For example, you might end up at the airport in Milan right on time. But at the wrong airport.
Or perhaps you lose a bracelet you love dearly that was given to you by your grandmother, and you don’t notice until you get home at almost midnight. In Krakow.
Or you leave your keys at the restaurant. One of them, because you went to six that day.
But usually it isn’t as bad as it seems.
Because as much as it sucks to pay €160 for a taxi ride through the pouring rain at frightening speeds, you can, in fact, end up at the other – correct! – airport with plenty of time to get through security and onto your flight. Plus, you get an amazing story out of it. I mean, how many people have not one, but two (2!) insane taxi stories to tell?
And your friends are around and convince you to go back out, visit the cafe, the restaurant, and the bar you visited over the course of the evening to ask if anyone found and turned in a gold bracelet. And when that search comes up empty and you’re dejected and you don’t know what to do, they just might convince you to ask at the restaurant that you had lunch at too. And they, even though the staff is in the midst of cleaning up and stacking tables, will still stop and ask the servers from earlier in the day before they check in the magic drawer filled with lost items, and pull out your bracelet.
And your host mom doesn’t actually hate you when you call her at 10pm asking her to throw a set of keys out the window to you. The next morning, when you call first your school, then the other program where you have classes, they happily look around and sadly inform you they haven’t seen them, but that they’ll keep an eye out. The cafes you call are similarly helpful, and when you call the restaurant you had lunch at, the owner has them and will even be by in just a couple minutes, so if you wait he’d be happy to get them for you right away. And all of this, of course, is happening in Czech, just as a testament to how much you’ve learned.
The reality is that the world is full of all sorts of sh*t, and you just have to deal with it. Sometimes (like all of these examples…) it is self-imposed. Sometimes life just hands you a bad deck of cards. But, as they say, lemons lemonade.
I think it is safe to say that when you travel, you expose yourself to a lot more potential problems. At home, we worry about being on time to meetings or classes, but showing up late can usually be explained with a sheepish smile and an apology. Planes, trains, and busses don’t wait for you to show up with your smile. When you’re abroad, every interaction is fraught with the extra confusions of second languages and different cultural expectations. When you’re traveling, you’re more likely to be moving around; I, at least, am way more likely to loose something if it is in transport.
I know a lot of people who try to plan EVERYTHING when they go traveling. they want to know exactly where they’ll be at every moment. They want to have their schedules written down minute-by-minute before they even pack a bag. They want no surprises, which seems to me to be the same as wanting no real experiences. I leave for a destination with a loooong list of things I’d love to do, but no plan to fit them all in. I usually pack the night before I leave, and I hit whichever destination is appealing at the time.
There are a billion different ways to travel, and I’m not saying mine is right or that ^ is wrong. But I leave myself open to disaster. Because the disasters – which undoubtedly suck at the moment – make the best stories. And the best way to learn, the best way to grow, is to make mistakes and figure out how to worm your way out of them.
O víkendu, jsem byla na Maltě. Byl to můj poslední mezinárodní výlet tento rok. Letěla jsem ve Středu večer z Prahy na Maltu. Let trval dvě a půl hodiny. Ve Čtvrtek, jsem se potápěla. Potom jsem šla na Gozo a viděla jsem mnoho krasných míst. Četla jsem blízko moře na útecu, a spala jsem na pláži. Byl krásný den, ale potom jsem byla spálená. Pátek a Sobota taky byly dobré dny. Jela jsem na túru a jedla jsem dobré jidlo. Taky jsem fotografovala moc. V Vallettě jsem koupila káču do mojí sbíry. Taky jsem koupila a psala dopis na mojí kamáradce v Japonsku. Letěla jsem do Prahy v Sobotu večer.
V Neděli, jsem nedělala moc, protože jsem neměla moc úkolů. Ale, jela jsem do centra na večeři s mým Japonskím učitelem se střední školy. Byl to krásný čas, a doufám, že to můžu dělat ještě jednou.
Over the weekend, I went to Malta. It was my last international trip this year. I flew on Wednesday from Prague to Malta. The flight was two and a half hours. On Thursday, I went scuba diving. After, I went to Gozo and saw many beautiful places. I read near the sea on the cliffs and I slept on the beach. It was a beautiful day, and I got sunburnt. Friday and Saturday were also beautiful days. I went hiking and ate good food. I also took a lot of pictures. In Valletta I bought a top for my collection. I also bought and wrote a letter to my friend in Japan. I flew back to Prague on Saturday night.
On Sunday, I didn’t do much, because I didn’t have much homework. But, I went to the city center for dinner with my Japanese teacher from middle school. It was a great time and I hope we can do it again!
AKA, My Trip to Malta
I just got back from Malta, where I experienced culture shock and reverse culture shock at the same time. But how is that possible, I hear you ask? Well…
For one, the island of Malta is a relatively recent British baby. By that, I mean, it only gained independence in 1964. As such, they drive on the wrong side of the road, and a lot of the Maltese speak British English. So that was weird. But the bigger culture shock was a result of the way Maltese treat women.
Or, I should say, stare at women.
Because I spent the better part of my weekend feeling slightly uncomfortable because of the stares I was getting in the streets. I wasn’t wearing anything particularly provocative. (This shouldn’t need to be a part of the consideration or a part of this post, but it is anyways…) There was only one point over the weekend where I felt truly nervous, when a guy literally started following me down the street. When you’re traveling alone as a young woman, you expect stuff like this, but it is still a bit scary. Especially when you travel the way I do and enjoy wandering down side streets and abandoned alleys. But I stayed alert, walked quickly, used my highly reflective sunglasses as a mirror of sorts to keep an eye on the guy, and struck up a conversation with the first people I passed so he had to move on.
In other ways, Maltese people are pretty nice. They are always willing to help if you’re asking for directions, or which bus you should be taking. But the constant staring was unnerving, and the first time all year I’ve really and truly felt like I was in a significantly different culture. (It takes a lot for me to feel out of place, because of my experiences in the completely different culture that is Japan’s.)
Reverse Culture Shock
I spent the weekend in Malta, where everyone speaks both Maltese (a strange hybrid of Arabic and Italian) and English. Let me tell you, the fact that everyone spoke English threw me off my game. I would walk up to someone to ask for help, and not know what to say. Or I would walk into a store and not know how to greet the clerks. Or sit down in a restaurant and be unsure if I should just order or also point.
In each of these situations, about two seconds later I realized I could just speak English like a normal person, but it was always a strange realization to have. I haven’t been in an English-first country for almost nine months. Technically, Malta isn’t an English-first country, but it is one of the official languages, and everyone I met spoke at least reasonable English. In fact, the two adorable old people I met were the only ones that didn’t speak perfect English. And so I realized that I went to Malta and experience pre-reverse culture shock.
Is this, I wonder, what going back to the States is going to be like? Am I going to get home and not be sure how to address people in the airport, or wonder how to tell the cab driver from the airport where to go? Am I going to think Dobry Den when I walk into a store before I think Hello? It is an interesting thought that I can’t do much about at this point, but it is also a slightly frightening thought that makes me just a bit nervous about going home.
Other Highlights from Malta
They really like this kind of window. I like them too! More significantly, though, all the buildings in Malta were made of giant bricks that reminded me a bit of the adobe bricks we made back in elementary school. Although I think they were actually limestone. Even though the buildings are all made of these bricks and often showing significant weathering, they all have pops of color – usually in the form of brightly painted doors or bay windows like these.
I liked this window too! Called the Azure Window, it can be found on the island of Gozo (the northernmost of the three islands that make up the small nation of Malta) and is gorgeous. As you can see from the photo above, the day that I went was beautiful, the sky was clear, and the hiking was fun (and easy!).
The Dingli Cliffs, on the South West side of the island, are beautiful. Just another drop-dead gorgeous natural feature on the island, the cliffs also seem to be really dangerous. If you look carefully at the center of the picture above, you can see an old white car that clearly went off the side of the cliff. This was one of about a half dozen cars I saw that had gone over the edge, probably with deadly consequences for the drivers.
I also went scuba diving, which was my first dive since I completed my PADI Open Water certification. I got certified in Monterey Bay, CA, where a good day in terms of visibility is 20 to 30 feet. In Malta (we left from the beach above) our visibility was more than 20 meters. I dove to about 15 meters for about 40 minutes. Not a particularly long or deep dive, but absolutely gorgeous. The name of the dive was Cirkewwa Arch, and it was awesome. I saw jellyfish, poisonous scorpion fish, and all sorts of really brightly colored fish weaving in and out of the grass. All told, best experience of the weekend.
So yeah, Malta is gorgeous.
We are entering the thrall of finals season, which for me this semester means write-the-final-papers season! My sincerest apologies for not having posted in … a week? … but I’ve been frantically typing away – approximately 25 single spaced pages of academic, research-based text has been written since I got back from Italy Sunday night. (It works out to about one page every two hours, if we ignore sleeping, eating, showering time as well as class time and that Czech show I went to last night.)
Needless to say, my fingers are a bit tired, and I’ve got a bunch of papers left to go.
I promise posts are coming, though! Hopefully a Czech post on Thursday (I know, I know, I missed last week…). And sometime next week hopefully, posts about my trip last weekend to Italy and about my upcoming trip to Malta. With pictures!
And after that is the whirlwind of last minute experiences in Prague before I head back to Boston to spend a week with friends, and to set up our house, and then back home to family, friends, and fresh fruit!
Měla jsem ústní zkoušku včera, proto jsem neměla čas na psat moc. Ale, jsem mluvila budu psat každý týden, a pak budu psát každý týden.
Tento týden, jsem měla problemy s můj kreditní kartu. Protože jsem koupíla moc listky pro můj vylet do Italie v Dubnu, Mastercard zastavil můj kartu. Doufám bude dobře, ale už nevím.
Ale, půjdu do Italie! S moje kamarádka, budeme cestovat do Cinque Terra, Genoa, a Pisa. Pojedeme v Dubnu na čtyři dny, protože počasí bude krasný, ale nebude mnouho lídi. Budeme pěstovat blizko plaže, jíst zmrzlina (nebo gelato) a těstoviny, číst, a odpočivat.
Potom Italia, budu cestovat na Maltu. Taky na čtyři dny, ale budu sama. V Italii, máme plan, ale nemám plan na Maltu. Budu plavát a možna se taky potápět. Budu pěstovat a se divět na zajímavý mista. Potom, budeme mít zkoušky, ale protože jdu od Středu do Sobotu, doufám můžu studovat doma a nebudu musit studovat tam.
Před Italia, myslím jdu do Pařiže pro můj narozeniny. A to je bude všechno výlety. Tento rok, jsem cestovala do Berlině, do Dresdeně, a do Muncheně v Neměcke, do Turecko, do Polsko, na Slovensko, do Švycarsko, do Francie, a do Rakousko. Před koneční rok, budu cestovat do decet země!
I had my oral exam yesterday, so I haven’t had time to write very much. But, I said I would write every week, so I will write every week.
This week, I had problems with my credit card. Because I bought a lot of tickets for my trip to Italy in April, Mastercard stopped my card. I hope it will be good, but I don’t know yet.
But, I’m going to Italy! I’m going to Cinque Terre, Genoa, and Pisa with my friend. We will go in April for four days, because the weather will be beautiful, but there won’t be many people. We will hike near the ocean, eat ice cream (or gelato) and pasta, read, and relax.
After Italy, I will travel to Malta. That will also be four days, but I’m going alone. In Italy, we have a plan, but I don’t have a plan for Malta. I will swim and maybe also dive. I will hike and look at interesting places. After, I will have exams, but because I am going from Wednesday to Saturday, I hope I can study at home and I don’t have to study there.
Before Italy, I think I might go to Paris for my birthday. And that will be all my trips. This year, I have traveled to Berlin, Dresden, and Munich in Germany, to Turkey, to Poland, to Slovakia, to Switzerland, to France, and to Austria. By the end of the year, I’ll have traveled to ten countries!
In exactly one month, I turn 21. (By today, it is closer to three weeks, but that’s beside the point.) This sentence, in and of itself, could merit an entire post. A post about the realities of becoming an adult, and the fears associated with the responsibilities associated with the legal drinking age, which is actuality one of the most irrelevant things in my life, since the drinking age here is 18.
But that is not the point.
At the beginning of the year, I wrote about January goals, and I wrote about my personal opinion that New Year’s Resolutions are stupid. But I don’t think resolutions in general are stupid. In fact, I think they’re a really good thing. If you want to make a change, make a change. Go with it.
I also think that turning 21 is a big deal. Even if my 21st won’t be associated with the late-night crazy parties in Vegas popularized by so many American movies, that doesn’t mean that 21 doesn’t mean anything. So I’m resolving to make a few positive changes as I enter “official” adulthood. (Which is also stupid. I can vote, travel the world, pay my own bills. What’s left in this adulthood club of which we speak?)
I’m not trying to do anything huge. No “go for a two mile run everyday.” No “turn vegetarian.” There are a few things that I’ve thought of over the past weeks, months, years, that I’ve thought I should really do that. Usually these are things I should do “when I’m grown up” or “in my real life.”
Well, here’s the thing. This is real life; though getting to spend 9 months in Prague seems unreal, it is real life. And I am grown up. So I should really stop procrastinating.
And they say that a habit takes 4-6 weeks to form, so its now or never if I want these things to be habits in real life.
Travel Better (or, Travel Truer) – I don’t want to change anything, really, about the way I travel. I don’t want to research more; I don’t want to research less. I love the way I travel! But I want to travel my way more. Not travel more. Travel my way more. Which means, when I’m traveling, I want to let myself do what I want to be doing, even if that isn’t what I think I “should” be doing. If I want to go on vacation and sit on the beach with a book, then I should let myself do that. If I want to go on vacation and party until 6am, then I should let myself do that. If I want to party until 6am, and then go read a book on the beach, then I should let myself do that. When I plan my vacations, I love planning flexibility. I pick a place to be, research things I can do or see there, but don’t make a schedule or itinerary. That way, I know all the interesting things I can do, and I get to choose what I feel like at the time. It is perfect for me, but sometimes I catch myself thinking, “I have to go here, because everyone says I should.” In a lot of ways, I think my entire trip to Berlin falls into this category. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Berlin. But I didn’t know what to do there, because I mostly went because people told me to. As an adult, I want to let myself travel where I want and travel how I want. And that starts this weekend, with my trip to Slovakia. I’m going with a huge group of people – we’re going ski-partying (ski by day, party by night). And if I want to party and ski the next day hung over, so be it. If I decide to ditch a party completely and get on the mountain before anyone has slept off their drunk-ness, that’s cool too. I’m letting myself travel true to myself.
Exercise Better – This is really just Exercise. Because I’m not a huge fan of exercising just to exercise, even though I know I ought to do it. My problem is that, since I stopped playing soccer and dancing regularly after senior year of high school, I haven’t found a form of exercise I like enough to commit to regularly. So my first task in exercising is to find something I’ll enjoy enough to do often. Something MUST be out there for me. To accomplish this before I turn 21 (or at least make a concerted effort), I’m going to exercise 21 different ways on 21 different days. For one thing, maybe I’ll actually make it to one of those dance classes I’ve been eyeing, or maybe I’ll try a half dozen different types of yoga and finally find one I enjoy. Perhaps I’ll make it to the giant pool only a few tram stops from school I’ve heard about, or find someone with a bike who wants to go on a bike ride with me. Or perhaps I can take a Thursday and go on a hike somewhere. Ooh! The possibilities are actually getting me excited, so this bodes well.
Work Better – One thing I hate is when people show up to class and then they don’t pay attention. But then I catch myself doing it all the time. So I’m challenging myself to work better by focusing on one thing at a time. People say women are really good at multitasking – I say I’m really good at multitasking – but scientists know that multitasking is just switching your focus really fast. And every time you switch your focus, you lose concentration, which means you can’t get whatever you’re working on done as fast. So I’m committing to focusing on one thing at a time – and only one thing at a time for the next month. Maybe I find it to be amazing, a miracle, a wonder cure! Maybe I discover I actually accomplish more in a day when I’m doing two things at once at all times. Either way, it’s a good thing to know for adulthood.
Eat Better – This one is easy to say, really hard to do. More greens, less meat. It isn’t hard because I hate vegetables and love meat, but because Czech cuisine hates vegetables and loves meat. My goal is to up my servings of fruits and vegetables by one of each every day, and hopefully I’ll keep it up for my entire time in Prague. (I’m not worried about post-Prague because I actually love vegetables and I’m not so great at cooking meat unless I have a barbeque…) Also, stop eating Snickers for mid-afternoon snack. Bring an apple, goddamn it.
Play Better – I’ve been plagued by a somewhat strange problem all of my college career – I go out, but then I come home. Obviously, everyone comes home, but I tend to leave early. Like, really early. I have all sorts of excuse depending on the location and situation (I like sleep, I live far away, I’m technically underage, I don’t want to dance, I don’t know anyone, I have school tomorrow….). But really, I’m just uptight. I don’t like partying because I never partied in high school, and, honestly, I still feel out of place at a party. Like I did freshman year of college, when it seemed that everyone had stories to tell about getting blackout drunk in high school, but my only stories about drinking involved the gold-rimmed plates, my grandparents, and a holiday. I need to let myself go. Forget about this strange insecurity about inexperience, because now is the time to make the memories. Even though I won’t be in the states for my 21st, I still want to welcome it in style, but I don’t even know enough clubs in Prague to know where I’d want to celebrate the moment. That seriously needs to be remedied before the date comes around, and hopefully I’ll meet some new people in the partying process. But “play” in this sense isn’t just about bars and clubs. I want to spend more time exploring the city, having lunch/dinner with friends, just hanging out. I tend to go to school, and then go back to my host family, and not really spend a lot of time with the other students. Part of that is that I feel like I should spend time with my host family, but the reality is that I spend a lot of time with them, and this should feeling is related to the should feeling from Travel Better. And by related, I mean they’re identical twins. So Playing Better is twofold – letting myself open up to meeting new people, and to having new experiences.
Love Better – This could also be Risk Better, because to me, they are pretty much the same. And by that, I mean loving is a risk. I am finishing my junior year in college and I’ve never had a boyfriend. Not a serious boyfriend, not a one-night stand, not even a real date. Which is stupid. I’ve thought about the whys and wherefores a lot, and I think it’s a combination of insecurity (mostly caused by feeling like I should’ve had a boyfriend by now, which just makes the cycle worse) and excessive expectations. I need to stop waiting for a perfect man that encompasses everything I could ever want, and just try. If I like a guy, I need to recognize my feelings, embrace them, and even act on them. I need to stop hiding, scared, waiting for Prince Charming, even though I know Prince Charming doesn’t exist. I need to put myself out there (see Play Better). This is also the only entry on this list that doesn’t have a one-month time limit. Yeah, I’d love to have a Czech boyfriend to party with on my 21st, but I’m not going to say it needs to be a thing. Because relationships can’t be forced. Or so they say. I don’t actually know.
So there you have it. Things I want to do as an adult; things I’m going to start doing now. Things on my mental list as ways I can help myself feel better (eat, exercise), stuff I do but know I can do better (work, travel), or aspects of who I am I’d like to free myself up to change (play, love). And now that I’m an (almost) adult, I guess it is time to get cracking.
One of the best parts of my trip to Turkey was the hot air balloon ride. It was, simply, amazing. Being up in the air at sunrise was gorgeous, and the balloon itself was SOOOO much bigger than I could ever imagine. The whooshing sound scared me each time the flame was turned on, and the flame kept not only the gas in the balloon hot, but also those of us in the basket warm. Our guide was fantastic; he was funny and knowledgable and always seemed completely in control of the balloon (thank goodness!!). From the air, we saw for miles in every direction, and saw everything “worth seeing” in the region of Cappadocia.
We took off around 6 in the morning, as the sky was lightening, but well before the sun actually rose. There were about 50 balloons that went up that day, nothing close to the rumored 150+ balloons of peak season, but still absolutely amazing to watch. We spent about an hour in the air, rising and falling in altitude and floating around the valleys of Cappadocia. At no time did I feel like the balloon was anything except safe. Even though they started the trip with instructions on how to brace yourself at landing, we ended up landing the basket directly on the trailer, with no impact whatsoever. The trip was definitely worth the money (even though it was the most expensive part of my trip to Turkey by a lot!).