I never thought I’d fly to the moon. And I didn’t. But as far away from home as I am, I might as well be on the moon. And for as strange as my current city in the Czech Republic seems to me sometimes, I feel like I’m on the moon.
I shouldn’t be this far from home. I’m shy and accustomed to familiarity, having lived in the same Oklahoman house and gone to the same small school until graduation. Not really what you call breeding grounds for a jet-setter. You’re talking about the last person on earth you’d expect to get out of her comfort zone.
Fast forward a few years and I’m so far out of my comfort zone it’s like sitting on pinecones instead of an armchair. Lines go sideways instead of straight out behind the cashier. Men wear capris. Signs have accent marks. The public bathroom in the mall costs 25 cents. Chocolate chips are a rare find. Where the heck am I?! Living in the heart of Europe sounded glamorous but I still have to do laundry and find out where to buy a flyswatter. (And neither of these things are as simple as you might think.)
The tiny differences that infuse mundane life were all fun and games for the first few months. “Oh, isn’t it funny how they change into slippers even at the school?” “I cannot believe that they pick their own mushrooms! Aren’t they afraid they’ll poison themselves?” “Wow, did you realize the Czech word for November literally means, ‘falling leaves’?” It was all adventure and infatuation. And I surely was collecting some great stories to tell, getting locked on an empty train in Poland, trying to use a compass in the forest at night, hitch hiking, getting hit with a stick on Easter by a complete stranger at my door.
But then as the differences piled up, this new culture started to bog down my enthusiasm, my sense of stability and my energy levels. After a few hundred language faux-pas, constantly being the one who doesn’t fit in, and searching for days at a time for things like matches, cocoa powder and that dang flyswatter, I started to miss home. The honeymoon stage was waning. It started to get a little tiresome to always sound like a kindergartener when I spoke (on a good day). The lack of free bags (and a bagger) at the grocery store began to frustrate me. The fear of how to raise my children successfully when I can’t even read the labels on food boxes and medicine bottles stressed me out. Suddenly I realized how much I’d taken for granted – family, dryers, carpet, making a quick joke effortlessly, and Butterfingers.
I started to take my life one day at a time: breathe deep, do the task before me, and take time each day to do something fun, just for me (like order books online). Things leveled out with less heights of glory and fewer depths of despair. I don’t tour castles anymore but I also don’t tear my hair out because I can’t decline my verbs properly.
My life finally has the perfect mix of normalcy and excitement, routine and surprise. My world has opened up like a locked music box that can finally play its song.
And now I am free to crave. Craving is good – it helps us appreciate things and people more. I know what I miss and I can better savor life’s blessings.
I never thought I’d learn to make pumpkin pie from scratch, ride trains and trams, hike up to ancient castles, speak a foreign language (mostly) successfully, or eat a pig knee (and really like it). I shouldn’t be this far from home. But I’m so glad I am.