Monday, May 31, 2010

Cryophobia - The Fear of Cold

It was one of my first visits to the Adriatic Coast in the summer of '07.  It happened near a city called Zadar, but this story could have happened anywhere in Croatia - anywhere in the Balkans for that matter.  I ordered a drink at a recommended pizzeria.  It was a friendly place - one of those restaurants where the waiter will have a conversation with you and you realize he's not doing it just to get a bettter tip.  And you know when you've had one of those days when the first thing you want to do when you sit down is have an ice-cold drink?  It was one of those days.

So when the waiter brought a tiny glass of water with no ice, I got hotter than I already was.  "Can we ask this guy for some ice?" I tried to ask my wife cooly.  Petra laughed and told the guy I was a foreigner and I like ice.  He smiled, turned and hurried to the kitchen, returning quickly with an ice-cube. 

One measly stinkin' piece of ice.

"I can handle one ice-cube", the waiter explained to us after we asked him for more ice, "but after two I'll have a sore throat for weeks."

And that's how it went down.  I'm not exaggerating. 

Let me clinch it with another example from a guy who grew up in Bosnia but spent a lot of time in the States.  His wife told us about how they went to a seven-eleven together in Florida one time and got one of those huge drinks they sell for 99 cents.  When he took his first gulp of the ice-filled drink, he put his head back, let the cold fluid sit in his mouth to warm it up, and only then dared to allow the beverage to trickle down his throat. 

You think I'm making this up?  I'm not.  But I will say this; the fear of ice and cold things that exists here, is matched by a fear we Americans obsess over.  More on that next time.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Ian The Smiler

I've said it before, and I'll say it again; parents can learn a lot from their kids. 

Ian is a smiler. He's had a bad cough for the last two weeks, and the doctor isn't sure why the anti-biotics haven't worked. But he's always ready to give a smile - even after a coughing fit.

And when, as a parent, I see those smiles, it makes me want to pass along the joy. 
Thank you Ian, for every one of your smiles.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Common (and Tasty) Denominator

We're always so quick to point out the differences aren't we?  America is big, Croatia small.  Europe is old, America new.  The list could go on and on.

But when my friend Laci and his family came to visit the other day he pointed out one of the similarities between the two cultures:

Laci is Hungarian and I am American.  But the process of preparing the grill, cooking the meat, and enjoying a conversation while doing so is not so foreign to either of us - even in a country neither one of us grew up in - Croatia. 

In fact, the table often seems to be a symbol of unity, a place where relationships grow.  Go back to Jesus and Zacchaeus.  The fact that Jesus wanted to have lunch in the tax collector's house was unheard of.  But it was there, at Zacchaeus's table, where repentance took place and a life was changed.


I lost the importance of a shared meal during college.  But since we've moved to Croatia and had kids, I've begun to get back to a value I grew up with - eating and enjoying a meal together with family (and often) friends.

In a place where there are lots of differences, the dinner table is often the place where we find common ground.  Who are you sharing your next meal with?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Gone Fishing

While I haven't been gone fishing during the last few weeks, and my absence has been for good reason, I feel I owe my regular readers something.  But yet, I will be gone doing something that is relaxing, enjoyable and vacationish - spending time with my brother and sister-in-law on the Adriatic Coast for the next 4 days while they visit.  It is their first visit to Europe after all. 

So if you still frequent the Culture Shock Weblog - Thank you!  Let me recommend a past post that takes a look at some of the beauty of Croatia. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010