When I left my rural hometown in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Appalachia as a recent Duke graduate in January of 2002, I never dreamed I would end up making a home for myself halfway across the world in the heart of Central Europe.
But, here I am.
Like many, I was swept away by Prague’s magic – the cathedrals and the spires, the walk over a snow-covered Charles Bridge in the still of a winter night, red roofs and crumbling facades, pubs that served cheap Czech beer. I taught English and soaked up the experience. It was an adventure, but I didn’t think I’d be here long.
Then, I fell in love. My beau was Czech. We met at the Sparta ice-hockey arena, both having gotten tickets from a mutual English-teacher friend. Ours was a spring romance in a fairy tale city. Radek shared my love of travel and an active outdoor life. We ate strawberries in the hillside orchard beneath Prague Castle, roller bladed in Stromovka Park, and drank frothy, half-liter beers in Letna’s beer garden.
On the weekends, we explored the Czech countryside. Radek introduced me to the castles and chateaus that were scattered over his country’s landscape like freckles. He showed me where he tramped as a teenager during the Communist reign, sleeping with his friends in an abandoned tower.
Radek also taught me to gather mushrooms in Czech forests. I learned to pick only the ones with tubers not slats underneath the cap. Later, Radek’s grandmother showed me how to prepare fried and breaded mushroom řízky in her tiny kitchen.
Together, Radek and I canoed the Vltava, pitched our tent in a riverside campground, and listened to Czech musikants lead fireside sing-alongs. I didn’t know the words, but the music stirred something inside me that felt like home.
Flash forward 16 years (and two cross-continental moves) later.
My family of five has been living back in the Czech Republic for more than 13 years now. Many Czech friends, my own children, and my mother ask me why we don’t live in America, or when we’re planning to return to the US. I used to ask myself the same thing.
Now, I can’t imagine leaving.
WHERE IS HOME?
On good days, I am at home in my adopted country of the Czech Republic. Beer is cheaper than water, there are more castles per square meter than in any other European country, and “Czechlish” is my family’s language of choice.
On other days, my children are embarrassed that I can’t speak Czech like a native, or I yearn to chat with my mother but realize by the time she’s awake, my day will be halfway gone.
As time goes on, I’ve realized that home is the space we have created as a family – a space that exists in between our two home cultures.
Home is a place where our nationalities, languages, cultures, traditions, and habits rub up against each other, get blended in and mixed up until I don’t know which part is Czech and which American.
Just as I am influenced by watching my children grow up multilingual in the Czech Republic, my identity changes each time I visit America and watch my children adjust (once again) to the customs and traditions of my own childhood.
WHY HALF ‘N HALF?
In 2007, a friend asked me to write a lifestyle column for a local newsletter, The Prague Daily Monitor. We brainstormed for names and finally settled on Half-n-Half to give equal tribute to my family’s native cultures.
One of the first stories I published was about celebrating Halloween in the Czech Republic with my toddler daughter who dressed up as a princess kitty-cat. Readers responded with their own tales of mixed-heritage Czech Halloween celebrations (which included reciting Czech poetry and singing songs at a local pub). A lively dialogue was born.
For the past decade, I have continued to write stories, articles, and blog posts about my experiences living abroad married to a Czech, adapting to Czech culture, and raising children who speak “Czechlish.”
My articles on travel, Czech culture, and tips for families have been published on Prague TV and reprinted for other websites. My Half-n-Half blog ran on The Prague Daily Monitor from 2007-2018. For more examples of my work, see my portfolio page.
HALF ‘N HALF MISSION
Raising children who speak multiple languages and can lay claim to multiple native heritages often requires dedication and sacrifice. Some days it feels easy. Other days, it helps to know that you aren’t alone.
For me, it has been an amazing (yet challenging) experience to raise my children far from my own roots, to travel both in (and beyond) the Czech Republic, and to share stories with people from different cultures, faiths, and countries.
If you are interested in learning more about Czech culture (healthcare, education, outdoor life, traditions, holidays, food), multicultural family life, and travel, I would love for you to join me (and my family) at Half ‘n Half.
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If you have your own Half ‘n Half story to share, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.