Its the first time in about three weeks I have had a moment to sink into a chair and hide behind my computer, ear buds in my ears, eyes glued to the screen, fingers tapping away on the key board to the scent of hot lemon infusing into my tea. It would be a difficult and time consuming task to relate to you, lovely readers, the chronological, logistical happenings of the time that has lapsed since my last blogger monologue. So lets start with this: I couldn't begin to count my lucky stars. It's like that new Katy Perry song, I think fireworks are exploding out of my chest (let me just say, never would I have ever thought I’d say such a thing about Katy Perry…)
The first two months I was in Croatia felt like jumping off the 45 foot cliff into the spring-filled rock quarry south of St. Louis, except I jumped much more willingly. Even if I wanted to pause, turn, grasp on to something, I just kept falling knowing eventually, through no action of my own, I would hit the water, sink a bit and then bob to the surface, hopefully no bruises in tow. Okay, so maybe that is slightly melodramatic, but I really struggled with the logistics of what I was doing, what were my goals, how do you construct a meaningful life in a foreign place going off a few good leads?
Well, at some point I hit the water and bobbed to the surface. Things still take some dog-paddling and the effort of swimming strokes and encouraging words from the shore-side, but ultimately I am really happy with how things are going and a large part of that happiness required the solidification and validation found in Katie and Annie's trip over the sea into my alien-life—that until this point had been a bubble, obscured even to myself by its isolation from the people and things that contextualize myself and my own life. Place, history, and culture are indispensable when attempting to analyze the present and I think that even happens in our everyday life when we uproot to some place new, some place without our personal histories, or stories of place, and our own micro-cultures. I suppose the point of this rant is that Annie and Katie’s presence here in Zagreb was not only fun and games
(which, of course, there was plenty of) but an opportunity for a third party who is knowledgeable in these aspects in my own life to evaluate the inner workings of my life in Zagreb. It was a sounding board I had been waiting months for, a simple nod of a head that says, ‘it makes sense, not only here and now, but in your narrative’. I am always pro compartmentalizing and trying new things and pushing your boundaries, but have you ever read book where a plot point doesn’t fit, its an anomaly and not in a surprising or refreshing way? What I strive for is an anomaly that upon stepping back actually creates a richer text, a complicated and delicate weave.
Okay. I am getting lost in words.
The quick and dirty:
Katie and Annie met my buddies here in Zagreb. They adored each other and we think things like “Lets meet again on the beaches of the exotic and distant Florida”…
They spent a good long Saturday with the family I hang out with once a week and did arts and crafts, ate a giant yummy meal and drank several cups of the most delicious Turkish coffee one’s taste buds could imagine.
We met with my advisor for a social coffee and a bit of Cockta (the coke like beverage produced in the region) and spoke of things like scooters and universities.
We café hoped, including the famous Booksa, Sedmica, Kolaz and even my neighborhood favorite, Lusso (where we indulged with “topla cockolade” a giant cup of hot pudding served in a mug with a spoon).
We embarked on a map-less journey of the placid, magical, and empty of other travelers (with the exception of 2 Malaysian business men) of Plitvice lakes.
Side note: the photos in the blog post below are from the lakes. If one ever has the opportunity they are worth the trip. The water is more clear than drinking water and trees that have fallen in have grown fur coats of moss and their branches twist into the depths, making one imagine there is a world on the reverse side of the lake, that eventually those same trees grow out of the water on the other side and if only you could dive deep enough you’d emerge into something unknown. Then, you stumble across the waterfalls, which are bustling around and through the curving wooden pathways which sit almost flush with the still parts of the lakes. The water transitions from green to blue to some indescribable color depending on the angle of the sunlight, changing dramatically in the afternoon light. Annie was convinced it was a land of magic. We breathed in deeply the cool, clean air, and I think it cured me of my wretched cough. At an unmarked wooden hut perched on the edge of the woods we flagged down a bus coming from Zadar and returned to Zagreb with tired feet a new treasure of pristine water to take home to the states.
We hopped over to Budapest, empty of expectations (except maybe the misconception of more bulbous architecture). In Budapest we ate fried dough with garlic spread, topped with sour cream and cheese. I highly recommend this tasty treat, but once is probably enough. We were duped by its tasti-ness and devouring such street food two days in a row, my friends, makes you feel like you are sweating dairy fried in grease. However, it was all okay because we also spent a day pool hopping in a Turkish bath. Swimming outside in almost freezing weather while steam emanates off the micro portion of your body above water is lovely and magical. The indoor pools contain different minerals and are kept at different temperatures, including some cold pools for plunging and several saunas of varying temperatures. You leave, your feet frozen from the ground but your body melting like butter, skin sheen and pores open, and lungs ready to inhale the menthol found in some of the saunas. As wonderful and bizarre and enjoyable the baths were, my most favorite part was the old Hungarian men playing chess in one of the outdoor pools and next to them a young boy arms folded on the cement part with his head perched gently on crevix of his elbow gazing at the game. I imagine him trying to follow the moves, figure out the tricks, all the time the memory already being constructed amidst the fog of the steam slowly rising into the night sky.
[plain old traveling tips about Budapest: we stayed in a great hostelà homemade hostel. Go to the museum of terror, it’s done well and gives a glimpse into Hungarian modern history. Bring a bathing suit. Take the free tour. Eat Langoos once (the fried treat). Eat at Hummus Bar, delicious falafel. Go to a ruin bar. Meet nice people!]