By: Nikita Eaton-Lusignan
On April 19th, 2015, I marked my one-year anniversary of arriving in Prague. Just one year, but it’s been a long one. I’ve made some forever friendships, had others fade away, and felt a million different things. It’s been more than long enough to change my sense of normal, to create a new familiarity. I didn’t think I’d get this far when I first planned on coming for maybe a month, to see what it was like. A lack of plans is a funny thing.
I remember the nervous feeling I got when I first landed, after speed-packing and bolting out of a friend’s house in Milan. I looked over the shoulder of the man beside me to the Czech words in his book, and remembered how little I’d researched the country I was heading to. I was really travelling blind.
“They do this in Poland as well. It’s a bit of a tradition,” I heard an old man tell his wife. I was once again overwhelmed with a sense of being displaced, of wondering “Where am I?”
“This address is not in Prague,” the taxi driver told me in his broken English as we drove past the colourful buildings and the cobblestone streets. My heart hammered, having no appropriate response to that.
“Well, that’s where I have to go.”
In a way, the security of it all stressed me out, having my next month already planned out by someone else. I would have preferred rolling with the punches, being confused on my own terms.
The taxi driver had simply meant that we were heading to the outskirts of Prague, where my school was located. I was picked up there by a man who took me to the apartment I’d call home for the next month. I arrived at the same time as an American girl with long blond hair and a bright smile, who’d just arrived from visiting her German boyfriend in Berlin. I didn’t realize that within the year she’d become my good friend and flatmate, and would marry that German man the following spring.
All my memories from that first week are the same; a flash of a first impression, surrounded by context that would later be accumulated. These moments became important only in retrospect, these first meetings that would lead to may more.
I remember Sarah, greeting me in the hall with a huge smile, wearing a Beatles shirt and a towel on her head, promising that we’d get better acquainted when she got out of the shower. She was my rock during the course, and though she moved to the States soon afterwards, I could never get her out of my heart.
I remember Alysa, remaining silent as we launched into an hour-long discussion about Harry Potter, accepting that we blather on about something that bored her. For the following year, her smile would always make me feel at home. I held onto it like an anchor.
I remember Kelly, casually talking about the night she’d had following random strangers into bars, making me wish I’d been able to get acquainted with Prague in such a unique fashion. She would firmly wedge herself into my life, being a star in some of my favourite memories, and creating a friendship that distance can’t erase.
I remember Dan and Manda, walking hand in hand in the shopping center, a burst of colour. I heard them speaking English and assumed that they must be taking the course with us, but didn’t want to approach them and ask them about it because I was afraid it might be awkward. I should have known that nothing would ever be awkward with them. They are now my neighbours and two of my best friends- and the second part is a forever thing.
I remember Roderick, saying at Prague castle that if he’d been there with his girlfriend, he’d be writing about it while she drew. I wanted to talk to him about his writing, but didn’t fancy myself to be enough of a writer at that point to engage in conversations about style with strangers. Little did I know he’d become my go-to person to talk about so many things with (including writing), and someone whose happiness I’d always root for.
I remember Kristyna, barely knowing me but volunteering herself to translate a bank letter into Czech for me. Her helping me out with my visa application really cemented our friendship. She shaped my Czech experience, offering me some of my craziest memories, and I’ll always consider her to be one of my favourite humans.
A week in, I decided to stay. I didn’t want to just remember these encounters as friendships that could have endured if I’d given them a shot. I craved lasting bonds with these people.
I panicked before teaching, staying up all night stressing out about lesson plans. If I could go back, I’d tell myself not to over-think it, that it would all come naturally if I let it. It was never worth the tears.
We ate a lot of chocolate and drank many 20kc beers.
Manda and I shared a magical moment, watching unexpected lanterns drift over our heads in a moment of intense stress. We laughed and hugged, letting go of our negativity together.
We all graduated together, celebrating the end of an era and the dawn of new adventures.
I found a flat. I got a job. I started teaching private students.
Sarah came back after being gone for a couple of weeks, and we leaped into each others arms as though we’d spent ages apart. Four days later, she left for the States. Now we really have spent ages apart.
I spent a lonely summer being totally broke, wondering if I’d made the right decision in coming here. The fact that I could ponder this by the Vltava made it feel a little bit better.
Three months in.
I went to summer camp for a week, and realized that I needed to spend more time with children. Their energy and love uplifted me.
My friend Elise came to visit, and we had a fantastic time exploring Prague together, having picnics, watching lightning storms, attending puppet shows, feeling free. We hitchhiked to Povaleč together, and I met Katka.
Kelly and I went on an epic biking adventure together where we got hopelessly lost, and discovered the best portobello burger ever. I wondered why we weren’t already close friends.
Dan, Manda and Roderick moved back to Prague after spending the summer away, just in time for my birthday celebrations. The high of reuniting our group together under one roof was almost more than I could handle.
I started working in a pre-school in the mornings, to get more time with kids and a bit of extra money.
We all went on a mushroom-picking trip in Jesenik together.
Six months in.
Kelly and I spent a weekend together in Germany, exploring Dresden and Berlin. We had a grand time, bonding more than ever.
A month later, she left for the States.
We celebrated American Thanksgiving and Christmas together, as a newly formed family.
I went to visit my biological family in Canada for the real Christmas. I hated leaving them after just two short weeks, but when I came back, I felt like I was coming home.
The winter was dark and dreary. I craved spring sunshine.
Kasi moved to Germany.
Nine months in.
I started nude modelling, for extra money and for the experience.
Kasi got married. We went to Germany to be a part of her wedding. I was so happy to see her again, and overwhelmed by all the love in the room.
The sun finally came out.
I made life plans. I changed them. And, inevitably, I changed them again.
I realized how much our Friday night Žižkov pub crawls had become a tradition, and wondered what life would be like without them.
One year in.
Two months left.
I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
To read more of my posts go to: lifeintransience.com