27 January, 2006

About Budapest-

At temperatures well below 0° Celsius, the Danube River had huge chunks of ice sliding along on it, crashing magnificently against the bridge pilings. This trip to Hungary involved a number of firsts: I watched ‘The Sandlot’ for the first time, John ate his very first green salad, and I finally tried smoking cigarettes first-hand (as opposed to the more common second-hand method I’ve been employing for years in Croatian coffee shops, Seattle concert venues, and ballerina-populated fire escapes and alleyways). Over the space of about 3.5 days spent in the actual city, we benefited from multiple rounds of delicious goulash, Hungarian beer, and pretty darned good coffee-to-go (the ‘to go’ concept hasn’t really caught on yet in Rijeka).
The House of Terror museum- located at the former headquarters the Nazi party and later the Soviet-influenced communist party- was informative and sobering; and various parliamentary and religious structures were beautiful and impressive. All nine of us also enjoyed an enlightening few hours at the Gellert Turkish bathhouse. (No, I’m sorry, I can’t elaborate further- though you can learn more here. Any violation of team norms was unintentional…) In sum, it was fun to explore such a huge and historically rich city, even though it was crazy cold.

Currently listening to: Nada Surf- Let Go

One time I…

• won a sewing contest
• was held up at gunpoint
• performed with a professional ballet company
• broke my ankle jumping out of the way of an oncoming car
• spent a day the Virginia Pork Festival
• had a (non-exclusive) crush on the same person for 7 years
• got over it
• actually wanted to be home-schooled
• was obsessed with the X-Files
• spent a summer in Siberia
• met Fabio
• slept all night outdoors on a couch with two other people
• was Snoopy for Halloween

Alternatively titled “True stories of true nerd-hood.”

Izvolite (eez-VO-lee-tay)

Izvolite is a word with many uses, but it is basically an invitational imperative (I don’t think that is an actual grammatical term, though it might be). Andy has written a song to capture its essence, and because Andy is a very talented musician, this is a million times better in person when you can hear the guitar and complex harmonies and vocal inflections, so try to imagine it that way. Here are the lyrics:

Is what you say
After “Hello” on the phone
Is what you say
When you’re in a store
And they want to say “Can I help you?”
Is what they say
When they want to say
“Here you go”
Is what they say
When you’re in line
And it’s your turn

There are so many uses
Sometimes it’s hard to remember
I forget
Like when you’re standing in a meeting
And everyone wants to sit down
Izvolite works there tooooo, tooooo
Izvolite sjesti! Izvolite sjesti!

(Sjesti = to sit down)

24 January, 2006

Everyone says…

…that Stinters often meet their future spouses at the mid-year conference. For the record, I am staunchly against the whole conference-hook-up concept in general, and my roommates and I have discussed this at some length. Last month I watched Pride and Prejudice (yeah, the 5 hour A&E version), and finally learned what all the fuss was about concerning the ‘Mr. Darcy’ character (beyond the Colin Firth factor). Taylor declared that she wanted to meet her Mr. Darcy, and maybe all of us would at the much anticipated mid-year conference in Hungary. So, anyway here we are at said conference. On the day it started, John and I were dispatched to the airport to meet new arrivals and get them on the bus. Partway through the long afternoon I was busy working on something and a young gentleman who can safely be classified as ‘crazy hot’ approached us and identified himself as part of our group. At this point, my exact thought process went something like, “No way…That’s awesome.” The awesome thing being the potential of meeting multiple eligible bachelors of that caliber.
Of course I have to assure all of you that now, thankfully, absolutely nothing has come of silly talk and speculation- no impossible emotional entanglements or lingering distractions to worry about. And it’s a good thing, too, since I am up to my neck in emotional/mental/spiritual processing and trying to figure out what the spank I am supposed to be doing next year. Why are these decisions so hard for me to find clarity in?

Not worth it, or, freedom.

Last weekend I had some time to myself at home in Rijeka while Michelle and Taylor were in Zagreb with Pete, presumably painting the town red. I was really enjoying the space to think and the freedom to be completely selfish in planning my time. I could read, write letters, clean, listen to whatever loud music I wanted, take a long (i.e. more than 5 minutes of hot water) shower, drink coffee, walk around town, take pictures, etc. Around 10:00 pm I was sitting in a comfortable chair, knitting (which I had just learned to do that day, so it was new and exciting), listening to the loud British alternative rock band Bloc Party, and, quite frankly, subconsciously meditating on how very hip and unique the situation- but truthfully and more specifically I- was. And then God reminded me of something. He reminded me that I was indeed created by Him and for Him, and that He did indeed pay a very high price for my life, freedom, and salvation. And He reminded me that I am not worth it. That the fact that Christ’s life and death were the price paid did not mean that I was that valuable because of some quality of my own. But actually just the opposite, that God’s grace on a poor, self-absorbed wretch is infinitely valuable because of the quality of His righteousness, justice, and mercy. When you see and know the truth, it knocks you on your face, and then, the truth sets you free.

Žao mi je means I’m sorry

The other day I was slow in getting ready in the morning and was running behind. So, in order to avoid being too late for church after stopping by a kiosk to buy bus tickets, I told Michelle that we could share a two-way bus ticket that I already had in my wallet on the way there, then she could buy one for both of us for the return trip. Right before boarding the bus, I unwittingly tore the ticket in half along the fold separating the to/from sections of the round trip ticket and handed one of the halves to Michelle. The problem with this was that in order to have the ticket stamped, the ticket-holding passenger must insert the ticket into a slot in a machine, and to do this, the ticket must be long enough for one to hold onto it while stamping it. (This is tedious to describe, but crucial to the story. I should also mention that I have been riding buses in Croatia for a good 4 months, so this was not a new concept for me.) So, Michelle, obviously discovering that her ticket could not be stamped, just tried it once out of propriety and moved on through. I, however, feeling embarrassed that I had caused this non-stamping issue, decided to really try hard. And I succeeded in losing my grip on the ticket, leaving it stuck, unstamped, with the edge of the ticket flush with the opening of the slot. The incredulous bus driver was forced to unlock the machine and tip it forward so that the ticket would fall out. But the ticket didn’t fall out. He stopped the bus and got out. After a 1-2 minute absence (which felt like an eternity), he returned with another bus driver, who used some special tiny pliers to retrieve the ticket. He fixed a withering gaze on me as he ripped the ticket in half and handed it to me. All I could do was stammer a mortified, blushing “žao mi je, …uh…oprostite” before rushing to sit down. I still don’t know why Michelle didn’t disown me right then and there.

2006 is here

Well, it has been here for a while now, I guess. I’ll try not to make this the boring-est post ever, but there are no guarantees. Celebrating the start of a new year was super fun, we went sledding in the middle of the night and still have bruises to show for it. I drove around in Zagreb (in a stick-shift, after 4 months of no driving) at 3 or 4 in the morning- suffice it to say, it is a true miracle we didn’t get hopelessly lost or immobilized in the snow. In the morning I also managed to drive through the center of the main city square- not meant for cars, only pedestrians and trams, thankfully we weren’t arrested or run over by a tram. The Hertz rental car people wouldn’t have liked that.

Celebrating the beginning of 2006 in the Butlers' basement.

A sweet castle in Trakošćan.

We also spent a few days in Trakošćan (a small village north of Zagreb) and played ultimate frisbee in 1.5 feet of snow- almost enough exercise to make up for several weeks of sitting and eating cookies.

All of us waiting for the bus home.