By Maggie Slepickova Grove
For most of my life I’ve been connected to the Czech Republic. Although I was born and raised in Iowa, it seemed like I no matter where I went or what I did, the Czech Republic was always important.
At four years old, my mom, dad and I packed up our house, left our cat, and moved to what was then Czechoslovakia. We lived in a small college town called Olomouc, where my dad taught English, and I went to preschool. From that experience, my memories are few and far between. I remember wanting a pair of shiny black saddle shoes, which every girl in my class had, I remember the little store on the corner that had lots of Hello Kitty paraphernalia, and I remember sitting at the back of a small auditorium as my father directed the play Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Considering we were there when a revolution was brewing and then witnessed the actual revolution first-hand, you’d think my memories would be less trivial.
Since no one knew if the aftermath of the revolution would be dangerous, my mom and I moved back to the States earlier than expected. Life continued in a normal fashion, I attended school, got involved in sports, music, and theater, made friends, and traveled a lot. But the friendships and ties to the Czech Republic lived on through my families’ friends and my dad’s frequent trips back.
Upon graduating from college, a chance to work in movies led me to Hollywood, but within months, the realization that moviemaking wasn’t for me lead me to the decision to get out, explore the world, and try something new. Thanks to my father’s connections, Brno, the second largest city in the Czech Republic, was to be my new home.
My intentions for the move were two-fold, travel the world and get experience teaching before I spent money on grad school. Little did I know that my new life also included meeting my future husband, getting two pug dogs, and starting two of my own businesses: a language school and an online language learning system. The one year I had planned to stay turned into six, traveling often meant coming home to visit family and friends instead of going all around Europe, and teaching eventually was only one of my many jobs.
As with any place I’ve moved to, it took time to develop relationships and find a community, but by the time I was saying goodbye to the Czech Republic, I realized how much I was leaving behind. It’s a strange feeling living away from your own country for so long; you are always an outsider, but overtime, you begin to find your place in that foreign world, which feels more and more like home. Now, I often feel like I really am a mix of both worlds.
The interesting part of moving back to Cedar Rapids after ten years, are the things which I notice that I would never have noticed before. Having a Czech husband also helps to open my eyes to the differences and similarities, just as I opened his eyes as a foreigner in his country. As I adjust to life here and explore and get used to the city of my adolescence, I will be writing entries for this blog, reflecting on my life on the Czech Republic and recording my thoughts on American life. I hope to bring a unique perspective to what it’s like to live abroad and also here at home.
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