Friday, November 30, 2012

Breaking the Silence

I realize it has been about a month and a half since I last wrote on here. I also know that the last time I wrote, in October, I was writing about things I had done in August. I think it's fair to say I'm a little behind on the blogging. Part of this stems from my pesky perfectionism, my stubborn all-or-nothing approach to everything. Sometimes I feel like I have to have enough time to completely catch up on everything that's happened, and if I don't have that I may as well not write at all. While I don't think the situation through in those terms, when I look back I see it's the case nonetheless. 

In my defense, the first month and a half of this school year were insane. I didn't really have time to sleep, let alone write about it. Luckily, I've since settled into my hectic schedule, and now everything seems normal. I also had lots of snags on the road to a peaceful living situation, but that's also cooled down now, and I've gotten used to my new flat and flatmates. I live in the very center of Prague, right in the middle of the the three metro lines. It's both reduced my time travelling to the far reaches of the city for work, and helped me really get to know the center. I live in a late 19th century building painted mint green. It has a lot of character. I feel much more "a part of" Prague living here than I did out in the communist-era flat blocks of Prague 9. I live right off of Václavské náměstí, or Wenceslas Square. One end of the huge square is dominated by the National Museum, also the site of the self-immolation of Jan Palach after the 1968 Prague Spring. The square is populated by all kinds of shops, restaurants, and Art Nouveau hotel buildings. There is always something going on here, whether it's a protest, rally, market or festival.

A view down Václavské náměstí at night

The National Museum

Cool Art Nouveau hotel buildings


My bedroom

As I said, the first couple of months of the fall were hard. It's certainly not the first difficult period I've gone through since I moved here, but it may have been the hardest. It's as interesting when I look back over what I've written on here over the last year to see what I didn't write about as what I did. Sure, I wrote about the Bohemian flu, my struggles with my last flat, my crying fit in Assisi. But the (thankfully brief) periods of intense melancholy, loneliness and self-doubt often go undocumented. Part of the reason for this is that I would like my blog to be uplifting and not depressing. Also, I don't want the people I love to worry about me. Still, I feel like the periods of pain and subsequent breaking-through is really the most valuable part of my experience here. If you ask me while I am in the middle of one of these spells, I may tell you otherwise, because it is undoubtedly a hard and uncomfortable place to be, but once I've made it through to the other side I can invariably recognize the growth that came from it. 

I'm thankful today that I can see the great value of the trials that come up in my life. It's strange to say that I'm grateful for loneliness and insecurity, but how would I learn anything about myself if I never felt those things? I don't think the peace and contentment I feel would be so profound without its having been hard-fought for. I don't think the realization that I'm not alone would feel so real. I've had to rethink my attitude toward life, my habits, how I take care of myself. I've had to really look at the way I respond to situations, to start practicing restraint and discretion. I've learned a lot about living with other people, but even more about living with myself. 

It is becoming more and more clear to me that my moving to Europe and embarking on this journey was less about changing my location, about changing my surroundings and the outward details of my life, as it was about changing me, my inner life. In a way I knew that before I got on the plane. I knew I was on a spiritual quest. Still, I don't think I understood the process very well. My thoughts were that I would arrive here and everything would be magical and romantic, that everything would fall seamlessly into place. I didn't bargain on the high price of growth. I didn't bargain on heartache, anger, pain and doubt. But I can honestly say today that I am infinitely glad for the things I've found, and that I wouldn't change any of it, even if I could.

Showing the new teachers how to play "Duck, Duck, Goose" at training

With Marta, Lucie and Vojtěch in Český ráj in September

Franci came to visit at the end of September. I felt bad because he came right in the middle of my huge stress-out at the beginning of the school year, so I wasn’t the most relaxed host. Still, it was so nice to have him here and to show him some of “my” city. There are really so many things in Prague that I haven’t done and places I don’t go until I have someone to show around. I really enjoy doing it, and I always discover new things I hadn’t seen before. This autumn was full of beautiful sunsets, and there were some really gorgeous ones while Francesco was here.  

Looking down the Vltava

View from Prague Castle

 The spires of Týnský chrám (Týn Church)

Karlův most (Charles Bridge)

 Franci and me at Prague Castle

One of my favorite views - in front of the Rudolfinum in Jan Palach Square

Magical Autumn sunset

I spend my weekdays running around Prague to different schools and teaching kids. Some days it is frustrating, and it is always exhausting. But I have a lot of love for my kids, and there are a lot of times when I really enjoy it. In search of emotional balance, I have gradually incorporated meditation into my everyday routine. I started going to Ashtanga yoga classes again with some friends, and have been practicing at home between classes. On the weekends I often visit one of the farmer’s markets in Prague to buy fresh local food, and I make a nice big meal once or twice a week and use the leftovers for lunches on the other days. I don’t have much time for traveling right now, but I’m looking forward to my two-week break at Christmas, when I will be able to see my family and friends at home. I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since I’ve been in the United States. 

Where did this Czech kid get an OSU Buckeyes t-shirt? 
Or a Cincinnati Bears t-shirt, for that matter?
I don't know, but I'm impressed.

Just a picture from my travels around the city to various kindergartens.

This weekend is the lighting of the big Christmas tree in Old Town Square. I’ll go to see it with some friends - I’ve also been blessed with lots of amazing adult people in my life. I celebrated Thanksgiving in Podebrady with friends from work this year, and it was great. We had two turkeys, a duck (which was amazing), two types of stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, all the classics. I brought the bread and cranberry sauce. After dinner we (well, they - I am afraid of lighting them) set off fireworks by the river. Still, the best part of the holiday was video chatting with my family on Skype on Thanksgiving Day. We talked for 2 1/2 hours, which I still can’t believe. It seemed like only 20 minutes had gone by. It’s definitely time to spend some time at home.

Ryan checking the turkeys