|P. on the left|
When I landed in the hospital with a broken leg back in February, I was unable to use five of our pre-purchased opera tickets. We decided to give them to friends who might be interested in attending the opera in my place.
Me out of the hospital a few weeks later and Road Buddy gets an email from P, who had used one of the opera tickets, asking if she and I would be interested in going to his “ashram” in the Prague suburbs, as a kind of thank you for the opera ticket, to eat sushi and meet his friends and fellow yoga enthusiasts. I found the prospect intriguing since I had studied yoga back in my university days in the 1960s and have practiced it, on and off, ever since. However, being on crutches with limited mobility I was a little reluctant and had R.B. ask P about stairs and distance from the station, etc. He said there were some stairs to get to the basement kitchen and it was about a “10-minute walk” from the station (20+ on crutches I discovered). I decided to go and told R.B. to respond with a joke: “Tell him that I broke my leg while doing yoga!” and to accept the invitation. He agreed to meet us at our apartment and show us the way.
So, an ASHRAM in the Prague suburbs?
** Traditionally, an ashram (Sanskrit/Hindi: आश्रम) is a spiritual hermitage...today the term ashram often denotes a locus of Indian cultural activity such as yoga, food, music study, etc.
|saying grace, meditating...|
It is in this secondary, more modern sense that the Prague suburban ashram we visited should be understood. It is lodged in an ordinary suburban house originally designed for three families and modified for use by the members who all practice yoga. The house is owned (on a mortgage) by a few of the members headed by P, and the others pay a modest rent for room and board. They share the large kitchen in the basement and live as a kind of large family. This is also a financially advantageous arrangement since salaries for younger people are not of the extravagantly generous variety in the Czech Republic and many young people, I learned, share houses and rooms to economize.
|"the missionaries" and friends|
and road buddy's hand
This party was an opportunity to meet many new people. Three of them were Korean women who came as guests of P. Getting acquainted we decided to play a guessing game to determine precisely what these three ladies were doing in Prague. Yes and No Questions delving into the more obvious occupations yielded zero. They weren't associated with government, business, students or language teachers, nor did they practice yoga. Finally the idea of religion came into my mind and I asked if they were associated with a church. They admitted that they were. Eureka, “You're missionaries!”, I said. Yes, they were, and proceeded to try and convince me of the uniqueness of their church. It sounded like it was an offshoot of Christianity that wanted to restore the position of the female to the godhead (lot's of mention of the “Mother”). This is, of course, heresy to the patriarchal nature of Christianity--it probably gives the clerical hierarchy nightmares of the return of pre-monotheistic Astarte worship and temple prostitution. Oh, horrors! But they were perfectly charming and delightful proselytizers. I didn't have the heart to burst their bubble.
|the man with two passports and friends|
I assumed that another young man who stands out in my mind was a Czech national. I was saying to P that I was surprised to find that everybody, who I assumed were Czechs, spoke English quite well and there were little handwritten signs about the kitchen like: “Please keep this area dry.” and “ Please clean up the stove when you finish cooking.” P said not all the members were Czech, some were foreigners, that English was their common language and then pointed to the young man across the table from me.
It turned out that he had two passports and alternated them to get around the three-month limit tourist visa in Schengen countries. When I asked him why he had two passports—and what were they, by the way?—he told me the story. He held Argentinean and Israeli passports. His parents were Jewish Argentineans who emigrated to Israel when they were in their twenties. “So,” I said, “You're a sabra! Were you born on a kibbutz?” He said, “No, I was born in Jerusalem! “Oh, a city boy,” said I. “What are you doing here?” I asked. He said he liked to travel and had studied yoga in Romania and was now a teacher here in Prague. Where to next? Who knows?
Thinking about that, it occurs to me that that could be the motto on my own coat of arms: “Where to next. Who knows?”
Photos courtesy of my friend Tomoko.