What an incredible summer.
My programs took us around the region of Zagorje, into the depths of the Plitvice Lakes, onto the island of Preko, and up many hills to visit the Trakošćan Castle. I was escorted into esteemed museums, toured around the major cities, and invited to dramatic Croatian theatre productions. When I wasn’t busy gorging myself on octopus salad, roasted potatoes, grilled fish, or cheesy bürek, I was studying Croatian with my classmates. In the first program, we had 5 hours of class a day (the sixth hour was optional) and walked back to our rooms with homework every night. My second program was more culture-centered; we only had four hours of Croatian class a day (with a fifteen minute break after the second hour.) My classmates ranged from a 17-year old Croatian-American heritage speaker to a young blonde Norwegian man preparing to marry his Croatian fiancé to a middle-aged Italian woman who cited her reason for being there as an ‘anti-Alzheimer’s strategy.’ As the weeks passed, I became quite close with the members of my classes. When you struggle together in such close proximity over an extended period of time, your relationship with a person takes on new levels of vulnerability and depth. I can confidently say that I will remain friends with the people I met this summer, many of whom are living outside of the U.S.
I faced some culture shock coming home. It was the little things – people don’t count out small change here. They exchange slender bills with a slip of the hand, it seems. The sidewalks seem vast and empty to me. My neck cranes with effort of restraining myself from giving cheeks kisses in greeting or when saying goodbye. I continue to be shocked when I locate a lightswitch inside a bathroom, not positioned like a tiny guard dog right outside. Americans smoke less and drive more. I’m re-adjusting to Smith life and Smith culture with a reckless abandon; Smith, I’ve missed you. I’ve missed the impassioned womyn with a startling worth ethic and a penchant for LL Bean booties.
It’s good to be back.