I smiled. I smiled with glee as I watched Vancouver become smaller and smaller. I wanted to jump up and down, make a ruckus, celebrate for a long time that I was finally leaving, finally going somewhere else. I was heading to Prague and I was proud of the fact that I did it on my own.
I felt liberated when the plane ascended; it’s as if I was outside flying in the clouds; I felt light and carefree. There were still expectations but they were of a different set… more inclined towards how I should see the world rather than how the world sees me. I felt audacious.
So what happened when I arrived in London: (connecting airport)
Heathrow is massive. It’s steel and concrete, cold and official, almost aloof. It is efficient and since efficiency and friendliness do not inherently mix, it left me unsettled. One cannot take ones time in Heathrow. It won’t allow this to happen. I arrived at Terminal 5 but I had to transfer to Terminal 3. We were herded to a tunnel where we took a train that led us to a shuttle that dropped us off at the correct terminal. This took about 40 minutes. After that small journey, I had to endure another half an hour of security checks. I was anxious since my connecting flight to Prague was boarding soon – in less than an hour and I still did not know how to navigate between gates. After the x-ray scan and the body scan, when my bag was finally packed and sorted and prodded and checked, I ran from the checkpoint all the way to my gate, hoping I wasn’t too late. I heard the cheerful lilt of the BA announcer as she reminded passengers boarding for Prague to arrive at the gate as it was leaving soon. Suffice to say; when I left Heathrow, safe in the confines of my tiny window seat, I passed out from exhaustion.
I stepped out of arrivals and I didn’t see my name. However, I did see a familiar face. Jen (a fellow field school participant) had waited for me since she assumed that my driver was going to show up. It didn’t. We should have left, but as we were tired and sleepy, Jen and I waited for 45 minutes hoping someone was going to show up and drive us to our destination. No one showed up to pick us up. I was annoyed, but I wasn’t about to start my trip with negativity, so in the spirit of adventure, we asked the lovely guy at the transport depot on how to get from the airport to our dorm. He was so lovely and helpful and I wanted to hug him for making an already stressful day better. He gave us directions; we bought a ticket for 32 Kc and embarked onwards to a city we had no clue of. We got lost. It was inevitable. We took the wrong tram, got off at the wrong stop, so we walked a few blocks to the right stop, then took the correct tram, but when we finally arrived at the correct destination, we were stumped by how confusing czech street signs were.
TIP: if you want to know where you need to be, stop at a grocery that sells liquor. The proprietor will know where the nearest student dorm is — he probably enjoys a few drinks with the students.
I arrived in Prague at 6:30PM. I arrived at my dorm at 9:45PM. It was a four-hour journey BUT I wouldn’t trade those four frustrating hours for anything. As horrid as I’ve painted the whole day, it was an experience. I muddled through the language. I got angry, stressed, and then happy. I drank every experience. Even though, I had less than 3 hours of sleep on the plane from YVR to LHR since the guy behind me kept on banging the back of my chair. But when I took a step outside of Praha airport, I smelled lilacs. It welcomed me. The wind told me “Dobre den, welcome, stay awhile and I will nudge you to alleys, nooks, and squares, both unexpected and magnificent.” It was well worth the ache and frustration, the lack of sleep, the anxiety of leaving friends that I dearly miss. I met a new friend and she welcomed me like she knew me long before I did.