Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Sound of Zadar

Remember the Sound of Music? know, the movie with Julie Andrews as the nanny of all those little von Trapp kids that went around singing...?

Papa von Trapp is from Zadar!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

What the Heck is THAT!?!?

Sestra Lucija

We had a visitor last night...Sestra Lucija, parish nun...and sometimes parish mule (...but for the good). I've seen her bring teenage boys, resting with tranquillity alight their butts when they should have been kneeling, to their knees, during church. She clucks her tongue at ornary members of the church choir. When a man, clearly mentally-ill, tried to abscond with a consecrated host, she almost tackled him. She can't sing a note to save her life but God loves her. a country where priests are demi-Gods, we thought it would be nice to call Sestra Lucija, for a social visit.

We asked her about her calling.

Lucija (nee Anica) was the youngest of five children. Her aunt, a nun, came for a visit and took young Lucija's arm and said, simply, "she's coming back to the convent with me."

"Ok." said young Lucija (age 15).

...and that's the end of the story...

We were completely charmed.

If given the opportunity to live a 100 lives, she told us later, she would choose this path all over again. This all sort of exposes the modern idea of vocational discernment, which is the cold examination of preferences and rewards, for what it is...spiritual narcissism. Don't you think that God, who is infinitely intelligent, knows all that we are capable of percieving and will communicate with us using those means? Sometimes there are no extraordinary signs...laser beams and light shows...sometimes the signs are as ordinary as "she's coming back to the convent with me."

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Croatian as a Second Language

Professor Marko Longin once said that the richness of a language can measured by the breadth of its curse words. Croatian has a veritable tome of curses...none of which I will canvas here....but I'll say that they can be quite colorful. Nevertheless, I can attest to the fact that the Croatian language is deep. Very deep. For example, Croatians don't simply cut something, if they're cutting something like a tree, the verb, sjeći, is best...if they're talking about hair, then it's šišati...but wait!....perhaps it's a length of cloth that they're cutting, then rezati is most appropriate. Cut, cut, and cut. You can imagine the difficulty for foreigners.

There are problems with pronunciation. Lj, for example. Two distinct letters in English, one in Croatian. To blunder the pronunciation of this letter means that instead of people (ljudi), you end up demented (ludi). However, far and away, the biggest hurdle is the endings, in particular. English has none, Croatian has seven. All of them completely logical to the native speaker and completely lud to everyone else. And as it is still relatively rare for someone outside the bloodline to learn Croatian, the average Croatian ear is not attuned to extrapolate what someone like me is probably saying, particularly here in Dalmatia. Thus, I have been on the business-end of a great many blank stares after performing, what seemed to me to be, oratory fireworks. Fortunately, I get fewer and fewer blank stares; more and more looks of shock and if the family dog suddenly stood up and recited The Raven. Frankly, I prefer that but look forward to just conversing like an average person.

Sunday, November 4, 2007


Outstanding show. I'll note that we were also entirely encouraged by the fact that the venue was P-A-C...PACKED! Standing room only. Besides friends...I actually saw someone from the church choir, thank you very much...oh, and an arch-enemy or two (but we took it in stride...let's avoid messiness).

And afterwards, amidst the gaping maw of one burst-into-flames Novi Radio reporter, WE - who are entirely too boring - walked away with the knock back some cocoas, of course.

What a beautiful thing to give someone....the knowledge that there isn't something wrong with them.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Dear Church Choir,

Of course I appreciated the fact that it was anxiety provoking to be asked to sing a piece of music that you haven't heard 1,000,000 times. OK, so you didn't know the melody that well. I didn't either. That's why the nun gave us sheet music.

I say this lovingly because it might be considered bad form, given that we are The Church Choir, to simply refuse to lend your voice (leaving the Amerikanka in an unplanned solo) during Mass.

I could be wrong.



PS: But thank you for chiming in half way through the first verse. (I'm sure the congregation didn't suspect a thing...)

Friday, November 2, 2007

Dear Church Choir,

You complain more than any group of people I have ever seen in my life. And that's hardly an exaggeration. In fact, I don't think I've seen such consistent group protest since my 6th grade gym teacher told us we'd start every class by running laps. We spend two nights a week in practice, 70% of that time spent whining about practice. Well, I don't know how to say this need to practice. Have you heard how we sound? Sure, God loves a voice lifted in song for His sake, but your near-absence of effort and constant objections make baby Jesus cry.

Do any of you remember the last time that you did something inspired? ...ok, perhaps that's over the top...after all, what other opportunity is there to be recognized as the exemplary Catholics that you are from amongst your church commmunity. But I've got to tell you, friends, nobody is watching because they are the headlining stars of their own Catholic show. Don't you know that?

In the end, you thought that you found your meal ticket in the mala know, someone whom you could take under your wing and use, but the result is less than that and I know that it's frustrating and prompts dreams of secret sabbotage. But have faith. I'll keep going to practice....working my way through the songs. And you should, too. Just quit acting like dinosaurs. We still have a chance to make a silk purse from a sow's ear if you'd start putting as much passion into the music as you do into complaining.



Thursday, November 1, 2007

Odobrenje Boravka (Approval of Stay)

After months of painstaking document collection...letters from here and there...documents from America with embossed seals and official stamps...even getting fingerprinted...twice...waiting for the "No Record" stamp from the FBI...etc...

I was summoned yesterday to pick-up the 2.5 X 3" sticker with the big purple stamp and the illegible signature which was immediately slapped onto Page 14 of my passport.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


On the way to the Tisak, this morning, I was thinking about money. The coins pictured here in my hand bought me one newspaper. 6 kuna.
It goes without saying that everyone loves inspecting foreign money. In large part, the novelty holds our attention, but there's an important cultural element. What a people decide to print on its money says a lot. For example, I remember spending few minutes looking intently at some Canadian money...a bill, whose denomination I don't remember...but what I DO remember is that it read, "Women are persons." Oh my goodness....My husband and I had a good laugh about that one. He, a Croatian-Canadian, never really spent much time studying the money but it was entirely new to me, an American, so I looked at it with fresh eyes.
There are British Pounds with pictures of the Queen...American Dollars with pictures of the early presidents and thought leaders...Croatian Kuna feature images of their national patriarchs.
There used to be the Italian Lire, French Francs and Dutch Kruners....and so on....with pictures of their revolutions, revolutionaries and heros...or in the case of the Dutch Kroner, their sunflowers....but all of it, money with character and a national identity that speaks volumes about its people and history. Well, Europe has replaced it all with The Euro...and to that, I say...too bad.
Likewise, the modern Croatian Kuna...with just over a decade under its belt....will be a thing for the history books within the next few years with "ascension" into the EU.
Aw well....I'll save one of everything for the kids and grandkids.