29 April, 2006

Missing the Boat

On the way back up to Rijeka, our boat stopped in Split for about an hour. Split is a nice, historic town, and we hadn’t been there yet, so we decided to get off and check it out while we had the chance. The scheduled stop was 50 minutes, so I checked my watch when we got off: exactly 6:30.

When we left the dock, John, Taylor, and Pete wandered off in one direction, and the couples in another. Michelle and I debated briefly, then followed the marrieds. We lost track of them, but that was fine. We enjoyed looking at some of the old part of town, but we were really interested in finding food. After wandering around a bit, we sort of gave up and headed back toward the boat. There was a row of various caf├ęs and food stands on our right so I decided to order a chicken sandwich after all. As the guy working there started cooking it, I looked at my watch again. It was about 2 minutes to 7:00, so I figured we’d be back by 7:10 at the very latest. A nice cushion of about 10 minutes seemed sufficient.

As I was pondering these things, my phone rang. It was John. After the initial quick greetings (“Hey there.”, “What’s up?”, etc.) he asked, “So, are you guys close?”
To this I casually replied, “Yeah, we’re not too far, just getting some dinner.”
Then, in a more panicked tone, John said, “Uh, the boat leaves at 7:00.”
“Are you serious?”

The end of the conversation is a bit muddled in my memory, but that was the essence of what was communicated. I don’t think I said good-bye, or even hung up the phone. I threw it in my purse, somehow gestured to Michelle that we had to run, now, and after briefly considering telling the sandwich guy sorry and that we had to leave, decided against it and took off while he was still facing the grill. Sorry, Chicken-Sandwich-Making-Man. I only left due to the most urgent of circumstances.

Michelle and I ran. And ran. We almost got hit by 2 cars. Michelle tore off her flip-flops early on so she could run with more ease. People looked at us with condescending and bewildered expressions. A few shouted and made fun. Our lungs were burning. Our muscles ached. But we had to continue on, driven by panic, shame, and a glimmer of hope that we would not end up waving good-bye to our team and our luggage and our boat from an empty platform.

Finally we saw our ship, miraculously still docked, with sailors yelling and chiding us from the upper decks. Drawing ragged breaths, we climbed the gangway as quickly as we could. Our team was there, waiting, as we stepped inside all flushed and sweaty. Andy had nearly wrestled the captain to the ground to keep him from sailing. Tim may or may not have punched out 3 people who tried to raise the stairs before we got there. They looked relieved, worried, a little pissed off, and incredulous all at once.

Apparently we got to Split a little late, and the departure time was 7:00 regardless of the docking time, so our stop was only 30 minutes long. I guess there was some old lady with a large shipment of flowers from Ecuador or something who arrived while Michelle and I were running and somehow demanded that her goods be loaded. I personally consider that a miracle, because I think it is the only real reason the boat didn’t leave without us.

Later when I apologized to the rest of the team, they said they weren’t mad, which was nice. I feel loved due to the fact that they tried so hard to make sure we weren’t abandoned, and then were so forgiving afterwards.

Some Final Notes

Okay, we’re almost done with the vacation stuff. I just had such a good time I don’t want to leave anything out.

Here’s some kids playing nogomet.

We decided that Lopud would be a great honeymoon location. John and Taylor make such a nice couple, don't they? They tested out the breakfast-on-the-terrace factor and gave it a high rating.

Taylor and I went on a long hike through the jungle. So pretty!

One late night, Andy, Pete, Michelle, and I were tossing the frisbee near the water. Not too much time had passed before Andy had developed a very fine sport called Brody. It’s a phenomenal game that requires agility, speed, and precision. Some terms/calls to remember: side-woofer, no exclusions, no Brody, in the margin, long shot, and spotter.
Everything else can really only be explained in person.

Another cool thing about where we stayed was that it didn’t have the kitchen that it was advertised to include. We had bought about 8 bags of groceries in Dubrovnik before heading to the island for a great Easter feast. When we arrived and found only a small dorm-sized refrigerator and no kitchen at all we thought our meal was doomed. But then our hosts offered to let us use the restaurant kitchen (!) since they weren’t expecting any customers. It was awesome to have tons of dishes, pans, utensils, counter space, and an industrial strength oven at our disposal for Sunday, and basically the rest of the week whenever we needed anything.

Overall, it was an A+ trip. It makes me sad to think that 6 of us won't be here for Round 2 next year. :-(

On why reincarnation is implausible…

“…I mean, of all the different systems of belief, you’d think that one [reincarnation] would have a god. Someone has to decide where everyone is supposed to go…It’s really an organizational nightmare…” -Andrew Schneider Gott

28 April, 2006

Island Life, or Those Pesky Wild Monkeys

Living on a sparsely inhabited island for a week allowed for a number of encounters with nature (Goulet!). There were goats, jellyfish, snakes, lizards, dolphins (I saw a pod of 8 or 9 swim by with the late afternoon sun in the background- it was awesome), and possibly mongooses and wild boar. When we asked our hostess about animals on the island, she said they had wild monkeys.

Early Easter morning, Taylor and I got up and walked in what we hoped was an easterly direction to see the sunrise. We walked and climbed and tried to keep our direction consistent. After about 45 minutes, the sun was clearly up, but the clouds were too thick to tell exactly where. On our walk back through thick, high shrubbery we turned a corner and were greeted by a big, furry, brown…donkey. We’d just been discussing bears, so it was a bit of a relief. Taylor introduced herself and talked to our new friend for a minute or two, but he didn’t budge. Eventually we went around him and continued home.

Sometimes Croatians mix up donkeys and monkeys.

How could I have forgotten?!?

The octopus salad. Actually very tasty... (This was supposed to be included in Fish Food, of course.)


Fish Food

Tim likes food. Tim likes fish. Here is Tim's fish.

Taylor said: "Hey, that picture is like when you're drunk, and up close it's clear but everything else is fuzzy!"
"Taylor, you don't drink."
"Well, uh, I know, but that's what it's like when I'm toxed..."

Sara is amazing.

Ahoy, there! Or Adventuring

Being the Rijeka Tiger Pirates that we are, our vacation naturally included many elements of adventure. One afternoon in particular, Michelle, Pete, and I embarked on a grand paddle-boat (or ‘pedalino’ as our wonderful hostess/landlady/renter-person Gabriela called it) quest. The pedalinos can be seen in the distance in the photo above.

Don't Pete and Michelle look pirate-y? We sailed well beyond the territory known to previous (and less courageous) paddle-boaters and successfully docked in order to clamber up some cliff-like rock formations and investigate an abandoned castle.

After that we discovered, and in fact claimed, a small island.

All in a day’s work (or rest), I guess. My only regret was that it was too cold for swimming so we didn't get to use the slide on our trusty vessel. As we pedaled back to shore we passed some kayakers. I yelled, "Ahoy, there!" They seemed confused, and I was a little embarrassed, but got over it.

Of course, we three weren’t the only ones encountering fairy-tale-esque scenes or tempting fate with preposterous self-assurance. Other documented events include:
-Sara “Tom-Sawyering” lemons from an abandoned tree.
-Ancient ruins in various stages of decay discovered in many locations by all members of the team.
-John being literally stalked by a smitten goat-herdess. I am completely serious- ask anyone on the team.

24 April, 2006

Traveling Musicians

We all seem to like music a lot, and during our vacation we branched out quite a bit in the songs we sang and which of us provided accompaniment. I was pleased to be reminded of a number of 90’s pop-rock hits that I’d sort of forgotten about.

Sailing the Seven Seas

Sorry for the delay… Things have been busy ‘round these parts. So, about our trip. It’s tough to know where to begin- I suppose the actual traveling part will be as good a topic as any. We left around 6pm and Zoran came to see us off. We waved at him from the still-docked boat for 10 or 15 minutes, then we started moving. Bye, Rijeka!

Our sleeping quarters were hilarious. Sooooo tiny, I can’t believe we didn’t take a picture. Actually, the camera wouldn’t fit. John, Pete, Michelle, and I shared the smaller of the two rooms that first night, and I don’t doubt that all four of us could have easily been touching at once without having to move more than 8 inches. How’s that for team norms? Anyway, it was also insanely hot. Maybe we were really sleeping in the ship's oven…

The trip was 22 hours each way so we had plenty of time for exploring. Here’s Pete inspecting the lines, apparently looking for frayed rope…

…John got some much-needed hammocking in…

…and Sara almost got sucked into the bowels of the ship.

21 April, 2006

Island In the Sun

So, it’s been almost exactly 7 days (a few hours over, I guess), and we’re back in action. The trip was extraordinary, I wish it could have been longer. The more touristy area of Dubrovnik looks like this:

but we only spent a few hours there.

We actually stayed on the small island of Lopud, which looks like this:

The rest of our trip will have to be broken up into many several themed posts. And I'm going to tell you right now that there will be things left out, but I'll do my best to get the good stuff up here.

14 April, 2006


Okay, this will be hard for some of you, but I'm going to be gone for the next week, so no more updates for a while. Have a good 7 days or so. I'm hoping to read some books, maybe you'll have some extra time, too since there won't be paragraphs and paragraphs of me rambling on about beer, toilet stores, songs by Queen and the Eagles, and the like. We all know this will be harder for me than for you, so I'm just going to take a deep breath and sign off.

13 April, 2006


Tonight was really fantastic. A lot of students came, and there were some great questions and important ideas discussed. I got to meet some new people, which was exciting. And our beloved Croatian language teacher stopped by toward the end, too- we love you, Dragana!

This has been a bit of a hard week in some ways, so tonight was a cool reminder of why we came here and what is actually important. Praise God!

12 April, 2006


Here are some pictures of the toilet store next door.

I’m sooo TIRED! We’ve been going crazy this week with Easter surveys- we did about 500 and will compile the data and post it on the official website. We’ve also been handing out a ton of spring newsletters- I think around 1000, or more. Tonight Sara is giving an incredible presentation on reasonable evidence for Christ’s resurrection, and I think it will go really well. I’ll let you know.

I can't wait to go to Dubrovnik for some sun and some sleep.

Why I love the little people

For one more reason to love kids, check this out.

10 April, 2006

Houston, we have a problem.

Okay, so as you can see below, I decided to participate in giving something up for Lent this year. Some people pointed out to me that the 40 days were up, so I was excited and wrote a post about it. But then I felt a little uneasy and wanted to double check to make sure it was over and not accidentally quit early. And it is complicated. I found out that the 40 days does not include Sundays, and that whatever form of abstinence is chosen can be suspended on Sundays as a part of celebrating the Lord’s Day, so the 40 day period begins on Ash Wednesday and ends Easter Sunday. But in the Eastern Church, they DO count Sundays and Lent ended last Friday (they begin Clean Monday instead of Ash Wednesday). And in the Roman Catholic Church, it ends Maundy Thursday night.
I obtained this information primarily from these two sites. I should have looked into this at the beginning.

So, what am I to do? It’s been a full 40 days, with no breaks, but this day is not sanctioned by any of the major Christian traditions. I think I feel okay about wrapping it up, as I feel that the intended purpose was served. Maybe I can think of it in terms of an ecumenical blending of different customs. If you think this is wrong, let me know.

Vodka martini with lemon, please.

I can drink again! That might sound awful, if it does, I’m sorry. It really isn’t awful, and I hope you’ll believe me. I decided to go ahead and give up something for the Lenten season this year, because I’m living in a Catholic culture, and because I’ve considered doing it before but never followed through. I wanted to pick something that I would miss, but that would be doable and wouldn’t hinder ministry (coffee is definitely more of an addiction, but I don’t think I could continue to hang out with students, or even continue to get up in the morning for weeks on end without coffee). I don’t think I normally drink a lot of alcohol, but I really do enjoy an occasional beer or glass of wine, and I definitely missed it over the past 40 days. Especially last Friday night when John, Pete, and Tim cooked a beautiful Mexican dinner. Water just didn’t do the meal justice.

So, anyway, I’m thankful for the times that God has used this over the past few weeks to remind me that I should seek joy in Him and not material pleasures. And I’m thankful that it was temporary (the no alcohol part, not the seeking joy in God part).

Link to “Banquet With A Twist” pictures

For those who are interested, there are tons more pictures available here.

09 April, 2006

Hotel Continental

Hotel Continental
To the tune of "Hotel California"

Right across from poo river
Traffic in the street
The reek of raw sewage
Dodging the cold, gray sleet

Up ahead I could see it
Punk kids drinking out front
I crossed the road and slowly climbed the stairs
This was it, the Hotel Cont.

Stepping in through the doorway
Hit with the stench of smoke
And I was thinking to myself
I wish this meeting were a joke

Then I saw John sitting there
Patiently waiting for me
The waiter said, “Izvolite”
I sat and ordered tea.

Welcome to the Hotel Continental
Such a boring place
Such a boring place (background)
In nearly every case
Meeting it up at the Hotel Continental
All throughout the year
All throughout the year (background)
You can find us here

One day we met with Andy
To make a strategic plan
Eating some fancy baklava, he said,
“This is so good, man!”

This day was special, a big
They played a techno remix
From Flashdance (scary)

Little girls did baton tricks
All in a straight line
They had
The most gigantic cake they’d made since 1969

We worked on that excel sheet through the afternoon
Just in time to email it to Brooke
Not a moment too soon!

Good times at the Hotel Continental
Such a lively place
Such a lively place (background)
Hardly any space
They’re livin’ it up at the Hotel Continental
Stand in line for cake
Stand in line for cake (background)
Biggest they could make

One time for a staff hunt
Assigned to wait there
The Gottskulz dressed goth and smoked cigarettes
It was hardly fair

It is close to the center
Thus a great meeting spot
There’s a sandwich shop right out front
We’re there at 1:00 on the dot

To get the tasty kulen
Sandwiches before they’re gone
The guy who works there knows us, especially Pete and John

He plays awesome music
And sings along once we leave
I'll keep coming back all next year
That’s what I’d like to believe

08 April, 2006

Some pictures from the walk I went on today.

Sveti Vid cathedral

Random graffiti

The illustrious Hotel Continental

Coming soon: “Hotel Continental” (a song) to the tune of “Hotel California,” and a treatise on the ways that Croatian culture and fashion reflect the 1980s in America.

"John is naked!"/Spelunking

Okay, you can all put your minds at ease. He isn’t naked. Or at least he wasn’t when that was said during team hangout time this afternoon. After a fantastic time at the banquet last night, we got together for our weekly team prayer/worship/development time this morning. It was cool to reflect on everything God has done this year and especially the last 1-2 months, and to get excited together about what He will do next.

After our meeting was over, it was time for “team hangout time,” or, perhaps more appropriately (and definitely more popularly),”mandatory fun time.” In the past, we have struggled to make this work for our team. I mean, we all get along, and any time 2 or more Rijeka Tigers are gathered together, there is bound to be some laughter and memorable moments in our midst. But often when we have scheduled bonding time, it falls a little flat and we inevitably resort to watching a movie and playing games. Which can be fun sometimes, but we’ve overdone it this year.

So anyway, we decided to change things up a bit and switch the time to middle-of-the-day rather than evening, and instead of leaving the activity up to fate and convenience, we assigned a rotation of planners- this way everyone will have a chance to pick something they really want to do and nobody else will (be allowed to) complain. And the new daytime slot also forces some creativity.

Today was the first on the new schedule and it was Pete’s job to direct us. He asked us all to wear clothes we could go adventuring in and bring a flashlight. We grabbed some sandwiches before getting on a bus that would take us down the coast about 10 minutes or so- we were going cave exploring! There are a handful of random caves tucked away in rocky hills on the way down to various swimming spots along the coast. Before you get too many grand ideas of stalactites and stalagmites, you should know that they are man-made caves, and inside, the ground is strewn with garbage, broken bottles, and other unmentionables. Even so, they are very, very dark inside, and have cave-ish walls with icky condensation (I’ve termed it ‘cave juice’), and- best of all- bats!!! In one of the caves there was a type of ladder leading to an upper level, but the top rungs were removed, and the middle rungs were rusted out and unstable. We tried to get Tim to climb up to the next level and pull the rest of us up (he was the only one tall enough), but he was worried he would end up stuck with some dead bodies or something all alone so he refused. Oh, well, maybe next time.

After caving it for a while, Sara and Taylor went down and put their feet in the water. Up above them, and out of sight, Pete was trying to convince Tim to jump off the small cliff above them into the water below and surprise and splash them. This took a lot of inspection and persuasion, and Sara and Taylor, sensing something was going on, got suspicious. In an effort to keep them from investigating further, Pete told them, “Don’t look, John is naked up there!” John, Tim, and I (all fully clothed, I might add) could hardly contain ourselves, but this ploy worked wonderfully as Sara and Taylor (fearing the worst, I’m sure) focused their eyes firmly down and out to sea. Eventually Tim jumped, and of course the water was shallower than expected so he cut his foot, but thankfully didn’t have to get stitches this time.

You can see one of the caves in the background on the left in this picture.

That was team hangout time today. Next Friday we’re leaving to go to Dubrovnik for about a week, and that is guaranteed to produce plenty of stories and pictures.

The Banquet

Last night we hosted a big banquet outreach. We were really hoping and praying for 50 students to come (the most we've ever had at one time was about 35), and 50 students came! This was a miracle in and of itself, but there were so many other small things that came together to make last night go well. This is the boat that the restaurant was on.

Here are some students enjoying dinner and skits put on by other students.

Each table was given a bag of props, a one-word theme, and 15 minutes to come up with a skit. We weren't sure how this would go over in the Croatian culture, but everyone got into it and there were some hilarious moments.

Nice, Tim.

Pete, Zoran, and Masha.

In the end, everything went amazingly well, and we all had a blast. The students had a great time, and we got to meet a lot of their friends for the first time. We are all really thankful that it came together, and can't wait to see what else happens in the next few months!