Thursday, July 23, 2009

What I Learned in America

For some reason culture shock has hit me harder the longer I experience it. Not that it gets any more difficult, but for some reason the differences between Croatia and America seem even more pronounced now than they used to. So with my latest trip to America a few days behind me, here are some things (related and unrelated to culture shock) that I noticed. In no particular order:

1. How much I love my wife and son. Does distance make the heart grow fonder? In our case yes!

2. How much I will miss my parents and newly-married brother. Spending time with them was more valuable than I imagined - especially now that we probably won't be back for another year-and-a-half.

3. How big Americans are. One article I read said that 26% of Americans are obese...that's more than Croatia.

4. How convenient many things are in America. Need directions? Mapquest. Want a book? has a wide selection and delivers quickly. Coffee and WIFI? Dunkin Donuts, Brueggers, the local coffee shop, or my parent's house -which leads to number 5:

5. How much choice there is in America. I'm getting worse and worse at decision making because of having less choice in Croatia. Maybe that's a good thing.

6. My propensity to overindulge in baseball. Sure I was only there for 2 weeks so I took as much as I could in, but man, I think I might be addicted.

7. How amazing the miracle of life is. I am so thankful for the opportunity I had to see Josiah. He and his parents have been heroes in how they've dealt with his heart condition.

8. How I feel increasingly like a foreigner in America. Can't put my finger on this one.

9. How inexpensive clothes are in America. Enoh's set for the next year because of Carter's amazing sales and my parent's generosity.

10. God's constant sovereignty. Not that I'm always conscious of it. Or even like it. But God has revealed his sovereignty in mighty ways throughout the last few weeks.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety refers to the horror your child exhibits when you put them in someone elses arms and leave the room. It usually happens around 1 year old. Enoh still may have another month or so to go before he gets there, but I'm feeling a tinge of separation anxiety myself.

Back in January we decided that I would come to the States alone for my brother's wedding. There were a few reasons Petra wasn't able to come, but I still thought about bringing Enoh along myself. Better sense kicked in and I'm here in America alone.

Don't get me wrong. Being with my family, attending my brother's wedding, and seeing two ballgames (a cubs included!) makes the trip well worth it. And thank goodness for Skype without which I wouldn't be able to see Petra and Enoh at all during my two week stay.

But still...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

No Smoking (For Now)

First time I walked into a Croatian police station I felt like I was on the set of the original Mission: Impossible. You know how they used to portray the communist characters – thick accents, hard as nails dictators and smoke. Commies always smoked.

So I half expected Mr. Phelps to walk in the door as I waited to get permission to stay in Croatia. The small room had it all: posters that dated back to the Pioneers, 70's style unis, flakey paint and a little square of cardboard to cover the hole at the bottom of the reception window.

And smoke. All four policemen were smoking as if their jobs depended on it.

That was only 3 years ago but it seems a generation ago now that the no smoking signs have gone up in every public indoor location in the country. Another government building – the post office – has been transformed into an up-to-date European service station simply by eliminating the smoke.

But it doesn't come naturally here.

Telling your average Croatian bar-frequenter that he can't light up in the cafe is like informing the U.S. Marines they can't bear arms in a battle. Impossible.

Luckily for the cafe-owners, there's always outside. The fact that the law was enacted at the beginning of summertime is no coincidence. Your average Kafić probably won't start losing money until the fall. That's the time when tourists get out of dodge anyway and the economic downturn is expected.

But will the law stand? At the beginning of '09 the government passed a no-work on Sunday legislation. Every grocery store had to close its doors all day no matter who wanted to shop. Once they realized they were losing 1 million Euros a day (no, they don't even use the Euro here yet, they just use it to measure money when they want to make a point) they did away with that one.

Who knows how long our public locations will lack smoky air? There aren't any 'just say no' ad campaigns, no Drug Abuse Resistance Education in the schools and smoking when you're 13 is still cool. The number of smokers in the country could actually be on the increase.

So what happens when the autumn winds blow everyone back indoors? Will the law stand firm or will it fade into the air – Croatia's hopes to get into the EU drifting along with it?

If you ask me, this idea needs another 10 years to be successful. Right now it's just mission impossible.