Monday, November 4, 2013

Highs and Lows

         It has been two weeks since I arrived here in Croatia. I wish I could tell you that I made it past my transition period and absolutely love this new adventure I am on. However, I made a promise to myself that my blog would always reveal the truth. And the truth is that there have been some really low moments these past two weeks and I continue to struggle with adjusting to this new place and the fact that I am not going home for two and a half years. But it would also be a lie to say I am depressed all the time and hate it here. There have been some really good days and I believe it was the right decision to come here. So let me share with you some of my highs and lows for the past two weeks.
          First a high. The city of Osijek is situated on the Drava river. The Drava is less than a kilometer away from me and it is my probably my favorite thing about the city thus far. It is not a very big river, but the movement and peace of the river touches part of my soul. When I am by the river, I feel like I can breathe and be refreshed with a sense of calm and peace. There is a short river walk near me and a larger one near the center of town. I try to run or walk on one of these paths everyday. This is getting harder as it gets darker sooner (it is completely dark by 5pm!) and the weather is turning a little bit colder (I actually wore a jacket over my sweater when I went to the grocery store today). However, I really want to stay in the habit of being active and going to the Drava and finding calm in the midst of everything happening in my life.
          Another high is the feeling of becoming more and more comfortable. I was gone this weekend and it felt so good to come back to the seminary and my room. I am becoming really comfortable around the other people in the library. They are interested in me and always ask me how I am doing. Today, a new volunteer (newer than me!) told me how sorry she was that her English wasn't better or else she would translate some of the conversations happening. I have been left alone with my work (no one checks for mistakes anymore) and it feels really good to know what I am doing and be trusted to do a good job. I have yet to get bored with the work, so that is really good. I am also slowly getting to know a couple of other people living in the dorm. I had coffee with my next door neighbor last weekend and couple of boys have been helping me with my Croatian. They say they like to practice their English with me (although their English is so much better than my Croatian!). I even played chess last week with one of the guys. I am also more comfortable moving about town if it is going on a run or buying groceries. I am not nearly as nervous as I was last week.
          As I mentioned earlier, I was gone this weekend. Friday was a national holiday (All Saints Day), but I actually left Thursday afternoon with a large group to go to a protestant church youth conference in Zagreb. The weekend was full of highs and lows... some really low and some pretty high. I think the hardest part was that everyone seemed to have a group and did not care to get to know a new person. It would have been a hard situation even in the U.S., but having a language barrier made it even harder. I have to be honest that for part of it I was really angry because I knew that people knew I was alone and did not know Croatian and they knew English, yet they did not talk to me. I felt so alone and was so incredibly homesick. I wanted to get on the next flight back to the U.S. But I knew that was not an option.
         One of the reasons I choose BVS was I did not want to spend only one year in a country. Partly because you cannot learn a new language in a year, but partly because I did not want to be able to count down the days. I knew that if I knew I was going home, I would just allow myself to check out and just wait to go home. But I am here two and a half years... I cannot count down that much! I am not going home and thus I have to deal with my feelings here. I need to find a way to turn around the situation and learn to survive. A friend recently put up the following quote from the movie Away We Go on her facebook page. "It's all those good things you have in you. The love, the wisdom, the generosity, the selflessness, the patience... You have to be so much better than you ever thought you could be." In the same way, here I have to be more than I think I can be. I have to deal with the lows because I don't have a choice. And somehow tleave everything I have known to spend over two years away. But I am here and I am doing it. And somehow thinking about this made me feel better.
         And the weekend got better. I went with one of my coworkers in the library who is in her mid-thirties. And it was really nice getting to know her better. She really tried to take care of me and include me in different activities. She was the one who made sure that someone interpreted the worship services and workshops for me. I feel so grateful to have met her and have her in my life. Another couple of girls a little older than me also began including me in their activities and talking to me. One girl in particular is from Zagreb and when I told her that I was moving there, she said that we would be good friends and I would come to her church. She actually has already emailed me, which is so incredibly sweet. Another missionary couple (the woman is Croatian, husband American) took me out to this awesome coffee shop and was telling me about some of the big differences in culture.
          The conference itself was okay. It was evangelical, which most of you know I am not. However, I am at the place in my spiritual journey where I do not get upset when someone has theology I do not agree with, but instead am able to look for the parts that I can agree with. I know I will never agree with  the beliefs of most of the people there, but I can find still search and find pieces of truth and love. I have actually started to pray and there have been moments when I find myself believing again. Being alone out of my comfort zone has me really thinking more about God than I have in the past year. I plan to start going to the local church here, which is Pentecostal. It is not something I am completely comfortable with, but I think it will be good for me and help me to continue make connections with people.
          There have been plenty more highs and lows, but this post is getting long and I have some Croatian homework that I want to get done. As always, I love getting any feedback, be it Facebook, comments, or email. (Regular mail is fine too!) Reading your encouraging words always brings a smile to my face and makes my day a little brighter!


  1. Hang in there, Julia! It sounds like quite a mess of feelings you're dealing with. You're doing great to be able to analyze them the way you are, and I encourage your wish to keep up that daily routine of exercise and enjoying that gorgeous river. You are so right that putting yourself out there (library, conferences, church) will only expand your people-base. It's terribly hard, but it will pay off. I'm proud of you and the work you're doing.

  2. Oh Jules your transition time will take a while! But I'm so happy for your highs and thankful for your lows because you will grow through them. I wish I could be there for you but I'm so glad that you blogged this. Thank you for your honesty. I love you!