The farthest I have ever been from home on my own was the summer of 2010. I attended Mises University in Auburn, Alabama (682 miles from my hometown) for a week. Presently, I sit high above the Atlantic Ocean hurtling at 660 miles per hour in a small tube on my way to Prague (4931 miles from my hometown) to spend 21 weeks studying at the University of Economics. This is new ground for me; according to the numbers, this is exactly 28.23 times more anxiety-inducing for everyone involved.
Of course that's utter nonsense, as emotions can't be quantified (note 1),but it gives a little bit of perspective on the how outside of my normal happenings this is.
The voice told me that Dallas-Fort Worth airport is the 3rd busiest airport in the world. It seemed an incredible statement as I looked around the somewhat barren terminal, but having been to the most busiest (Atlanta) and being disappointed by the lack of some inkling of violent chaos caused by so many people trying to get to so many places from one launching point, I figured it could be true. The voice did have one way to back its claim; get on the tram. I stepped on at Terminal C and was whizzed around the airport at incredible speeds that helped put it all into perspective. This is a massive place with a lot of people. I finally got to Terminal D, found my gate, and snuck in a meal at Popeyes, which I had been craving for something on a week now. A good omen.
Of course, with the international flight, we are offered dinner. As the flight attendant walked towards me with the massive rolling "tank o' frozen meals," I decided I would kindly reject the meal, as I was completely full.
30 minutes later: I had completed my duty as an American and eaten everything that was placed on my tray. Well, I didn't finish one thing: the salad. Seemed more patriotic. The meal was surprisingly delicious, as well. I got the vegetable pasta in the hope that Julia Louis-Dreyfuss would appear next to me. It didn't work. As soon as the tray was put before me, I knew I had made the right decision. Next to some crackers sat a small wedge of gourmet cheese. I remembered eating these on plane trips of old to Toronto and Orlando. It was a tiny sliver of my childhood hope all wrapped in tin foil and ready to caress my mouth.
I had never been so disappointed in my life. I'm pretty sure they had sprayed cheese whiz out of a bottle into tin foil, before covering it in toilet water and spreading a nice layer of "Santa-Claus-isn't-real" childhood killing pus on top just so they could sit back and watch me cry while I ate. This was "Larry Johnson's second season as a Chief" level of disappointment mixed with a "watching the Republican debates" level of anger. A bad omen.
I did eat all the cheese, though. I'm not a Communist.
For days leading up to me leaving, I had been panicking about the possibility of me panicking while traveling to Europe. All this panicking was not healthy, but the panicking about future panicking turned out to be warranted as I was panicking about making my flight to Prague. The flight from Dallas to London had been delayed, causing us not to land until around 10:20 AM local time. Boarding time for my flight to Prague: 10:15 AM. The captain had told those who are not getting on connecting flights to let those with connecting flights out first. So, of course, everywhere ignored that and stood up. There were 80 people between me and my flight that I had to catch -5 minutes ago.
Thankfully, the people at American Airlines knew about the mix-up and had a new ticket for me sitting outside the gate for a slightly later flight. Panic level: much lower.
Panic mode: reengaged! My Czech buddy, Lucie Kalousková, was to be meeting me in Prague at 2:00 PM, but I was now going to be arriving 5:35 PM. Gah! To the pay phone! I punch the behemoth of a number and try to hold onto the phone with my now gushing palms. It didn't help that instead of a nice, classic ring, I got a dull, low-pitched "boop." Each one sounded more like the footstep of a T-Rex coming to destroy Heathrow than a desperate phone call.
The phone was no use. To the internet! I ripped my laptop from my backpack and wearily connected to Boingo, which doesn't sound anything like a Wifi hotspot finger, but sure enough, I finally was connected. Shot a message to Lucie and felt my pulse slow to a more healthy rate as I slumped down on the bench amongst the huddled masses waiting for their plane out of this dismal place.
After taking every piece of public transportation conceivable with the fantastic help of Lucie and Matěj, I had arrived at Jarov III F, my dormitory. It is nothing too fancy, but it has all the things that I need. The following day Lucie and I went around to complete all the various tasks that needed doing: exchanged American dollars for Czech crowns, checked in with the immigration office, got my university ID card, set up Wifi at the dorms, got a tram and subway pass for 3 months. I'm getting all settled into the town and have gotten more accustomed to getting around it. Next week is orientation week and the following week is when classes start. For now, I'm just spending time seeing Prague. Between the dorms and school is the home stadium for FK Viktoria Žižkov. They are currently sitting well at the bottom of the Czech Gambrinus Liga. As far as I can tell, Dukla Prague come into town, so to speak, this weekend. Hopefully, I'll be back with pictures and tales for hopefully an exciting, but, more likely, a quite dire soccer match.
1) I always found it odd when I was asked to rank a pain on a scale of 1-10. Who made this scale? What is a 1? Is 1 no pain? Or is 5 no pain and 1 pleasure? How many people have actually felt a 10 pain? Or a 1 pleasure? More importantly, has the asker felt this range of pains? What if I've just lived in a bubble for all my life and that feeling after eating Taco Bell is a 8.7 on my scale, but barely registers on yours? You're going to be rushing me to the hospital with a bad case of Grade D meat.