Eight years ago yesterday, I arrived in Prague with a big red suitcase in tow. I still have no idea how I packed my entire life in a 25-kilo luggage to begin a new one with my husband in his home country. Looking back I can’t help but give myself a little pat on the back for such courage. Not everyone can leave their comfort zone without a backward glance.
Eight years. It feels like so little has passed yet so much has changed. Well, I changed. A lot.
Below is something I wrote in late 2006 after surviving over a year of cluelessness, homesickness and the general feeling that I lived in a totally alien place.
I find my memories of my first few months here in Prague quite amusing. I basically had zero training in Domestic Goddess 101 so the outcome was, I had my share of domestic disasters for months after I assumed the role of a wife.
The washing machine in our rented apartment became useless as I didn’t know how to use it. My husband was as clueless as me. We couldn’t find its manual so I had to wash clothes by hands. Thankfully the huge bathtub provided a convenient place to do it except that my feet had to be soaked all the time I was doing the laundry. No amount of lotion can hydrate them after each session in the tub.
Next to doing the laundry, the dilemma of where to hang the dripping clothes came in. There was probably a way of letting them drip in the bathroom but I wasn’t really using my head then. I devised a plan of wringing the clothes so well though common sense told me not to do it. Common sense ignored, I wrung them up then covered the living room floor with a gazillion of plastic bags topped with another gazillion copies of old newspaper. The worn-out clothes were then hanged on a rack above.
The next day my stupidity came crashing with a vengeance when what supposed to be a sturdy parquet floor beneath the plastic bags and newspapers curled up like mini waves after the water seeped through.
The worst performances of my life happened in the kitchen. There were several times I stood in front of a stove with a growing sense of panic. How to use it, which knob to turn, which way to turn –extremely easy stuff which a three-year old can probably figure out but which left me close to having a major nervous breakdown. How to use the stove was just the start. The ultimate question was, how to cook?
Hubby was of no help again in this department. The only thing he can cook was porridge, which I love, by the way. But porridge is just porridge, it has no soul to keep your body going for long. As for me, eggs were my only specialty– hard-boiled, scrambled, sunny side up– you name it, I can cook them anyway you like. We ended up alternating eggs with sausages, salami and ham between trips to fast food and restaurants. After weeks of eating killer foods I declared to myself ” I’m having enough of this!”
My first attempt in cooking adobo was a complete disaster. The meat turned black, apparently from too much soy sauce. The husband ate it but I think he was gagging behind my back. Then came my very pale-looking pork and beans. I was traumatized at how much damage the soy sauce brought on my adobo so I deprived my pork and beans with basically everything that mattered. It turned out edible but that’s it. It couldn’t go past that mark.
It took me a year to gain confidence in holding any cooking utensil. I still have my awkward moments in the kitchen now and then but I don’t get paralyzed by the mere sight of a stove anymore. I comforted myself with this mantra before that not all women were born to chop onions or grate cheese, and I was one of them. Then I realized I wont lose anything by learning to chop, grate, slice, drain, and everything else that concerns cooking. Now my greatest challenge is to include “bake” among the growing list of things to do and accomplish. Wish me luck.
SEVEN YEARS LATER: THE DOMESTIC GODDESS IN PROGRESS
It’s amazing how these days I can whip up anything from scratch. Our director has been bugging me to come up with a cookbook since I do experimental cooking and baking with kids every Wednesday afternoon and their parents often ask me for the recipes. Nobody believed when I said I never cooked anything until I moved here in Prague.
Long story short, becoming a domestic goddess is only hard at the beginning. All it takes is the determination to do, to be. This applies to everything else in life, doesn’t it?