With a population of just under 4000, Nové Mesto is not the smallest town I’ve visited in the Czech Republic, but it sure as hell feels that way. The main square is two feet from my front door and is made up of four convenience stores (potraviny), a tabak, a café, an eternally vacant Asian restaurant, and a Czech restaurant where, twice, I’ve eaten a three-course meal with my advisor Yveta for under four dollars.
When I’m not potraviny-hopping, I’m at the children’s center where Yveta works, vaguely participating in the after school programs offered and attempting to soak up as much Czech as possible. With Easter on the horizon, this week’s activities revolved around dying eggs and decorating rabbit-shaped gingerbread cookies. Since I have yet encounter anyone my age (I have a feeling they all fled to the nearest city, Liberec, upon graduation from gymnazium) and therefore have no friends to speak of, I get all of my social interaction at the children’s center. I’ve come to enjoy gossiping with the older Czech ladies who work there, and they seem to get a kick out of me as well. As a result of all of this, my Czech is improving apace, but man, is it tiring to think in one language and have no choice but to speak in another.
Nights are the hardest.
The town shuts down at eight PM, leaving me in my sweet little apartment with nothing but an Ethernet cord, a yoga mat, and my tireless brain for entertainment. This came as a bit of a shock to me when I arrived on Monday night. On Tuesday night, I began to panic. I feared my own company and was beginning to resent my decision to move here rather than stay in Prague with my friends. I paced around the apartment. I made dinner. I tried meditating. And then, finally, when all else had failed to distract me from the humming of my brain as it insisted that I had made a huge mistake in coming to Nové Mesto in the first place, I sat down and I watched The Lord of the Rings.
Anyone who has spoken to me for longer than ten minutes knows that I’m not big on movies. I’ve never seen Star Wars or The Godfather. In fact, my New Year’s resolution was to work my way through the classics of my time, because I felt my lack of movie knowledge was excluding me from some neighborhood of the pop culture world that I proudly inhabit. Although I’d made some progress since January 1st (Blue Velvet, Goodfellas, Pulp Fiction), I just couldn’t bring myself to watch Peter Jackson’s trilogy. I mean, come on. When would I ever have time to sit down and watch white guys fight orcs for ten hours?
The reality is that, ninety percent of the time, I would rather be by myself because I hardly ever am. Usually, what I want most is a free day to do yoga, make brunch, listen to a podcast, write something, cross a movie off my list, and go to bed early. Yet when faced with the astounding opportunity to live like this not just for one day but for three-and-a-half weeks, I was horrified. The city-dwelling student in me is so used to feeling like I ought to be doing something else (in New York, this means working, but in study abroad world, it basically means going to clubs and meeting strangers) that I forgot how to do the things that I actually enjoy.
Needless to say, I loved each of the Lord of the Rings movies and felt this tremendous sense of accomplishment when the credits rolled at the end of Return of the King. I had survived not only Middle Earth but also my first-ever week of living completely on my own. It’s an experience I’m not sure I would have had otherwise (I am not, nor will ever be, in a position to live in New York without a roommate and/or sugar daddy), and because of it, I’m finally learning what makes me tick. My anxiety’s at an all-time low, I’m becoming my own best friend, and you know what the kicker is?