Last summer, E and I took a trip that changed our life. I’d spent the summer in China, and we met up in Brussels, Belgium to vacation…merely because it was the cheapest place to meet coming from Beijing and Denver. Traveling through Europe, we realized we wanted to be there, and that we needed to be there. So, even though I was just finishing a degree in a different field, we applied to TEFL programs here in Prague, and were accepted into one for August. We made the difficult leap abroad, and I’m so happy we did!
However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows and whiskers and kittens.
I’ve only been an “expat” for almost two months, but I’m quickly learning that this life is not for the faint of heart. I have always loved to travel, and I’ve always wanted to live abroad, but it’s not easy. Every day is full of so many ups and downs. I read recently that the successful expat is emotionally stable, and spoiler alert: I’m not. In fact, I’m full of anxiety, and living in Prague has in many ways magnified these anxieties.
Often, these anxieties are misplaced, and something I think is going to be really stressful, like riding the tram, is actually no problem. It’s usually the things that I think will go smoothly–like IKEA–that end up being much harder than I anticipated. Moving abroad includes doing a lot of the same things as back home–but usually they seem much harder as you don’t know the language, don’t know anyone, and don’t know how to find anything. All of the annoying things you have to deal with at home–like making ends meet and washing the dishes–are still here, and are not romanticized like I thought they would be. Even in Europe, a bank is still a bank (although the one we chose is in an awesome historical building, so sometimes it does feel more quaint).
While the ups and downs of living abroad is a roller coaster, it’s a magnificent one because those ups are UPS and those downs are DOWNS.
I could go on about how I cried in public (again) or how many insecurities I fight on a daily basis. I won’t go on about how seeing pictures of the changing leaves in Colorado also made me cry, because that’s what I miss the most. I won’t tell you about how a Modern Family episode (a show that always makes me laugh) about Christmas sent me into a pit of depression when I realized I won’t be home for Christmas, again.
Yet all of the downs are, well, worth it.
Here are some reasons why (lately):
+ Even though we’ve been living in our apartment for several weeks, I’m still so relieved and grateful we found one. It’s cute, historical, and right on a little park. It’s only a bedroom, bathroom and kitchen/living room, but it feels huge because the ceilings are so tall. It even has a balcony, an oven, and, wait for it…a BATHTUB. The holy trinity! The most important part (besides the bathtub because I seriously thought I would never find one of those in Europe thanks to House Hunters International) is the location. Two blocks from the river, a few feet from a tram stop, with a courtyard and a park right here..and a few pubs, of course. This is Prague, after all. I’ll stop bragging but I really think I love it.
+ I got another, more permanent job! (Well, through June at least). And I started this week! Whew. I’m working at a school with kids, which is so far entertaining, and it gives me consistent work and is well-paid! I plan on writing a longer post on getting work as a teacher here in Prague, so stay tuned. I’m also compiling a list of all the hilarious things my students do. One thing for sure–I’m exhausted.
+ Somebody asked me for directions! Which means I either look like a native and/or look comfortable enough to know where I’m going. Or I look like I speak, English, maybe? Either way, it made me feel like a native…although I had no idea where they wanted to go so I couldn’t actually help them. Still a win in my book!
+ One of my adult students (the same one that bought me a cookie) invited me and E to the Mexican Embassy party for Mexican Independence Day. One of the most random invites I’ve ever been had but so fun! We were a little under dressed because we’d just come from moving into our new flat, but I managed to put in my contacts beforehand which is always a win. I’ve been to Mexico exactly once, but something about the party made me feel at home. Maybe because there was Mexican food everywhere and it was good. Not to mention the crowds of fun, friendly people. Viva Mexico!
+ We opened a bank account! Maybe. Either way we submitted the paperwork which is a solid start (Right? Searching for validation here…).
+ I’ve made it one whole week without getting lost on public transportation. In addition, I have a OpenCard, the transportation pass that let’s you use the metro, trams, and buses in Prague unlimited over a period of three to eight months. It was a long process–including pictures and passports and a confusing number system. I had number 35, and as I was anxiously awaiting my turn, it went from number 34 to number 36. I ended up getting a different number because 35 just never happened. What the what? Then, of course, after I paid extra to get my card that day (instead of waiting two weeks for them to mail it), I had to actually put money on it so I could use it. Another line, another confusing conversation. But, it all worked out, and now I can ride the metro/tram/bus/even a boat to my heart’s content…for the next six months. Woo!
+ We successfully navigated our first trip out of the country (besides that brief walk through Poland)…to nearby Germany! It was a great weekend escape to celebrate our anniversary. We managed to book tickets and make all of the four connections there and back with only one fall (I won’t tell you who ate it gracefully on the stairs) and without hardly getting lost. My goal for this year is to travel outside Prague one weekend a month and outside the Czech Republic once a month. So far, so good!
+ This has been going on for a few weeks now, but I’ve been getting paid to teach. I am making a living (or will be once my first paycheck comes in…so far it’s a little short of a living) which is a huge win! Surviving overseas…so far!
+ We’ve made it a whole week without the washer screaming “ERROR.” Yesssss! Not that I could tell you exactly what we’re doing differently but I’ll take it.
What wins have happened in your life lately? Share in the comments!!
linking up with Nicole!