My mother had asked another tourist to take a picture of our family. There I stood, waiting for the moment to be over. I was enjoying the trip, but the location was not the problem. While uncomfortably shifting my weight from right leg to left, I thought about how there are some trips that go exactly as planned and others that do not. This was one of the latter.
Prague was beautiful beyond anything I had imagined. Our hotel, The Castle Stepps, was nestled in the midst of other spire-topped structures amidst the lush landscape of vibrant green trees and intriguing plant life.
I had been other beautiful places, but they simply did not compare. While in Prague, however, I experienced another kind of nature that taught me that sometimes there are milestones in our lives that we do not control. The second morning of our trip, I woke up to discover that I had started my first period. Of course I was unprepared, so our search began. I informed my mother of the problem, and we did the best we could until we could find a place to buy products for me.
The morning was long, but the city was lovely. I admired the buildings in the area as we walked from shop to shop, trying to find someone who spoke enough English to help us, occasionally stopping to get a snapshot of the family. We knew no Czech, so we encountered a serious language barrier. It was difficult to communicate such a specific problem to the locals when neither of us could understand the other. Eventually, after many awkward gestures and failed attempts, we found a little store that sold the products we were looking for, and the man behind the counter understood enough to help us. Mom and I thanked the shopkeeper as well as we could, wishing that we had a better way to express our gratitude.
That day we saw many different parts of Prague, from the place in the city where the wealthy lived to the old Jewish quarter where the World War II Jews were not allowed to leave. The rich history in the city fascinated me. Because of my experience with communication earlier in the day, I was very sensitive to the city and tried to imagine myself in each situation I encountered. The buildings for the rich were devastatingly beautiful, covered with stained glass, carved walls, and frescoed ceilings. I was simply in awe. In the Jewish quarter, however, I wondered what it would have been like to live there decades ago. Their situation was so limiting that they could not even leave their quarter to bury their dead, so as people died the graves were stacked on other graves. Even now, I feel both sorrow and wonder for what they endured.
Though I am sometimes hesitant to share all the details of the trip, I know I learned important life lessons that day. Once I could see the humor in the situation, I realized that all people in the world, no matter where they live, share the same milestones. A baby’s first steps, a child’s first night away from a parent, or a marriage are only a few of the many things all people experience, though the way we face these things may have differences. Regardless of wealth, location, nationality, or any other factor, we all live in this world together and when we can appreciate the lives of others, we can better appreciate our own lives.
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