So I left Edmonton on Thursday, January 21. It was a very emotional morning for me and Ivan. He dropped me off at the airport and we tried to drag out the final goodbye as much as we could. Later I found out he did not sleep very much the night before, and he spent his time staring at me as I slept (creepy, I know). Being away from each other for 6 months is going to be hard, but we are going to make this work and hopefully become a stronger couple because of it.
Everyone is excited that I am taking this opportunity to study abroad and live in another country while I am still young. I love travelling and experiencing new things, especially when it is challenging and requires me to adapt to new circumstances. A lot of people asked me if I am scared or nervous about going somewhere new and I told them I wasn’t. Before I left I was a little bit nervous because I still had to pack and figure out what else I needed to do before my departure. Well it turns out I made it here in one piece, so I am doing quite good!
My first stop was in Montreal, and the flight there was about 3-3.5 hours long. I sat beside a girl who was working on her laptop the entire time and I watched the Maze Runner sequel until I felt sleepy. When I got to the Trudeau airport I was surprised at how friendly people were there, knowing French people I thought they would be rude because I don’t know French. The layover was not very long, and before you know it I was off to Brussels, Belgium. On that flight I sat next to a gentleman named Dylan who looked to be around my age (24) who was off to Congo for work as a business consultant for one year (he did not mention which company). He is from Hamilton, Ontario and studied Commerce at Ryerson University in Toronto. This was his second time travelling to Congo for work and he seemed to be doing very successful post grad. I hope I find something like that when I’m finished, maybe even in Europe!
I didn’t sleep the entire flight. It was around 6-6.5 hours and I felt antsy to be on the ground again. I arrived at Brussels airport around 8am on Friday, January 22 and was surprised when I had to wait in a huge line for the security check point once I arrived. The line was so long I didn’t think I would reach my next flight, but luckily I did. Signs for Belgian chocolate were everywhere and I was so happy to be back in Europe where foreign languages are frequently spoken.
My next flight was to Zagreb, Croatia, which was a surprise to most. I came here to surprise Ivan’s family and visit for a short while before I head to the Netherlands on January 27. My friend Domagoj Culjak picked me up from the airport around noon and we went for coffee right away. I’ve missed coffee from here because it actually tastes good. Back home coffee is watered down too much and sugary syrups make lattes taste like shit. You won’t find a Starbucks franchise in Croatia, if ever. There are caffe bars everywhere in Croatia. The social norm is to “go for coffee” with a friend which could literally involve drinking a cup of coffee with warm milk or have a beer. Usually smoking a cigarette is involved during this social gathering, but I don’t partake in that. Not everyone here smokes, but the majority of people do because cigarettes are inexpensive and you can pretty much smoke wherever you want. The social environment is very relaxed and somewhat slow paced, and people take the time to enjoy each others company over a nice cup of coffee or a cold beer–something you won’t really see in Canada.
After we had a coffee we went for lunch and I tried sarma which is basically cabbage rolls. It was sooo good. It was served with mashed potatoes.
Later we went to a Zagreb mall where I purchased a flat iron for my hair which cost around $40 (200kn) and some liquid stevia sweetener. I did not want to arrive at Ivan’s parents house until much later because I didn’t know when they would be at home. We arrived around 6pm and the house was completely dark. I was worried that no one was at home and where I would stay if they weren’t because I did not have a back up plan. It turns out his mom was home but she had all the lights off. Dom, me and Matea (Dom’s sister) went up to the side door and rang the door bell. Ivan’s mom (Milka) answered and the facial expression on her face was if she was a deer in the headlights. She was completely shocked, which is the exact reaction I was going for. We came inside and she offered us snacks and something to drink and Dom translated for me. Of course Milka was already trying to force feed me even though I was not hungry because I had a big lunch with Dom earlier.
It was cute because Milka kept repeating my name, “Steffy, Steffy, Steffy..” and before you know it Niko (Anita’s father) called and she broke the news to him. Later Anita called and told her mum (Anita is Ivan’s half sister) that she found out I was there through their neighbour. Something to make note of here, Croats are very nosy people and if the neighbours see a different car in the neighbourhood they are bound to find out who it is. We were waiting outside the residence for a while, and someone was snooping on us from the house next door. The neighbours also heard me speak in English which gave myself away because most of them had met me in the summer and knew that I am Ivan’s girlfriend.
The rest of the evening went well, and we were all reunited once again. I am to spend a few more days in Croatia before I travel to the Netherlands on 27 January for my 6 month exchange program in Arnhem. During my stay in Croatia I will visit some of Ivan’s friends and family I had met back in August and maybe go for a fun night out on the town.
Ivan’s family does not have Wi-Fi at their house so my blog posts may be limited. Stay tuned for more!