Sunday, October 27, 2013

Dark comedy of errors

I realized today that for much of my life I'd counted on eventually outgrowing the awkwardness that's plagued me since I was a teenager, and possibly before. I'm not even talking out being a grownup. I mean eventually I would stop accidentally dumping my skirt into the toilet or having a tiny panic attack when a man talks to me. 

I also realized today that that's never going to happen. (The realization probably came after I'd fished out the hem of my skirt.) On some level I'm always going to be an awkward teenager. 

On that note, I also sort of know what it feels like to be born. 

As you can tell, I had a very exciting day 

This afternoon I went to Kutna Hora, a little town outside of Prague that used to be famous for its silver mining and now is famous for a chapel decorated with 40,000 human bones. 

It sounds morbid, and I guess when you're a tourist flocking to it, that is kind of morbid. But as a church and as art, it's grotesquely beautiful, or possibly beautifully grotesque. And it's way less creepy than I was afraid it would be. I am, after all, terrified of bodies coming back to life, and the only time I've done something similar to this -- the Catacombs in Paris -- I was freaked out the whole time. I walked in the dead center between the bone arrangements with my arms folded tightly, making myself as small as I could. 

But the bone church, officially the Sedlec Ossuary, was OK. For one thing, it wasn't a cave, and there were people everywhere. Had the dead been gunning for us, the living at least would have had a shot. 

Then I went to another cathedral and then the silver mine, or as I will be calling it anytime I need to, the birth canal. It's dark, moist and gooey, it's incredibly tight, you bash your head on the top and sides (hard hat, my skull thanks you), and you don't really fit through it that well. There's a lot of wedging and shifting around to make it through. 

Now, I know you're wondering how I came up with this amazingly specific, disgusting analogy. It was during the 90-minute tour done entirely in Czech. When I bought my ticket, the receptionist assured me that there would be English text and I could follow along. I'm pretty sure the English text covered about a tenth of what the rest of the group got. There were jokes and laughter, audience participation and genuine excitement. Meanwhile, I read my three paragraphs and thought about birthing analogies. 

This morning I went to church -- my church. It was oddly different and familiar at the same time. I recognized two of the songs; one I'm pretty sure isn't in the normal hymn book. Two of the talks were in English and translated into Czech, and they had an English Sunday school populated entirely by missionaries and visitors. And during one of the talks, the translator paused and then said, "Now he's talking about a Czech movie that I don't know anything about. I'm sorry." Silence for another several seconds. Then the speaker finished with the movie. 

I also made a new friend at church. Well, he made me. A Taiwanese student who's going to school in Brno and visiting Prague came over and introduced himself. He asked if I was traveling alone and if I wanted to go sightseeing with him. Stay tuned tomorrow on that. We didn't go today because he wanted to see the castle and I wanted to see the bones. 

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