Saturday, June 28, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Osijek

          On Wednesday night, the seminary here where I have been working, had a going away party for me. We ate pizza and an American cake (my parents brought a funfetti cake mix when they visited), hung out, and then I was asked many questions about my time here in Osijek. I had to name my favorite memories, my impressions of Eastern Europe as an American, funny stories, and how God has worked in my life here. After some people shared their impressions about me, I had to say what I would remember about everyone there. This was a good way to reflect on the past eight months with the people who have become my family here in Croatia. After this time of reflection, we played some games to end the night.
          Today I went out for coffee with some of my CouchSurfing friends. It was the perfect summer day as we sat outside at a cafe, sipping coffee, and just talking for three hours. It was nice and just felt so normal. And I realized how soon these times will be over. I leave Osijek in one week. One week. Goodbyes have started and I don't like them. It is so strange how when I came, I hated Osijek. I felt trapped in this city and was so lonely. And now, I don't want to leave. Things are not perfect, but I finally feel that I have found my place here. I found friends I love and the city itself has changed in my eyes. As the weather became warm, cafes spilled out onto every sidewalk. The river walk became full of people riding bikes, rollarblading, and just strolling. Ice cream can be seen everywhere (and Croatian ice cream is so much better than American ice cream!). I love it. I went through a really hard time and now I am on the other side, but soon I have to say goodbye.
          And so I am trying to fill my last week with everything I love about Osijek. I will go swimming in the Drava for the first time tomorrow. I plan to ride my bike every night this week. I want to go out for coffee and ice cream with friends. I will get another haircut, since it is quite cheap here in Osijek. And I will just spend time with those I have made relationships with. But I am struggling with how to make this goodbye meaningful. This is the end to a chapter of my life and I want to do it right. Are there ways that have been significant to you, my readers, in which you have said goodbye? Is there a good way to say goodbye to a place in which you have grown and changed? Is there a good way to say goodbye to people who have become a part of your life?

And it won't be goodbye forever. I will come back to Osijek. I can promise you that.

To end this blog post, I want to share a funny story that occurred during my time here. An older volunteer in the library was helping me with my Croatian a few months ago. I was reading a Croatian book and translating it into English. There was a sentence about a man who was traveling with his family from the city of Split to Dubrovnik (two cities on the Croatian coast). The sentence read that they were traveling by "brod," the Croatian word for ship. However, I forgot what "brod"meant. The older volunteer translated it for me, saying ship. But he pronounced ship as "sheep" because in Croatian, the vowel i makes the sound ee. I was so confused. I was imagining this family on a herd of sheep traveling down the coast. I said that this could not be right. Brod did not mean sheep. And so I looked up the word in a dictionary. I then realized that he had just mispronounced it. I laughed to myself, but I did not want to correct him out loud. Later, though, as I told the story to some friends, I had a nice long laugh.

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