seven months

THRIVE

I had forgotten about this word for a long time. Recently someone mentioned it in a video I was watching on YouTube, and I remembered it. I remembered how much I wanted to thrive.

Foreign exchange gives you a lot of opportunities to thrive. Usually, they aren’t easy. It’s challenging to thrive in a new city, new school, new family, new culture, new everything.

I’m seven months in and trying to find ways to thrive. I think most of the people who know me here would say that I’m doing well. I know some of the language, I know about the culture, I enjoy the food, I’m nice to people (or at least try to be). For me that’s all fine and great, but it isn’t thriving. Sometimes I maybe think that I am simply not in the right place.

I do not want to go home. That is a fact. I miss some things here and there, but I do not want to return. Some of this is due to deep-seeded bitterness that these past seven months has not managed to cure. It’s also because I don’t think I belong back home. I won’t thrive there.

Yet, I also find myself thinking that I won’t thrive here. Some exchange students that I have talked to imagine continuing their lives here. I am not one of them. I love the Czech Republic and Ostrava. I genuinely do. But I don’t think I would thrive here either.

This past month has been full of a lot of social interaction. My best friend, Ellie (another exchange student) visited me for four days and we were constantly doing something. I went to two plesy (I don’t really know how to make an English plural of the word “ples”) which are basically balls/dances/proms. I danced and had fun. I have an Andy Warhol art exhibition I want to go to and there’s this espresso bar/showroom that I want someone to accompany me to. Two of my friends have offered to have sleepovers at their houses, I’m going on EuroTour, and then there are (at least I think there are) three other Rotary weekends between now and when I go home. Also I’ll be turning 17, and depending on my mood, may want to do something for that too.

All of these plans make me slightly nervous going into my last host family. With just Rotary events, I will be gone for nearly a month when you combine all the days together. That’s a lot of time away from home. I won’t get to know them as well and they won’t get to know me as well. So I go into this next house a bit cautiously. I don’t want to just be a tenant in their home, but I’m also a bit worn out of picking up all of my things and then setting up camp somewhere else. Integrating into a family means pushing yourself, and right now, today, I am tired.

I’m going to try and remember to attempt to thrive for the next three months. When I think about flying away in three months I can’t understand it. Where did all of the time go?

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history (bud)

Being the “realist” (translation: pessimist) that I am, experiencing a new culture has had some downs. In addition to being a realist, I am also a highly observant person, who picks up on a lot of things. While I’ve been in the Czech Republic, one thing has really irritated me and I have had a hard time dealing with.

I often find that people here do not care about problems if it does not personally affect them in any way. Whether that is something as simple as someone getting harassed on the street to downright poverty and racism, I have rarely seen many people willingly offer a helping hand.

This all bugs me in particular because I am someone who wants to spend the rest of my life helping people. Yet, today I realized that I may not be seeing the whole picture…

You cannot judge a culture by what’s on the surface. Every habit and custom has some kind of history tied to it. The same goes for the Czech Republic. Communism hasn’t been gone for that long, and that is evident. Only the very young have been able to experience the world as a wide open place full of different people and opinions and progressive ideas. Before this time, there was one established idea. There weren’t multiple political parties and the world was not an open place to explore. Again, all of this changed fairly recently.

With this history, the Czech Republic has to now try to grow and thrive like every other country. It has to learn to accept other cultures and ideas. I have realized that this does not happen immediately. It is a process.

Like every other place on this planet, the Czech Republic has a history that affects the way it functions today. Whether that is valid or not is up for the individual to decide, but the fact of the matter is that you cannot simply judge a place without knowing the past it has.

I can now proceed forward with the rest of my time in the Czech Republic with this sort of knowledge in my back pocket. It will probably help me understand more and more. Every place has a context.

an open letter to my brother

As you can guess, one of the hardest things about being an exchange student is being away from your family for a grossly long period of time. While I feel like I have dealt with that fairly well, it is hard sometimes. Today I wanted to take some time for my brother, who has his sophomore recital tonight (he’s in college and majoring in classical guitar).

Dear James,

Tonight is a big night for you. I know that you have been practicing a lot for this. I’m sure that you are nervous about it, which is good. Nothing is worth doing if it doesn’t make you at least a little uncomfortable.

I have always admired your hard work and tenacity. Although I make fun of you for sitting in your room for 8 hours a day during the summer playing Bach, I have seen what amazing things come from all of that work. As I have gotten older I have realized that I am so lucky to have someone like you as a big brother. You have shown me how to work hard for what I want. When I see you achieve great things I know that I can too. It’s always great to hear all of the compliments people give you after they hear you play.

I miss you dearly. I have yet to find anyone in this whole world who I think is as funny as you. Today I was looking at a fairly weak selection of Mexican food at the grocery store and I teared up thinking about you yelling at me to make the guacamole because dinner will be ready soon. Remember when you always tried to get me to run away from Mom in the grocery store and I always chickened out? I miss talking on the porch and boxing in the living room and everything else James.

We have come to the point in life where siblings go different ways a bit earlier than other people. But I have always appreciated your support. You always assure me that I am doing well and that you are proud of me too.

I love you sooooo much James. I don’t want to be anywhere else other than Louisville, KY tonight watching you perform, but unfortunately I can’t be there. I’m so sorry about that. I wish you had some European tour dates that took you to Prague or even Ostrava coming up, but we’ll probably have to wait a few more years for that.

Next year I’ll be there sitting right next to lil d just like last year. I am so proud of you James. Really. I can’t imagine where I would be without you. Tonight is going to be absolutely amazing. I don’t expect anything less. I can’t wait to watch a video/hear an excerpt of your recital tonight.

Break a string bud (is that funny? I’m not sure)

-Al

Recital

This is the program for the recital. Classic James.

If you want to take a look at the recital program: https://www.facebook.com/events/773239662759567/

YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4L0NFmXNxb6TvRhmTB8g5A/feed

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/jamiemonck

(Okay okay I’m done promoting my brother…)