This week we’re putting down new floors, plastering and painting a few rooms in one fell swoop. Because of the chaos (and because I’m missing my normal work perch and have moved into C’s play area) Caroline has spent a lot of time out of the house, visiting our babysitters and their families. But despite babysitter camp occupying her days, she still keeps careful track of our progress and at night her pretend is all about painting.
Today when Caroline woke up, her first words were, “Can I come out to see the painter man?” I picked her up, pajamas and all, and we peeked into the room, while she explained to me that our wall, it was yellow, but the man would paint it blue and in the end it would be green!
Green walls I’m sort of hoping to avoid, but it was pretty cool to hear her thoughts on color mixing. We spent our breakfast adding up colors. Our favorite sum: bright red chairs topped with a yellow lemon pointing to C’s play table - deep orange, of course.
Breakfasted and dressed, Caroline trooped off to the zoo, discussing painting technique with her sitter in her variety of Czenglish. First nahoru, then dolu, you know? Up and down. Vis?
Drums, horn, the opening bars to “Fanfare for the Common Man” sound. I stand at our bookshelves, and try to decide what to read to such music. I stand as straight as can be, and laugh when I find myself ready to put hand to heart. Then I remember - it is nearly July. Already, the Ambassador’s invitation to a July 4th reception hangs on our refrigerator, reminding me it is midsummer.
The music nudges memories of other 4ths too - watching fireworks over the Capitol from the banks of the Potomac; picnics on my grandparents’ farm surrounded by hundreds of relatives and family friends; a pig picking along the North Edisto, where food came second to the freedom of running wild with cousins, lighting sparklers, swinging from ropes into the cold black river; later, playing Barber and Copland to audiences melting in the heat of south Georgia, still gracious enough to thank us for the music.
Now, I’m always thankful it isn’t as hot here as it is in the South this time of year, but I miss the celebration. We celebrate the 4th mostly by explaining its significance to our friends. This 4th we’ll be in the middle of coming back from one trip before heading off to another one. We don’t have any plans (the Embassy party is this week to avoid the Czech holidays) but tonight as the music plays, I decide that I’ll celebrate by listening to all the Copland and Barber in my collection; I’ll gather up Gershwin and Charles Ives, John Cage and George Crumb, and hit play.
Rain has fallen all across middle Europe today, hiding the sun and the solstice. This afternoon I snapped a shot of our balcony before the sun could completely disappear. I've got strep throat, and couldn't celebrate the day as I might wish, but I did enjoy sitting on the step between our bedroom and balcony, waiting for the storm to break. It arrived in great claps of thunder, no lightning to be seen, and then a massive downpour.
A few Fridays ago a very nice guy from Czech Radio interviewed me about living in Prague as an expat. Maybe it was the hiking map I’d just bought and the beautiful weather waiting just outside the café, maybe it seemed a safe angle to take, but my answers had a decided slant to them. You can judge for yourself:
Why did you move to the Czech Republic? Because we wanted to travel more and knew we wouldn’t have time if we lived in the U.S.
What do you see is the difference between Czechs and Americans? Czechs are more experienced travelers, at least in part because they have a great deal more vacation time than Americans!
What do you like to do on the weekends? Travel around the countryside.
A tak dal.
By the end of the conversation, I’m pretty sure the interviewer had decided I was a travel nut and as granola-y as they come. He asked me if I’d ever consider moving outside the city to the country (since I apparently spend all my time there). Citified as I am, and never having been asked this particular question, I was caught off guard and vehemently said “no way!” My reasons were pretty weak and I believe I mentioned an overweening love of vegetable stores and potable coffee at least three times before I stopped burbling and changed the subject.
It was an interesting question though, and I whiled away some time on the subject while walking back to my office.
Why I prefer to live in a city: 1. I love to walk and get somewhere I need to go. I love that I can walk for kilometers around Prague and still be in an interesting area and not on a highway. 2. A house in the country requires a lot of work. I begrudge time spent changing light bulbs. At times I do wish I had that maintenance bone in my body, as I love visiting chatas and camping out in the country, but I just don't possess it. 3. I like living in a place with enough people for me to blend in with and be ignored on those days when I don't feel like chatting. 4. In a city there is always a new person to meet. (See, I’m not a misanthrope!) 5. Have I mentioned vegetables? There are four veggie shops within one block of our flat. They compete to see who has cilantro, even in the winter. 6. In a city, there is always something new to experience: a new restaurant, an exhibit, concerts, new playgrounds. This is also why I like to travel. 7. I like the idea that there is an English bookstore within a few blocks of our house, just in case. 8. And then, there is the coffee.
If I'm not working or hanging out with our 10 year old while a bouncy 5 year old dances around us, there's a good chance I'll be hammering away on our piano, reading a book or trying to sketch. I live in Prague, Czech Republic and hail from the U.S. South.