Originally, Brad and I were going to take the train from Beijing to St. Petersburg and fly to Prague. But why fly when you can travel by land? And the further we traveled the longer we wanted to stay in each place. I finally decided that I would arrive in Prague on September 25th and Brad would meet me there on the 28th. I had first come to Prague in September of 2005 as part of a study abroad program. I stayed with 11 year old Kristyna and her mother, Jitka. I lived with them for four months. They are some of the most loving people I know. I probably gained about 15 pounds while I lived with them. I drank wine and wine and wine. Jitka made plates of meats, cheeses, and savory treats that we would snack on as we watched the first season of VyVoleni or the Czech Big Brother.
Jitka brought food in my room when I studied. We went to the country house, something all Czech people have. Kristyna could speak little English but she became my sister. I loved the bed I slept in in their apartment. I took a bath every night and went to bed early. I lived further out of the city than most people in my program but I began to love public transport. I could sit on the metro and buses without looking up at every stop. I knew the city. When I left Kristyna, Jitka and I cried. I promised I would come see them again. And I cannot believe it took me four years to do so.
I meet them at the train station. Kristyna was holding flowers and Jitka was holding the hand of her new daughter, Karolina. Kristyna was wearing make-up and spoke to me in English. When we got home Jitka opened a bottle of champagne and we toasted to our reunion.
This home was familiar. That night I slept in the bed with Kristyna. For the first time since I had been in America in 2008 I woke up feeling like I was somewhere permanent.
During the trip my anxieties revolved around how I was going to get somewhere and then where I would slept once I got there. Or how long a hike would be and what kind of food I could get where. When I woke up in my Czech home that morning I knew I did not have to worry about any of those things. So for the first time in a while I started to think about a magnitude of other things that come to the surface in familiar places.
That day we went to the country house. Their dog came with us and Jitka's new husband, Peter met us after work.
The first evening we were there Kristyna and I watched Troy. Then we talked about feeling at home in a country that is not your own. We analyzed culture and our feelings in English. I had grown to love Kristyna without really being able to speak to her. But here I was, talking about and analyzing things that I am not sure many people could understand.
When the weekend ended we went back to Prague and Brad met us there. That night Jitka, Peter, Kristyna, Karolina, Brad, and I all slept in the apartment.
During the week Brad and I met up with my academic adviser from when I studied there. We talked to her a lot about being expats over Czech beers. She pointed us in the direction of some interesting art museums and a performance art piece.
We went on walks around my old neighborhood and rode in the elevator.
On the second to last night we drank with Peter. He does not speak English, but him and Brad managed to talk about music while they drank secret liquor on the balcony.
I think it is something about that family not being my own that allows me to love them so much. I came into their lives as a person. The only way they have shaped me has been in a positive sense.
Everyone drove us to the train station on Saturday. And everyone told each other that we loved each other. These were people I did not want to say goodbye to. Sometimes I miss the city of Prague, but mostly I miss Jitka and Kristyna and that familiar apartment.