Jonah, outbound to Croatia

Before a Rotary youth exchange student is allowed to spend a year abroad, they are required to attend an event known as “Outbound Orientation”. During this orientation, Rotarians and past exchange students describe everything there is to know about exchange to the kids who are about to leave. They talk about adapting to new cultures, what the kids are supposed to pack for the trip, and how they’ll react to exchange as the year goes on. Towards the beginning, I had a tough time believing the idea that some kids that completed an exchange a few years ago, would have any clue about how my exchange would go. But, I have to admit, they knew what they were talking about. Who would’ve guessed?

Since Christmas, time has gone by much faster. I feel as if I have only been here for a couple months, but in reality, I’ve hit my seven-month marker. And unfortunately, that means I’ll have to go back to Florida soon. In three months I’ll have no more fried squid on Fridays, no more coffee breaks during school, and no more krafne… You know, I don’t think anyone would mind if I just decided to live in Croatia for a few more years, just for a few more krafne. If Rotary disagrees, I will just send them a few krafne, then they’ll understand.

On a different note, the other exchange students in Croatia and I took a weekend trip to Dubrovnik last month. The city of Dubrovnik, located at the southernmost part of Croatia, is a city on the Adriatic Sea. It’s actually where Game of Thrones is filmed, and the new Star Wars, plus the new 007 movie. So it’s a pretty popular tourist destination with beautiful scenery and rich history. Anyway, we took a bus from Zagreb on Thursday night and arrived to Dubrovnik on Friday morning with the ride itself being a healthy 9 hours. Once we checked into our hotel, everyone got a much needed coffee. But because Dubrovnik is so touristic, the coffee cost almost triple what it would have been normally. We were so tired though, that nobody cared to spend a few extra kuna for some caffeine. The hotel we stayed at was nicer than anyone expected, and everyone took a power nap before we left to explore the older part of the city. We got to walk around the beautiful Dubrovnik Star i Grad, and even got to peek at some of the set of Star Wars and Game of Thrones.

We slept like rocks that night, and woke up the next morning to an enormous breakfast buffet. After we stuffed ourselves, we got on a bus with a bunch of other Rotarians to go to a city called Ston. Ston is known for its incredible salt production and vineyards. As a gift, we received bags of salt that were made in Ston. The Rotarians told us that no matter how much salt we ate, it wouldn’t have an effect on our bodies. So all the exchange students decided to try and prove them wrong by eating handfuls of salt. The Rotarians were right, It had no effect, other than our funny faces from all the raw salt in our mouths. In my opinion, it was probably the tastiest salt I’ve ever had. Once we recovered, everyone went to a local seafood restaurant and had a great time.

Later that night, we drove back to our hotel. Some of us chose to explore the city a bit more, while others chose to explore the hotel’s sauna and pool. Try and guess which one the guy from warm, beach filled Florida went to… Yeah, I must have spent more time in that sauna than anyone ever has. It was like a mini-Florida. Hot and humid, with everyone in their bathing suits. I felt right at home. The last day in Dubrovnik was fantastic. We spent all morning taking pictures of the city and its stone wall. And after that, we ate sandwiches on the bus ride back to Zagreb, and slept the rest of the way. Overall, great trip.

About a week later, Rotary club Zagreb hosted a fancy dinner party. It was great to see everyone in black tie, and even better to dress in it. Another great Rotary event with more fantastic people. And now, it’s Spring break. I didn’t make any huge plans to do anything. I’ve just been hanging out with friends and classmates (and a little bit of Netflix). And soon, I have my Eurotour with the exchange students in Croatia and Austria. We’ll be going all over Europe to places like Rome, Venice, Milan, Monaco, Avignon, Strasbourg, and Linz for two weeks in May. I’m really excited to go, and I can’t wait to post pictures on Facebook about it.

To wrap things up, I’m very happy in Croatia. I am having a magnificent time while I can, although it is a bummer that I have to leave soon. As always, thank you Rotary for everything you’ve given me, I am extremely grateful. Thank you, Hvala, Goodbye, Doviđenja.