Mar. 30th, 2009

ladyfalcon: (Super cool)
Today, I got up early, got on a train, took a nap on that train, and when I woke up I was in another country.

Europe is so fucking magic.

I was kind of hoping that the universe would do one of those things it occasionally does and bring up the Dresden Dolls on my iPod as I pulled into Dresden, but that did not happen. So I made it happen. And that was how the most meta moment of my life so far occurred.

It's strange to say, because in America I hate the country and love the cities, but in Europe I might like the countryside better than the cities. When I am going through Europe's more natural areas, my desire is to walk through them and see their beauty up-close, to explore the tiny nestled towns and learn their histories. Whereas when driving through the rural areas back home, my thought process is a lot more "Please let me get out of here as quickly as possible and hopefully without talking to anyone."

Anyway. Dresden is beautiful and confusing. I didn't realize how much I was relying on my ability to decode some words in Czech until all the words were in a completely new language that I also don't understand. And it became even worse when I needed to ask for help, because I didn't even know how to say "I don't speak _____" or "Do you speak English?"  These two phrases make up 80% of my Czech vocabulary and fully 98% of my daily Czech use. I also don't know "Please" or "Thank you" in German, which in Czech make up about another 1.5% of what I say every day. ("Pardon" makes up the remaining .5%, but that isn't only Czech and I say it with a French accent anyway so I'm not sure it even counts).

In fact, the only German word I know is Vergangenheitsbewältigung, which means more or less "the process of coming to terms with the past," usually used to refer to how Germans after the Second World War dealt with the aftermath of the Holocaust. You'd be amazed how often that doesn't come up in conversations where all you want to do is ask for directions across town.

Anyway, it was partially my fault, because there are two train stations in Dresden, and I got off at the first one, which was far away from where I needed to be, whereas if I'd just sat tight and waited, I probably would have been taken to the one that was closer. Or whisked off into the wilds of Germany. In any case I got to ride the tram and see a little of the city center that way, and it was pleasant once I figured out where I was going to.

Then there was a bit of embarrassment when I finally found the Czech Embassy, and rang the bell next to the front gate, and was told that Visa services was 'on the right'. I looked around a bit, looked next door, determined that was a doctor's office, and went back. "I don't understand," I told the speaker box. A woman had to lean out of an upper-story window of the Embassy and point me around the side of the building. My confusion was based on the fact that the front gate to the Czech Embassy, that portal on one side of which is German and the other Czech sovereign territory... was unlocked. Anybody could just walk in. I have a certain amount of experience with embassies, living in D.C. and now with the visa stuff here, and never, nevernever, have I been to one that you could get into without a metal detector and a badge and a passport check, at the very least.

Anyway, I spent about an hour doing paperwork pertaining to my visa, so that's done. I'll have my answer within 60 days. So this is either the beginning of me being able to stay here all of next year, or the beginning of my last 60 days in Prague. Fingers crossed, hope for the best, lather, rinse, repeat.

I then took the tram back to the train station. I hung around for about two hours, looking at the local Dresden-ness and window shopping. I also on the spur of the moment got another helix piercing done, since I have been collecting them for places I have been (I have Rhode Island, London, and Seattle). I had been holding off getting one in Prague because I plan on staying so what's the rush, but who knows when I'll be in Germany again? (Probably two weeks from now when David gets here, as he really wants to hit at least two European countries this visit).

By this time I was ready to gnaw my own arm off with hunger, and I decided that though the spirit was willing, the flesh was unable to stick to the plan of waiting to get back on the train and hit up the dining car (this turned out to be a good move, as the train back didn't have a dining car, and I shudder to think of the misery had I not broken down and had dinner earlier).

So. I currently make Czech crowns, and it takes 27 of those to make 1 Euro. So everything in Germany is very, very expensive, from my perspective. So I'm not making excuses, and I'm certainly not proud of it, but I just want you to know that there is a reason why I the first German meal of my life was eaten at a Burger King, and that reason is that I am a poor teacher and anything else was simply outside of my price range. (Now that I mention it, though, I recall that my first Czech meal was at IKEA, so maybe I'm just sticking with the trend).

Anyway, this has a point, and that point is that I have been in a foreign fast-food establishment, and the situation is worse than Pulp Fiction told us. For, in Burger Kings in Germany, a Chicken Club sandwich isn't a Chicken Club sandwich, it's a Long Chicken. My hunger for science was outweighed by my actual hunger, and so I did not purchase and consume such a horrible-sounding foodstuff. So in the absence of actual evidence, I will simply hope and pray that Long Chicken is a horrible, horrible marketing choice, and does not come from the same source as the more-famous long pig, and leave it at that.

Back in Prague now, and it's amazing how much more comfortable this far-from-home place where I know no one and don't speak the language feels. A lot of it is still so strange, but it's familliar strange, in a way.

Erin

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