Monday, January 26, 2009

Multiple Personality Disorder

Isn't it amazing that you can be at Target on Thursday morning looking for that last pair of jeans you need and then be ordering burek s mesom in Croatian the very next afternoon? It still blows my mind.

Maybe this time it was the fact that we were in the States for 3 months and had kind of settled into a normal life and then suddenly got out of the van from Zagreb and immediately began living our normal life here in Croatia. It's like I took off Jeremy number 2 at the Zagreb airport, slipped on Jeremy number 1 at customs in Boston and then did the reverse once I came back 3 months later. Here's a list of some of the things my two Jeremys did:

#1 watched a Boston Celtics game on Thursday night.
#2 watched Croatia beat Slovakia in the World Handball Championship on Sunday evening.

#1 read the New York Times on Thursday's flight to Zurich.
# 2 read the Jutarnji List on Friday's flight from Zurich.

# 1 ate at Panera Bread on Thursday afternoon.
# 2 ate fresh Croatian bread on Friday evening.

# 1 drove an automatic to the airport on Thursday night.
#2 drove a standard to Orahovica on Saturday morning.

#1 shoveled the driveway last Monday.
# 2 tracked mud into the house on Friday.

And it's not like we traveled to India or anything. The cultures aren't that different. It's just amazing how quickly the little things can change.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Where's Milo?

Though not for lack of ideas, I haven't had a lot of time to blog in the last week due to our trip back to Croatia and a busy weekend with our church family and friends. But soon after I returned to the internet world I encountered the Inaugural Where's Waldo game on the Swampland Time Magazine blog. A photographer named David Bergman took a massive high quality photograph at the inauguration and although it looks like just a huge crowd, you are able to zoom in to the extent that you can see most of the faces in the crowd clearly. Amazing. So here's something to keep you busy for awhile.

See if you can you find:
Barack Obama
Dick Cheney
Sean P. Diddy Combs
Bill and Hillary Clinton
Beyonce Knowles
Our friends Milo and Erin Wilson (who I still haven't found)
Are you in the picture?

Monday, January 19, 2009

You Shall Not Covet...Anything That Is Your Neighbor's

It's commandment number 10 and I believe it still is completely relevant today.

Our good friends (and 'neighbors') Milo and Erin Wilson have tickets to the historic inauguration tomorrow. Petra and I are jealous.

If you're interested in getting a first hand view of the day before (and I assume the day of) the events go to Milo's blog.

Friday, January 16, 2009

When Having It Your Way Isn't Your Way

I'm becoming increasingly sure that the wealth of choice in America is greatest wealth we have.

Goran, a Macedonian friend of mine (who is studying in Boston) and I have hung out a few times during our stay in the States. On our way to Uno's Pizzeria the other night, I told him that the Buffalo wings were the best thing on the menu, but he was free to try whatever he wanted. We sat down and he ordered the same thing I got without considering any other options. I didn't think much about it until we decided to get dessert. I offered him whatever he wanted on the menu. Said menu had 6 items. He studied each item as if it were a new theology being introduced at the seminary he attends. Finally after 10 minutes (I'm not exaggerating) he was ready.

Another time we were at the grocery store. I had a few items to purchase and asked him if he needed anything. Goran had a sore throat so he decided to try one of the things I recommend: Sprite, 7up, seltzer water and regular water. Problem was each of the waters came in different brands and sizes. He was obviously overwhelmed so he asked me for help. I'm not very good at telling others what's best for them so we stood there in the beverage isle staring at the drinks as if we had just spent all day in a quantum physics lecture.

I feel bad for Goran. He's not used to all this choice. If his childhood was anything like Petra's, he grew up going to a grocery store the size of his closet. Sure they had everything you needed, but you might have to take Cheerios instead Frosted Flakes. You were at the mercy of what they had.

But he made it, right? He's ok! Did he need to be able to choose between 14 different cheeses in order to have a yummy grilled cheese? Do we really need the choice of 7 different thicknesses which which our smoked honey glazed turkey can be sliced at the deli? Do I need Wonderbread to take the crust off me before I even purchase a loaf? Do my Fritos have to be in the shape of a scoop in order to fully enjoy my chips and salsa?

For every example I've listed though, the fact is that someone out there prefers it that way over another. Just makes me wonder if the wealth of choice is something we can afford to lose.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Prayer, Medicine and Comfort

Last Tuesday Enoh had a little rash on his stomach. By Wednesday it had spread from the bottom of his feet to the top of his head. Petra took him to the doctor as soon as she saw how quickly it had multiplied. The doctor took one look and with surprise said: "Wow this is only the second time in my life I've seen a baby have strep throat". He immediately prescribed antibiotics in a sweet bubblegum flavor and said he'd be fine.

The thing I found interesting was my reaction to the whole thing.

Our current financial status allows us to be eligible for MassHealth - an insurance plan for those who can't otherwise afford one here in Massachusetts. I've been pleasantly surprised by how much it covers: I have a new pair of glasses at no expense, both Petra and I have had physicals, and Enoh has a pediatrician who he's seen 3 times since he's been in the States. So my first reaction to the news of his minor sickness was to be thankful for the inexpensive access to medicine that we have.

As I thought about it, I realized I wasn't even given the opportunity to pray for Enoh's health after hearing the diagnosis. He had strep and bam - he had medicine; no problem.

In Croatia it was different. When Enoh was taken to the hospital at one month old because of his jaundice doctors and nurses alike weren't sure what the problem was. We - along with our family, church, and friends - immediately started praying. In the end Enoh was absolutely fine. It turned out that Petra's milk was giving him the jaundice and all we had to do was dilute the milk in his system by feeding him juice and water.

But the diagnosis took days - so we prayed for days. And after all was said and done it appeared as if God answered our prayers in accordance to how we prayed - that Enoh be healed.

The two situations remind me that in America we have less of a need to pray. Medicine, self-help books, shrinks, entertainment and money all help us help ourselves. If you have a headache just take aspirin, or a drink, or a baseball game - you choose.

While Croatia has medicine, and an assortment of other material things to rely on, I've found that I'm quicker to pray when I'm over there. The disparity between the physical 'things' in Croatia and the States seems to be related to the amount of praying I do for medical related issues in the two countries.

It begs the question: to what extent does my comfort influence my reliance on God?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

No Shoes, No Sleeves, No Problem

It's January. I was in the local Old Navy Danvers Massachusetts location the other day and witnessed a lady in front of me with shorts on. Back in November when the temperature was in the 20's I took this picture in a restaurant:

'What's the big deal?' Some Americans may ask. (Granted, most Americans - including myself - would NOT wear shorts in the winter time.)

The reason I took note (and pictures) was because I have surprised quite a few people in Croatia when they observe me lacking a particular piece of clothing. Take for instance their reaction when I don't have slippers or shoes on in the house. They'll scurry to grab their closest pair of footwear and demand I put them on. I'll get the same raised eyebrows if I only have a t-shirt on (in the house) during the winter time.

Croatians - and probably most Eastern Europeans - are very particular about keeping warm. Don't expect to find ice-cubes in your Coke if you visit. They give you a sore throat. Never have two car windows down at the same time either. That would cause a draft. Babies are bundled in the summer, feet must be covered by two layers when in the house, and there is never any sitting on the ground - no matter what your age is or what season it happens to be.


Still haven't quite figured it out. Eastern Europeans - here's your chance. Explain to us what the big deal is. Until then, I'm staying slipperless in the house.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Do we acquire faith?

Towards the beginning of my blogging days (waaaaaaaaaaaay back) I posted a quote from Tolstoy's Anna Karenina on marriage. Our time in the States has afforded me the opportunity to finally read the whole thing. Just yesterday I was getting towards the end, after the drama with the "main" character had finished and was so happy to find that some of the best stuff of the novel is at the very end. In fact, I would say the meat and potatoes of the whole book is in the last 20 pages. Let me share with you a few excerpts of Levin's revelations. Don't worry, this won't spoil the story at all:

'I sought an answer to my question. But the answer to my question could not come from thought, which is incommensurable with the question. The answer was given by life itself, in my knowledge of what is good and bad. And I did not acquire that knowledge through anything, it was given to me as it is to everyone, given because I could not take it from anywhere.'

'Where did I take it from? Was it through reason that I arrived at the necessity of loving my neighbor and not throttling him?...(No) Reason could not discover love for the other , because it's unreasonable.'

'Yes! What I know, I do not know by reason, it is given to me, it is revealed to me and I know it by my heart...'

'Can this be faith?' he wondered, afraid to believe his happiness. 'My God, thank you!' he said, choking back the rising sobs and with both hands wiping away the tears that filled his eyes.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


Neither my wife nor I have ever failed in our new years resolutions. Nor have we ever made any. But this year my wife has promised to turn over a new leaf. I'll let her share that with you if she cares to start a blog or you care to ask her.

For my part, I'm not a big fan of new years resolutions. Is there any bigger set-up for failure than being coerced into making a commitment on one - and only one -particular day of the year? Add to that all your friends who make their promises and break them, or the past years you've broken your resolution and you've got a recipe for failure.

But I do like the idea of change, improvement and resolve. There's something honorable about quitting or beginning a habit that will consequently make you more disciplined or less selfish. Commitment is something our culture lacks and is therefore all the more valuable.

So I am going to make a resolution. And I've got a few ideas. But I'm not going to rush to a hasty decision. I'll wait 'til I'm good and ready. Maybe it'll be January 15th, maybe February 28th. We'll see.