Koszalin, 2015-08-21 21:12:50 +0200 I do have some superpowers, but staying in one place for very long is not one of them. After about one week of staying by myself in any given place, be it Koszalin, Poznań, Warsaw, Chengdu or anywhere else (not in Laos; you can never get bored in Laos,) I start to follow a daily routine. I get up at later and later with every day. I waste several precious hours every day checking Facebook, 9GAG, and many other websites, in a vain hope of defending myself against the overwhelming Boredom, lurking behind every corner. I usually notice that a Routine is there when going out in the morning takes three hours of preparations, and when I cannot do anything really useful, no matter what. And when buying groceries and preparing meals seems to be the most depressing activity in the world, it’s a sure sign that I should break free and get on the road ASAP.
That’s probably why I didn’t hesitate for too long when I got an e-mail about Internacia Junulara Semajno, International Youth Week in Szentgotthárd, Hungary. Usually when my brother and I are home, we leave traces of our existence all around the apartment, especially in the kitchen. One day my mother said: “The kitchen is too dirty. Maybe you could just go away.” I knew at once that it was the right opportunity to say: “Well, maybe I could go to an Esperantist gathering in Hungary?” and my mother agreed.
I left for Prague quite early in the morning on 8th August, 2015. Just like every time I set off on a journey, I had doubts whether it had any sense, whether I should just go back home and sleep in. All doubts if my journey had any sense dissolved into space somewhere in Czech Republic, when I saw the sun setting amidst mountain peaks. The sky was pastel pink in colour and I immediately thought that I would have to be crazy to stay at home, when I could witness a sunset like this one instead.
The way to Prague was fairly easy, although I did have to wait for an hour and a half at a parking lot on the highway, somewhere before Berliner Ringroad. The driver that took me to Prague from a petrol station before Dresden was so Hungarian that he didn’t speak any other language, nor did anyone else in the other car. That, however, didn’t hinder him from telling me about the intricate relation with his wife and the pretty Hungarian girl in the other car. Then, with the help of my Buddhist friend from Hungary, Zselyke (who also speaks fluent Finnish and English,) I managed to find out why they had to change license plates after crossing the German-Czech border. Gestures, however, didn’t suffice to tell him that the hostel I booked was near the metro station Střížkov, and that we had already passed it.
I had to get off at a petrol station somewhere in the middle of Prague. I explained to the only employee of the station that I wanted to go to Metro Střížkov, and that I only had euro. I spoke Polish and he spoke Czech–they turned out to be more mutually intelligible than I had expected, albeit I had to remind myself that the Polish droga, way or road, means “drugs”, and szukać, to search/to look for, was an expletive in Czech. I exchanged some euro at the station at a mediocre exchange rate–23 CZK for 1€; in other places it could be as much as 27 CZK, in others as little as 18 CZK. The employee called for a cab. The driver was genuinely friendly. He said that he could understand Polish pretty well, because he still thought of himself as Czechoslovakian. In the olden times in Czechoslovakia, Czech and Slovak languages were treated as one entity, not unlike Serbo-Croatian language of Yugoslavia. Since the Slovak language is much more similar to Polish than Czech, Czechs who grew up in Czechoslovakia can generally understand Polish better than younger Czechs. It is also easier for them to communicate with Slovaks.
The taxi driver and I were chit-chatting joyfully, to the extent that he even forgot to turn on the meter at the beginning of the ride. He turned it on after we had already gone a part of the way, so the ride was cheaper than I what was told told to expect. In the hostel (A&O Metro Strizkov,) however, it turned out that I had to pay 100 CZK extra for bedsheets, which wasn’t mentioned on their website. I couldn’t even afford it. My bank account was empty, I only had euros in cash, and the exchange machine at the reception was broken. In the end I had to borrow 100 CZK from a random Polish person met somewhere in the social space. That would never happen if they mentioned this hidden cost on their website.
The hostel was in no way outstanding or better than other hostels in Prague, but it was crowded with tourists because of a lot of marketing and because it was a bit cheaper than the others. I was pretty much exhausted after all day’s hitchhiking, so I went to sleep directly, but the two Germans staying in my room went clubbing and came back very late.
The next day, on 9th August, I went downtown to see the Charles’ Bridge and the castle. I didn’t take a backpack and therefore didn’t bring any water, so I decided to buy water in the Old Town. The lowest price I found was 20 CZK for a 0,5 l bottle (70 CZK in the Castle District,) so I opted for a big Pilsner Urquell for 23 CZK. After several hours of walking around I arrived at the Golden Lane, where all houses were ridiculously small and where Franz Kafka used to live (no wonder he wrote the way he wrote if he lived on 15 square meters.) There was a water tap, but I didn’t have any bottle, so I could only drink with my cupped hand. I spent quite a long time standing at the tap and drinking water. After that, I struck up a conversation with a Han girl from Xinjiang and another one from Shanghai. We walked around together for quite a while, but after that I didn’t stay in touch with any one of them. I managed to find a 230 CZK meal in a rather decent-looking small restaurant in one of the streets going down from the Castle District. The meal was very small and rather revolting in taste–the strongest flavour was the one of MSG, but I had to eat everything, otherwise I would be hungry.
At that time, my hostel room was already totally empty and I suddenly felt very lonely (most probably as a result of Diamond Mind practice.) I meditated, but after that I felt even more miserable than before, so I went out to find a place to drink beer. In the vicinity there was only a bowling alley. I got a big Pilsner for 30 CZK (4.69 PLN!) and drank it on my own. Then the place was already closing down, so I walked back to the hostel. I asked two Chinese-looking girls which language they were speaking, and it turned out to be Cantonese. I asked if I could sit with them for a while, and I stayed there for three more hours. Suddenly I realized that about an hour earlier, I was feeling lonely and miserable, and then I was there, joyfully chatting in Chinese. This shows that all negative feelings are just states of mind. They are not real and therefore should not be taken too seriously.
On 10th August I went hitchhiking again
2015-08-28 15:10:20 +0200 I asked a Buddhist teacher how to keep the right motivation in everyday life and in Buddhist practice. I asked about it, because I noticed that recently my meditation was driven by the wish to have a better, more comfortable life, rather than to liberate all sentient beings from suffering. The teacher told me to develop compassion for others by looking at how much they suffer.
“In the West, you don't see people living and dying in the streets of big cities. However, there are many people who live lives without sense. And sometimes it's even better to suffer a bit, but live a meaningful life than spend a meaningless life in luxury.”He also said that sometimes we indulge in pleasant activities and hedonism. At other times we make something that doesn't feel that good, but is meaningful and benefits others. Over time, we will see that those meaningful activities were in fact more fun than the hedonistic ones, because they had sense and sowed good imprints in our minds.