The Dichotomy of Prague This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

   Analien language filled the Metro car. Czech can be so impenetrably dense that evenfluent speakers can lose what is said. Neither confident nor fluent, I surveyedthe car into which I had been shoehorned during the morning rush. Passengersstared into space, read and reread advertisements they had seen countless times,looked at the plaques (still in Russian) giving the car's date of manufacture orscanned the newspaper. Once during the morning commute, I attempted to read overthe shoulder of a woman in front of me. Reading while moving is difficult enough,but the fact that it was in Czech meant all I saw was a wash of consonants. Theonly news I came away with was that I easily become motion sick.

There isno middle ground to understanding Czech, either what is being said is completelyapparent or totally incoherent. There in the Metro I grasped why I was studyingit in the first place. Not only did I want to know what was going on around me,but I also wanted to understand myself.

This was another example of whatthis city was teaching me. I am connected to Prague on spiritual, emotional andphysical levels. Something simple like a train ride can be so much more thantransportation. Every step I took in the city was on cobblestones far older thanme, each with its own story. Places I passed daily were part of my familyhistory, such as the Charles University Law Faculty where my grandfather receivedhis degree. Each time I sat in a cafe I wondered if some long-ago family memberhad sat there and ruminated about life - a Czech specialty - as I wasdoing.

This is how I came to find myself in the Prague suburbs, standingoutside what used to be my family's house. It was abandoned when they fled theCommunists in 1948, and now it is an office. I wondered what my grandfather, whodesigned and built it, would think of the building now, with an additional floorand high-speed phone lines.

Each morning, before the tourists arrived, Icrossed Staromestke namesti, a square lined with cafes. One spot played arotation of 1960s American pop music, and one morning I saw four mustachioedconstruction workers walking in step to "Chapel of Love." It was astrange sight in the same square where the statue of the saint Jan Hus, who wasburned for heresy hundreds of years before, stands.

Prague has alwaysrepresented a dichotomy for me. It is a city that has managed to intertwine mypast, European history and the present in every building. My subway stop had abeautiful 150-year-old church above it, which is strange considering the Metrosystem was built deep enough to survive a nuclear war. The city brought me to myfamily's house, a strange contrast in itself with a blocky, cubist structure - acontemporary design when my grandfather built it - contrasting with theultramodern, high-tech interior.

I took my hands out of my jacket pocketsand looked them over. My fingers were smooth, not very fat. I've never brokenthem. They've never built anything, except for a birdhouse when I was ten. I'venever signed important government documents. I still feel spiritually linked tomy grandfather, despite these differences, and the fact that he died a monthbefore I was born.

Each life, I feel, is a circle. Each person is the wavea pebble makes when dropped in a pond. Some circles touch, some never meet andothers fully interlock. I feel that I have a circle similar to my grandfather's,and it is his life against which I measure my own.

I hope our circles willcontinue to be similar. I hope that I, too, will sign important governmentdocuments. Maybe one day I will be able to design a house and build it myself.Perhaps, in this age of the Internet, that, too, is a dichotomy. Like Prague,however, it is a contrast for the better.

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This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the January 2001 Teen Ink Travel Contest.

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