30 July 2016

Living outside of Prague

When we first talked about moving to the Czech Republic, I was dead set on living in a flat in Prague. And not just any flat. In my dreams, this flat would be in Vinohrady or Dejvice or, even better, in the trendy-but-not-too-dodgey bits around Letná . The flat would be large, of course, with many delightful historical features and would manage to have both a lovely view and not too many stairs.

For a number of reasons (including, but not limited to the price of large, delightful flats in desirable neighbourhoods), we ended up instead in our village and it's taken some time for me to fully embrace our rural setting.

What started as acceptance when I saw our happy kitties racing up the apple trees and a very satisfied L building bonfires and tending to his unruly tomatoes eventually evolved into genuine appreciation when I started planting my own things and (perhaps more crucially) Smalls started running, jumping, and creating his own very loud soundtrack. Thank goodness that no downstairs neighbours' hearing was harmed during Smalls's toddlerhood.

But now, this appreciation has blossomed into love.

Smallest, the newest addition to our family, was born into a lovely April. The canola fields boarding the village were in full eye-searing yellow. But inside the village, the cherry and apple trees offered a more sophisticated picture. The days were sunny and the evenings only a little crisp.

And I discovered that I have an adorable baby who will sleep if pushed around and around and around the village in his pram.

So, we see the village in the morning light. And the afternoon sun. And during the last glimmers in the evening.

I've memorised not just our neighbourhood, but also the old part of the village, the very old part of the village, and both of the newly built sections. I've explored the paths over the fields and started preliminary investigations on the nearby villages.

L should be pleased to note that cost of the new-secondhand pram that I insisted on buying is down to less than 1.5 CZK per kilometre.

These walks are easily the highlight of my days and I've really enjoyed getting to know the village.

And while I've been out in my explorations, the village has also gotten to know me.

Older women stop to discuss how Smallest is growing. Does he sleep at night? Has he gotten over his cold? And the strangely popular; Are you breastfeeding?

I always exchange a friendly 'Dobrý den!'with the blue-haired boy down the road who seems to be out at least once a week applying new decals to his car. He always gives a cheery wave while contemplating where to best put 'Rides only for cash, grass, or ass', but mercifully does not inquire about my lactating abilities.

'It's going to rain. You'd better walk quickly!' paní učitelka from across the street tells me as she gathers in her laundry.

'It's going to rain,' says the white haired man from number 94, as he, as always, takes his bike for a walk up the hill.

'It's going to rain,' I tell Mr. R's dog.

Mr. R's dog is almost certainly the scruffiest mutt in the village and, while occasionally I see him with Mr. R., more often than not, the poor chap is gamely taking himself for a walk. Or, somewhat humoursly, he joins other owners with their well-groomed, well-bathed dogs on their walks. ('It's not mine!' one woman felt the need to declare a few weeks ago when she, her dog, and the tagalong went past).

Mr. R's dog nods at me and continues sniffing his way home.

While it's nice to get advanced warning of impending meteorological events, by far the best benefit of village life is the number of friends I now have in the village. Friends, who often sit in their gardens or on their balconies in the pleasant summer evenings. Friends, crucially, who invite me to stop for a glass of wine and a chat while Smallest (sometimes) sleeps in his pram.

And finally, getting to know the village better also means that one knows who to contact if, say, one should be thinking about which route to take, dinner plans, schedules in September, what to do over the weekend, and how to find meaning and purpose in life BUT NOT, importantly, about the exact location of the keys to the front door.

While I didn't particularly enjoy going from neighbour to neighbour with my very helpful father-in-law asking if they had a very tall ladder and a desire to help us break into my house via the top floor window, it was somewhat gratifying that two of the three neighbours I tried came ready and armed with their ladders. The third wasn't home.

Before help arrived, I had a rather anxious fifteen minutes of peering through the patio doors wanting so very desperately to be on the other side. There was something about seeing our living room from the (literal) outside that really brought to the forefront of my mind the thought that there behind that stupidly locked glass door was, unquestionably, my home.

So, you can keep your Art Nouveau metalwork and the tree-lined avenues with hip cafes. Smallest and I have another few laps around our village to go before it rains.