Saturday, July 6, 2013

Flag-Waving


 
I’ve lived in the Czech Republic for nearly a year and my life has honestly never been better. I love my job, my city and the people I interact with every day, both online and in life. I love the sensations of my daily routine. When I walk to school in the morning, the air smells like an intoxicating blend of firewood being burned in an old woodstove, probably being poked at and cared for by an old Czech lady in her little black loafers and pantyhose, and summer flowers, the kind that smell sweet and fresh at the same time. The air is warm right now and the breeze is drifting in through the windows. I can hear teenagers laughing in the park at the foot of the castle. I often hear them late at night. During the day, I hear the Brno philharmonic orchestra and the singers at the opera house rehearsing. They’re right across the street from one another. Down the street I hear sneakers squeaking on a gym floor because a group of dudes play basketball inside an old church nearly every day. They tape the games for Czech television. I hear the ding ding of the trolley as it scoots by my flat a few times an hour. There are many sounds I’ve come to enjoy on my walk to and from work.
My favorite thing, though, are the Czech acquaintances I’ve made since I’ve been here. I know it’s very American of me, but I greet the waitresses, baristas and shop assistants I see almost daily like they’re old friends. It begins with a wave to the baristas at CafĂ© Mezzanine early in the morning when I walk Libby and often ends with hugs and big smiles at one of the restaurants I frequent. All of the waitresses know what I like to eat and usually place the order without me even having to ask for it. My favorite person is a gay Middle Eastern waiter who likes to sing with me and hold Libby while he’s working.
For many of these people, I’m the first American they’ve ever really talked to for more than ten minutes. I’ve come to realize both through teaching Czech students and interacting with Czech people in social settings how curious and entranced they are by American culture and living. I’m frequently asked “What’s America really like?” “Do people smile all the time there or is that a myth?” Things like that. They think I’m crazy for moving to the Czech Republic. And as odd as it may be considering my reasons for leaving, I feel an unusual obligation to speak well of America and to positively represent my homeland through my actions. I wouldn’t want my students or acquaintances to think all Americans are assholes just because I happen to accidentally be rude to someone when ordering a coffee or teaching the present continuous tense. I might not have been very happy there and might disagree with many of the country’s decisions about certain things, but I’m still very lucky to have been born in the same country that jazz music, baseball and the Freed unit came from.
“Are you waving the flag at me?” I guess I am.
 
"No chopped chicken livers! No garlic pickles!"