Joanna took a breath and dialed her mom’s number.
“Joanna!” her mother screeched into the phone. The barrage of questions began: What happened? Why did you leave? What did the Czechs do to you? Why Portland? What are you going to do now? What were you thinking?
Joanna couldn’t explain any of it. “I don’t know, Mom, okay? You know they say how going abroad changes your whole perspective? How you’ll have the time of your life and never be the same? Well … I didn’t. I wasn’t out there living it up. I was sitting inside my apartment watching American television dubbed over in Czech. Nothing really happened. I just decided to visit Laura for a while.” This was not the picture she’d painted earlier. She’d written home about how amazing everything was—the church made of bones, the crispy potato pancakes she bought from street carts, the delightful children eager to learn how to conjugate English verbs.
The reality of Joanna’s work experience abroad was something else entirely. The gymnázium where she worked was somewhere in the middle of Moravia, hours away from Prague. She taught herself conversational English in the mornings and had most afternoons to herself. At the end of every day, she crossed off the square on the wall calendar, like a prisoner. The highlight of each week was going to the village’s tiny grocery store and choosing one of the five waxy, yellow peppers available. She taught Czech expressions she would never have the opportunity to use: Jak se jmenutete? Dáte si nĕco k pitĕ? Miluju tĕ! What’s your name? Would you like a drink? I love you!
From Broken Homes & Gardens by Rebecca Kelley, Blank Slate Press, http://blankslatepress.com. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.