By Sonya Dubinina
Perhaps it’s illustrative of my 11 months in Prague – a rather sleepy and dull experience with a sprinkle, nay, a burst of color every once in a while. In general, I am leaving a bit despondent, with a bitter aftertaste in my mouth. But I do not wish to let it linger – this experience is what it is. I am thankful that I have been relatively safe and welcomed in Prague, I am thankful for the few glimpses of Europe I’ve gotten, and for the good people I’ve met.
I really feel like the year has been so uneventful, that there’s nothing left to say – a clear sign of work life becoming so routine that nothing seems to have changed, no matter my location.
But goddamnit, I quit my jobs, sold my car, packed my suitcase, said my goodbyes and headed for The Center of Europe last August – there’s gotta be something cool in that?
Everything seemed so fresh, so new, so invigorating last August! And I guess for a split second, it was. Then I had to get busy, the epic running around town had commenced. Teaching as a freelancer is a pain in the ass, kids. Avoid it at all costs unless you’re a bored spouse and teach a handful of lessons a week. Don’t do it for a living. Get a job at a kindergarten or a school and enjoy being in one place for a stretch of time. Also, enjoy not having to worry about taxes, social insurances, trade licenses, unpaid holidays, and cancellations. Also barely making enough to scrape by. Forget traveling Europe, for the first year anyway. The rigmarole with the visa is not worth it either.
Get a job at a school and forget your worries. Whoever suggested earning a trade license and being a freelancer clearly hasn’t tried doing it himself, or is a local, and it’s always different for locals!
But enough about that – it was a great experience minus the getting paid way less by one school and not getting paid on time by another. Stuff’s disorganized and a lot of the time unfair in the Czech Republic. Deal with it.
I feel like I should be ecstatic in this city, about this city. I feel like I should be skipping down its streets singing songs, and yet I am not. The castles no longer ignite my mood, the cobble stone streets annoy my heels, the novelty wore off, the romance withered some time in the dead of winter. That winter was brutal. It seems as though the snow and the below zero temperatures would never cease. It felt as though I’d live in my sweaters, scarves, and winter coat. Too much cold for a lonely soul.
My general malaise is not caused by this gorgeous city. I am, I am happy to be in the middle of Europe. I am still taken aback every time I am in Ujezd or Mala Strana. I do value The Charles Bridge and the gorgeous view at Riegorovy Sady. I’m sure my general expat loneliness has a lot to do with this bitter divorce from the city. I don’t think I’ve felt at home here, I don’t think I’ve made life-long connections. To the girls who took me in, listened, reciprocated, and entertained, I am forever thankful. But let’s be honest, ladies, we will exchange occasional “likes” on Facebook from here on and will probably never see one another again. And that’s totally ok. Such is life!
I feel like I’m leaving just in time. I’ve had my work experience, I’ve taught my students well, I got a feel for the English teacher’s career. My job here is done. I am both excited and scared to go to Japan.
Sonya found plenty of castles and a long snowy winter in Prague last year. Frankly, she just didn’t care to reminisce about being snowed in and animal skin-clad for 7 months out of the year, and so here she is – a lizard in the sun, the rising sun of Japan that is. She is now spending her days in Tokyo confused and often lost, mesmerized, and bewildered.