Monday, March 9, 2009

I'm no good with titles

I suppose it's been a while since I've posted, but it's also been a while since anyone's asked why I haven't posted, so I think we're all on the same page here. I've basically been busy and lazy at the same time, which are not mutually-exclusive, now that I think of it.

I am honing some decent home-repair skills as of late: patching walls after water damage, installing kitchen machinery, staining wood, and setting controlled fires to take care of those pesky garbage piles. On top of that, there's been a little office work, and I'm keeping up with some projects I had at home. As a result, I'm ostenibly attached to my laptop, and my hosts look at me funny when I go into town with my laptop bag on me because I will eventually be looking for wireless access at a cafe. Coffee and cigarettes have also made a big jump in daily importance: morning joe is just as much a ritual here as it is back home, but unlike the grab-n-gulp observed in the states, time effectively stops around coffee and a cigarette for about 30 minutes, meaning my day is supposed to start at 8am but starts closer to 9.

With a backpack full of papers and gadgets, I recently joined my hosts to look around the City Galleria in Zadar, a mall that only went up a few months ago and is full of trendy stores that you've certainly never heard of. Prices for almost everything are comparable to upscale U.S. outlets, though stores also regularly feature clothes that I assumed were out of reach for most Croatians (the salary for most people rarely exceeds $1000 a month) . The mall also features a few bar/discotheques that look pretty swank, one of which features karaoke on Wednesdays (OOH!). I also wish I had brought my camera to the mall, because in the middle of the mall are a few pony-rides for kids. Not real ponies, but big plastic ones attached to an electric motor that you plop a coin in and ride for a few minutes. What stands out in this area is a FULL-SIZED HORSE complete with saddle and full detail. It is more than 5 feet tall at the shoulders, and the only thing it does is oscillate back and forth on its 4 rigid legs (a trot or gallop does seem a little too much to hope for). I'll get you pictures of this as soon as muster up the courage to look like a foreign-born pedophile and brush up on the "police relations" section in the Croatian phrasebook.

On the topic of equines, there is a family nearby that has a donkey/mule/ass tied to a post for most of the day. It's pretty chill, standing in one spot and grazing for most of the day. On occasion, though, it will bray (bay? Michael Bay?) for a good 5 minutes or so. My host/manager has befriended the donkey and will usually make a daily trip to feed it old bread and some water. As soon as I fashion a makeshift Shrek outfit, I will take the donkey into town.

I suppose that's most of what I've been doing so far. Week 1 out of 12 weeks without my family, friends, or Jen. It's already starting to get tough, but hopefully I'm preoccupied to the point where I don't even notice coming home.

The donkey's face says it all.

-Shrimp (& White Wine)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


So I'm pretty sore because I wrote a beautifully long post, only to have Auto-Save fail and Firefox shut down on me as I was trying to upload a picture. I will probably repost most of the same points tomorrow, but today was a lazy day filled with catching up on time zones and waiting for rain to pass (which it didn't). I also signed up on a couple local forums to find people in my age group to show me around, only to be ridiculed for the little Croatian that I did know, and was offered very little in the way of advice or hang-out offers. I guess Croatia hasn't yet checked out my awesome, as it were.

So, here's a link to make you laugh (unless you hate the funny. Most of you have seen this before, but I can't get enough of it):


Monday, March 2, 2009

Smokin' a cig with a Sam Elliot look-alike at Frankfurt Airport

I'm typing this on OO Writer at the Frankfurt Airport. I arrived here at 5:30 in the morning, and my flight to Zagreb is not until 9:30, so I had some extra time to open my laptop and appear technologically savvy. “Oh my, he has his laptop open at the airport. He must have some very important business to attend to”, the passersby wonder. What I don't have more of is money, though, and web access is expensive, so I'll transfer it later (which, for those of you reading, is now, or maybe even years before).

The past few days have been my typical pre-travel arrangements. I usually make a point of seeing most people I keep in contact with in the span of a few days, which means multiple lunches, lots of expensive coffee talk, and general bullshitting while I put off important things like time with my family and packing. On Thursday, I met up with former roommates David and Eric (who is now a showbiz bigwig with the customary “I'm culturally significant” goatee) to travel down to Champaign and see some folks for the last time. While I usually enjoy trips down to campus, I found that I have passed some invisible marker of aging, because I couldn't keep up with their party habits and now found the timeline of DRINK->SMOKE->DRINK->VOM->SLOPPY MAKEOUT->JIMMY JOHN'S #12 @ 2:55AM->PASS OUT IN CLOTHES to be tedious and alienating. I'm not sure if it was the hangover or the atmosphere, but I am no longer as welcome in the confines of the Alma Mater.

Sunday morning was me at my finest. My dad's 55th birthday was the night before, and I committed the cardinal sin of Russian birthdays, which is to leave before the cake arrives. A non-native can be excused for this, because they are usually unaware that while the party starts at 8 in the evening, the cake never arrives before midnight. Then, DRINK->SMOKE->DRINK->DRIVE WHILE DRINKING->PASS OUT IN BURGUNDY TURTLENECK AND WHITE SHOES. I had to get home early to hang out with Jen before I left, so I was yelled at over loud music by my grandmother. I got up early to start packing, but found myself to be inundated by many small tasks, so it took a lot longer than usual. As a result, we were late to the friend-breakfast at the Deluxe Diner. I am lucky to have friends like the folks who could meet me for biscuits & gravy on a snowy Sunday after pulling all-nighter shifts. I love every one of you, whether you like it or not.

So, a quick story about my flight before compy dies and I leave this to another day:
My naiveté in the art and science of flying springs not from my inexperience; I have been lucky to have traveled a fair amount at this age. Yet I keep repeating my mistakes, and occasionally I suffer the consequences. Jen dropped me off in an emotional goodbye (cue sappy “I'm missing you already” ambiance) and I got to the check-in counter. Now, I knew my bag was heavy, but the airport scale read over 70 pounds. I found out from a nice lady at the counter that bags over 50 pounds were an extra $150 to check in, and MY bag would have to be checked in as freight, which would cost me a gilded testicle. I stuffed my carry-on with some books and shirts, which got the bag to just under 70, but I'd still have to shell out the Franklin & Fillmore (can you tell I have nothing to reference who's on the $50?) for the duffel bag with wheels. It was then, as I was bent over and shoveling my wardrobe into an already-full backpack, that a guardian angel in a navy blue vest whispered celestially into my ear, “Y'know, you kin just buy a box fer $10 and check that in as a bag.” O Hosanna, I am saved! She brought a box over and I packed it with relative nonessentials in case it was sacrificially burnt to honor St. Fuselage, the Patron Saint of baggage handlers. I ended up not even getting charged for the box!I'm buying a second bag in Croatia so I don't have to go through this again, but I can't trust myself to learn from mistakes.

There seem to be a lot of words here, so I don't want to set your expectations too high and tell you that most of the following posts will probably not be as long as this one. Maybe. But probably not. Tschuss!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Starting the blog, starting to pack

Wilkommen, darlings. I'm starting this blog to document my upcoming trip to Croatia. I'll be spending a few months there working in a hotel by the sea during the off-season.

I consider myself a decent writer, but I am extremely lazy under normal circumstances, so you, Reader (and I will use the proper noun because I assume there is only one of you reading this), should not regard this post as a sampling of my mastery.

By the time I come back, I hope to have realized more about what direction I want to take my life, and hopefully I can get into decent shape and pick up a new language at the same time.

I'm already halfway down my checklist of tying up loose ends before I leave. I'm slowly packing things, I've ordered Croatian language books and a European map card for the ol' GPS. My cell phone will be deactivated as of March 1, so I will hopefully post a number to my unlocked phone as soon as I get a SIM card.

Hop on the internets every now and then and check out what I'm doing with my life.