As I grabbed my pack and left the apartment for the final time, Cat Steven’s “Baby it’s a Wild World” played on repeat in my head. My spirits had been low as of late, hell the spirits are all over the place, for reasons and no reasons at all. It’s tender footing and walking on eggshells in this brain. Having Cat Stevens as a companion at the moment was encouraging.
Oh Baby, baby it’s a wild world. It’s hard to get by just upon a smile girl.”
I sat on a Czech train gently cruising deeper into Bohemia. It has been years since I have ridden a European railway. At first I was confused to where to sit. In China the seats are open and similar to the seating arrangements as Amtrax, America’s rail line. This train was compartmentalized by little rooms with sliding doors and eight seats to a compartment.
I sat in the darkness with an older Czech man as the train went through a tunnel. We had been silent because I don’t speak Czech and he cannot speak English. The light in the train car was dim and I could barely see. It gave me a moment to think on how rarely I travel so impulsively on my own. Although, many people could say I do this all the time, but more often then not I have a place to stay at my destination; this time I did not. I suppose I did the same thing in Ireland many years ago, but that’s another story.
Originally I had planned to make this trip with my new friend Keiko. We had met during our TEFL training at The Language House in Prague. Most of the other students had found places to live, and jobs, but Keiko whose final destination was South Korea, and myself whose final destination seems to be god knows where (due to visa and passport issues) were left to our whims while we had money. Keiko had been using couchsurfing a website that connects travelers to people who are happy to open their homes and host them for a night or two. Keiko suggested we should couch surf together for a week. It was decided. We had planned to go to Kunta Hora for a day and then the next day we would head for Cesky Krumluv.
It is amazing how quickly things can change, literally things can change in a mater of five minutes or the click of a link. Keiko has a love affair with Poland. She had been there before and had a friend who was a DJ in Warsaw (I think Warsaw). As we sat on my bed looking on our computers Keiko read a link to her friend’s radio show. He told her to listen because he had mentioned her. She sighed heavily. “I wish I could go to Poland. The only thing that is keeping me from going is money.” She sighed again and then clicked on another link- and there it was an offer for her to volunteer teach in Poland. All she had to do was get there, but the weeks accommodations and food would all be provided. And like that, a wish and a click, plans had been changed and Keiko headed to Poland.
I was solemn for a moment, but only because I knew I would not see Keiko again in person or at least not for many years. This lifestyle brings lasting strong friendships that are maintained through social media. In the past you knew you had to say good-bye possibly forever, but now we can always look at each other’s pictures and send a message on birthdays and on those occasions when we realize it has been years since we have said hello to that dear friend you met in that foreign place. If I am going to be entirely honest with myself another reason for my brief but somber mood had to do with my newly developed and increasingly uneasy anxieties. I would classify it as a fear. Fear of what exactly I’m not too sure. I’ve always struggled with anxiety and worry, but since China, since my mom’s death it seems to be stronger. Although I feel like there have always been twinges of anxiety- after all I’ve had more than one panic attack, I suppose it is fitting for it to manifest itself in new and exotic forms.
With all these nightmares
It’s a wonder that I
ever made it out from
– Annabelle, Zizkov
There has always been potential for me to be someone who hides and lives in books and television series, and movies. In a way it was how I was raised. Mother and I always watching movies together. The last few times I had visited her it was hard to get her out of the house at all. A lot of it had to do with the pain that she was in, but she had always hid from the world that was so often cruel to her. The movies and the series, and the books were better, safer, they eased her pain and they helped her forget her sorrows. I know this life very, very well. I grew up with an overwhelming feeling of being trapped. Trapped in poverty, trapped in a small town, trapped with her, always looking out at what other people do. I was afraid if I left she would die, and eventually she did. We all do.
I pushed these feelings away as I watched Keiko do the necessary planning to make her very last minute bookings to Poland, plus her Skype to her concerned mother. Keiko turned to me before she called her mom. “Just wait she’s going to warn me that I could be sold into sex slavery.” That is exactly what her mom worried about. I chuckled remembering my mom having the same worry when I was in Prague fourteen years ago. It must be so hard on parents with their children dashing around the world when the news produces images of such terror. As she spoke with her mother I decided to do our planned trip on my own. I looked for places to book in Krumluv, but for some reason I was not able to book anything. So I would just have to take my chances and hope to find something once I arrived.
Running through the train station with only five minutes left to catch my train, I stumbled through incredibly broken Czech asking people to help me find the platform. Miming in the Czech Republic had been far more successful than my miming attempts in China. Through the assistance of strangers, I found my platform, and my train and sat down in the compartment with the nice older man who shared in the silence and the darkness of the tunnel.
“Oh baby, baby, it’s a wild world, I’ll always remember you as a child girl.”
To be continued…