Wednesday, October 23, 2013

First Impressions

          First off, I want to apologize for all my spelling and grammar mistakes! It would be okay if I was writing Croatian, but i do not have that excuse. The only one I have is that I have been posting from iPad and it is harder to type and easier to make mistakes. But enough of that, many of you are wanting to know about some of my first impressions of Croatia.
          Like anywhere, life so far has had it's ups and downs here. I arrived Sunday night and a couple who work at the Seminary showed me my room, then took me out to eat and to a supermarket. I was surprised by how American everything felt. The restaurant had pasta dishes, pizza, and other things that seemed fairly normal. The supermarket was huge! I was expecting something small with little choices and short ours, but they had everything and are open to nine every night. I was looking forward to not making as many decisions while here, but to my dismay, there were hundreds of choices of shampoo and toothpaste, lots of which were recognizable. 
          Other things that have surprised me so far about Croatia are the dress and lack of smoking. I was expecting dress to be like Western Europe where everyone looks really nice and wears darker colors. But, that has not been the case at all. People dress in whatever they feel like, and even at the seminary people will wear colorful t-shirts and flaires jeans. So I am here in my dresses and feel super dressed up. But, I suppose I was always dressed up at college, so it does not matter too much. I was warned before I got here that Croatians smoke all the time and I need to get used to the smell, but I honestly have not seem or smelled much smoking. Perhaps it is because I have not left the seminary much yet (I will get to that), but I was surprised. The only bad smell I have smelled has been at random points of the day, it smells like old, smelly mulch outside. I have no idea why and it does not always smell like this; in fact, it smelled like fabreeeze this morning.
          The seminary where I am at is tiny. I think they said there are only like ten students and around the same number faculty and staff. I am in the basement of the library putting new books (donations to the seminar) into the database. The plan is to work around 5-6 hours a day. Although it is not a very exciting job, I enjoy it. An old Croatian man has been training me and although he can be picky with small details, he seems to think I am a really good student and will tell me jokes from time to time. There are at least four other people that volunteer in the library and are all very nice. It can be a bit awkward and lonely for me when they are all talking and laughing in Croatian, but they are kind and I know I am a help to them there.
           I live in a dorm here. The other volunteers from the library live here, as well as students, and other random people (including part of a men's basketball team). I eat breakfast and lunch in a cafeteria, then supper in a small tea kitchen. The food has not been exceptional, but I have enough. I really like my bedroom, although my Internet has not been working in my room, but that should be fixed within the week (so if you want to Skype, let me know your schedule for next week!). People have been really friendly and I am slowly learning names and becoming less shy (very slowly).
           I began my language tutoring today and I absolutely love my tutor! She is in her late twenties I believe and is a high school Croatian teacher, but because of the bad economy, she does not have a job. She is super friendly and helpful as we have dived into the Croatian book I bought while in the States. I will be meeting with her three times a week and she will be great to have as an encouragement and culture interpreter.
         As I mentioned earlier, I have not been outside of the seminary yet. It is only my third day, but honestly I have been super nervous to go out. I know I shouldn't be as this is a really safe city and I call myself an adventurer, but when it comes down to it, I am so scared to do things by myself. Yesterday I forced myself to go out on a run. I went down to a river and it was weird because I didn't know that people don't smile and say hi to strangers as they did in Elgin. I don't know why I imagined they would, but it caught me off guard. But after talking to my tutor, I feel better and I think I will be more confident the next time I go out running. Today, I knew I had to go buy a notebook so I could write out my Croatian words. I knew where it was (vaguely) but I was so nervous. I had to remind myself that "sometimes the things you fear are the things most worthwhile." My first go around I did not see anything that looked like a grocery store. There was a bakery and a butcher and a bunch of other stores, but no grocery store. So wimp that I am, I went back to the library and worked a couple more hours. However, I asked and found out where it was (down some stairs!) and afterwards set out again. And it wasn't scary! I found what I needed and then treated myself to a treat (see picture below).
          At my best, I am excited to be here and ready to take on this challenge. I conquered the grocery store and will be able to learn this language and make friends. At my worst, I am a nervous wreck. I feel utterly alone (which I know is not true as all of you out there love and believe in me) and wonder why I ever thought it would be a good idea to go by myself to a foreign country where I know no one nor the language. I put as my Facebook status today, "a ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are meant for," as a reminder that I can do this. I can make this strange new place my home and become a new, better version of myself. Sometimes, though, it is easier said than done.

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