Monday, November 29, 2010

1 Day and Counting

Today I ended up mostly walking around down town on my own.  I went to lunch with two of the friends that I had made at church and then decided to shop around a little bit.

I was nice to be able to get out and see things one last time.  I suspect that most of tomorrow will be spent packing and cleaning and getting ready to go.We already weighed on of the big bags and it came out at 22,5 kilos, and the limit is 23.  We may have some rearranging to do.

Zagreb is really a wonderful city, charming and full of such a rich history.  I has been such a pleasure and a priviledge to be able to come here not just as a tourist but to be able t get to know it, a little from the "inside," by living amongst some of it's people and being able to share in their customs and traditions, and well as share some of my own.  I have come for the most part to think of Marina's family as my own extended family.

 Me, Zdenko, Tete Ana, Marijah, and Mirna

I think one of my goals when I get home is learn more about the country of Croatia, and to learn more about Zagreb itself.  I know for now I have only scratched the surface.  I will miss getting to know it better personally, face to face.  I hope that I will be able to return here very soon.

~ Fraise

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Last Sunday

It's hard to believe that I leave in only three days.  It seemed like I would be here forever when I got here!  It seemed to slip away so fast.  Today was my last Sunday to attend church in this delightful branch of the church.

 Me, back: Elder Pasche, Elder Hadley, front: Elder Nita, Elder Wood

I decided to give the missionaries a final parting Christmas gift, and drew some visual aids for teaching the Plan of Salvation, as some of them mentioned wishing for something like that.  I also wrote down some of the activities that we had done when I was in the mission field to encourage members and investigators.

 Sister Nelson, Me, Sister Stratton

They were so happy!  It felt good to be able to contribute to the missionary work here.

Me, Daniel, background: Ljubica (Daniel's mom)

I have made some awesome friends here.  They have been so kind and have made me feel really at home.  I got the chance to spend a little more time with Daniel and his mom today as we were riding the same tram, they even waited with me until Zdenko came to pick me up.

 Jasna and Me

I have come to realize that there are two kind of people in this world those that are content to stay where it is comfortable and safe, in surroundings that they are accustomed to.  The other type is one that can fit in and feel comfortable almost anywhere, even if they don't speak the language or know the local customs, they adapt and grow through their experiences. Marina said that for her she needs the support system and comfort of her family and friends to help her feel at peace.

I'm coming to realize that I am more of the latter.  It's true I will always miss my family no matter where I am, but I feel at home, and an adjust my life to where ever I happen to find myself.    I think the reason that I am able to adapt so easily is not just my love and excitement for the adventure of discovering a new culture and language.  I think it is also the way I "find my center," as Marina puts it, is in the local ward or branch or ward in the church.  I feel like I belong no matter where I am and I feel connected through the members and the friendships I make there.

Maybe it helps that I am a free spirit too.  Always to some extent "doing my own thing."  What ever that special something is, my genuine personality and and original zest shine through and I find my place even when I am quite literally "out of place."


Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Little Shoe Therapy

Yesterday after a long and boring day waiting at a clinic for Gabby the see a doctor (she has the remnants of a cold and has not been able to kick it) Marina and I decided to go with one of her friends, Branka, for some good old fashioned "shoe therapy."  We went to a new shopping center called Garden Mall.  It has a lot of fun stores inside, including a favorite of mine from my previous European life: Promod.

It is a french store that I have long followed ever since my first January sales on my mission.  I was so excited to see it.  Unfortunately, they seem to run the same trend here that they do in France, in that they may have a little bit of a sale on merchandise here and there  but their big sales are in January and July.  Things start off at 25-30%and then move through the month to 75-85% at the end of the month.  Of course even though the prices may be great at the end of the month, the selection usually isn't. All of us had a good time going through the store, neither Marina or Branka had ever heard of or been to a Promod before and they were delighted by it's originality and compatibility with different styles and layering.  Unfortunately the pricing still wasn't in our favor.  I told Marina that either the next time we came to Croatia we would need to come in January "or," she said, "we need to bring enough money!"  Still to see a store I love here, made me smile.

We had fun going to a few other stores to look at things, and then to Müller, a German sort of grocery store a where I found some really pretty straw Christmas tree ornaments.  While we were at Promod I had explained to Branka, who was struggling to remember my name, that Mirna had taken to calling me Sisi instead of Lacee, as a way to make her laugh.  Well the name stuck and when we were in line at Müller she picked up some chocolate santas saying, "One for , Mirna, one for Gabby and one for Sisi."  It made Marina and I giggle, but in the end it was easier for her to remember than my real first name, and frankly I didn't mind.

Our main order of shopping was to help me find a more suitable substitute for my current, walking long distance and getting around in the wet, shoes: my 8 year old worn out sneakers.  I mainly brought them to exercise in but unfortunately most of the other footwear I brought caused pain if worn and walked in up and down hill and all over the place, as well and could deal with the semi constant rain we've had.  So I have shoes for going out to look nice and shoes for church, but not much else.  This just would not do, and my dear friend thinks too highly of me to let me substitute these grungy old things for everything else.  We were on a mission.

We were lucky enough that Branka also knew about a magazine for sale at the news stand that had a 30% off coupon for Banta, where coincidentally I had found a pair of ankle boots that I really liked.   Then as luck would have it I found a British brand pair of walking shoes that fit perfectly and looked really nice. 

It felt so good and liberating to get new shoes and to go shopping with friends.  Marina even mentioned that This really as theraputic.  Mission accomplished! 


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Because I Have been Given Much....

As I have reflected today over the events of this last week and the affect it has had on me.  I look at how blessed I have been with coming here and with the many opportunities I have had to meet so many wonderful people and see so many amazing things.  Life is truly about experiencing things.  It's what adds flavor to life.

I was given the opportunity today to visit Mirogoj the main and I think probably the biggest cemetery in Zagreb.  It was a very peaceful place.  Unlike the cemeteries in the US it is paved rather than filled with grass.  The graves usually consist of a vault that is used more for the family than for one person.

Here at this cemetery people are buried either in the free standing graves in the grounds or in the long wall-like arcades.

The funerary process starts out in a separate building across the street where the viewing is held and the family can come to pay their respects and leave mementos and flowers.  Then the procession walks across the street to the small crkva (chapel) located in between the two arms of the arcade.  There the actual funeral is held.  Mourners may then proceed to the final resting place of the body.

The art on many of the graves is quite breath taking.  On many of the graves in the arcade there are iron lanterns placed on either side of the grave (Marina's father said they were just the trend of the day as decoration, that they do not hold any special meaning or symbolism).

One can purchase colored lanterns with candles inside to either place into the iron ones or to put them onto the graves themselves.

It felt very fresh and green there with all of the moss growing on the pavement and in some cases the graves themselves.  I thought it would have been a wonderful place to walk and think.  I joked that the foggy weather we were having today was perfect for visiting, as it lent an air of mystery to the place.

There are actually many famous people buried here.  I got to see the grave of the first president of Croatia, of Marina's old pediatrician, a professor her dad had in university, Drazen Petrović (a famous NBA star), and an original care taker of the cemetery itself.

There are even monuments for unknown communist people and a war memorial.  Marina's dad showed me that usually a person's grave was designated as being communist with a star instead of the usual cross.  It was very interesting to go and see.

I was given the unique experience of having a turkey grown and slain just for my Thanksgiving lunch.  Grown by Marina's aunt in the country, it was honestly the most delicious flavored meat for a turkey that I had ever had.  Marina's parents even had an aperitif and toast before the meal (though my glass was only filled with water) which made it feel very special.

Later on I was also able to attend the ward Thanksgiving Activity.  It was very nice, and I was able to get to know the members of the branch better.  Some of them expressed the wish that I was staying longer than Wednesday, and I will admit that part of me wishes I was.  I will miss it here.

It has been a full day.  Mostly filled with good cheer and self reflection.  It was a good day.

Happy Thanksgiving!


PS I apologize for the photos, I forgot my camera when we left for the cemetery this morning and had to take the photos with my iPhone.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Kuća Stara

(old house)  Marina took me for a walk in her neighborhood today and showed me a kindergarten that she attended in playgroups when she was little.  It was fun to see the little kids paying games and running around.

Then she showed me and amazing piece of property where the owner has chosen to leave the original farm buildings on it.

There was a main house and a well, a chicken coop, a barn, and a small house that might have been to store and prepare food, since it had an old brick oven outside it.

Wow, talk about history.  I was so shocked and in awe that it hadn't been ripped down and developed.  It even still had he curtains left at the windows, inside.  The whole thing was made of wood, with a stone foundation.  I only wish that we could have gone onto the property and looked around the outside of the buildings and I could have gotten more pictures.

Later on when we were downtown running errands Marina ran into her best friend from when she was younger.  Tomaslav (Tom) and his wife, Martina, and their little girl Carla were so awesome.  He said he felt honored that I told him that Croatia reminded me of France.  They were so gracious and generous.  Tom asked me where I had been so far, and  they decided to take me to the old part of the city, uptown.  It was wonderful.  Unfortunately because it was at night I was unable to really take pictures.  It was so cool.  Marina told me that they don't really allow many cars up there just mostly for those hat live there and maybe the press.  They showed me the parliament building, St. Mark's Church (where Marina's parents were married),

St. Catherine's church, and the oldest apothecary/pharmacy in Zagreb (founded in 1355AD per the guide book).  There were gas lamps every where and they told me how it had been the job of one man to light all of the lamps.  One of the most special places they showed me was the Stone Gate, one of the last remaining gates of the city and the gateway one uses to enter the upper town.

Inside is located a small chapel with pews on one side of the "street" and on the other a shrine to the Virgin Mary.  Inside it has a painting of Mary and the baby Christ (in the more iconic eastern orthodox style) that was miraculously saved from a terrible fire. There were bricks all around with inscriptions of thanks, for protection and help.  I am not catholic and therefore personally don't believe in the Virgin Mary as a deity, but  I do hold a special place in my heart for her as a pure and righteous woman, one to whom I can look up to as an example of endurance and strength.

Marina's friends then took us for a dessert at Vincek.  I somehow ended up with two slices of different kinds of fruit cake (I think Marina bought one to try too).  I hope that I can go back to see those things during the day time and take some photos.   Keep your fingers crossed.

~ Fraise

PS:  Check out the latest piece I posted on my art blog entitled "jaboka" and tell me what you think!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Something Smells Good....

I have one word for you...Aromatica.

Today, Marina had to go to the dentist, so I got to walk around the area with camera in hand and explore a bit.  She showed me where the old LDS "chapel" was (really just a flat on the third floor that they were renting until the congregation grew and they could build the current building). She said it was where she used to go for English lessons back when she lived here with her parents.

I happened upon the offices for the Croatian Olympic Committee, and generally found fun little details to take photos of.  There was also an underground shopping center i.e. mall that was connected to the tunnel that runs under the train yard at the main station in Zagreb.  This tunnel allows people to get downtown without having to go clear around the station, etc.  The mall is very confusing maze and you get down to it as you would a subway station.  just past the stairs from the end of the tunnel.  The tunnel itself is lined with shops and eateries, selling everything from underwear to groceries and baked goods.  It was a good place to get out of the wind when I was waiting for Marina.

Afterward she showed me a couple of famous small parks, museums and the French embassy.  We ate roasted chestnuts on the way and window shopped as we walked.  Then we got to Aromatica.  Wow.  From the moment you walked in the door, you were embraced by the relaxing smell of Lavender.  It was intoxicating.

Aromatica is the brand of organic herbal products produced locally in Croatia by the company BIOAROMATICA.  Established 18 years ago, they produce a multitude of toiletries, oils, and even kitchen herbs and spices, from the plants grown in Northern Croatia.  The products are wonderful, and made by hand here in Croatia as well (for  full details see the website).  They even had some unusual flavors such as: Quince, Cedar, Melissa, Sage and Rosemary.  Marina had told me about them before, but I was really impressed.

It really made our evening.  It even turned out that the lady running the shop had family in Salt Lake, and she said she would write and put them in touch with Marina when we got back.  The world is truly a small place.