I’m in Berlin and the weather is almost 30 degrees. I arrived with a group of girls from my class and stayed in this really nice apartment complex which cost as much as a hostel. The art in this city is amazing. I love how the explosion of colour and modern architecture gives the city a really great vibe. I’m almost tempted to say that it’s hipster but that’s not the correct word since, indeed, the city has an abundance of artistic people - everywhere I see colourful pants and edgy haircuts - but it’s contrasted by reminders of its divisive histories. Which leads me to my next point, the Berlin Wall, the bricks and mortars are gone but in its place are murals and graffiti of love and peace and solidarity. The city has really embraced the vibe of inclusion and freedom.
I really love this place. I want to live here for a season. Situate myself at the center of the city and walk to the Berlinerdom which is near museums and a modern looking fountain attached to a massive park where I would read novels and write on my journal.
Last night we had a lovely dinner at a tapas restaurant in Alexanderplatz, today we’re heading for a night out. I’ll keep you posted on how it is. Miss and love all of you. I wish we were doing this together.
(The email I sent to my friends: R.P., J.Lo.,T.G., & J.Li)
Day one: Praha
I smiled. I smiled with glee as I watched Vancouver become smaller and smaller. I wanted to jump up and down, make a ruckus, celebrate that I was finally leaving, finally going somewhere else. I was heading to Prague and I was proud of the fact that I did it on my own, with the support of friends and family.
I felt liberated when the plane ascended; it’s as if invisible fetters broke away from my shoulders and I felt carefree. There was still expectations but they were of a different set… more inclined towards how I should see the world rather than how the world sees me. I felt audacious. Still do.
So what happened when I arrived in London: (connecting airport)
Heathrow is massive. It’s steel and concrete; cold and official, almost aloof. It is efficient and since efficiency and friendliness do not inherently mix, it left me unsettled. One cannot take ones time in Heathrow. It won’t allow this to happen. I arrived at Terminal 5 but I had to transfer to Terminal 3. I and the hundreds of passengers on my flight were herded to a tunnel where we took a train that led us to a shuttle that dropped us off at the correct terminal. This took about 40 minutes. After that small journey, I had to endure another half an hour of security checks. I was anxious since my connecting flight to Prague was boarding soon - in less than an hour and I still did not know how to navigate between gates. After the x-ray scan and the body scan, when my bag was finally packed and sorted and prodded and checked and banged, I ran from the checkpoint all the way to my gate, hoping I wasn’t too late. I heard the cheerful lilt of the BA announcer as she reminded passengers boarding for Prague to arrive at the gate as it was leaving soon. Suffice to say, when I left Heathrow safe in the confines of my tiny window seat, I passed out from exhaustion and stress.
I stepped out of arrivals and I didn’t see my name in a cardboard. I did see a familiar face. Jen (a fellow field school participant) had waited for me since she assumed that my driver was going to show up. It didn’t. We should have left but given as we were tired and sleepy, Jen and I waited for 45 minutes hoping someone was going to show up and drive us to our destination without a hitch. No one showed up to pick us up. I was annoyed, but I wasn’t about to start my trip with negative thoughts, so in the spirit of adventure, we asked the lovely guy at the transport depot on how to get from the airport to our dorm. He was lovely and helpful and I wanted to hug him. He gave us directions; we bought a ticket for 32 Kc and embarked onwards to a city we had no clue of. We got lost. It was inevitable. We took the wrong tram, got off at the wrong stop, we walked a few blocks to the right stop, took the correct tram, and when we finally arrived at the correct destination we were elated to have arrived only to be stumped by how confusing czech street signs are.
TIP: if you want to know where you need to be, stop at a grocery that sells liquor. The proprietor will know where the nearest student dorm is — he probably enjoys a few drinks with the dorm population.
I arrived in Prague airport at 6:30PM. I arrived at my dorm at 9:45PM. It was a long journey BUT I wouldn’t trade those three frustrting hours for anything. As horrid as I’ve painted the whole day. It was an experience. It was me muddling through the language, getting angry, stressed, anxious, happy, ecstatic. I drank every experience. I had less than 3 hours of sleep on the plane from YVR to LHR since the guy behind me kept on banging the back of my chair. I was hungry, tired, grimy from sweat and humidity. Yet, when I took a step outside of Praha airport, I smelled lilacs. It welcomed me. The wind told me “Dobre den,” welcome, stay and I will nudge you to alleys, nooks, squares, horizons both unexpected and magnificent. It was well worth the ache and frustration, the lack of sleep, the anxiety of leaving friends that I will dearly miss. I met a new friend and she welcomed me like she knew me long before I did.