Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Lightness of Being

Upon meeting long-term ex-pats, many Czechs will ask us why we live here. I have learned over the years that no matter how hard you try to explain, most of them are too closed-minded to ever really understand. Tomáš was one of the few people who had ever asked with a really open mind and genuinely wanted to talk about it. During our discussion, I realised that it may come down to the fact that I need to be a foreigner somewhere in order to avoid the pressures that would almost certainly be imposed upon me were I at home.

Both of my sisters are married, own houses, have children, dogs and cars; the older has a career as a geotechnical engineer and the younger has her own business. Most of my school and uni friends are in similar circumstances. That is how the people I know in the US live their lives; that is how they are expected to live and they often do not explore other possibilities. Parents are troubled when you don’t follow the path they had envisaged for you and, frankly, I don’t need the baggage.

Americans leave professional jobs at home to come here and teach English or tend bar. They would have a much harder time doing something similar in the US because their families and friends would not accept it. “Are you crazy? Give up your career? How are you going to pay your rent/mortgage/car loan?” etc. But because we are here, we are able to live a lighter life.

Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being examines, amongst other things, the dichotomy of the lightness and heaviness of being. The title of the book, however, is misleading and, for some, oxymoronic -- it is in fact the lightness that we desire and the heaviness that we find truly unbearable.


Celinka said...

I live in Canada. I am not married, no kids, no house no loans no debt. I am in the midst of my career. My mum has accepted that I will live my life at my own pace while my dad still has to figure out what exactly is going on. Most of my friends in Canada are still settling in careers (they are in their 30's)renting or living at home. Sure I have what I call yuppi friends who don't work cause their husband make loads of cash to support them aand they are too stressed out to meet with me for coffee because they are soo busy with decorating. My response: Spare me!
I lived in Prague and left (and I get asked why I left quite often) because quite frankly Been there Done that.
There are way too many destraction in Prague for me and I was much younger when I initially moved there. I am not interested in Teaching or tending bar...anywhere and though I have since had a job offer to move back and work there, I declined because I am not hauling my ass across the ocean to "survive" and "sleep" on someones floor.
Maybe my expectations have hightened since I moved back to North America, so be it. As far as my life, goals and everything...things move much more forward than over here.
The grass is always greener on the other side.
Max you should move to Canada. Gay marriage is legal here and pot will be soon as well. Canada rocks! The men...yeah they need to be broken into but that is what me and tits malone are working on.

Devastatin' Dave said...

Too much conformity in the world. Need more mavericks and renegades instead of a coterie of sheep.

Monkey said...

Reminds me of the 2004 election.

The Associated Press
Friday, July 8, 2005; 9:30 AM

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- First one sheep jumped to its death. Then stunned Turkish shepherds, who had left the herd to graze while they had breakfast, watched as nearly 1,500 others followed, each leaping off the same cliff, Turkish media reported.

In the end, 450 dead animals lay on top of one another in a billowy white pile, the Aksam newspaper said. Those who jumped later were saved as the pile got higher and the fall more cushioned, Aksam reported.

"There's nothing we can do. They're all wasted," Nevzat Bayhan, a member of one of 26 families whose sheep were grazing together in the herd, was quoted as saying by Aksam.

The estimated loss to families in the town of Gevas, located in Van province in eastern Turkey, tops $100,000, a significant amount of money in a country where average GDP per head is around $2,700.

"Every family had an average of 20 sheep," Aksam quoted another villager, Abdullah Hazar as saying. "But now only a few families have sheep left. It's going to be hard for us."

Max said...

DD, the south of France, just north of St Tropez.

Max said...

Celinko, no disrespect, but you were not what I consider 'long-term' here and, having Czech citizenship, you were not a real ex-pat either.

Now, if you would care to tell your life story, why don't you start a blog?

celinka said...

errrr Max... Though I have Czech citizenship I am not in anyway shape or form Czech. Nor did my own people consider me Czech. And I was living there paying taxes and had "an address" there for almost five years. I worked for international entities and for myself. Damn right that is long term! I don't know anyone here (back in Canada) who has lived abroad for more than a year or two. Living there for over 10 years, you my dear should be entitled to a Czech citizenship. You get a Canadian citizenship after three years of living here. Pisses me off but I digress.
I don't want to start a blog. I am much more entertained with yours.

Anonymous said...

You know one time we was in canada and we was real real scared when we was at the crossing over because the man had a real big gun. We aint got no problem but we was scared.

Devastatin' Dave said...

Tits Malone said...

Celinka...calm down...before you start using my name in vain again...let me clarify a few things.

I lived in Prague and various other parts of the country for years. Monkey Max does have a point concerning ex-pats and drop-outs living in Prague.

The pressure is definitely off you when you are making enough money to go out every night and get pissed. Living in Prague is easy because mostly you are a viable commodity - which, for the most part, is a rare occurrence for someone with a double major in Political Science and Fine Arts. Thus, it is the lightness MM is talking about...

Prague is a place that allows you to float around - but not everyone can live that way forever. It is a great starter or finisher city…You can live in Prague and get your first chance – your first chance at a job that you wouldn’t ordinarily get, a first chance of meeting someone you wouldn’t ordinarily meet and the first chance of being who you want to be – conveniently an ocean away from your family.

Or it is a great place to hide out and drink cheap great beer and screw tourists.

Monkey said...

Hmmm. What's the difference between an expat and an immigrant?
Isn't it all part of the charming way the English language allows us to discriminate against people?

- If someone from a poorer nation comes to live in your country, then they are an "immigrant".

- If someone from a richer nation comes to live in your country, then they are an "expatriate".

Thus, in English you could say: "Modern Prague is home to a great many American expatriates and Ukrainian immigrants."


Devastatin' Dave said...


Prague has been subject to a Monkey infestation.

Tits Malone said...

I am sorry to say that I disagree with you...However, I will forgive you, as I believe the label "ex-pat" is a habit rather than some underlying English language racist instead of assuming I am a bigot perhaps you can start referring to yourself as an American immigrant and drop the ex-pat.

Monkey said...

I consider myself neither. I am, afterall, a monkey.

Tits Malone said...

and a cheeky monkey at that! Play nice. Celinka feels bruised and I feel the need to both come to her defence and calm her down. As for your argument about ex-pats... it is not always the case...for example we don't refer to the Americans in Canada as ex-pats - we refer to them generally as a**holes...hahaha

Celinka said...

So Max, what do you consider yourself? I would say you are an immmigrant. You live there for over 10 years now and you don't plan on ever moving back to your home country. expat schmetspat!
I have a legit question....why can't you get citizenship? Or do you have to give up your US passport if you get Czech citizenship? Ahhhh see as a Canadian I have dual.
For the record I have always been and always will be Canadian with eurotrash flare!

Monkey said...

Max is not Ukrainian.

Max said...

Celinko - for short, can we just call you Canadian trash? Sorry, broučku, I couldn't resist, that was too easy.

For the record - Americans can now have dual Czech/American citizenship, as AG's daughters do. However, without the benefit of at least one Czech parent, I would have to live here for about 3 trillion years without ever leaving and always, of course, being legal.

I do not consider myself an immigrant. Sometimes I am tempted to seek asylum in the UK, but that is another story. I just happen to be an American who lives outside of America. I can stay here, I can go back to the US, I can move to the south of France this September.

Monkey, my grandad was born in Beilaya Tserkov, Ukraine (although then part of Czarist Russia). But you are right, his family were driven out because they weren't really Ukrainian. For reference, see "Fiddler on the Roof".

Monkey said...

Is that the one where Babs Streisand pretends to be a boy just so she/he can go to school?

Max said...

Yes, Barbara Streisand is my grandfather.

Max said...

DD, just read the article through your link as posted above. Great. Everyone should read that article.

celinka said...

No you can not call me Canadian trash. I am tired stop picking on me!

check this out...