Tag Archive: expat

A Smoky Surprise

prague street by night

Prague is known for being a laid-back city, full of history, monuments, and drop-dead gorgeous architecture. It is a city, famous the world over, for its beauty, spirit, and class, consistently earning a spot in every top must-see list ever published anywhere. The city is bursting with bars and clubs, an eclectic music scene, and thriving artistic community.

Slowly, over the past couple of months, I’ve had increasing opportunities to go out in Prague. The more I go out, the more I want to see.

Yesterday’s adventure, however, actually inspired me to start writing again.

I went out with a couple of friends to a little tea and shisha bar in Holosevice. As many other bars, clubs, and pubs in Prague, this place is situated underground. We strolled in and down the stairs straight into a decked-out college living room, stuffed with multicolored sofas, pillows, and chairs perfectly designed for lounging around.

My friends beelined for the back room. “It’s like walking into Narnia,” my friend excitedly told me. Oh, really? I thought. That kind of statement begged to be explored. I followed her down a twisty little hallway to another room full of eye-popping artwork and, of course, the requisite couches and pillows. To our left were two tiny doors, made of cheap fiberboard, painted over with abstract art, and clearly designed to look like a wardrobe. Sure enough. We ducked into the last room, Narnia style, and entered a small smoker’s paradise.

The room was, naturally, full of couches, pillows, tapestries, and lounging stoners.

We squeezed in and made a place for ourselves. Within minutes, I was feeling a contact buzz, both from the smoke and the ongoing, clearly marijuana-inspired conversations languidly drifting around me.

Assorted art and fabric decorated the walls and a large standing drum sat in one corner. On one coffee table stood a massive hookah, although no one seemed interested in smoking. Not from it at any rate.

The other patrons were an eclectic mix of young, middle-aged, and flat-out old, with the oldest, a woman with a wretched COPD-inspired hacking cough. At least three or four different conversations could be heard and I immediately felt welcome, like I had known these people for years.

On my recommendation, my friend and I ordered some of the most revoltingly strong jasmine tea that I’ve ever had. Holy shit that tea was strong! I can still taste it, just a little, at the back of my throat.

From there followed one of the most entertaining evenings that I’ve had in a while.

At one point, my friend, who is Slovakian, leaned over and whispered, “It’s all Americans in here,” with an eye roll. It certainly seemed like it at first, but as I listened in on the conversations, I was able to point out a couple of Brits. I glanced at the two guys in the corner next to her who were huddled together quietly talking to each other and watching a video on their tablet.

“What about them?” I asked her softly.

“Czechs,” she replied.

“That’s random,” I answered and we both snickered. Predictably, the only Czechs in the room weren’t talking to anyone but each other. I’m not sure what they were doing there, in a bar so desperately overrun by foreigners. Maybe they got lost.

The evening flowed past in a hazy drift of random conversation and general feeling of well-being. Eventually, one guy pulled out a guitar and began strumming and some young kid hauled out the drum and starting beating out a rhythm. So, naturally, one girl felt inspired to start singing and we all listened to her for the rest of the night. I felt like I had been transported into hippy-high land; a world I hadn’t visited in years but one that was immediately as comforting and familiar as home.

From start to finish, the evening was pure classic entertainment.

It’s times like these that truly make me appreciate this amazing city that I now call home.

I’ve been going back and forth on whether I should publish this post or not.  I wrote it several weeks ago when I was in a particularly shitty mood, and since then it has been drafted and redrafted into something beyond all recognition.  It isn’t like me to bare my soul for the whole world to see. In fact, it isn’t like me to bare my soul for anyone to see.  I’m almost 100% certain that publishing this will be a move I regret. 

Screw it. 

I accept the challenge and the risk.

What do we have to sacrifice for our dreams?

Some people say it’s nothing. Others that  it’s everything.  There are people out there that believe they can have it all, and there are people out there convinced its impossible to have it all. And there are some people out there that think we can’t have anything. Screw those guys. They don’t know how to get their happy on.

I want it all. Nothing less will do.

But living my dreams has not been without its sacrifices.  It’s an inherent part of wanting too much, I suppose.

And I want too much. I always do.

So let’s take a close look at the dangers and consequences of wanting it all.

Friendship: Friendships fade over time. We’ve all been there. People change, they grow apart, they lose touch.  There is no easier way to lose touch than moving away. It doesn’t matter that we live in an age of Facebook or Twitter. Human nature doesn’t change. Out of sight. Out of mind.  Isn’t that how the story goes?

“We’ll stay in touch over FB!” “I’ll miss you sooo much!” Not for long as it turns out.

Relationships: Romance.  Sex. The idea of finding a romantic attachment here in Asia is even more laughable than it was in Poland. And I did laugh about it there. I laughed so I wouldn’t cry. Because for this woman of the West, slumming it with a man who sees me as less than an equal is completely and utterly intolerable and unacceptable.  It was all just so impossible, annoying, and depressing in Poland, and in its own way, it’s worse in Asia. Why is it so hard to find a decent ex-pat man?  Many of the ones I meet are into local girls (some will flat-out tell you that the reason they’re out here is “yellow fever” which is indicative of such a despicable and shallow  character I just want to punch these men in the face), or, and this is a completely valid reason I understand, they are  living too transient of a lifestyle to consider a relationship.

There are two problems. One, is that the dating pool is just too small. And two, the ex-pat lifestyle, by its very nature is temporary, and for many, aimless.  I’ve met tons of men out here but tons of men I could date? That’s another story.

What about the locals, you ask? That answer deserves a blog post all of its own. I’ll write about it later when I’ve had time to collect my thoughts.

As for sex, well. It has been so long I’ve nearly forgotten what it is to mean something to a man. Or for one to mean anything to me.

And, yeah, thanks. I know I can walk into pretty much any bar tonight and get laid if that’s what I want. Obviously a one night stand isn’t what I’m looking for.

Career: A decent career.  How can I get me one of those abroad? It seems like it is impossible to get away from teaching English, which, frankly, is a profession I’m beginning to loathe. I don’t hate my students. I don’t even hate the life that much. It definitely has its advantages, especially when the money is right. However, I am just too damned smart to waste my brain like this.  Call it arrogance all you like, but its nothing less than the truth.  The amount of mental stimulation you get as an English teacher is next to none. Were it not for my daily crossword puzzles and this blog, I am convinced I would have sank into a vegetative state from which I could never recover.

Thankfully, all is not so bleak on this horizon. I am taking baby steps into exploring other options. If they don’t work out, I’ve realized nothing else will do but to return to school.  I can’t even explain how good this makes me feel. Finally! A light at the end of the tunnel. A direction. Something my life has been missing for much too long.

I was talking with a friend the other day and realized that more than being Polish, or being American, and definitely way more than being an English teacher, I identify the most with being an ex-pat. It’s a title I’m comfortable with and proud of.  Want to feel special? Be an ex-pat. Want to be cool? Be an ex-pat. Want to be sexy? Be an ex-pat. Want to be brave? Be an ex-pat. Want to have the most awesome life you can possibly imagine, with new, crazy, life-altering experiences every single day? Be an ex-pat!  The most boring crappy day of your life as an ex-pat will still be a hundred times better and more exciting than anything else your shitty home life can offer.

I love it! I can’t say anything else about it. The life of an ex-pat, it’s a hit of adrenaline more addictive than anything else I’ve tried. And I get to take it every single day.

So what should I do when the loneliness  and emptiness come roaring out of the darkest corners of my soul to smother me in a sad desperate melancholy from which I might never come back from? What should I do when I’m walking down the street and out of the blue my eyes flood with tears because suddenly I think: Damn. What the hell am I doing here? Is there even a point to any of this?

What should I do when I’ve been invited to the most awesome party life has to offer, but the party always ends with me alone?

At what point do my dreams become nothing more than a series of diminishing returns?

I’m 30 damn years old. And I’m flitting around from place to place, enjoying myself like few others will ever, in their wildest dreams, get a chance to. I am so fortunate. I am living the life.

It is nearly everything, but is it quite enough?

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