Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sa Nogom

The sun is shining in Zagreb and the cafe's outdoor seating fills the wide sidewalks in the city center. I went with another fulbrighter yesterday to look at an apartment. A friend of a friend picked us up in a car and we drove, into the center, out of the center, across the river, the end of the trams... we both knew already the apartment was too far away. Helena was sweet though, making conversation with Amela in croatian, me straining my ears to pick up familiar words. The landlord was running late so Helena treated us to coffee (cup #2 for the day). There were two cafes in the neighborhood we were in, the first we peaked our heads into, only older men sitting and smoking and chatting, their eyes peering in our direction. Helena says, "come on, lets go to the other one." I haven't quite figured out this particular cafe rule yet. Sometimes outside of the center the cafe's will be predominantly men. Helena didn't make any comment about just shrugged her eyebrows. We drank coffee "sa nogom" (i might be spelling that wrong) which means "on your feet,"meaning... really fast. Sit, drink, pay, leave. The typical coffee date is longer, meant for sipping and chatting. We looked at the apartment--at this point without any legitimate interest, but there was enough to be curios about, such as the lanky man showing u the apartment in worn coveralls and a bike racing hat. he reminded me of an illustration of a service man. We headed into the center, opting for slodoled (ice cream) over another cup of coffee, heading to millennium, where behind glass cases stand mountains of ice cream, including 100% pistachio. I only ate one scoop because I had dinner plans with Orli, my beloved prof from my SIT program.

After delicious gnocchi, long conversation, and a third cup of coffee I headed back to the dorms with a full stomach and more confidence in why and what I am doing in this city. "Don't apologize for who you are, or your research, or your identity," Orli told me as we sat drinking coffee... "you are going to have to learn how not to be apologetic, have confidence."

a collection of thoughts.

September 20th, flight from Munich to Zagreb

September 20th, My desk in the dorm...
I spy bananagrams, american snacks, a recent photobooth picture and some adorable letters...

The dorm room my bed is on the left, I am rooming with a fellow fulbrighter named Jess.

Its my third day in Zagreb. The jet lag is pulling on the skin under my eyes and the sense of uncertainty is in many ways pressing in from all sides. It’s been strange coming back, it was the same sense of vertigo I have when returning to any place that is all at once the same and yet different. I thought I would feel a sense of relief upon arriving—a lifting og the anxiety built up from waiting all summer—because is what I was waiting for would be here. Except that’s never the case, it takes time to get things rolling, to set up connections, get in a grove of production. I was never one to hit the ground running, I always dipped my toes in before jumping off the diving board.

The nicest part of returning to Zagreb is the familiarity—like finding a sweater I lost over a year ago, a warm and cozy sweater that I had just began to really love. Then came the hugs. Someone once told me you need at least ten hugs a day to survive. I’ve always been a hugger, I don’t even need a good reason to hug you, a goodbye or a hello are always good excuses though, and there have been many “hello-again” hugs. To show up half-way around the world and walk into a cafĂ© and have someone say, “oh hi, Emily, how are you?” is astonishing, I thought those connections disappeared as space and time converged into an unimaginable distance.

I’m at Booksa by the way, If you read my blog last year or know anything about my time here before, you know I adore Booksa, it reminds me of how surrounding ourselves with things of importance to us can make one feel safe, or like we have found a place to belong. Even though none of my favorite baristas are here anymore there are familiar tunes playing—quietly edging a smile onto my anxious face, and books lining the walls, all with titles I can’t read, but with familiar authors. I walked in to Booksa, renewed my card, ordered some kava and turned around to face a gentlemen wearing glasses almost exactly like mine, “Hej Hej!” he said thrusting his hand into mine, I giggle because I thought I had already given myself away as American and he was just trying to be a jolly friend, when he said, “how are you?!” I KNOW YOU, I say back, my mind kind of warped by the weirdness of having “acquaintances” in far-away lands. I’m sorry I forgot your name, “Nikola” he said, He jokingly explained to the barista—“American.” Turning to me he says “I heard you were back in town!, what are you doing here?” “I got a grant” “I heard, a good deal.” I felt a surge of excitement that somehow everyone I had once known in Zagreb knew I was back in town, or even that my arrival demanded any sort of gossip. Maybe everything will be okay here, I'm not starting from scratch, there are places to have coffee and read, what more do i need?