Travel is broadening, they say: An American traveler coming home has a brand-new laundry list of things that she misses about the country she visited, things that she could find in Europe that are unheard of Stateside. For me this list includes things like fresh bread and good chocolate, reliable public transportation, and street musicians. But the opposite can also be true: Returning to America, I've discovered a few new delights here, unavailable to me during six months in the Czech Republic.
Here is my list.
I love having windows with screens on them. My flat in Prague had beautiful old windows, made with panes of bubbled glass and wood painted white. But there were no screens. Come summer, the flat got hot, we opened the windows (there's also no A/C in the Czech Republic), and we let the flies in--huge, monster flies that the locals called 'Meateaters'. I took to hunting them down with a red folder, perched on my bed and lashing out at the flies as they zoomed past me through the air. Every morning, I faced the same dilemma: cool down the apartment and deal with the flies, or fry in a fly-free apartment. Now, I fling open my windows to air out my apartment in a cool breeze and I still have no flies. So terrified.
I love having seedless grapes. Grapes count as one of my favourite fruits. Ever. I learned in the Czech Republic that they were particularly delicious frozen. But the default grape in Prague had seeds in it - big, huge seeds that gave the grape a bitter taste if you accidentally bit into them; it was almost impossible not to bite into the humongous seed on accident. I took to cutting the seeds out of the grape with a little knife and adding them to salads. Here the default grape is seedless. I buy them in huge packages from Hy-Vee, wash them (or sometimes not), and eat them with delight.
I love being in the same timezone (or at least almost the same timezone) as my family and friends. In Czech, I had to schedule calls. Can we talk this week? No? Well, I can't talk in the middle of the week. Maybe in ten days from now? That doesn't work either?!? Hmph. My family were perhaps the only people I talked to regularly; my friends sort of fell by the wayside until I returned half a year later to catch up with people. Nor was scheduling the only difficulty; because international calling is so expensive, I relied entirely on the Internet, which led to further difficulties. Personal conversations happened on Facebook in the middle of board games, and Interviews took place on Gmail chat when Skype went down. It is so nice to pick up my phone, dial a preprogrammed number, and talk to someone. It's even nicer to control where and when these conversations happen, without hooking myself up to the computer.
I love having English-language books and movies readily available. In the Czech Republic, I read Howl's Moving Castle three or four times and the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series once (and some of them twice) simply because they were the only English-language books around. Halfway through my time in Europe, I realized it was possible to pick the foreigners out of a crowd because they were the ones carrying Kindles: I met up with an American missionary on one of my trips, and although I'd never seen her before, I knew it must be here because she was standing among a bunch of Europeans reading off a Kindle. Now, I can be as anti-Kindle as I wish. In the two months since I've returned, I've finished Wives and Daughters and Godric (both excellent fiction books), as well as Introverts in the Church (an excellent non-fiction books) and a few more books I'd read before. It's like my own literary land of milk and honey.
My next blog will be more thought-provoking, probably a review of Introverts in the Church (or the review will come in the post after next). But having shared with you so many of the things I love about European life, I wanted to pass along a few things that I love about American life.
I'm also including a few photos from my sister's wedding here. If I practiced on you, thanks so much! The wedding was both super-stressful and super-fun to do, and although the photos aren't professional quality, I'm happy enough considering this is my first shot.