Where did it really all begin? Tulsa? Flight to Houston? Houston? Stepping aboard the 747 to Germany?
I suppose it was stepping aboard the huge 747 and realizing that this was where I was going to be for the next 10 hours. I sat in my seat, the last row before the steward cabin area breaks up the middle of the plane, and waited for my companions. I started to think I had lucked out and gotten all three seats to myself, but before I could imagine myself sprawled out, the Germans showed up.
I was offended when they thought “K” was an aisle seat. K was my seat, and it was a window seat, thank you very much. They asked the steward which seats were which (though there is a handy display of such information above each row) and then settled in next to me. The big, old German man sat in the middle (of course). I got mad at him because his arm hung off the arm rest and was floating in my Seat K Territory. I smelled cigarettes. I didn’t like this one bit.
Then, he started chewing gum or something, because spearmint erupted from his being. He might as well be a giant mint leaf. I was happy with my new German friend. I wanted to talk to him, but his wife scared me. She looked like Morticia from the Adam’s Family. They were old enough to be my grandparents.
And also, they thought I was German, so I wanted to keep that going.
I guess it was because I was wearing black. I don’t know. The stewardess asked me, in German, if I had my seatbelt on, and I showed her that I did in fact have my seatbelt on (I understood her hand gestures). The couple assumed I was German, I could tell.
Though they must have been confused, because though they were bilingual in English and German, they spoke not a word to me. When my German man friend had to get my attention, he grunted. He literally grunted. About 30 minutes into the flight, after I asked for water (ruining my German cover), he asked me if I was from America. “Yep!” said I. “Hmph. And you travel alone?” “Yes.” “You too young to travel alone.” “Well, I’m 22, so it’s okay.” “You have babysitter?” “No…” “Your parents work in Germany?” “No.” “Hmph.”
Later a man walks by, and for some reason, asks if I’m the German guy’s daughter. He says I’m not and the man walks away. Weird. German says, “You could be my granddaughter.” I smile. “I have a granddaughter your age – 22.” “Oh, really?” “She doesn’t love me.” “Why not?” “Ach – her dad… he keep her from me. I saw her when she was baby. Now, that’s 20 years ago. Oh well, life’s going on.” I didn’t really know what to say, so I just stood there (we were stretching our legs, a few hours into the flight).
I go to the bathroom and take half a sleeping pill and stick the rest in my bra (I didn’t know what to do with it). I come back to my seat. It’s 10 minutes to 8. I decide I will sleep. I close my eyes and listen to the mumbled conversations and the engine’s roar, but I don’t fall asleep for a while. After doing a little sleepy head bob, I check my watch. 10 to 9. Okay. Got some sleep. Try again. Check my watch. Ten o’clock. Out. Check my watch. Midnight. Back to sleep.
Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.
“Good morning!” says my German grandfather. It’s 1:00 am. The lights are on in the cabin, and they’re serving breakfast.
We eat, have some coffee. I doze off again. I can start to see the sun rising, but we’re heading east and there’s a wing out my window. A little while later I get up to stretch my legs again. Only because the German grandparents did. I looked at the old man, and he said, “Stand! It’s good for your legs to stretch.” So I told him to wait for me to put my shoes on (I brought cozy sleep socks). I stood up. “Ah, yes. Now is time.” I laughed at him making fun of me and took a few laps around the cabin, as a result of his encouragement. “You need walk! Is good!”
We sit back down and doze off again a few more times before the plane starts to land. Occasionally he would ask me, while I was looking out the window, if I could see land. I never could. I would always say, “Too many clouds still.” And he would nod and turn away. When we landed he said, “You stay in Germany?” We had already talked about my plans, but I reminded him again. “No, I’m going to Prague.” He and his wife smiled at me. “It was nice sitting with you!” I say to them. They nod and smile politely, and walk down the aisle with their carry-ons.
Next flight, I sit by a younger Czech. It’s an hour-long flight. They serve drinks. I order a coke, and I swear the guy rolls his eyes at me. He orders a beer. I wondered if ordering coke was typical for an American. I just wanted some caffeine.
We start our descent in Prague. It’s snowing. I’m wearing leggings and a cardigan with ballet flats. My coat is in my bag. We have to exit the plane via portable stairs and board a bus to be taken back to the terminal. I freeze my butt off. There are 4 ladies next to me on the shuttle, speaking loudly and laughing. They look like they’re on vacation. I can’t figure out what language they’re speaking. “It’s not Spanish… not French… not Italian… not German… maybe it’s Portuguese,” I think to myself. When another man, who’s not part of their group, says something to them and makes them laugh, I realize they’re speaking Czech. So that’s what it sounds like.
I inside the airport and don’t go through customs. Weird. I wait at the baggage claim and am pleasantly surprised to see my bags arrive. I hook two together (thanks Dad) and am on my merry way to find my shuttle driver. In the lobby are people holding up signs with peoples’ names. I look for mine. There it is, on a yellow laminated piece of paper, held by a short, chubby Czech. I smile and say hello. “This is you?” he asks with a heavy accent. “Yes.” “I can take this?” He grabs my two suitcases. “Yes!” We walk out to a Volvo sedan where he puts my luggage and then opens the back door for me. I think this is probably stupid, to get in this unmarked car, but he was talking to another shuttle driver as if he were working with him (the other guy was in a van) and I read a blog of a girl who’s here and she did the same thing, so I figured I was okay. “This might be it. I might have made it all the way to Prague to die like this.” (Sorry Mom). I asked the guy his name. “Jacob.” “How old are you?” “20.” Jacob doesn’t like to talk. “Are these apartments?” I ask, as we zoom by a complex. “Yes. 5 years ago, I live there. In, not this one or this one, but the one behind it… that one!” “Oh, did you like it?” “I don’t live there anymore. Now I live in a village behind the airport. (He says village name). It was burned by Hitler, but then it was rebuilt.” I wrote the name of the village down after I made him spell it for me. I ask Jacob a few more questions, mostly concerning where we were in Prague. He is not a conversationalist. I am wide-eyed the entire time.
I get to the hotel and am greeted by some Czech girls. I still can’t remember the one’s name. Bodanna? She shows me around. We walk to the bank so I can pay my room fee. We come back. She brings me to my room, where we and the guy at the reception desk carry up my bags (4 flights of stairs). There is no elevator. We arrive in “Flat C” where there is a note on notebook paper that says, “Welcome Lauren! We went exploring, but we’ll be back soon. –Stu and Court.” So my roommates are a couple. They seem nice (haven’t met them yet). I get to my room and start to unpack – a shower is up next. I open a bag – oh! What is this delicious smell wafting from my luggage? I make a discovery. Apparently, you shouldn’t pack hairspray. The huge bottle of delicious-smelling goodness that I bought just days before my departure was empty. My socks now smelled like alcohol. Got over that one quick.
Hopped in the tub, remembering that the faucets are backwards here. The tub has a hand-held spray nozzle, but no curtain. So you have to take a bath and hold the nozzle. I lay back and spray my feet with scalding hot water and dazed off. I then wondered if I locked the door. I turned the water off so I could hear any intruders. I heard none. I got out and put clean clothes on and started writing. Which brings me to the present. 2:55 pm, Prague time. 7:55 am my body’s time. I’m exhausted. Plans tonight to go out with other students. Meeting in 5 hours. Starving. Think I’ll sleep til then.
And that was my travel experience, in a nutshell. I’m not editing this. I left a lot of stuff out that I wanted to mention. I’m tired. Forgive me.