I gather my belongings to board a flight to Prague to teach students from the University of New Orleans a class titled Prague Through The Lens. I kiss my daughter, cry as I watch my mother lying on the couch with fractured ribs saying goodbye, and hug my dad as he chokes back tears. I feel guilty for my summers teaching abroad given my mother’s health, leaving my daughter and other responsibilities, but I am entranced by the opportunity to see things anew.
My first day in Prague, I investigate my neighborhood in Mala Strana (Lesser Town) and head to familiar areas from my trip here two years ago. The Lennon Wall is one of those places, and freedom is still the overriding theme of the wall as it was in 1988 for the Czech students that created it as a way to protest the Communist authority. The lyrics of John Lennon’s Imagine, Let It Be, and hopeful graffiti messages irritated the communists enormously. They would white-wash the wall, only to find it again the next day covered in positive messages. The young Czechs elected Lennon a hero pacifist after his death in 1980 because he stood for their ideals of hope, freedom, and peace, both in his lyrics and in his life. Lennon’s unstoppable messaging wall and several other student protests eventually led to the Velvet Revolution (also the Gentle Revolution) in 1989 when the Czechs were freed of the communist regime.
Even now, the wall boasts homages to John Lennon and the Beatles’ music, as well as expressions of gratitude and peace from people all over the world, but it is much different than when I was last in Prague.
I search but can’t find a beautiful drawing I came to love before—a large set of blue eyes with “If they don’t let us dream” written inside them. Business cards, personal photos, Euro rail passes, bus passes, selfies, and personal notes add a textural, three-dimensional element on and around pieces of mirrors that form a heart shape.
Although some messages evoke social media fodder, there are touching sentiments, funny sayings, personal hopeful wishes, and evidence of caring and peaceful souls. I find a young woman’s plea to meet her biological mother, saying that she is okay and has great adoptive parents, but that she misses and loves her. There is a bucket list from someone in Australia who has identified many of my own personal goals of travel and adventure. There are thankful messages to mothers and fathers around the world for their support, and even a plea to administrators to pay teachers more money and for “Jacob” to do something about it. There are quotes from the Bible, Buddha, and Mohammed Ali.