From a Naive Tourist to a Reluctant Resident

Hrishabh Sandilya

Prague, the city of Kafka and Kundera, of stunning monuments and more stunning women, of Bohemian culture and a visible face of new age capitalism’s resuscitation, bla bla bla…. There’s more to Prague than that, you figure that out when you stop thinking like a tourist and start thinking like a poorly adapting resident.

My home for the next couple of years, Prague is probably one of the best cities to be an international student in the world over. The University is well established, living is affordable and the essentialities for student life are abundant.

Seven months here, and Im finally beginning to settle in, Czech doesn’t sound like an alien language comprised of million ‘z’ and ‘sh’ sounding words, spat out inaudible speeds. I’m finally progressing beyond the banalities now; it’s a satisfying feeling to indulge in inane conversations just to practice new verbs you learn. This obviously wouldn’t be possible without the aid of Czech people, to illustrate; the ladies, who run the cafeteria at Jinonice, now seem to take an active interest in my quest for mastery, they’re always happy to correct my basic grammar mistakes and refuse to serve me till I get my sentence structures right.

The food obstacle will always be a little hard to get around, as much as I love deep fried cheese, in the interest of longevity; I have to switch to healthier alternatives. Most of the food here lacks life, but the right combination of cheap Tesco spices can work wonders. The menzas however are the biggest thing in Czech food, a full meal, hours of free tea and an authentic ambience that hovers between a prison lunchroom and a hotel, depending on which menza you go to.

The arrival of spring definitely has something to do with this change in my attitude. Last semester was all about surviving the winter, avoiding all exposure to the outside, and following a general path of home, school, bar and back home. This semester, it’s all about getting around the city, visiting parts you didn’t think existed, hunting for bargains at the Holesovice and blesi (read ‘bleshee’) markets, exploring the interiors of the National Library, going to the Prague Zoo, and convincing them you were named after an animal to get in for half price.

There have been loads of other things I’ve experienced so far, from witnessing the annual May Day Skinhead parade, five feet away from the marchers to burning witches and roasting sausages the night before with welcoming people from a tiny village in east Bohemia, to mention a few. All necessary events in the adaptation process in this varied country.

Hrishabh Sandilya (India), IEPS

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