Thursday, June 14, 2007

Oh, Zagreb

So, I feel that I must finish the saga that was my short trip to Croatia. After four wonderful days on the coast, I rode with the rest of the UGA study abroad trip in a big bus for six hours to the capital city of Croatia - Zagreb. It is a charming European city, complete with lots of churches, narrow roads, squares, cafes, and statues. Zagreb does not have a metro system, it is chock full of these bright blue trolley cars that share the roads with the other cars. Since I could never figure out how to get a ticket to ride said trolleys, I opted for the ancient transportation mode of walking. I definitely got my money's worth out of the clearance Kinnucan's Merrells (sp?) that I bought for the trip.

This is where the meat of my trip was to happen. Please ask me in person sometime about my living situation in Zagreb. It's a long story (as my living situations tend to be) and I fear that I would get a little too worked up writing about it here. Nevertheless, my goal in Zagreb was to meet with NGOs that work with victims of human trafficking in Croatia. Not knowing where to start, a wonderful professor from UGA who was there with the study abroad group allowed me to go with him on the first day that we were there to meet a colleague of his at the Philosophy Faculty of the University of Zagreb. She teaches liguistics like Dr. Langston, but he thought that she had some contacts in the women's studies department there. Providentially, her contact was available when I was there and she immeadiately sat down to talk to me about my interests (which, by the way, are the health issues faced by women who are victims of trafficking, as well as the programs that are already in place to serve them). She also introduced me to a secretary on the hall who volunteers at several agencies in Zagreb. Her name is Jasmina (pronounced: Yasmina). Jasmina was wonderful. She dropped what she was doing, called, and set up meetings for me and my friend Jessi on the next day.

So, last Wednesday Jessi and I met with two different ladies who work with trafficking victims in Croatia. They explained to us the cycle of trafficking and what these women face when the cycle is broken. I'll write more about this in another post. They also told us individual stories of women they have worked with and each story is heartbreaking. This is s rhetorical question, but How can we live in what we call a modern society when people are still bought and sold like toothbrushes?

Needless to say, when I finally ran up the escalator at the Atlanta airport and saw Brian's face, I broke down in tears. It was a wonderful trip, but it was a hard trip. All the while I clung to the chorus of an old Rich Mullins song that goes, "If I stand let me stand on the promise that you'll pull me through, and if I can't let me fall on the grace that first brought me to you. If I sing let me sing for the joy that had borne in me these songs, and if I weep let me weep as a man who is longing for his home."

Monday, June 11, 2007

More Makarska

So, where was I? Dubronik, that's right. Again, Dubrovnik was breathtaking. I just wish that I could have had more time there to explore the city. Oh, another interesting thing about this particular day trip is that we had to drive through a little tip of Bosnia to get to Dubrovnik. On the way home that evening, we stopped at a very nice rest area in Bosnia and I bought some chocolate with the full intentions of brining it home. Alas, I still had a week left, so the Bosnian chocolate did not make it with me - I ate it. At least I can say I've been there, albeit briefly.

The next day we took a trip on an old wooden "sail" boat to two islands off the coast of Makraska. First we stopped on the islad of Hvar in the tiny little town of Jesla. It was so neat to go to all of these little towns. Each one has a little square with cafes and beautiful old churches with bell towers. Next, we went to the island of Brac (pronounced Brach) and spent the afternoon laying out on the beautiful Bol beach. I will mention here that the Adriatic is EXTREMELY salty. So, it is very fun to float around because it takes next to no effort, but when you get out and dry off, you have visible salt deposits all over you.

On the following day, we left Makarska for Zagreb, the capital city of Croatia, which sits landlocked to the northeast of where we were. I will write a post about the escapades there later.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Heaven on Earth

Well, computers were not as easy to come by as I had thought in Croatia, and you have to pay for internet time, so I was not able to post while I was there. Plans always change, don't they? I am now safely home on the other side of the big pond, just up a bit early because my body is still six hours ahead. This is okay, because I am able to do things before church this morning instead of running out the door at the last minute because I didn't get up early enough.

So, Croatia. Well, it was an adventure. In some ways, it was the best trip I've ever taken, but in others, it was the absolute longest nine days of my life. After 3 planes and 30 hours, I found myself last Friday afternoon in the most beautiful place I've ever been - the Adriatic coast. Croatia has lots of coastline, it basically mirrors Italy on the other side of the Adriatic. It also has more than 1300 islands dotting this coastline. A man named Sveto drove me in his car from Split (Croatia's second largest city and home to Diocletian's Palace) to Makarska, where a UGA study abroad group was staying. They had already been in Croatia for almost three weeks, but I know some of them because they are MPH students also, so I had instant friends. We spent the next four days in paradise. I'm serious, before last week, I had no idea that it was even possible for earth to be so beautiful. There were several times when I almost cried because of the beauty. Take the highest mountains you've ever seen (like the ones out west) and put them on the shore of the clearest blue-green water possible. In between there, grow every kind of fruit tree and flower imaginable - that's Makarska.

We took a trip to Dubrovnik, at the southernmost point in Croatia. This area is also known as the Dalmatian coast. Dubrovnik is an old walled city with stone ramparts and steep, rocks on the coast. It looks like something out of a fairy tale. Interesting thing about Dubrovnik, it was once an independent state who's motto is Liberty. It was a very early democracy and is said to be the first country to recognize America's independence from Great Britain.

Okay, now I do have to get ready, so I'll write more later...