Saturday, June 27, 2009


'Bok' - an informal way of saying hello in Croatian. 'BOK' is also the name of our baseball team in Orahovica - 'Baseball Orahovica Klub'.

I began teaching baseball three years ago in Orahovica. They didn't know a thing. Right handers would swing with their left hand on top. Batters would run to third base after hitting the ball. The second baseman would throw the ball to the center-fielder hoping to get an out. They've never watched a baseball game, played catch or collected baseball cards. Needless to say strategies like a suicide squeeze or double switch haven't been covered yet.

But I'm proud of our team. They've really come along this year. One of our supporters sponsored t-shirts for the team - something each player had to earn with 6 attendences. I forgot to order any extra small t-shirts so the poor guys in the front have to wait until I return from America to get theirs even though they're some of the most faithful and energetic players on the team.
Baseball isn't very common in Europe and even less so in Croatia. But who knows, maybe one of these baseball players will be donning an MLB uniform one day.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Foreign Land

Croatia has been a peaceful country to live in for over 15 years now. Yet, there remain quite a few scars from the war.

20 minutes from our house there's a Serbian village (in Croatia) that was destroyed by the war. Rumor has it that the Croatian government is offering to pay people to rebuild and live in towns like this one. So far it seems not many have taken them up on their offer. Here are some pictures of Pusina.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

It's About Time

If you are a regular reader of the Culture Shock weblog you must have been waiting breathlessly on the edge of your seat for my return to the blogsphere. I'm back.

And not a minute too early.

During my time in the high school marching band we had the following mantra pounded into our heads:

To be early is to be on time
To be on time is to be late
To be late is to be dead

Let's just say much of Eastern Europe wouldn't be populated if the phrase were true here.

A couple nights ago a friend was telling me that she needed something done by 4:00 so she told the person it had to be done by 2:00. It's not that they're incompetent. It's just that they're not concerned about schedule. Certainly there are exceptions to the rule, but that's the way many Eastern Europeans operate.

A meeting that 'starts' at 6:00 will actually start at 6:15, or 6:30 or maybe possibly be delayed until the next day. The person might not even show up. Who knows?

And the reason is that the majority of people here value relationships over schedules. If I arrange to have coffee with someone at 8:00 chances are we'll both be right on time. Then we'll sit, drink, talk, drink and remember we were supposed to be somewhere else 10 minutes ago. That's how it goes.

Maybe in Eastern Europe we should say:

To be late is to be normal
To be on time is to be early
To be early is to be a foriegner

But before you think this foreigner is being critical of my new home, I have to say I have begun to understand the value of relationship over schedule. Is it possible to find a happy-medium?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Piano Man

Sure, we'd love for Enoh to become a trombone player, but if that doesn't work, it's good to know he's got another viable option.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Fine Line Between Cheating and Helping

If American individualism can be symbolized by a mother bird pushing her tweety out of the nest when it's time to learn how to fly the Croatian equivalent could be the mother bird finding extra twigs, straw and grass to enlarge the nest until tweety either learns to fly or stays in the nest. Is that a harsh representation?

Depends on where you live.

Croatians can't believe there are parents who would push their kids out of the nest at 18. Americans can't believe there are 45 year old sons (with jobs) who still live with their parents.

And it's this dependence (or lack thereof) that is one of the biggest cultural shocks a citizen of either country would face if they traveled to the other.

That brings us to today.

I was teaching my last English class of the spring. In order to finish on a cheerful note, I gave them a simple test that reviewed everything we learned in the last semester.

I had noticed in previous classes that a couple students tended to glance at each other's paper, but in a class where there are no grades and people come as they wish I turned a blind eye to the suspicious behavior. Nonetheless, today I purposefully separated everyone in order to get a fair representation of how much each student had learned.

As soon as I had handed the test out though, the daughter of another student craftily turned in her chair in order to steal a peak at her mother's test.

I couldn't believe it!

"Please look at your own paper" I politely said to the entire class. The 15 year old glanced up and gave an embarrassed smile.

But before you could say "compulsive cheater" she turned her face in order to use her peripherals. And to my surprise her mother had her paper situated in a such a way that the answers read like a billboard to her daughter. As I watched them communicate with scribbles on the paper and special eye movements I realized that this behavior had been thoroughly ingrained in both mother and daughter.

So I gave up. I let them cheat. Sure, it didn't matter because I wasn't giving them a grade. But still, shouldn't mommy cover up her paper, and let her tweety fly by herself?

I grew up hearing that "cheaters only hurt themselves". And I still believe it's true. But if you stop to think about how fine the line is between 'cheating' and 'helping' you may begin to understand why there are lots of cheaters in Croatia but very few who are without nests.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Who's in the Driver's Seat Now?

After the last post on this blog, and the subsequent response, Daddy thought it might be good to take a break. "Maybe I'm taking this blogging thing too seriously", he commented. And I agree. So it's my turn now.

But what do I talk about? I have neither started crawling, nor walking. If I'm going to be bilingual you certainly wouldn't know it yet.

There is one thing that's bugging me though. The first thing most people say about me is that I look just like my dad - 'isti tata'.

Come on.

Take this picture for example. I have so much more hair than he does!

Or this one. At least we don't root for the same team!

Whether I'll be more like my mom or my dad, I don't know. But I do know that I am dearly loved by both!