The Window Nook

Adventures in living abroad

The Importance of Paying Attention

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PragueSunset     It was while watching the pressurized, fermenting wine shoot from the bottle and soak everything in a one meter radius that it dawned on my that no one warns you about these moments. When moving overseas, I prepared for jet lag, and language difficulties, and different food. Important documents? Safely in envelopes, with copies made just in case. Suitcases packed? Yes, right up to the 50 lb limit. You are warned about vaccines to get, wars brewing in nearby regions, and the craziness of airline policies. But it’s the little things about settling into a new life that can loom large, like ordering your morning latte and discovering that coffee is made differently here. Or getting used to small cakes and tarts, instead of American donuts and Starbucks scones. It’s going to pour yourself a glass of wine to relax at the end of the day, and finding yourself soaked in a thick, sticky liquid that was at one point was wine but has now morphed into a mutant life form intent on destroying your kitchen.
It had started the previous day as I wandered through the farmers market, looking for vegetables, bread, and flowers. I discovered a stall selling burcak, a fermented wine that is made once a year in the Czech Republic and served during the annual Burcak Festival. After sampling a glass, I invested in a 2 liter bottle (yes, wine comes in 2 liter bottles here, as does beer), and laid it sideways in my shopping bag. Not realizing this was a fermented wine, that needed a loose cap to release the escaping gas, I tightened the cap securely after I discovered it leaking into my shopping bag, then put it in the fridge for around 24 hours. Twenty-four long hours, during which the gas released by the wine built up quite a lot of pressure on the flimsy plastic bottle, pushing it to bursting point. Had I noticed this when taking it from the fridge, it would have saved a lot of trouble, but it had been a long day, I was intent on relaxing with a good book, and I barely noticed the change in the bottle. Unscrewing the cap released jets of pressurized burcak wine in every direction, spraying the floor, counter, cupboards, and myself as I frantically tried to tighten the cap. A week later, I was still scrubbing burcak off the stove, the fridge, and even surfaces that had been perpendicular to the jets of wine. How burcak managed to get inside the oven is beyond me, but I found it there too.
The truth is that moving to a new country stretches you to new limits. You will have wonderful times of standing before a beautiful sunset and whispering ‘I really live here’. Those moments sneak up on you from nowhere, unplanned, and fill you with wonder and awe. They simply can’t be manufactured. But go to a romantic spot at twilight, hold hands with your husband as you stroll along the winding streets, and chances are a street musician will choose that moment to select a nearby street corner, unpack his guitar and tip jar, and start into an off-key version of a Western love song, sung with gusto and passion but not, unfortunately, talent. You will look at each other and laugh, remembering this moment as another example of the unexpectedness of life. And then there will be those challenging moments. Standing in my kitchen, soaked with sticky wine, I called a Czech girlfriend. As I poured out my story of woe, she started to giggle. By the end, we were both laughing at the craziness of the situation. ‘Welcome to the Czech Republic’, she said. Since then we have laughed together and we have cried together, but I often look back to that moment. I wanted a restful hour, not a kitchen splattered with yeasty wine. But I found a friend.


Author: annekemae

Enjoys writing, photography, reading mystery, historical fiction, and travelogues, chocolate in any form, and tulips.

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