Bok, kako si? Ja sam jako dobro! :) Hrvatska je jako jako jako jako lijepo! :)
Yes, I did just say the generic few phrases that are first learned when learning a new language, "Hi, how are you? I am very good! Croatia is very very very very beautiful!" And yes, in Croatia, they DO speak Croatian. And if you don't know where Croatia is, please, just use google... It is, in fact, in southeastern Europe....not Asia or the Middle East... Now, if we want to get specific, I live in a lovely city named Varaždin (pronounced vah-RAH-zzhh-deen, the zzhh sounds like the "g" in corsage), which is about an hour away from Zagreb, the capital, and it's just outside of Slovenia and Hungary. I've been here since Saturday, August 28, 2010, which means tomorrow will be one whole week! Oh, and I'm not the only exchange student here; there are two other girls from the U.S., Lizzy and Emily, that live here as well! The rest live in Zagreb. Now, you might be thinking, "Oh man, that stinks that she doesn't live in the capital with the rest of them. That's so lame!" But if you aren't thinking that, I will proudly say that I side with you! Varaždin is the perfect city to live in for exchange if you ask me! It's not too big, but it's not too small. There aren't people everywhere like in Zagreb, it's not as diverse (which is good, because you want to live somewhere where people are actually native, and they aren't all foreigners!) but it's just the way you'd imagine the perfect little European city to be, with it's main square, brick pathways, cafes & bakeries, and old buildings. It has a delightful park with benches, flowers, tall trees, and pebble pathways. One of the best parts about it; they have DANDELIONS! :D So, that's a little bit about my city. :)
***NEWS FLASH: I just left my apartment to go...by myself...for the first time ever....to the bakery on my street....and I got something!! WOOOHOOOOOO!!! Independence!***
Now, let me begin by telling you a little bit about my visa and departure. The process for my visa was extremely involved; all in all, the process began in March and I didn't get my visa until the day before I left. I was even required to go to New York City for a personal appearance at the Croatian Consulate.....darn. ;) Finally, after much confusion, and threats of me not being able to go, I finally got my visa application approved, and we were able to buy my ticket to go, a few days before I actually left. Word of advice: if you're going to be a future exchanger, please talk with you travel agent (and be nice!) and tell them when you would prefer to leave and such...if you don't voice your opinion, you may end up leaving later than you'd like. Okay?? Okay!! On Friday, the 27th of August, my friend, Samantha, my mom, and my dad all drove me to the Orlando airport. We had some delicious Mexican food as my final meal in the U.S! Then, after lots of goofing around in the airport, it was time to say my final goodbye's and head off through security to catch my 8:05 PM flight to Frankfurt, Germany. I flew Lufthansa...which is a German airline. All I heard around me was German...even the flight attendants and passengers started speaking to me in German. I didn't know whether to take that as a compliment or not...I guess that meant I didn't stick out TOO much as an American! On the nine hour nighttime flight, I watched "How to Train Your Dragon" (awesome movie) and "Fantastic Mr. Fox" (another awesome movie). The flight attendants served dinner...it was quite interesting! Then...it was sleepy time for me. When I woke up, the sunlight was streaming through the cracks of the closed windows, and they were serving breakfast! Two meals?! It was unheard of! When I opened up my hot little tray of food, I saw some spinach, an omelet, and some scary circular vegetable type things. The German girl next to me looked at me, slightly intimidated by the interesting plate of food in front of her. I decided that I would sniff the scary vegetable things...once I did, it came to my realization that they were potatoes! :D So, we both ate them, because they were actually pretty good! :)
When we finally landed, I packed my huge carry-on bags and marched off that plane, determined to find my way to my next flight. Supposedly it was supposed to be in the same terminal....HA! I walked and talked with a girl who was sitting in front of me on my previous flight because her gate was next to mine. We went up and down fifty escalators, climbed stairs, rode a little train, and had to go through security AGAIN! That's when I lost her...because the guy manning the X-ray machine thought that my ukulele had a knife in it... After much more interesting endeavors in the Frankfurt airport, I said my goodbyes to the German soil and flew to my next destination: Zagreb. I slept that entire flight...it was only an hour, but that made things go VERY quickly. I landed, went through customs, then a man noticed my Rotary blazer, and shared with me that he was once an exchange student 20 years ago in some obscure U.S. state. :D He helped me with my huge bags, and then we parted ways! As I walked out of the baggage claim area, I suddenly hear "ADALINE!!!!!!" followed by some squealing and shouting. I looked over my shoulder and I see my huge welcome party consisting of my host parents (Josip and Andelka), host sister Estera, nine-years-old), host cousin, some family friends, and some of Donata's (my host sister who is currently living in Florida for her exchange!) friends! :D It was so nice to finally meet everyone in person. My host mom was so excited, she was about to cry! And my host dad had my mom on Facebook IM, giving her the play by play of what was happening. XD
Although, I could keep droning on about the next week, and trust me, each day would be at least three long long paragraphs long, I won't bore you with that. Instead, I'll just give you some key points of a few different things! Ready, set, GO!
Favorite things to do (so far):
Walk around aimlessly with Petra and friends
Go to the bakery and get something yummy
Ask countless questions on how to say different things in Croatian
Organize my desk and look at all my beautiful pictures of my family and friends back home
Open my windows and breathe the fresh Croatian air while enjoying the wonderful view
Eating Zdenka on my bread
Some fun facts:
They are obsessed with cold feet - always where socks or slippers or they'll think you'll get sick
The food here is really good, and fresh, and delicious.
They say "Viđenja" to people leaving an elevator (It's their goodbye)
People in Varaždin love to ride bikes
They have coffee everyday - it's merely a social event, they get together, order something from a cafe, and just sit and talk - it's a daily ritual
Everyone uses an umbrella when it rains (obviously). Everyone. They don't share either. So, if it's really busy, you are constantly hitting other peoples umbrellas.
The hot chocolate here is like pudding!
It seems to me that everyone wears those little "jegging" things or whatever they are called...
Everyone seems to smoke.
They are very very concerned about your health. I got kind of sick, not deathly or anything, and they started talking about taking me to a doctor, and they even mentioned the emergency room at one point!
Things are a lot more cheap here - 1 U.S. dollar is about 5 Croatian kunas - it's really freaky to see prices for gas as high as 8.95 kn, but then you realize that it's less than two American dollars!
They don't drink a lot here - especially with their meals. When they serve drinks at places, there's usually no ice, and they give you the drink in the regular bottle and a glass to pour it in - the glasses are really small compared to the U.S. glasses!
The McDonalds here (only one in my city) is much more fresh, but the menu is much more limited.
I saw the most amazing graffiti of my life - it was a picture of a man and woman about to kiss, but the lady had a mustache and beard. I had to do a double-take. XD
Although the music over the radio is mainly American, it's old American songs...like...old songs. I haven't heard much music from the past few years, which I think is a good thing in my opinion...XD
As for the language, I learn more and more everyday. Although it's not as much as I thought I'd learn, it still is my first week, so I can't get too hard on myself yet. One plus is that I can actually differentiate words, rather than it sounding like a big flow of nothingness...although I don't understand the words, I'm beginning to notice the pattern. XD Here are a few words and phrases! (Roughly translated, you can't really literally transla"te anything in this language.)
"Idemo na kavu." - "We're going to get some coffee." You really just say that if you're about to go and hang out and drink whatever at a cafe or something.
"Moram jako prdnuti." - "I have to fart really bad."
"Ovo je jako ukusno/ukusan." - "This is very delicious!"
"Mogu li (molim vas) dobiti _______?" - "May I (please) have _______?"
"Kako se kaže "_____" na hrvatskom?" - "How do you say _____ in Croatian?"
"Oprosti. Moj hrvatski je jako loš. Govorim i razumijem malo! Ali učim jezik!!" - "Sorry. My Croatian is very bad. I speak and understand only a little. But I'm studying!!" (Just don't say this to your little host sister who doesn't speak any English, because if you say this, she just might reply with "Jako!", and walk away...)
Luckily I haven't become homesick yet. And hopefully I won't have too. God has really been giving me a lot of strength and courage when I should have been crying and pulling my hair out! Oh man, He's awesome. :) Not only that, but hearing Croatian has become normal to me; if I heard English being spoken, I'd be a little taken aback and freaked out! I just want to learn it as fast as I can. It's really awkward when you see a group of people, and guys especially do this, just sit and openly stare and point at you, then speak in Croatian and laugh....It's a good thing Petra speaks Croatian because she had to fill me in every single time; they've said things like, "Oh, they won't understand you! Hahaha!" or "I want to talk to the girls over here!" or "Oh, you think you can just come in here and blah blah blah!" Each of these quotes have their own unique story, but I won't bore you with those. I just can't wait for the day when I'll be able to turn to them and say, "Oprostite. Govorim i razumijem hrvatski jako dobro. Hvala." Then walk away...>:D
All in all, I'm having a wonderful time, and I truly wish I could convey to you the amazing things that God has let me encounter! I've had so many cool opportunities happen to me already, one being laying hands on a new friend and praying for a healing from her brain tumor. :D :D :D I've felt so many emotions, emotions and feelings I've never felt, but that just comes with being an exchange student. It's something you truly have to experience yourself. :) Oh, I'm going to try and have some videos posted in my next journal, and here's a link to my Flickr account, where I'm going to attempt to post my pretty pictures of my adventure! ---> http://www.flickr.com/photos/adasorous/sets/72157624863470304/ I hope this journal wasn't TOO long and confusing, I just really had no idea where to begin and what to write about! I hope to give you more clarity in future journals. I start school this Monday, so that'll be something to write about. XD Well, until then!!
Bok, moji prijatelji! Kako ste? :D
I'll start with school, seeing how that's been the most prominent part of my life since I last wrote to you faithful and committed readers out there.
Oh, something important: I'm part of the bilingual class here at the Prva gimnazija Varaždin, which means that half the classes are in English and half are in Croatian. The first thing that I thoroughly enjoyed about school here in Croatia is the wonderful fact that every year on the first day, it starts later than normal days, you sit in your homeroom class, get a weekly schedule, and then you can go home. So, that's what I did! My host dad drove me to school, in which I awkwardly waited outside the front doors for Petra and Lizzy for about fifteen minutes. That didn't help the nerves at all. When they finally met up with me, Petra. Niko, and Lizzy all walked me to my class. then, they left me. Oh my GOSH. That was a painful separation. I was about to pee myself I was so nervous! So, as I leaning against the wall, pretending not to care about life, I watched the young people walk by to see if they would stop in front of the same door as well. Finally, the group began to grow and grow, and after countless (and awkward) glances and stares from curious classmates-to-be, our homeroom professor let us into the room. I made haste towards an open desk and made myself comfortable, being careful not to make eye contact with anyone. I slouched down and observed. The people around me were already talking, laughing, and bonding with each other, which was a bit intimidating because everyone already knew each other so well. A few times I caught a group of kids turn their heads towards me and start speaking in Croatian. That made me extremely paranoid. All I kept thinking was, "Is my hair messed up or something?! Do I have a booger in my nose?! Do I have pants on?!?!?" After a couple minutes of torment inside of my mind, my homeroom teacher, who also happens to be our chemistry (kemija) teacher, walked into the classroom with the other exchanger, Emily. I didn't remember him leaving, but that's besides the point. The point is, Emily and I were BOTH new, which eased my nerves because I knew that I wouldn't be the center of everyone's attention. After the professor talked to the class, he had Emily and I introduce ourselves and state where we were from. After some more talking, he shared our weekly schedule with the class. Finally, after what seemed like another few hours, which happened to only be forty five minutes, he asked for volunteers to show Emily and I around the school. From what I could tell, only one girl raised her hand. That was.....really encouraging. Ha. Then the class hurried out the door where only three girls stayed behind for us; Paula (now one of my really good friends), Dora, and Petra (another Petra, not the one who I've previously been hanging out with.) They showed us around the school; our school is really really different compared to the school I have back in Florida. It has an old part and a new part - the new part has like five stories or something like that...I don't even know. But, anyway, the girls themselves got lost at one point. It was awesome. After the small tour, in which I had already had twice before, the five of us left to walk around the main part of town. After walking and talking, I was a bit relieved that I would have familiar faces and names to call upon for the next day of school. Although I didn't talk to anyone else in my class, I had about 18 friend requests on Facebook when I got home that day, all from kids in my class.
Now, it's been a while in school and I really really love my entire class! They are all so wonderful and nice. I mean, yes, some of them might find enjoyment in being a bit mocking and sarcastic, but, YOU know, you just need to laugh at it and move on with life, because they really don't mean anything from it...at least I think. Nah, they are all really awesome. Here are some fun facts about school so far:
The bathrooms in the old part of the school are unisex. It freaks me out every time I see a dude walk out of a stall or walk in when my friends are going pee. Catches me off guard every time.
We have a "nothing" period where we can go out for coffee, or go get something to eat, or even go home! I do something different every time: coffee with Vana and a few others, or Mlinar with Paula and Emily to get pizza, etc etc!
My class has like, 17 or 18 classes or something ridiculous. Luckily, I don't have to worry about them all. I just have to worry about the half that is in English, which is Art, Chemistry, Physics, English, Biology, History, Ethics/Religion, Geography, and Gym. Woohoo! And, some of the classes they only have once a week. So, it's not as bad as you'd think it would be. But still.
My school cafeteria thing has the best klipić in the world. Klipić are these wonderful breadstick type things that are a Varaždin specialty!
I can't do math taught in English, so to be taught math in Croatian is ten times more difficult. Stupid trigonometry.
Kids like to sit outside the front doors and smoke during the breaks in between classes. So, whenever you walk outside, there is just a layer of smoke that clouds the air. It's really stinky.
I enjoy wearing flip flops. But people seem to have a problem with that here, telling me that I will get sick. So, walking through the halls in my awesome sweat pants and flip flops tends to have the walking passersby stare at me some more. Oh well! I'm comfortable when my feet can breathe!! but, I do suppose that just screams, "AMERICAN." Way to immerse myself in the culture! ...
We kind of sort of celebrated International Mustache Day. That was the coolest. I mean, all there was was a poster with some mustaches and stuff in the front of the school, but that was enough to make me happily hop back and forth on my feet while making funny noises and smiling really big. My friends back at home like to call it "The Addey Dance".
Some other really awesome things that I've done is go to Istria for a weekend, where Emily, Lizzy, my host parents and I all went to Istria and visited Motovun, Rovinj, Umag, Poreć, and some other places. We even got to go to VENICE for a day! Let me write a little about that...just a little. Okay, so, We rode a three hour boat ride, on the "Prince of Venice", and finally got to a port in Venice. From there we walked into the main square and enjoyed the lovely scenery and everything. It's such a beautiful place! It was also the first time in forty-three days that I got to see/talk to people from the United States that had nothing to do with exchange. Yay! That was exciting. Well, Lizzy, Emily, and I were all having fun touring through the small streets of Venice when we see something that was quite....quite surprising. It was a kid from my class and his family. That was really stinkin' awesome. I mean...first off, we're not even in Croatia, and second off, out of ALL of Venice, and just at that same time and place, we see him there. It was sweet. Then, on the boat ride home, it was extremely...EXTREMELY rough, the waves were huge! Well, needless to say, everyone was really seasick, but I was thoroughly enjoying the cold wind blowing in my hair and the jolt in my stomach every time we would go on a big wave! It was AWESOME. But I felt so much sympathy for those who had bags full of puke in their hands...Yum yum. The rest of the weekend was touring Istria, one of the six regions in Croatia. One of the cities we got to visit was Pula! they have the second best preserved Roman Coliseum! THAT WAS AWESOME. Just to stand where so much history and amazing events occurred thousands of years ago was quite fascinating!
Oh, FUN FACT. At birthday's, they throw the birthday person in the air really high. Yes... I was at a birthday celebration, and a big group of boys thought it would be funny if they threw me in the air as well, you know, me being the girl from the U.S. and all, experience new culture, YEAH. It. Was. Terrifying.
The language is extremely tough. I'm sorry, but I don't know of many languages that would be any harder than Croatian. Spanish is a breeze compared to Croatian! I wish I would have known this when I was complaining about Spanish class last year and the year before...... I learn something new everyday, but I feel as though I'm not learning fast enough! Everyone is always talking in English, so it's so hard because I'm never forced to speak Croatian. But, I constantly have to keep asking the people around me to talk in Croatian instead of English, and I always want them to ask me things and say little things in Croatian. Baby steps at the very least! One thing that really gets to me is when people tell me, "I'm so sorry for my English. It's so bad, I know." I'm like, "You don't need to apologize for ANYTHING. I'm the one who should be sorry that I don't know Croatian, and I am!" Yah, they all tell me that it will come along, but it really just feels like a hopeless cause. Oh, and everyone here hates German and thinks that English was the easiest thing they've had to learn. What the heck?! Why can't it be this easy for me! They all know like, 308475 languages too. Lucky duckys. But, I think once you know Croatian, you could speak any language, because they would all be easy! Although they say German is hard...I think German is easier than Croatian! But, yes, that's all I have for language.
As for being homesick, I've had my moments where I've really just wanted to go home, just so I could hug my loved ones. I mean, now that I'm gone, I'm able to appreciate everything I have back in the United States so much more. I was so anxious to leave and begin my adventure, but I never realized that I would be leaving so much that I hold dear. My family and friends, my church and church family, food (I love Croatian food, but I miss American food. People really need to understand that American food isn't ALL THAT BAD. Stupid stereotypes.), and a few other things. I've never liked junk food or McDonalds before I came here, but now that I'm here, I love McDonalds (the one here is tasty!) and I love junk food. I didn't eat much of it in the U.S., but when it doesn't even exist over here, it makes me sad when I realize that I can't have that once-in-a-while bowl of Reese's Puffs or Oreo cookie. People here really analyze what they eat and where it came from and stuff. I mean, it's a good thing to be aware of what you put into your body, but a slice of processed cheese between two pieces of white bread every few weeks isn't going to kill you! It will give you a party in your tummy! But, those things I can deal with. I don't have a problem with food (except perhaps too much bread....), school, and all of those other typical things. No, the thing that I miss the most is being able to give someone a goodnight kiss and say, "Goodnight. I love you!" Just having that closeness with someone, it's something that I really do miss. Ali nema veze! I have friendships that grow each day, like Paula, and a few new ones. I have people here who really do care for me and love me, and most importantly, I have the Lord carrying me through each day and night. :) So, I'm doing amazing!
Speaking of doing amazing, this past week has probably been my best week ever here on exchange! I've gotten close with friends, I got to experience Croatian Thanksgiving type things, I've watched lots of amazing movies with Croatian subtitles, had a sleepover, made stir fry, had some of the best times with my host family, got to Skype with my family who went to Montana for my cousin's wedding (in which their computer died when they were saying their wedding vows. Nice. But, I got to be in the family pictures; yay for being in wedding pictures while on a little net book!), and lots of other things. Today, I got to hang out with Paula for her birthday; we watched movies and had delicious lunch and I got to meet her little brother. Oh. My. Gosh. I LOVE LITTLE THREE-YEAR-OLDS WHO SPEAK CROATIAN. It's the cutest thing in the world. Oh, and I also get to take cello lessons here at a pretty famous music school, I'M SO EXCITED. I've always wanted to learn! AND, my professor lets me play his piano, which is good because I don't want to forget everything that I know.| AND, I'm going to be apart of a drama class thing at our big theater. It wasn't just your average goof around and make silly faces drama club, it was an intense round of improvisations and analyzations. I'm really nervous as to how I'm going to be because I've never done any type of drama, but I strongly believe that it will help with my Croatian and it will also help me to build some charisma and meeting people skills.
Well, I wish I could write about each event and every detail, but that would just take forever, and I still have to record the past few days in my journal, like, the one that I physically write in. But if you're interested in Croatia and exchange and such, I'll give you the links to some other RYE inbounds to Croatia. They are all living in Zagreb, but that's okay. If you happen to go to Croatia for exchange, you'll have the biggest chance of living there.
It's so unfortunate, I reread this journal about a thousand times, every time a disappointment. I really wish I could convey to you the feelings of being in a whole new world. Perhaps I'll dedicate my next journal to being heartfelt and descriptive, instead of droning on about events and silly things. Hmm... Yes. Yes, that's a good idea. Stay tuned, and prepare for me to be sentimental next entry.
Hello, to whoever may be reading this. This is yet another journal entry from me, Adaline Carlile, outbound in Croatia. But, I'm going to announce something now. This journal won't be about me. It will be for all you exchangers out there now and exchangers to come. Fortunately, I'm writing my regular talk-about-life-and-stuff entry and that will be sent later on when it's finished, but I just felt the need to write a quick one about exchange and some extremely important advice.
I've been here for almost three months. Yes, that time has flown by. I mean, it seems like just yesterday when I was at my interviews, getting calls from Rotary about my country, going to the orientations, and impatiently waiting for the day when I could finally embark on my journey. But, then again, it's hard to imagine that it has ONLY been three months. I mean, so much has happened - relationships have grown, I've learned more of the language, and I've discovered a lot about life outside of my little box. Honestly, it seems like I've grown up here, and that my life back in Florida is only a dream.
If there is one thing that I've learned so far that I really feel the need to share with everyone, it's what I'm about to say. If you go on exchange looking to experience all the tales and stories you've read and heard about from people involved with it, then I have news for you. You WILL be disappointed. What is exchange? Is every exchange the same? No! If every exchange were the same, everyone would eventually get bored. Where is the fun in doing something everyone else has already done? Where is the benefit from experiencing all of the good times of exchange but never going through the hard parts? Exchange is so much more than learning a language, it's so much more than going to cool new places... Exchange is breaking out of your comfort zone and going out into the world, learning things about life, reality, the world, and yourself, whether it be the best year of your life or not.
One of the worst things you can do while on exchange is constantly compare your exchange to others. Whenever I went through a hard time, I began to think, "Why is this happening to me? I bet the others are having a better time with this than I am..." I began to get so down on myself because I felt as though my situation wasn't as fortunate as the others spread across the world. Luckily, I began to realize that life is life - it's not a fairy tale, it has it's ups and downs, that's something I can't control. But what I CAN control is how I react to them. I eventually came to my senses and realized that my exchange is going to be how I make it. No one can write it for me, no one can experience it for me either. If I want to make the best of things, I need to live in the moment and enjoy the good times and endure the hard. I've accepted the fact that my exchange is mine, only I can ever have it, therefore I want it to be different from the rest. I like it better that way. I'm glad things didn't turn the cookie-cutter way I imagined them to be. I'm glad that things didn't turn out the way I fantasized them to be, because if they HAD been that way, how boring and ordinary my exchange story will be when I'm home.
Expectations are a killer. They have been my greatest disappointment and problem while I've been here. And I think that the majority of exchangers would agree. When thinking about exchange, people tend to start fantasizing about what it's going to be like for them. They gather a whole bunch of advice and cool stories from other exchange students, they go through the RYE training, they hear speeches of how it will be the best year of their lives, this and that, exchange will be like this, you will do that, you'll accomplish this! All this talk of what will happen really intrigues people. I made expectations. They told me that I'll be fluent around New Years? Okay. I'll be really good at Croatian soon! This girl got to go skiing and start a soccer team at her school? Cool! I'll do that too! Dream after dream, fantasy after fantasy, I was so anxious to finally live it. But, when I got here, to be honest, I didn't have that "honeymoon" stage Rotary talks about. I got here, almost disappointed, because life here is, well, normal. Sure it's not the life you had back at home, but it's not some heavenly realm that's beyond your wildest imagination! It's life! It's real! Many exchangers have already become disappointed because they aren't having that "typical exchange". Of course not. You're in a completely different country than 95% of the people you talked to beforehand. What did you expect to do? For all my fellow outbounds having a difficult time, and for those that will face this same problem, it's okay. This is all part of exchange, the good AND the bad. They are what give exchange character and balance! Besides, we still have so much time to pick things up and make the best of everything! :) <3
So, before I end this little spiel, I'm going to wrap this journal up in a few sentences. When you go on exchange, don't come with expectations. As hard as that may be, be prepared to be thrown off-guard, be prepared to be disappointed, be prepared to have your hopes let down. It's going to happen. No matter how wonderful things may seem at first. But THAT'S OKAY. That's part of life! Part of exchange! I'm glad I learned this lesson, to stop comparing myself to others and to stop trying to live by my expectations because it's freed me and allowed me to enjoy everything that I've been blessed with here, and I live each day in the moment rather than constantly looking towards what I expect will happen. Setting goals is okay, and in fact, it's a good idea! It gives you something to work for! But expectations? Like I just previously mentioned. Bad... I've now realized that I'm not here simply to learn a language and live in a new place for ten months, I'm here to experience once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, create ever-lasting bonds with people, learn about the world and myself, and take each challenge with a strong heart. Life here for me now is better than ever, and I know another hardship is on it's way soon. But, I'm excited to take it on, because everything that I've learned to accept and love here is completely worth it. Don't give it all up because it's tough. :)
That's all. :) Until I write again! I have loads to tell you all! With pictures and a video! Oooooh, it's going to be very nice. >:)
Adaline (or "Eddey", or "Edeline" said in a Croatian accent. XD )
Bok, prijatelji! Kako ste? Sretan Božić i Nova Godina! Darn! I can't believe I missed the month of December! I just might have to send in TWO journals this month to make up for the missed adventures. Dobro? Dobro! The last time I sent my journal entry, I didn't really elaborate on my own adventure, but I instead wrote about revelations I had had and what I feel is a true part of exchange. I also remember remarking on how I felt as though life is really too good to be true, too good that I knew something difficult was bound to happen soon. Well, let me tell you... This past month has been one of the hardest months of my life. Rotary, and everyone else who says this, is NOT kidding when they say it's going to be difficult. I didn't expect it to be easy, but I had always thought to myself that I've been in plenty of hard times, awkward times, and everything in between, and that these "hard times" they speak of will only be another obstacle that life throws in your direction. I mean, what could make them SO SPECIAL? Well. Ha. I've been put in situations where I would have rather DIED than face it. I never would have had to face those problems and learn those lessons had I not come on this journey. Or maybe I would have, but later on in my life in different ways, and I find it's better to learn while you're young anyhow. :) I mean, really. It's something I can't explain, a lot of it things I choose not to discuss, and other things are only understood through first-hand experience.
This past month was obviously the holiday month, December. We had New Years', Christmas, and a new holiday, St. Nicholas Day. And all of them were the first time I had spent them away from home. St. Nicholas Day is held on December 6 of every year, and actually, he's the "protector saint" or something like that of Varaždin! Well, anyway, on the night of December 6, St. Nicholas comes, along with Krampus, the evil devil guy, and puts goodies into your boot on your windowsill. Krampus will put sticks in your boot: silver if your moderately bad and golden if you're really bad. I, of course, got golden... No, but seriously. I did. It was nice! Then a couple of weeks down the road, there was Christmas! I woke up really early that morning to the sound of my little host sister opening her gifts that BABY JESUS left. That's right, kids. Baby Jesus leaves your presents, not Santa. Anyway, so, I groggily went out and joined the party. I opened my gifts: I got three awesome books (I've become a book worm) and a really pretty homemade bag that has cute buttons! Thanks, baby Jesus! Wink wink... I also got some packages from home and some other presents from other host family members. :) Then we went to mass, and that was really awkward because it was so full of people that they were standing. So, I had to sit in the front...where everyone could see me. And I had no idea what was going on when it came to hand motions, prayers, singing, etc. Talk about awkward when you just stare blankly at the floor. But, it was still fun. We then went home and prepared the apartment for our guests! My host aunt and uncle and four cousins came to our place for Christmas lunch. Lunch consisted of delicious items, like turkey, the must-have soup, salad, vegetables, and this delicious stuffing sort of thing that I can't remember the name of. After a lot of spending time with family, when it became late evening, I packed my things and went to my best friend Paula's house. It was like a second Christmas! The only sad part was that her little brother, Toni, looked like the Grinch because the night before he had fallen and busted his lip. A tooth even fell out... Good thing he only has baby teeth!
Unfortunately, the postal service on my end has been a pain in the butt. First, I'm unable to send packages over 450 grams to the USA. Thank you, terrorism. I was so excited to mail gifts home to my family and friends, I had packed them and everything. When my host mom and I got to the post office, they tell us that they are too heavy and that we can only send package 450 or smaller. I thought, WHAT?! And my host mom also thought, WHAT?! She had such a huge package for her daughter, Donata, back in Florida. We were both thoroughly disappointed. And to be quite frank, it killed my mood, man. But, we improvised and downsized our packages. I sent four little packages total to the U.S. Two have gotten there, and the other two are still lost in space. Great. When it comes to receiving packages, the one from my grandma Bonnie still hasn't come and it's been a month. And they like to tax you. My mom had sent an iPod for Christmas (she feels the need to spoil me because I'm not home anymore...). Well, we had to go to customs like three different times to sort out the mess, just so I could get the package, and they ended up making me pay 400 kunas, about $60, because Croatia want their tax money. ... I hate taxes. But, other than that, everything has been great with the postal service!
When it comes to daily life, there isn't really much to be said. It's been my Christmas break, so everyday has been different. I went to Salzburg for a Rotary orientation with the Austrian inbounds and that was really amazing! I met a lot of really awesome people and I can't wait to see them again. The only sad part was that I had had an allergic reaction to a facial cream...and I had a swollen rash around my mouth. So, the majority of the time I looked like a terrorist because I had a scarf covering my mouth. And I'm sure you might be wondering about the weather. It's really bipolar here. We have times where there is a lot...A LOT...of snow, and then other times where it suddenly gets warm and it all melts. I hate when it melts. Either give me snow everyday or none at all! Geez! I also got to spend some time in Zagreb and hang out with the other Croatia inbounds. That was good fun! Actually, speaking of Zagreb, that was an adventure. We got lost numerous times and on my final day there, we missed about three train rides. THAT was frustrating, but a funny story nonetheless.
School is about to start soon, so I suppose I'll give an account of what my life will be like again. I'll wake up and get ready for school and walk about twenty minutes. I'll go to my first class, then the rest of the day depends on my schedule. Some days I have to stay for numerous class periods and others days I only have one class. Thank you to Rotary, we only have to choose six classes to get marks in. So, the other eleven subjects I'm not taking, I don't have to attend. But, I do anyway, because school is more of a social gathering of friends for me. I love my entire class. I couldn't have asked for a better one! I take pride in my 3.E. Whoop whoop! Then on Tuesday and Friday evenings, I have cello lessons at the music school, and on Wednesday nights I have drama class. In my free time I enjoy walking five minutes down the road to hang out with Paula. When we hang out I feel so carefree and I don't worry about much. She's definitely going to be the person that I'm going to miss the most when I leave. On the bright side, she's going to be living with me in Florida for a month this summer! Yippee!
Well, I'll close this journal up now. Like I said in my previous journal, I would have a video. And I actually do! But, it's not really worth showing. Ha, so, I'll make a better one and post it. ;) Oh, and as for the language... Croatian is the hardest language ever. Okay, not the hardest, but one of the hardest. While people in German or Spanish speaking countries learn fairly quick, people learning Slavic languages, or Hungarian, or any of those languages, really struggle because they are completely opposite from English. The number one thing you have to do is to try not to compare yourself with the languages skills of kids in other countries. It's a different story for everyone.
Doviđenja! Adaline C.
''Moj mali je opasan! Kad je mjesec mlad! Moj mali je opasan! Kada krene u grad!'' Well, those are lyrics to an amazing Croatian song that is currently stuck in my head. Ha! Anyway... Bok! Kako ste? Odlično sam! ... Ja bih rekla više, ali ne znam kaj pričati! I prijatelji, nemojte se smijati! Mi znamo da moj hrvatski je....dobar. Ahem. Yah. Moving along now! I've been here in Croatia for six months, and it's hard to believe that I leave in four months. Could it really be only four months? Yes, I suppose it is true, now that I have my departure date and all. June 20th is the day my life here in Croatia has to come to an end. Lame. But, let's talk about this past month rather than dreading what's to come, shall we?
I suppose the biggest news would be my switch to a new family! Now I'm living with my friend Tena Novak, who's now moja sestra. And even bigger than that, I don't reside in Varaždin anymore! I live in a small small town about twenty minutes outside of the city called Prelog. So how do I get to school? I ride a bus, then a train, then I use my two feet. I'm waking up at five twenty every morning, in which I then have to ride a small bus to a neighboring village in order to get to the train station. From there I ride a twenty-five minute to thirty minute train to Varaždin. With thirty minutes to spare before school begins, my host sister, a few classmates, and I all go to the Rock Art Café and drink ourselves some coffee or tea. Actually, I usually get some delicious hot chocolate or iced coffee. (Yes, I understand the fact that its freezing outside and there is the occasional morning snowfall, but a vanilla Nescaffe shake totally hits the spot!) It's definitely a new experience to use this system of transportation, something I never dreamed I'd get to do in fact. I mean, who knew I'd ride trains to school for my junior year!? I love it! Of course mistakes and scary incidents are in order when first starting out the new system... Like riding at night after a cello lesson and getting off at what you thought was the wrong stop because it was dark and lifeless and looked like you were going to get murdered, so you ran back on and ended up going all the way to the last station before the Hungarian border, while later finding out that the first station you got off of was the right station, it just happens to be more obscure than you thought. But, you know, not like that happened to me or anything. Ha. Pfffft. No way. ...
It's been a month at my new place and it's hard to believe that I haven't been living with the family that took me in for my first five months of exchange, the ones that gave me a place to stay, food to eat, and a rack full of life-lessons and fun memories. The Rihtarić family will always be with me and I can't thank them enough for everything they did for me, for the times they dealt with me when I was difficult and going through hard times in my life. I really owe a lot to them, and I'll be forever grateful for their accepting me as one of their own. They've provided me with so many opportunities, so many experiences; their enthusiasm for bringing me into their home and helping me adapt was more than I could have ever asked for! I'm going to miss them dearly, and I look forward to staying in touch with them and having them remain a part of my life, even after I'm home in Florida! Volim vas!
Some really exciting things that are going to take place during my four remaining months are as follows: SKI CAMP! The Croatian inbounds were invited to the Austrian inbounds ski camp for a week in March! It was actually pretty last minute decision, so unfortunately not many of us can go. Actually, out of the eleven of us, there are only two going, one of those people being me! I'm really excited though because I've never been skiing before and it will DEFINITELY be an experience to remember forever! The only downside to my story is, I'm not going on the Eurotour. After much deciding and debate, I decided that there are other things that I want to partake in that have more benefits for me. Like the ski camp, and also when my family comes, I'm going to be traveling with them around Europe to visit some other family that I have here. That's going to be really amazing! And also, I decided to go with my church to Africa next November... So, although I won't tour all of Europe, I'm going to be doing some other pretty amazing things that I'm even more excited about! :) Oh yes, speaking of my family, they come two days after my birthday, April 8th! I can't believe it! I'm so stoked to have them meet all of my family here, my friends, see my home, how I have been living my life, and sharing with them everything I love about Croatia! And I'm also REALLY excited to speak Croatian while they're here! I've been getting much much better! I strongly believe that by the time I leave, my Croatian will be off the heezy! Yippee!
On a more serious note, the questions that always come to my mind are, "How have I grown, how have I changed, who am I now?" I mean, it's hard for me to see my differences. I know they are there, but I can't tell you in what ways. But, I feel like I haven't changed, but more so I've matured. I remember Paula Roderick talking to a group of students at the orientation before we all departed. She said that we don't really change, it's just like we push the fast forward button on our lives and grow at a much quicker pace. And the way I look at things, that's exactly how I feel in my situation. Yet, I still couldn't tell you the ways that I've grown. These changes I probably won't be able to recognize until I return to the states, maybe even a couple years afterwards! This exchange has shaped me in many different ways, and I know that it doesn't end when I leave, but it continues on throughout the rest of my life! One thing I know for sure is that it has opened my eyes. It's helped me decide where I want to go in my life, it's inspired me to succeed and do so many things I never would have thought of if I hadn't come on this exchange. I've realized that life has so much to offer! It's a story, and it doesn't end when I leave Croatia, but rather opens to a new chapter, a new adventure, full of new opportunities and hardships, lessons, and blessings. I know I have four months left of my exchange, but I sometimes can't help but imagine what my life will be like in the future. I'm ready and excited to take on whatever it brings me!
Goodness, writing these journals is always so hard, at least for me. Mainly because so much happens each day, it's hard to choose what to write about. So, I either write to much or not enough... Hopefully this was an okay journal, but I will open this invitation to you. If you are curious about Croatia, thinking of coming here for vacation or exchange, or anything, anything at all, and you want to ask someone, FEEL FREE TO CONTACT ME. I won't find it creepy. I promise! I LOVE talking to people about this kind of stuff! But seriously, just add me on the Face and just let me know who you are and that you read this journal entry or something like that! I'M SO EAGER TO SHARE EVERYTHING WITH YOU. So do it, if you dare! Especially you 2011-2012 RYE Florida outbound class! :)
Well, I can't think of anything else to write about, or rather, I'm thinking of everything to write about but I doubt it will hold much of any importance to you. ;)
So I’m sitting here jamming to artists like The Tempest Trap, Foster the People, and Two Theatre Cinema Club while reminiscing about my past two months that I haven’t covered in my journal. I suppose I could write about everything I’ve done, and I’m sure a lot of you would be really curious as to what that is, but I think I should focus on the more important things I’ve come to learn about myself. … Okay, I’ll sacrifice a paragraph or two quickly listing the adventures I went on, because believe me, these past two (or three… I've lost count) have been some of the most adventurous yet!
In March, I dressed up as a gypsy at school, along with the rest of the girls in my class, for Maškare. (It’s a pretty international holiday, by the way.) I didn’t know how to react to this, but this group of seniors came to school dressed as four terrorists, an airplane, and the Twin Towers. Then they flew around chasing the Towers… Also in March, from the 19th to the 26th, I spent a week in Schladming , Austria skiing with the Rotary Austria inbounds. That was one of the BEST weeks of my life! Let’s see… What else? April 6th was my 17th birthday! And on April 8th my mom and sister flew into Zagreb! The next day, on April 9th, my host family threw a surprise party for me. It. Was. AWESOME. Probably the best birthday ever so far! You know how they got me out of the house? My host family knows a cosmetologist and they told me that she wanted to test her makeup on skin with a lot of freckles because the following weekend she had a bride with a lot of freckles. I just thought I was going to be a guinea pig, suffer through a makeover (if you know me, I NEVER wear makeup…), and then come home to be a lazy bum! But no, I come home to a large group of people attacking me with the word “SURPRISE!” and throwing kisses at me in every direction. I didn’t suspect a THING. One great thing about Croatia (as there are VERY many), they make you feel so loved on your birthday! They come shake your hand, say “Sretan rođendan!”, and then they give you two kisses on each cheek. I’m totally bringing that custom back with me to the States.
For two weeks in April, my family and I traveled around a small part of Europe for a little bit, meeting people we knew in almost every city! First we went to Budapest, where we met Carleigh McFarlane (read her journal!) , then drove to Salzburg where I met my buddy from Texas. We stayed the night in Innsbruck, then drove to Bern, Switzerland and stayed with a friend for a few days. (My favorite place in Europe so far, besides Croatia!) That’s where my dad met us! After Bern, we went to Venice. It’s so easy to get claustrophobic in there… Then we stayed the night in a small city on the coast in Poreč, Croatia. The following day we went to Kruševo and stayed with my best friend Paula and her family in their vacation home on the coast! While staying there we climbed an awesome mountain thing, visited Split, Zadar, and Šibenik, and witnessed my dads (Paula’s dad and my dad) drink a little too much “apple juice”, as they liked to call it. It was quite a sight. But I’ll admit, I enjoyed watching them two get along so well! Just watching them sit together and boisterously laugh together at the smallest things was memorable. From there we visited Plitvice Lakes, then drove back home and spent Easter weekend with my host family. All in all, it was an incredible trip. I was so happy to share my Croatian home with my family. For spring break, Rotary took us to Dubrovnik for four days. It’s one of the most well-known cities that is situated at the southern-most point of Croatia. It was beautiful! The Adriatic Sea is incredible (and extremely chilly in April, I might add). I didn’t mind so much the city, I just wanted to sit on my favorite spot on our (us exchangers) special beach all day and appreciate the cliffs, the mysterious cave carved into the rock wall, and the crystal clear water lightly splashing over the edges my favorite sitting stone. Dreamy, eh?
So, now that I’ve given a (very) brief overview of my adventures I’ve had, it’s really time to get to the more important and meaningful affairs of my life. Where do I even begin? I guess I’m going to sound like a broken record at this next part, but where has the time gone? It just continues to slip from my grasp and before I know it, a month has flown by in a blink of an eye. My day count is roughly fifty days now, and I’ve become stressed with the amount I want to do, to accomplish, to see, and I realize that I have so little time to do it. Every weekend I have left here is booked; my life is scheduled until the day I depart from this place. What a strange feeling… It seemed like just yesterday when I was still sitting at home because I didn’t know enough people, or places, to occupy myself. But now, I’ll probably never get the chance to hang out with people I had planned on hanging out with, I won’t be able to go to this place or that place, all because my time is scarce. Why does everything have to happen at the end? It leaves the exchange year very imbalanced! Ha! I don’t know, I just can’t fathom what it’s going to be like when I’m home. My exchange life over, never to be obtained again. Never to know when you’ll be back, never to know when you’ll see these people again, or IF you’ll ever see them again. So many unknowns, but isn’t that what it’s like when you begin your exchange? So many questions you have and so many unknowns. But that’s what makes exchange students unique. We go ahead and dive into the unknown, eager to explore it and learn new things, to make those unknown things become known. That’s what it’s all about! So, even though it’s the end of living my life in Croatia, it’s not the end of my adventure, of my life story. It’s the beginning of a new chapter, and I’m going to bring so much this chapter into the next. And when I finally do leave this place, I count on the fact that it won’t be “Goodbye”, but “Bok, vidimo se uskoro.” (Bye, we’ll see each other soon.)
Another revelation I’ve come to realize is this; I want to do a lot in my life, I want to travel, to see places, but there’s one key ingredient that I want most. I want it to have a deeper, insightful meaning. I’ve traveled a lot while living here, and I’ve seen some pretty amazing things, but I’ve learned that places are places and things are things. I’ve never truly enjoyed something unless it carried meaning to my life. Spending time on the coast? Great! Spending time on the coast with my best friends and family? Amazing! But even then, I want it to go farther. I’ve been doing a lot of research, planning my future, you know, what I’ve recently found I like to do, and I’ve come across some pretty amazing opportunities. As of now, I plan on spending a summer in Cambodia volunteering at an orphanage, and after I graduate I plan on spending at least a few months in Kenya volunteering with kids in a music program. This upcoming November I’m actually going to Kenya for a mission trip with my church. Now, THOSE are the places I want to go to, the places I want to see, that’s just the thing I want to do. I don’t really care if I was stationed in the most luxurious city or the crappiest tribal village, being there making a difference, helping people, sharing Christ’s light, doing something with a deeper meaning, THAT’S my goal in life. And I’m excited to embark on all of those journeys! I don’t really know how to explain it into words, only those who’ve experienced it can understand, but exchange just opens your eyes and helps you realize what more there is to life, that it doesn’t have to be the cookie-cutter lifestyle most people tend to pursue just because they don’t know anything else.
I’ll close this journal now with a thought I just had today. When others go on exchange, they feel like their host country is the place they should have been born in, that they feel they truly belong there instead of where they actually are from. In my case, I beg to differ. The United States is my country, but so is Croatia. But I feel like I don’t fully belong in either. Rather, I feel like I’m a citizen of the globe, like I still have yet to belong in numerous other places throughout my life. Because I know for a fact I don’t belong in just one place.
Anyway, I hope to write more soon! As for now, I give you all a bok bok and a pusa.