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.
Sign up for blog updates here.
If you have your own Half ‘n Half story to share, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emily, I love it! It is well written and thoughtful. Thanks for continuing to share your stories with us.
Thanks for reading (and for living the stories vicariously)!
Emily, the finished product exceeds my expectations! It’s hard to envision a finished product from drafts sometimes. Gorgeous photos. As a reader of many blogs, this is up there with the best! You and your friends/colleagues did a great job. Happy Birthday!
Thanks, Teresa! It was nice how it all came together.
Emily, I enjoyed reading your bio very much . Great job! The photos are wonderful! I relive my trip to the Czech Rebublic every time I read one of your articles. Good times! Congrats and happy birthday!!
Thanks so much for reading, Susan! I think it’s time for you to plan another trip to the Czech Republic, right? I hope you had a wonderful Easter as well. Enjoy the spring! We have the first crocuses and daffodils pushing through the ground in our garden this week.
What a life journey.! You have Such infectious excitement taking this road , especially with the people you Love ! I can appreciate Prague since visiting in the Fall !
Thanks, Ellen! I am sorry we missed your visit to Prague, but I am glad that you enjoyed your time here. It has been a journey, for sure. And I believe that the road ahead is still filled with surprises. Best to you and Bub and your family! Emily
This is such a beautiful way to tell your story. I love being able to read and keep up with what your family is doing. We can’t wait to see you this summer!
Thank you so much, Patty! I am glad you like it. We are also counting the days until our summer adventures begin. Kids are looking forward to Avery and the rest of the Halsey clan.
I am enjoying your blog very much. It gives me pleasure since my son is married to a Czech girl. He has been living there for ten years. My grandsons also speak Czechlish. We visited last summer for a month and brought our other grandson with us to experience life in Prague as opposed to Michigan. He even went to sports camp with his cousins.
Your experiences have given me an opportunity to understand some of the cultural differences. This is greatly appreciated. I will continue to read your blog for further knowledge about the culture. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your take on living in the Czech Republic!
Dear Lois, Thank you very much for your thoughtful comments. I am glad that you have been able to find something useful in Half ‘n Half. I am curious – how did your grandson like the Czech sports camp? Did he find the two cultures very different? My two oldest have been to a YMCA camp in the US and loved it. I appreciate your readership very much. Please let me know if there are any topics or themes you’d like to see in discussed in the blog. We are entering castle touring season in the Czech Republic, which is always a favorite weekend pastime of mine. Kind regards, Emily
I read your blogs with great interest as my family is also half and half. I’m English and my wife is Czech. Having visited Czech Republic many times on business and on holiday, after my first wife died, I decided to see who was available in Czech Republic. Through a dating agency I met a lovely lady from Prague and a year later we were married at Krivoklat. That was 12 years ago. Her daughter is married to an Italian and lives in Italy. Their two children speak both Czech and Italian. That is not the whole story because I had retired to France with my first wife and had a house there. So now we spend half our time in the French Alps and half our time in Prague. For me Brexit is a pain in the prdelka and will probably mean a permanent move to Czech Republic. Please keep up the good work.
Stephen, thank you for reading my blogs, and for sharing a bit of your own story. It is really fascinating to hear about the twists and turns in people’s lives, and the events that led them to where they are today. Good luck navigating Brexit and relocating (if a future permanent move to Prague is in the cards.) Kind regards, Emily
I really enjoyed this post. So glad your family could have this amazing experience. The children are so beautiful and happy. I loved all the pictures! Just terrific to see your adventures.
I apologize for not responding earlier. My US grandson did enjoy the sports camp and was surprised to walk so far for lunch at a pub. He learned that live is not all that different in Prague than it is in the US. The only difference is the public transportation is much better and space is limited.
I was able to spend two months in mid Jan-mid March 2019 with my son and his family. I was in charge of picking them up at school and taking them via bus to their sports practice every day. Weekends consisted of tournaments most of the time. The mid winter break from school was during this time frame and again the boys went downtown to the University for camp, leaving me to roam about town each day for six hours. What a marvelous adventure I had. I am very familiar with the city now and can navigate fairly well via public transportation. I am hoping that I will be able to visit again this year, but think they might be visiting the US this year. They enjoy their visits here as they can attend sports camp here also.
Dear Lois, I am glad to hear that you had such a positive experience handling the school pickups and sports practices – kudos to you! As do your grandchildren, my children always dearly love their visits to the US. I hope you are able to spend time with your family (in whichever country) this coming summer. Kind regards, Emily
Emily, Are you not writing anymore? miss your stories.
Hi Riley, thanks for checking in. I would like to jumpstart my Half ‘n Half stories again! It is nice to know that someone misses them. Check back again soon, and I hope to have something for you.
That jump-start could not come too soon, Emily.