October absolutely flew by. It’s hard to believe I’ve made it through my first full month of life and classes here in Prague. If you’ve been following me on social media, you’ve probably been a bit skeptical that I am actually taking classes here, but I assure you that I am! However, the educational approach at Charles University is very different than what I’m used to and my schedule has ended up being much freer than I’m used to. I’m not used to taking it easy, but I’m learning to appreciate it! One of the biggest surprises about classes here was that the English classes are almost exclusively taken by foreign exchange students. I haven’t gotten to know any Czech students yet, which is a both disappointing and unexpected. I love getting to know the other foreign exchange students and we have formed a good cohort, but it still feels strange not to know any Czech students, other than our friend Jordan who studied at CTS last year.
When I’m not traveling (which ended up being every weekend this month!), life is a bit slow here. It feels very hot and cold. I’m traveling at a breakneck pace or I’m floundering trying to figure out how to fill my time. Most of my usual activities back home aren’t really an option here, so I find that I spend a lot of time watching Netflix. I’m still figuring out how to fill my time with things that I enjoy, but that don’t cost much money [because, traveling every weekend 😬]. I’ve been here 6 weeks now, but I still feel like I’m just starting to get the hang of things.
Traveling and living abroad involves a lot of chaos, frustration, and mistakes. Every time I posted something about being yelled at in a grocery store or one of the millions of little things that have gone wrong since I’ve been here, I’ve gotten messages from many people who’ve been in my exact same position. One friend reminded me that this humbling experience makes us more welcoming to foreigners at home. He’s absolutely right. Among the many things I’ve learned in the last month, having grace for myself and for others is probably at the top of my list.
Despite what social media might look like, life certainly isn’t perfect here. I miss home and I still cannot believe I’m missing the Midterms (PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD VOTE). Still, I’m so grateful to be here. Here’s a quick snapshot of my October:
What I'm Learning
I’m taking 5 classes this term, most of which only meet once a week (the other meets every other week!). Thus far, my favorite is my “Ecumenical Mariology” class, even though there are only 2 students in the class! Trust me, I’ve never had to prepare more for a class than when I know I’ll be called on at least 50% of the time! I’ve never studied Mary the Mother of Christ in depth before and I’m learning a lot about different theologies and understandings of Mary. It’s a tri-national discussion (Czech professor and German classmate), which adds a different dimension to the discussions than I’m used to. The icon above is known as the Theotokos of Vladimir and is one of the most treasured artworks in Russia.
What I'm Reading
This category was impossible to choose just one for because this month I finally had several books come off my waitlist at the library that I’ve had on-hold for months. With my ridiculously ample free time, I had time to read them all and they were worth the wait. If you’re looking for some good books to read, here’s what I’ve been enjoying this month:
Educated by Tara Westover - This memoir even made it on Obama’s summer reading list, so you know it’s a good one. Westover tells her life story of being raised by fundamentalist Mormon parents who became survivalists and kept Tara and her siblings from public school and medical treatment. It’s a fascinating read and I could not put it down for days.
Belonging by Nora Krug - A friend heard about this book on NPR and sent it to me because I had been talking about my conversations with my German classmates in Prague. Krug’s memoir is about growing up in post-WWII Germany and the reckoning she and her family had to do with their involvement in the war. It’s an illustrated graphic novel, which was great to read on my kindle. The book is very interesting and tells a perspective of German identity that I’m only beginning to learn.
I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown - My third memoir of the month sort of an autobiography, but it’s also about Brown’s theology and experience in the church. I highly recommend this book for any Christian who is thinking seriously about what “racial reconciliation” and “diversity” means for the church. It left me with lots of questions and considerations.
Dear Martin by Nic Stone - If you’ve read or seen, The Hate U Give, you’ll probably like Dear Martin. It’s the story of a young African-American boy who begins a project of writing letters to Martin Luther King Jr. I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s a great book about the difficult topic of police violence. It’s written at a young adult level and I’d recommend it for high schoolers and above.
What I'm Watching
My mom has been trying to get me to watch this documentary series on Netflix since it came out, but for some reason it took me until now to finally watch it. If you haven’t already seen it, it’s about a cult that took up residence in Central Oregon in the 1980’s. I grew up vaguely learning about the Rajneesh, especially when I went to the ranch middle school, which got turned into a Young Life camp after the cult disbanded. It was pretty wild to watch a documentary about a place I’d been to, especially one as dramatic as this. I was quite surprised at how much the documentary made me agree with the cult (I know that sounds bad). I don’t want to spoil things for those of you who haven’t seen it, because there is some batsh*t crazy stuff that happens, but I’ll say that I definitely don’t agree with the lawbreaking. However, I found myself agreeing with their assessment of how local Oregonians treated them. The intersections of white supremacy and Christian supremacy were at the forefront of the documentary. It’s a bit hard to write concisely, but I’d love to talk more about it if you’ve seen it!
What I'm Eating
Nearly every time I’ve been out of the country for an extended period of time, there has been a food item that I find myself unexpectedly craving. When I lived in Israel, it was nutella and peanut butter. In Prague, it’s stovetop popcorn. I like making popcorn at home in my Whirly Pop, but I don’t do it very frequently and certainly not enough to consider it a “must have” food item, but when I got to the Czech Republic, that’s exactly what it became. Unfortunately, despite searching high and low in every grocery store I walked in, I wasn’t able to find popcorn kernels. When we were in Krakow, Poland, we went into a small grocery store express and as I turned around to point out how they only had microwave popcorn, to my great delight I found popcorn kernels! I don’t know why, but making popcorn almost every night has been a great little treat for me! I still have yet to find it in Czech Republic, so hopefully my rations from Poland hold out till January!
Who I Voted For
The upcoming election has been on the forefront of my mind for basically 2 years now and it’s so important to me that I seriously considered not studying abroad this fall so that I could help on the Abrams’ campaign. I’m glad that I’m here, but I am very sad to be missing this important election. However, living in a foreign country isn’t going to stop me from voting, so I went down to the US Embassy and turned in my ballot almost a month early. I am proud to have voted for the first female African-American governor in US history. She’s got a tough race, but I hopeful she’ll be my next governor!
What I'm Enjoying
Prague has been inundated with the menace that is electric scooters. They are a plague on cities across the world AND I LOVE THEM. I’ll admit, it is not great on the many cobblestone streets of Prague, but when you get going on a good pavement stretch, it is such a blast. Now that its getting cold and dark at 4pm, I probably won’t have too many times left to ride them before winter, but I’m enjoying them every chance I get. Haven’t used Lime Scooters before? Use my Referral Code for $3 off: RLWNKY7 #noshame
Where I've Been
Oh man, it’s been quite the month. I didn't intend to do so much traveling this month, but it just turn into one thing after another and suddenly I was out of town every Saturday of the month! It started in Krakow, Poland with Keith and his friend Sarah, which you can read about in full. Then after just days at home, we were off to meet our friend Thomas in Brussels, Belgium for a few days, including a day trip to Luxembourg. The next weekend, I went for a day trip to Kutna Hora with my roommate and her friends from Mexico, Russian, and Hong Kong. My life here is certainly very international! Finally, last weekend I went to Berlin, Germany to visit my friend Courtney, who has been living in Germany for the last year and a half. It was great to be with her for the first time in a few years and see a little slice of Germany for the first time!