of clothes and a sleeping bag. I arrived early in the morning with my college boyfriend, Mark, who stayed with me for a week, and then went to study in Berlin. I made life-long friends and had an amazing adventure filled with cobblestone streets and red tile roofs.

  1. Taking the train from Frankfurt to Prague through the night. Passing empty stops in the darkness that looked like WW2 movies and felt creepy, but then getting there filled with so much trust in the world. Staying at a random guy’s apartment that approached us at the train station (We had read that was safe and affordable). Wandering around Wenceslas Square in the early morning trying to find a place to eat from our tourist books.
  2. Looking in the Prague Post for English teaching jobs. Buying a phone card to call schools from a pay phone. Getting a job in three days.
  3. My first flat in Mikle where we hosted a huge Thanksgiving dinner filled with expats.
  4. Always carrying a book in my bag. Reading Milan Kundera on the 17 minute ride on Tram 96 from my apartment in Mikle to the I.P. Pavlova subway stop.
  5. The stravenky (food coupons) I got as part of my paycheck and how they took them at the Hare Krishna cafeteria restaurant, Govinda, where the trays and cups were metal. They also took them at the Pizza Hut/KFC around the corner from where I worked. I would get cheese pizza with perfect greasy, sweet crust. I don’t know if it’s because it tasted like home, but that pizza was like no Pizza Hut.
  6. The Czech restaurants where I would always order the same thing šopsky salát (tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, peppers, white brine cheese and parsley with sunflower oil and vinegar), šmazeny syr (fried cheese), and Czech beer.
  7. Meeting my friend Laurie, at the Globe (an English bookstore) when we sat across from each other and both ordered soup for lunch. In Prague, at least then, you just sat down at any empty seat, you didn’t wait for a table to be open.
  8. How I can still remember all of the places where I could get filtered (nonTurkish) coffee: the Globe, McDonalds, Dunkin Donuts.
  9. Reading the International Herald Tribune.
  10. The bright flower stands where I first fell in love with gerbera daisies (the flowers at my wedding).
  11. Buying mulled wine and grog from street vendors in the winter. All the street vendors selling glass beads and Marionettes, hand painted Easter eggs in the spring and live carp at Christmas.
  12. Buying the book How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed by Slavenka Drakulić, and realizing for the first time how much more interested I am in politics when it’s told from a female perspective.
  13. Eating French toast for brunch at Radost, a cafe that had a nightclub in the back. During weekdays, they showed English movies and tv shows and had poetry readings. I read a poem there once.
  14. Going to see First Wives Club with my friend Laurie at a little theater by Wenceslas Square where I’m pretty sure we sat on folding chairs.
  15. My friend, Mary Ellen, and I filling up our Dobry Voda (plastic water) bottles up with wine at a street stand and drinking all afternoon, listening to Beckon the balcony.
  16. The flat I lived in later in the year with Mark in Holešovice, with an antique gate over the elevator and lace curtains over windows that you could see the castle from. There was no dryer so we hung our over-worn clothes across the apartment. It came fully furnished with a whole wall of Czech books.
  17. The little percolator my mom brought me so I could make filtered coffee on the stove in that apartment. There was this little kitchenette that you could cover with a pretty curtain.
  18. The step aerobics class I went to in Czech on Saturdays with Laurie.
  19. My grandma passed away when I was there. She loved to travel and I remember feeling her presence with me on the tram.
  20. The excitement of being twenty two and living abroad, when being an adult is so new and everything seems fresh and full of infinite possibilities.

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