Monday, July 2, 2007

Losing Oneself

Is it possible to get lost on purpose? I set out, trying to get lost and, as a result, get to know the city better. What a fun objective. Map in my pocket, I hoped to see parts of the city I had never seen before. Of course, I didn’t want to get truly lost, so I started by heading to part of the city I knew, Praha 2, and on the trip back, took some routes that were different.
When losing yourself, you often discover things you never truly understood. One event demonstrated that foreign languages can add to the hilarity of a situation by adding extra confusion and nonsensicalness. For example, in a café, I was looking at my map to reorient myself and write on my map where the café was. A guy in the café yelled to me “Pane, Pane”. He was trying to get my attention, and when I finally noticed this, he tried to help me find my place. I could not explain that I didn’t need help; I was not yet lost. It seems that it is a lot easier to get help when it is not needed than when you are truly in need. It took a good minute before he realized that I didn’t need his help. It was also difficult to be allowed to look at the art at the gallery in the café and tell the proprietor that I enjoyed the paintings. Instead, it seemed that I wanted to buy some works; as a student, this was not possible. Still, people were helpful regardless of my purpose.
Afterwards, I headed back home down a different street. It is so weird how fate works. Had I instead walked back on my path, I wouldn’t have ended up in the right place at the right time. A couple of different turns, and I’m in a different place of history at a different time. Have you ever seen someone leave something on top of a car? It could be a scarf, a box, food, maybe even a baby. Had I not tried to get lost, I wouldn’t have found this car, driving along as if there wasn’t a care in the world. Striving to get their attention, I realized I didn’t have enough vocabulary to tell them they left their groceries on the roof of their car. All I could manage was “meloun a yogurty!”. Of course, the response was various Czech words shouted left and right. Gestures, however, are universal. I pointed to the roof, and tried to get them to notice. Finally, I grabbed their groceries (watermelons, puddings, fruits, and some yogurt) and handed it to them. This situation is universal. Crossing cultures, and languages, we all laughed that a potentially catastrophic accident was averted. Alright, it wasn’t catastrophic, but it could have been messy. The hilarity of a situation can be multiplied when no one can truly understand each other.
After leaving them to their picnic, I continued to try to get lost in the city. However, I wasn’t successful. It seems that it is not possible to get lost by force. It is too easy to know at least where you’ve been and what direction is the known. You can’t get too far into the unknown on purpose, or it slowly becomes part of the known. It has to be an accident. Its like accidently running into a car that has a basket of food on top and saving them before they go on the highway- a spontaneous action.
In the end, I ended up finding a shortcut to my home, the Jerome House. I didn’t get lost, but I had a blast just the same. Hopefully I can get lost. When saving that basket of food, I was in the right place at the right time. If I want to get lost, I have to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Both sound great.

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