Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Journal Entry July 20 from Rtina, Croatia (Sam's post)

I woke up early with a dry throat because I didn’t have much water the night before and I’m not used to the new hot climate.  I walked to see the fresh light on the water.  There were dry hills in the distance, which reminded me of the Columbia Gorge.  Thoughts in my mind forced me to realize that I’m here, the land of my great grandfather.  I keep telling myself that I need to slow down.  Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve been running from place to place, stopping only to eat.  Not the way I desire this journey.  Then when I do stop, it forces me to try to slow down time. 

Zagreb was an amazing place at a glance.  We left after a very quick two days with not much rest.  We were feeling overwhelmed by our new culture.  It was great to see our new apartment.  It was much smaller than we expected because the pictures didn’t really show the scale of the place.  We are still very happy with it.  The view is just amazing from the balcony and I can see the stadium from there.  I’ll be able to hear games even when I’m not there. 

Back to the present…I’m sitting here at the café with a waterfront view.  It’s 7:20 am and I’m the only one here.  I like it that way.  The water here is so beautiful and clear.  The color is turquoise.  The sound of the breeze and the current is small to none.  Not a single whitecap in sight.  I’m having a small breakfast by myself, while letting Katie sleep in. 

Most summer days back home I wake up before Katie.  I usually fetch her an Americano and a pastry at Northtown and Essencia Bakery back in Yakima.  It makes me wonder how that’s going to work in Zagreb.  That’s the fun part.  That’s the mystery.  What stones will I look under to find such little pleasures? 

It’s been nice having Lucy here in so many ways.  Most noticeably because of the “Croatian Stare.”  Our last time here in 2009, we got a lot of looks by the locals, mainly because we look different.  I was in the main part of Zagreb and we sat by some Americans.  We started a conversation and they said how we look like Americans due to the fact that I was a wearing a backwards baseball hat.  To my amazement, I looked around the plaza filled with hundreds of people and I was the only one wearing a hat.  It makes me wonder how to respond to this, with conformity or originality or a little bit of both?  I think the latter because I’m simply a reflection of my culture and environment. But that will change now.  Thus bringing up the question, how is this experience going to change me?  And how much am I going to let it change me?  Will I be hardened or open to the change? 

But having Lucy breaks the tension with the locals.  They look at Lucy and just smile.  They don’t size us up with quick judgment.  Don’t get me wrong here; the Croatians have every right to be a little leery of strangers.  They were in a war just 20 years ago.  During that time, I’m sure it was tough to trust any outsider.  Before I arrived, I made it a major point to study the history of Croatia.  So when I encounter a stare or misinterpretation I can at least come to the understanding of their past. It will help me be less defensive and more adaptive. 

Well I think it’s time to see how Katie is sleeping and give her a nudge to enjoy the nice morning weather and have some breakfast. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Zagreb Bound (Katie's Post)

            Dread.  That’s honestly mostly what I was feeling the days leading up to us leaving.  Dreading saying goodbye to family and friends.  Dreading putting Lucy on the plane.  Dreading putting myself on the plane.  The night before leaving, I asked my dad to give me a mini-sermon to help me feel better.  He helped me to put things in perspective.  Like for instance when I said, “What if the plane crashes and Lucy is stuck inside the plane and we all die.” 
            “Well first of all, that just won’t happen because planes are the safest way to travel.  And even if you did die, it would be okay because you’d get to see Grandma.”  And then my mom threw in a sermon of her own by saying, “You have to remember the peace you felt when you first decided to move to Croatia.  You knew it was the right decision then.  And it’s still the right decision now.”  Sometimes I really need two preachers in my life.
            The next morning, we woke up bright and early and climbed into the van with our 8 suitcases, 2 backpacks, dog crate, and puppy.  Once we reached the SeaTac exit, I was feeling sick and anxious all over.  But here’s the thing.  I know that God went before me and took care of several things that He knew would throw me into a tailspin.  For example, when we arrived at the airport there was absolutely no one in the Lufthansa line.  Therefore, we could put our ridiculous amount of luggage on several carts and wheel them right up to the counter without having to wait in line with them.  You know the paperwork that we were sure they would check as we left the country?  They didn’t need it.  I could have a nice long rant about the absurdity of spending $60 each way to FedEx the state USDA department so that someone in a cubicle can charge me $37 to stamp a piece of paper to make it look really important and cause us to lose sleep and panic that we can’t take Lucy with us.  But I don’t want to bore my readers.  

            So we dressed Lucy in her Thundershirt, fastened her water bowl to the crate, put a ridiculous amount of stickers on her crate giving every address that she could be sent to in the event that she got lost, and said goodbye.  She honestly stared at me through the tiny holes of her crate until the elevator door closed.  It was really scary, but I honestly felt relief that it was out of my hands and I didn’t have to dread it anymore.  But then we had to say goodbye to my parents, which was a whole different kind of sadness.  I consider myself very lucky to have such a close relationship to my mom and dad.  I go to both of them for advice and direction and encouragement.  It’s been a rough couple of years in my family and I know that leaving them behind means putting all of my trust that they will still be taken care of.  I was dreading this most of all.  But knowing that I had their prayers and support and the fact that we’ll be seeing them at Christmas gave me the strength to say goodbye.  I know we’ll still be able to Skype, call, Facebook and email whenever we want to.  Plus I’m excited to scout out Croatia so that we know all the places to take them when they come in April.
            After sending Lucy off and giving my parents a hug goodbye, I felt ready to leave the dread behind and start getting excited about the adventure that is ahead of us.  The flights were uneventful, which is always wonderful for a person who’s more than a little afraid of flying.  Plus we had individual television screens, so in typical American fashion, I watched TV for ten hours.  We flew so far north that we skipped nighttime altogether, even though we left Seattle at 1:15pm and got to Frankfurt at 8:30 am. 
            As we flew into Zagreb, I could feel the excitement building for both Sam and me.  We were here.  We had made it.  The hours of packing, cleaning, moving, planning, emailing, traveling, and worrying were over.  It felt amazing. 
            We scurried through customs very quickly and headed straight towards the baggage claim. The first thing we saw was our little Lucy, coming down the conveyer belt.  She made it.  We let her out and I could tell that she was just as relieved as us.  The thing about Croatians is that they have a certain “look” towards people.  I call it the Croatian stare.  When we were here last time, it made me feel really uncomfortable and out of place, like everyone hated me.  But now I realize that they’re just a little slow to trust newcomers and that they do it to everyone.  That is, unless you have a Lucy.  The airport was full of people just smiling, knowing how happy the three of us were to be together again. 

            From there we had 2 people from our school pick us up.  Lidija is the main HR person and Robert does some random jobs for the school including taxiing people around.  We had emailed Lidija back and forth so many times with so many silly questions that we felt we were old friends.  First, they drove us to our new apartment.  My first thoughts of Zagreb were:  wow, they must really like corn (it’s planted everywhere) and graffiti. It wasn’t exactly what I had expected at first.  The truth about Zagreb (now that I’m not sleep deprived and have seen more of the city and have had a pep talk from my mother) is that just like any other city, it has pretty parts and ugly parts. You just have to focus on the pretty parts. 
            A lot of the city still has communist architecture from the 70’s and 80’s.  It also has a lot of graffiti.  But lucky for me, I came from Yakima.  Our apartment is even better than the pictures.  I will be spending the next year of my life out on that terrace because it is that amazing.  Our landlords are so nice and also just love Lucy.  They’re even going to paint over their son’s blue and yellow room, which is one less thing that we need to take care of.  Just so you know, we are expecting visitors. 
            After that we went to our school.  What a contrast from the neighborhood of Adams.  I am definitely going to be teaching a different set of kids, that’s for sure.  We also picked up our new car, a Chrysler Sebring.  Isn’t it everyone’s dream to own a Chrysler in Europe??  It is actually more out of necessity.  We bought this car from the previous principal because otherwise we would have had to wait until we got our residency permit in October to buy a car.  It’s really not that bad. 
            Next, Lidija took us to our hotel for the night (we don’t actually get to move into our apartment until August, but we were able to leave 6 out of the 8 suitcases there.) You really just need to jump right in to driving in Croatia.  Otherwise you will see how crazy and awful the other drivers are and you will be too scared to ever get in a car as long as you are here.  After a quick detour, (initially we couldn’t get into the parking garage) we got to our hotel.  At which point we realized that we had left our computer charger, cameras, and Lucy’s dog food in one of the suitcases at our apartment.  But by this time, it was 7:00 at night and it was time for food.  My first meal in Zagreb was not what I expected it to be.  I thought I’d be wearing a cute little dress, have my hair recently washed, and be ready to enjoy the café culture.  Instead, I sat down at the café near the main square, having been awake for 30 hours, wearing yoga pants and TOMS, and with shampoo, conditioner and dog food on the table (I had to make a quick trip to the Konzum to get some necessities).  Oh well.

            Finally we were able to get some sleep, going to bed at 8:00, waking up from 1-3 with sheer panic of all things we may have forgotten and all the things we needed to get done.  Why does anxiety strike the most at night?  By morning, we were feeling much better and ready to explore our new city.  Zagreb is unlike any other city I’ve ever seen.  It is spectacular.  If you enjoy sitting outside with your puppy, enjoying a Schweppes Bitter Lemon and some great food, then Zagreb is the place for you.  I am so excited to get back there and spend hours outside under an umbrella.  We were also able to register with the police (not a fun experience, but something that had to be done) and have lunch with some new coworkers.  Even though we had been out of the country for about 48 hours, it was nice to speak with people in English and know that they were feeling the same things that we were feeling.  And again, the food…wow.  I want to have that focaccia bread with 4 types of olive oil every day for the rest of my life. 
       Right now, we’ve moved down to the coast to escape the heat.  On the way down, we stopped at Plitvice Lakes, which are some of the most amazing lakes I’ve ever seen.   

And today, we’ve spent the day at the beach.  We are now sitting seaside, waiting for our Cevapcici and enjoying the fact that we can finally enjoy our summer.  I’m focusing on one day at a time and not thinking too far in the future.  For now, all I have in my future is sun, relaxation, food, and my Sammy and Lucy to keep me company. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Moving across the world (Katie's post)

If you were to look at my Facebook profile from the last month, you might think that we successfully moved out of our house, enjoyed a leisurely vacation in Colorado Springs, visited family, and packed our bags neatly and efficiently.  That's the thing about Facebook.  It's deceiving.  Yes, we did move out of our house in Yakima.  But a lot of our stuff ended up in garbage bags thrown into the back of our Fit.  It was not neat or efficient.

I finished school on Wednesday, June 20th.  On Thursday, we packed up our garage, took a load to the dump, took a load to Goodwill, and took a load to my parents' house.  Friday through Monday was spent saying goodbye to my brother and his family as they packed up and moved to Ottawa.  Then back to Yakima from Monday through Friday to pack, clean and move out of the house we've lived in for six years.  It's pretty tricky to pack for 1 week in Colorado Springs for a wedding, 3 weeks traveling to the beach in Croatia, then packing the clothes you want to take to Croatia, clothes you want to leave back home, and clothes you want to just get rid of.  Needless to say, our house was just piles of stuff for a week.  How many shoes ARE really necessary? Does this shirt look "Zagreb-ish"?  How hard is it to find a memory foam mattress topper?  I was amazed at how many strange things I was tempted to pack, not knowing if it was necessary or not.

On Friday, we took our last load of things to Ellensburg and Olympia.  It was a mix of pure relief that it was packed and sadness that we may never live at 414 S. 14th Ave. ever again.  Off we went with furniture sticking out of the truck in every direction.  Of course as we started to drive to Cle Elum, it started to rain.  This meant that we had to park under cover, find a tarp, redo all of the bungees, recover all of our stuff and drive on.  Well of course, it then stopped raining, which was good because I'm pretty sure that tarp would have taken off on it's own eventually.  But finally we made it to Olympia without a single thing flying out of the back of our truck.  I'm so thankful that we have family members that are willing to house our stuff while we're gone.  Our entire bedroom set is actually set up in Sam's brother's house in Olympia.  All the rest of our earthly belongings are stacked high in my parent's garage.

So after we got moved out, Sam, my parents and I piled into their Honda to drive down to Colorado Springs for my cousin's wedding.  If you had watched the news, you'd know that wildfires were inching dangerously close to the downtown of Colorado Springs the week before my cousin, Amy's wedding.  On top of that, my grandfather (who also lives in Colorado Springs) went into the hospital at about the same time.  A wedding alone is enough to stress a family out, but to have wildfires and family in the hospital...well, you can imagine.  There were a lot of highs and lows in that week.  The wedding was beautiful and wonderful and full of emotion for all of us.  I was a bridesmaid and a photographer.  We were so excited to head home from the church and reminisce about the day.  But when we arrived home, we realized that Amy's (the bride) dog had escaped from the backyard.  So off we went in our slickers (because it was raining of course) to look for little Zoey.  Even though she wasn't found that night, she was found several days later.

On our way back to Ellensburg, we decided to make a quick detour through the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone.  A "quick detour" in Martin language means a 17 and a half hour trip in the car in one day.  Sam only lost it once.  He's a trooper.  :)  I loved the time spent with my parents as I never do see my dad quite as happy as when he's in a National Park. And my mom can always make me laugh so hard I cry.

After getting home, we took our last trip to Yakima to say goodbye to dear friends.  We also had to take Lucy to the vet for an appointment.  We had given our vet the paperwork for Lucy to travel to Croatia back in March.  We assumed (shame on us) that he would read the paperwork and have everything done by the time we came in on Wednesday.  The paperwork had to be signed by a USDA accredited vet, sent into the USDA state office and be stamped, then sent back to us within 10 days of us traveling.  Well, if you've caught on to the theme of this post, you'll know that this did not happen.  Our vet was not even a USDA accredited vet which means nothing had been sent in.  On top of that, the paperwork for Croatia changed last week.  LAST WEEK!!  So as panic set in, Sam was left to drive about 20 minutes out of Yakima on Wednesday evening to get the paperwork signed.  I, in the meantime, had a very pleasant, productive, helpful conversation with a lady at the state USDA office (they really need to find a way to write things in a sarcastic tone).  She was actually an angry, unhappy government employee that found no use in trying to be helpful to the crazy lady (me) on the other end of the phone.  She actually told me that I could not bring in the paperwork to her in Tumwater (since we were planning on coming to Olympia the next day anyway), but that I could FedEx the documents and possibly get it back before our flight on Monday.  In what world does it make sense to FedEx something to a person when you can just hand the paper to them???  But then I remembered that the USDA office, just like the public education system, is a government run program.  Common sense is not so common when it comes to government run programs.  Bright and early the next morning, we sent out our documents through FedEx using the fastest shipping option possible.

So here we are on Friday night, still uncertain as to whether our little Lucy will be on the plane with us when we leave on Monday.  It's the first of (I'm sure) many obstacles we'll have to deal with as we move to a foreign country.  I know that this experience will stretch me.  It will force me to trust.  It will make me work through the anxiety that I feel when things are out of my control.  So even though I may look like everything is wonderful on Facebook doesn't mean that it's the reality of my life.  It's so tempting to look at other people and assume that because they look like they have their life together that they actually do.  We all have struggles and we all need grace.  In this time, I especially need prayer as I'm about to jump into the scariest thing I've ever done.  Just as I'm sure that this will be an amazing adventure, I also know that it will not be easy.  But I hope that I will continue to trust that God's hand of protection will be carrying us through.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Move (Sam’s post)

             Boy did I underestimate the process of moving out our house, putting things in storage, and getting the house ready for new our tenants.  Let’s just say I’m hiring movers next time we move out of a house.  Basically it feels like we haven’t had a day off since our last days of school in mid June. However we borrowed my dad’s truck and started packing and moving our stuff to Katie’s parents’ house in early May. They let us use their extra space in their garage. That was so very generous of them and it’s saving us a great deal of money during our big move. We would pack and take a load pretty much every weekend.  This helped out a lot and we spread out the workload over 2 months. This in return also gave us more time to spend with Katie’s family. Here is a video clip of our stuff packed to the gills in the garage at Katie’s parents’ house.  

Monday, July 2, 2012

Inspiration from Chris McCandless (Sam's Post)

            Sometimes I wake up in the middle of night with a jolt of fright about moving to Zagreb.  Then after about 15 seconds, my faith calms me down a bit while my heart still races. I think to myself, how can I be so sure about this direction that we are about to take?  In truth it’s hard to find the answers, but I came across something that aligned my tracks again.  It comes from the book, “Into the Wild” by John Krakauer. It’s a letter that Christopher McCandless in his mid 20’s wrote to his older friend Ron before Chris’s big adventure into Alaska.


I really enjoy all the help you have given me and the times we spent together. I hope that you will not be too depressed by our parting. It may be a very long time before we see each other again. But providing that I get through this Alaskan Deal in one piece you will be hearing from me again in the future. I'd like to repeat the advice I gave you before, in that I think you really should make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing or been to hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one piece of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, Ron, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to this scheme of life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty. And so, Ron, in short, get out of Salton City and hit the Road. I guarantee you will be very glad you did. But I fear that you will ignore my advice. You think I am stubborn, but you are even more stubborn than me. You had a wonderful chance on your drive back to see one of the greatest sights on earth, the Grand Canyon, something every American should see at least once in his life. But for some reason incomprehensible to me you wanted nothing but to bolt for home as quickly as possible, right back to the same situation which you see day after day after day. I fear you will follow this same inclination in the future and thus fail to discover all the wonderful things that God has placed around us to discover. Don't settle down and sit in one place. Move around, be nomadic, make each day a new horizon. You are still going to live a long time, Ron, and it would be a shame if you did not take the opportunity to revolutionize your life and move into an entirely new realm of experience.

You are wrong if you think Joy emanates only or principally from human relationships. God has placed it all around us. It is in everything and anything we might experience. We just have to have the courage to turn against our habitual lifestyle and engage in unconventional living.

My point is that you do not need me or anyone else around to bring this kind of light in your life. It is simply waiting out there for you to grasp it, and all you have to do is reach for it. The only person you are fighting is yourself and your stubbornness to engage in new circumstances.

Ron, I really hope that as soon as you can you will get out of Salton City, put a little camper on the back of your pickup, and start seeing some of the great work that God has done here in the American West. You will see things and meet people and there is much to learn from them. And you must do it economy style, no motels, do your own cooking, as a general rule spend as little as possible and you will enjoy it much more immensely. I hope that the next time I see you, you will be a new man with a vast array of new adventures and experiences behind you. Don't hesitate or allow yourself to make excuses. Just get out and do it. Just get out and do it. You will be very, very glad that you did.

Take care Ron,

Alex (a new name the Chris he gave himself)

(end of Chris letter)
           I know this sounds a little preachy, but for some I hope it does move them. I believe there is so much more to see in the world than one freeway corridor.  However I know it might be tough for people to leave situations such as jobs, family, and home life.   But I think it’s healthy to leave these securities to grow independently or as a family to challenge one’s contentment and to seek adventure.