Thursday, October 30, 2008

On the Road Again

Since we've been back in the States we've been busier than Sarah Palin's wardrobe shoppers. All of the errands we've run, relatives we've visited and places we've gone to have required a considerable amount of driving. Each time I've gotten into the car and ventured out onto the roadways I find myself thinking: “Wow it’s easy to drive here!”

Assuming you’re not on the nice new Croatian highway, if you’re a driver in Croatia you’re taking a risk every time you drive. The following is a list of obstacles you could very well encounter on a typical Croatian 2 lane (1 in each direction) roadway:
1. cars
2. trucks
3. tractors
4. combines
5. three-wheelers
6. wheelchairs
7. trams
8. bicyclists
9. pedestrians
10. sheep
11. shepherds
12. cows
During the daytime these objects are not so difficult to avoid. Wheelchairs and cows however typically do not come with brake lights so they’re a little more difficult to see after the sun has set. And sheep are very unpredictable. Fortunately, I haven’t had an accident yet.

In comparison, when driving in Massachusetts, you usually only have to watch out for numbers 1, 2, 9 and possibly 8. There is also the occasional horse rider, but that leads us to another difference – the wideness of the roads.

In Croatia there’s no breakdown lane. If a car breaks down, a truck has to make a delivery, or a driver has to stop in front of a house, you have to go into the oncoming traffic lane to continue on your way. And then obviously if there is oncoming traffic, you have to wait for the safe time to pass.

All this to say, It’s been a pleasure driving in Massachusetts especially considering the fact that gas is half the price it is in Europe. Sure I’m happy to live in Croatia, but when it comes to the risk you face when driving I’d choose driving in the States every time.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Shock in Zurich

So I thought my first blog entry back in America would be something about how big America is or Americans are, how convenient they make things or how beautiful New England is in the fall. This has in fact been the longest I've been away. There is bound to be culture shock.

But no. This post is about the child care center in the Zurich airport. Petra was excited to find out that there was indeed a place to feed Enoh during our 7 hour layover. However, we were in no way prepared for what awaited us in the Terminal A “Kinder” Center: - four changing stations
- a separate room with: four cribs and two rocking chairs for feeding
- a microwave
- a fussball table
- a lifesize Connect4 (in which I proved my superiority over Petra)
- two Playstation2 stations:
- lots of table space
- 3 sinks
- lots of pillows
- lots of stuffed animals
- a computer game: - one very nice airport nursery attendant who pleasantly informed us that the further we walk in the airport the lower the food prices will be if we want a snack.

All of this at no extra charge.

My friends, this is unusual. If you want to feed a baby in Zagreb you better hope you parked your car close to the terminal. If you want to change the baby you’ll have to find space in between the carry-ons other passengers leave on the changing table while they use the facilities. If you want to avoid annoying looks if your baby is crying, well…you’re just out of luck.

But the Swiss, who like to be different, have a very good side.

Thank you, Zurich Airport, for your “Kinder” Center. It proved to be an enjoyable place for all ages:

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Croatia the Beautiful

Petra, Enoh and I are soon on our way back to my homeland. There's a lot to look forward to - My parents seeing Enoh, enjoying time with friends and family, dunkin donuts...but I'm going to miss Croatia at the same time. Although we don't leave for another few days, realistically my time for blogging will be nonexistant. So I'll make my last post in Croatia a tribute to its beauty. The following is what I've seen (from south to east) of Croatia in my 2 years here. Enjoy.



Monday, October 20, 2008

It's like...Burek S Mesom!

This is burek s mesom (burek with meat). We've become good friends since my first visit to Croatia. If eaten with yogurt (which they drink here in Eastern Europe) it sits better in your stomach.

My Croatian friends are well aware of my cravings so I try to use it to my advantage. Over the weekend burek s mesom became a useful tool in teaching guitar. “For example,” I told my student, “Think of the G chord as burek s mesom. You can think of Gsus2 as burek s mesom from Orahovica while the G7 is from Zagreb – it’s the same basic thing, but has a different taste.” She got it.

Just a day later while teaching English I encountered the problem of teaching contractions. “'I am’ can become ‘I’m’” I explained. “It’s kind of like how in Croatian you combine the ‘s’ and the ‘mesom’ of burek s mesom so when you say it it sounds like smesom.” They all nodded and smiled.

And so there you have it. Burek s mesom is more than just a tasty meal – though quite tasty it is.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Gained in Translation

The guy knows English better than I do!

When you move to another country (as I have) and you lose the ability to communicate effectively (as I have) you appreciate good people who can translate for you and even help you learn the language. Hazim has been that x10 for me.

Hazim has become a good friend, is my translator when I give a message in church and has helped me learn Croatian. Although not Croatian himself, he grew up in former Yugoslavia, spent some time in the States and has studied theology. Among other things his background has given him a profound knowledge of both English and Croatian making him one of the best translators you can find. And believe me, good translators ARE hard to find.

Even more meaningful for me has been his friendship - another thing foreigners often have a hard time finding. We enjoy discussing, debating and developing ideas over coffee or a drive to Zagreb every once in a while. In fact, he is one of the reasons I've been able to make the transition from America to Croatia as fluidly as I have. Thank you Hazim for your friendship!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Few Pictures Worth a Few Thousand Words

What do we do in Orahovica?

youth groups



English classes

Christmas Package ministry

Our desire in all of this is to create a bridge between the community and church; so that the church may be a light to the comuunity.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

Sure, I've experienced Jack Frost's nip growing up in the Wisconsin winters, but chestnuts on an open fire? I had to wait until I got to Orahovica to know what that's all about. Yesterday my wife, Enoh and I enjoyed an afternoon with the pastor and his wife picking chestnuts in what has become a traditional event. Here's the "fruit" of our "labor":

As for the roasting, Petra loves them - she can never get enough. It's an acquired taste for me though; even with 3 seasons under my belt I have not acquired it. Picking them is the fun/relaxing part. As pastor Slobodan said, you don't have to reap or sow, you just take what has fallen from above. Kind of like grace I suppose.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Powerhouse of Croatia

We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thes. 1:3

"Betanija" Evangelical is a small church in a small pocket of a relatively small country, but God has been using this fellowship in profound ways for the last 35 years. Since the church began in a living room they have hosted summer camps that have seen children, teens and youth from all over the former-Yugoslavia attend. It was the first of its kind in the 70's and has continued through communism, the war and independent Croatia. Here are a few pictures from camp:

There is no way to measure the effect camps have had on Croatia nor are there enough posts to describe them. Camps in Orahovica must be experienced in order to be understood.

So now a picture of a wonderful woman who has been tremendously influenced by these camps and has shared her enthusiasm with me:

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Jesus Wept

Its days like these when the shortest verse in the Bible becomes the largest image in my mind.

The idea of Jesus weeping over the death of his friend Lazarus has made a profound impression on me. But no other time more than after I heard the following stories of lives lost in or near Orahovica Croatia in the last month.

They had just bought their new machine. It was bigger, stronger and faster than the last one so they should have been operating with more caution. His 11 year old son hopped off the combine to try to save a sunflower from the machine. He ended up losing his own life. The father was finally able to tell the story three days later when he regained his voice. Unfortunately he has since turned to alcohol - his wife to pills. They won’t answer the door for deeply concerned individuals who want to reach out.

She had returned from Germany 9 days earlier. Her mom sent money to the drug-addict so she could get out of the environment she found herself in. With no money and little access to hard drugs she overdosed on over-the-counter stuff. The small village funeral was just as sad. Drunks surrounded the coffin – stumbling and almost falling in as they lowered it. The mother fainted in her mourning and didn’t receive much assistance from the dazed spectators.

He had drunk too much. Either realizing it too late or just being stupid he bailed out of his car while it sped towards 3 children. One of them died, the others are still in the hospital. The uncle of the child who passed took out his vengeance when he found the driver the next day – putting him in the hospital as well.

What do you say? How do you react?

I find comfort in the fact that Jesus mourned for the lifeless, the widow, and the orphan. What’s more? He gave his life so that we may have life. That’s the kind of hope a seemingly hopeless world needs.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Orahovica On My Mind

So far this blog has concentrated on politics, our son, and cultural observations; with a few random things thrown in for flavor. I have offered little about where we live, what we do or why we do it. So, while I enjoy those other things, I think it’s time to concentrate on what we’re doing in Croatia. That’s why I’ve decided to take time every day this week to post an article, pictures or a story about our life in Orahovica. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Archbishop of Canterbury Agrees...Sort of

Here at we try to keep it light. We (gently) tackle key issues in the world and capture interesting cultural differences between Eastern Europe and the U.S. from a different angle.

But today we're going a bit heavier. Rowan Williams - The Archbishop of Canterbury - has weighed in on an issue that we've touched upon here recently; namely the U.S. economy. And guess what? He mentions a somewhat positive light!

So follow this link if you're up for a 4 page, more scholarly article. I have read it, but I feel a summary would not do him justice.

On an unrelated note, next week you're in for a treat. Stay tuned.