Wednesday, March 27, 2013

That Must Be Something

Dear Em,
I'm finally getting around to recapping our trip to Prague. For the next few weeks, I'll be posting a little something about our adventure each Wednesday. I want to start with something I think your daddy was most worried about, & I admit I was a little nervous too: the language barrier.

In Prague they speak Czech. This was the first time I had traveled anywhere where I didn't know the native language at all, & that was a little intimidating. We had heard that most people involved with tourism also spoke German & English. I took German for six years, & knew I could bumble my way around with it if I needed to. 

Still when we stepped out of our hotel, I was a little nervous that we wouldn't be able to find our way around. Our hotel had given us a map, but it was mostly in Czech. Your daddy & I had done virtually no planning for this trip other than looking at a few restaurants in Where the Chefs Eat & looking at Time Travel's Top 10 things to do in Prague.

Lucky for us, Prague was easy to navigate. There is a metro. We heard it was easy to use, but we wouldn't know. I think we were a little too intimidated to try it. Plus, Prague is so easily walkable, we never really saw the need. We probably walked ten miles a day, & I loved it. As we walked I was fascinated by the beauty of the architecture & the city. There were interesting sites & street performers on every corner. Plus, most street signs could be found easily on buildings at each intersection (not that we could pronounce most of them).

There were a few times we lost our way. There were many more times that we looked at an interesting statue or large & ornate building & had no idea what we were looking at. "That must be something," Daddy & I would smile at each other & say. It became a running joke throughout the trip for us. We had no way of knowing. The signage for the buildings & the statues were, of course, in Czech (I'm sure if we had purchased a pocket guidebook before leaving the states, that would have helped a lot). 

There were a few things that struck me during this experience.

- I began to understand what it must feel like for someone who is illiterate to navigate through life. Eventually you figure it out, but you don't have access to many of the clues & resources around you for help. It must be terribly frustrating & often frightening for someone who can't read to go through life each day.

- Instead of seeing many parts of the city as a history lesson, we just saw them for what they were. We could only appreciate them for the beauty of what they looked like (this wasn't the case everywhere, some tours were also in English). I think this made our trip more laissez-faire. I made notes in my head of some of the things I wanted to look up & learn more about later. If we were to return, it would be a much different trip. We'd have more background information (& a guidebook). I kind of like that. There are some times that I visit places & have no plans to return because I've done everything I want to do. Seeing Prague the way we did the first time leaves so much more to come back to. It could be a whole new adventure the second time around.

- We did it. We were able to find our way around, order food, ask for directions, shop at a grocery store. We live in a country where learning a second language doesn't seem to be much of a priority, & yet we're incredibly fortunate that English is spoken by many in most places we might travel. It makes me less intimidated about seeing the world & also incredibly humbled. Suddenly, you learning a second language is so much more important to me.

It was an experience of a lifetime, for me, partly because of the language barrier. It was kind of inspiring to live through it (even if it was just for a week), & I can't wait to do it again.

I love you so,

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