How lucky I am to have known someone who was so hard to say goodbye to.
Almost four years ago, I learned that my family and I would move across the ocean to a faraway city called Prague. My first question was, “Where is Prague?”
The opportunity to move there was for my husband’s job, and we thought the stay in Eastern Europe would be for 2 or 3 years. It was a dream for us, to get to live in a foreign country and to have the chance to travel Europe with our family. Though those 2 or 3 years turned into almost 4 years, it all really was a dream.
My husband and I moved to Prague with 3 young sons, not knowing how our time overseas would go or turn out. Everything was new; everything was different. From navigating narrow roads with no lines to learning to live in a smaller space with tiny appliances for a family of five, our first months abroad were a continual challenge of learning how to adapt and make the most of the experiences at the same time.
One of my biggest challenges was as a person with severe allergies to grass and tree pollens. I had survived springs and summers in the US in air conditioning, and then later as an adult with allergy shots. But moving to a former Soviet country meant moving back in time. Our home not only did not have air conditioning or central air, but it also did not have window screens. And, I didn’t have easy access to an allergist … or so I thought.
It turns out that, as with so many aspects of being an expat, what really came true was so much better than I could have ever imagined.
In the first weeks, I spoke with an allergist in Prague who was so flamboyant and energetic, and yet immediately found solutions to my allergies, that within a couple of months under her care, I was better off with my allergies than I had been in the United States. I had been terrified, and the solution came out far better than I had dared to dream. I had no allergy problems while in Prague, though due to the screenless windows (which were open most of the time for ventilation), over the years I woke several times in the night with a large insect crawling up my arm.
The last weeks I had in Prague were full of mixed emotions. I still feel the turbulence of feelings a week later, and will, I’m sure, for months and years to come.
I met and became friends with so many wonderful people while we lived in Prague that most of those friends became more like family to me. Those friendships came as such surprises, so unexpected, and yet brought so much serendipity and joy, it was so hard to say goodbye. Even my skeptical allergist squeezed me tightly with a hug and a few tears when I left … this happened with other professional people who had initially treated me so gruffly, and when it was time to leave, we had come full-circle.
These incredible people, dearest friends to acquaintances to professional contacts, all have imprinted my life in profound ways, and I am deeply grateful for each and every encounter. The time in Prague as an expat far surpassed all of my expectations and most far-reaching dreams. Yes, the traveling in and through the many countries around Czech was a gift, but the people were even more. How lucky I am to have known each and every someone who was so hard to say goodbye to …
Thank you to you all. I look forward to seeing you all again, soon. In the time between then and now, I’m taking notes and keeping my eyes wide open as I say hello to the USA once again … there is so much joy to be caught in the midst of the changes. Don’t you think?