Friday, April 6, 2012

pojedu domů/i'm going home


It's been almost nine years since I've been home, so long that I'd given up on going back.  I cried a little when I submitted my application for my third passport, I've had a U.S.passport for more than half my life now, I feel old.  I cried a little more when I received it in the mail two weeks later - the response time was fast, guess it helps that I've had one before and never been in trouble?  But when we actually sat down, talked about flights and purchased the tickets?  Yeah...I had virtually no reaction, until today, two days later, it's finally setting in. I'm going home!

I wrote the following "story" a few years ago when I was very homesick with no hope of ever going home again...but I could always dream...going home is going to be so very hard, I imagine I'm going to think multiple ways of how it's going to happen...this, many years ago, was one of those scenes I played in my head...
I close my eyes and imagine how it will feel to go home…..

First there will be the trip, the planning…during which nothing will feel real.  It will still be a pipe dream, even when I have the tickets in hand and the vacation time scheduled.


When I step out of the car, into the airport, reality will be suspended; my life will be in stasis.  Maybe I'll read a book or three, perhaps I'll simply sleep, but I know on the long flight all my energy will be spent trying to not think about how things will be when I arrive. 

My heart and head know it will not be the same.  Whether we fly into Vienna or Prague, nothing will be the same, and yet the sounds and smells will be as I remember them.  In this dream, we fly into Prague, the city of castles and the bridge I love. 

Before I even leave the plane I know the tourist population has probably tripled since I've last been.  The prices have at least doubled and the dollar is weaker than it ever was when I lived there.  The Jewish Quarter has always charged for each visit to any part of it, now that sentiment has spread all across Prague.  I've been warned, Hradčany is more locked down than I've ever seen it and there is a charge to even walk through zlatá ulička

As we disembark, the variety of languages spoken does not overwhelm me, rather it eases my heart.  This, this is what I am comfortable with.  Czech, Russian, German, French, English, and many other languages flow around me; I understand only bits and pieces of most conversations, yet already I feel more at home than I have in years.


The customs agent is pleasantly surprised at the Czech that comes out of my mouth. Rusty and stilted at first, it begins to flow more naturally, if not more fluently. 

Finally through customs with my luggage, and outside the airport, in the humidity that is so different than Oregon, I hail a taxi.  The driver looks at me in surprise when he hears Czech words coming from me.  In a Czech manner, and as taxicab drivers anywhere, he creates small talk as we wind into the city. 


Odkud jste?  Where are you from?  Su z Brna.  I am from Brno.  Jste američanka, že?  Jak se mluvit česky, jako to pak?  Vaše rodina je česky?  You're American right?  How does it happen you speak Czech like this?  Is your family Czech?   Ne, můj otec pracoval v Brně, tam jsem studoval na univerzitě.  No, my father worked in Brno, where I studied at the university. 

Small talk that I wish I could avoid, but the driver is too curious, and I do not wish to offend him.  So while I try to focus on the Czech words my mind has not formed in years, I also try to soak up the atmosphere, soak up the sights, sounds, smells and simply, feel of being back home. 

One full day I spent in Prague, two nights. The first night I fall into bed, and sleep like the dead for ten hours.  I wake early the next morning, breakfasting on rohlík and sliced meat with cheese.  My passport is tucked into my zipped inner shorts pocket along with my money and one card.  A tank top under a sweatshirt and sturdy walking sandals finish the outfit. 

Not forgetting my empty Columbia backpack, which has the Columbia label stitching ripped out of it, as that would mark me as a tourist.  The backpack has one bottle of water in it, eventually will hold my sweatshirt, and also will be used for the postcards and other souvenirs I will surely purchase this day, even knowing I will be back.

The day starts like any other I have spent in Prague.  No matter how I get there, metro or bus or tram, it starts in Václavské náměstí, Wenceslas Square.  This day I start at the top, near the Natural History museum, wandering by the statue of Wenceslas as I go.  No pictures for me, instead re-living long forgotten memories.

Cutting over to the side of the long square, I walk down, through the vendors setting up their wares.  It was an early start this morning, but could anyone blame me for not sleeping?  Besides, it's nice to be out on the streets before the heat and tourists take over. 

My short walk ends in the top corner of a mall at the bottom of the square.  Long ago it was the largest Dunkin Donuts in the world.  In the days before cell phones it was our family meeting place.  The first place we ever went in the morning; and the place we were always to go if we were ever separated. 

Today I'm not separated, and I did already have breakfast, but I can't resist sitting down for one donut.  The donuts aren't as good, but the memories are.  After finishing, I am eager to be on my way once more, the day is just beginning. 

It's possible to take the metro close to the castle and then just walk up, but today I want to breathe in the city air, see the people and savor being in the city, in this city.  The tram takes me close, and I walk towards Hrad
čany.  Slower than the tourists now bustling about, and slower even than the locals. 

So many memories inside, I almost do not want to enter.  If I enter, I must re-live those memories, knowing that the memories are not now, that everything I know is in the past.  When I enter, I will see the changes that have been wrought. 

Yet I enter; I must face the past and embrace the future.  The past is static, simply memories and the future is dynamic, filled with possibilities and ever changing.    

Cobblestones mark my path as I cross the street among the tourists.  Standing at attention, the guards don't glance my way as I slip between two large groups, into the castle.  First step (Václavské náměstí) over, second step just begun. 

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