I spent an evening on the cliffs of Dover two Octobers ago. In anticipation of a beautiful sunset in Prague today, I’m revisiting this one.
“What would you like to drink?” the airline steward asked as we flew over a sleeping continent. Next to the dark window, the Czech woman to my left lifted her head and said, “I’ll have red wine.” Till that point I hadn’t been sure of her nationality because her monosyllabic responses had not provided enough ground to determine an accent, but she said wine with a pronounced ‘v’ at the beginning. I chuckled to myself, how Czech of her to ask for wine with her meal. They do love their spirits.
Then, while still laughing at the stereotype sitting next to me, I asked for a coffee. I’m an American and some habits die hard. Conscious of this, I turned to the man on my right. Would he give us culturally-predictable tick-tack-toe?
“And you, sir?” asked the steward.
Looking up from his newspaper, the thin British man in his mid-40’s said, “I’ll have a spot of tea, please. Cheers.”
Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
I’m not sure when I first realized the difference between people who are in your life and people who impact it. Maybe it’s when I left all those people behind.
One of my biggest struggles in moving to a new country has been finding kindred spirits. And, as I’m a bit of an odd ball, finding someone as bizarre and prone to spontaneous misadventures as I am seems a little like combing through a huge china cabinet looking for the plastic sippy-cup – it should be easy to spot, but you feel like it probably just isn’t in there.
Like Anne Shirley’s, my dramatized aspirations of adventure and romance are less romantically dramatic in real life than in my daydreams. And if coming to Prague was anything like Anne moving to Green Gables, I passed the part where she imagines castles and silver lakes and now I’m stuck in a town where people tug on my braids and get upset when I accidentally drug their children with current wine (to make this even more authentic a metaphor, people make their own current jam here!).
Why do we build up palaces in our minds when we know that real people live in houses?
I can say for certain, however, that I’ve never day-dreamed about England. I never once wished to go visit. Ireland, Scotland, even Wales – yes, but never England. And I wondered why as I sat in blissful excitement on a bus from Heathrow to Oxford at 10 p.m. last Friday. Was it because I assumed that it would never be as good as the stories? Maybe. All I know is that the gentleman next to me leaned over and asked if I was alright with quizzical concern so my excitement must have been obvious. I had to tell him this was my first time in England and he nodded delicately and went back to his paper.
England lived up to every expectation I never had.