There were many awesome things that came from living in Prague. But definitely on the top of the list are the amazing people I met along the way and one in particular my precious Žlutá Tužka Maruška. I met Maruška only a few days after arriving in Prague. A colleague of mine, also an American expat, was having a party at his flat. It was the ideal opportunity to make friends and get to know people as a newcomer. Upon arriving I walked out to the front balcony and there she was the center of attention. Maruška’s larger than life personality certainly draws people in and over time became the patron saint of young American expatriates trying to figure out how to survive in this former eastern block country.
We hit it off immediately and within moments I knew we’d be good friends. It was there that she taught me about hermelin cheese used to make one of my favorite Czech dishes smažený sýr. Before I left the party she insisted that we had to go bike riding through the Czech country side near her childhood home. The following weekend we headed out, dragging our bikes on an old rickety single car train that brought us deeper into the woods. We biked for about 2 hours through the mountainous forest and pastures eventually arriving back at her house where she made another one of my favorite dishes ovocné knedlíky.
As time went on Maruška continued to prove to me why she is one of the best friends I have to this day. She was my family support, she translated for me every time I needed help, she opened a bank account for me so I can deposit my pay checks, she introduced me to numerous people, invited me to lively parties and dinners at her flat, took me to several Czech cities to explore and helped me find strouhanka for my traditional Christmas Eve dinner! She was never too busy to help when I called her 56,493 a week asking questions about what things mean, where do I find, where do I go, etc. etc. And when I was alone on Christmas day having no family to go to, she came back from her parents house to her flat in Prague to spend Christmas afternoon with me cooking dinner and drinking wine.
When I left Prague saying goodbye to my dear friend who was my support in so many ways was very difficult. I wanted to believe we’d be in touch but moving back to the USA thousands of miles away I had my doubts and it made me really sad. People tend to get wrapped up in their own lives and when there is that much distance between people it is very easy to fall out of touch. But that never happened. Maruška truly knows the value of friendship. Over the past 13 years since I left we’ve visited with each other 7 times including her recent trip to visit me this past September.
I wish we could see each other more than every other year but no matter how much time passes between visits, I know I have a true lifelong friend who I cherish.
P.S. You may be wondering why I call her Žlutá Tužka Maruška. As typical with nicknames you say something once and it sticks. As I was learning Czech and because I like silly rhymes I threw together a few new words I learned that happen to rhyme with her name as a joke. From that day forward she has forever become known as Žlutá Tužka Maruška (Yellow Pencil Maruška)!