Saturday, March 12, 2016

Headed Home

And so our Croatia trip comes to a close. Friday Steve taught his last class. I worked in the library for a few more hours and tried to leave my various piles well-labeled for the next guy. Deborah and Joska were the two people I worked with most during these two weeks. Both were here when I was two years ago. Deborah was a volunteer; now she is paid to run the library and is proving very competent even if she doesn’t have formal training. Joska will be 70 his next birthday. He has volunteered here for years. It’s hard to convince him that we don’t need to keep every single book that passes through our hands even if we have other copies and this one is falling to shreds. He is too accustomed to times when evangelical literature was scarce. But he is faithful—in the library at 6 AM to avoid the crowds on the trolley. How many volunteers do you know who show up daily at 6? He goes home at lunch time.

We were regular patrons of this bakery, buying breakfast rolls and crusty buns for our evening meal. They were very gracious as we pointed out what we wanted.

Maia drove us to the airport in Zagreb three hours from Osijek. She too started as a volunteer and has served faithfully for years. Her husband is a Canadian with fluent Croatian added to his fluent French. He works an IT job in the city as well as managing the schools computers, including the library.

I am writing from the Frankfort airport. As I got my breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express I felt a hand on my back. Since I had just seen Steve go a different direction, I knew it wasn’t him. I turned to find Manfred Kohl, a long-time colleague with Overseas Council. He is here for meetings and it was good to have a few minutes to catch up before we caught the airport shuttle. At the airport we separated since we are on different airlines (Thanks again, Becky and Kelvin!). We’ll meet up tonight in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, very ready for home.

After a while, all airports look the same. Charlotte may be an exception to this with their white rocking chairs all over the place.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Days 13-16: Osijek

Not a lot to write about--the excitement of finding a box with a partial set of next-to-new Nicene Fathers only to realize it completes the partial set that was found some time before; the fun of a large collection of next-to-new evangelism and church planting books. Someone in the family must have been a psychologist, because there were a lot of good psychology books in that box as well. You notice the fun of next-to-new, as opposed to antiques by people whose names did not outlast the twentieth century.

We have taken most of our evening meals in our room with cup-of-soup and fresh bread from the bakery around the corner. Main meal is at lunch with the students. As we get to know them better (or at least, as Steve does), we linger longer in conversation. We went out one evening for cevapis, a local sausage seasoned with garlic and paprika and served with raw onions and flatbread.

The recipe I linked to above says pita, but this was much fluffier than any pita I have eaten before, split open and toasted.

Wednesday night Steve spoke at the church's midweek service. It was held in the room that was the library when we first came here in the early 90s. The room is about four times as long as it is wide. I remember it filled with book cases jutting out into the room, some of which fell where the light didn't. In those days I wasn't wearing an iPhone to pull out my handy flashlight.

I sat with Deborah and another young woman who often volunteers in the library. Afterwards Deborah hugged me and said, "You are such an encouragement to us." That was what we had hoped for. I have made only a small dent in that pile of books I showed you on Day 7; it is the people we wanted to encourage.

Tomorrow we head to Zagreb and then to Frankfort for the start of our trip home. I feel quite ready to get back to my own office and my normal routine. I have heard back from the author of a book I am editing with answers to my questions, and gotten a request from the same publisher for another book. Sharing a single room with Steve after seven hours in the library is not ideal working conditions so I am putting both projects off a few more days.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Day 12: Sunday in Osijek

The Assembly of God church that runs the seminary meets in an early-twentieth-century synagogue on the property. I love the confluence of cross and tablets of the law at the front. We always sit in the balcony since that is the most unobtrusive place for a translator if there is one. Today we didn't ahve anyone, but the preacher was a British missionary to Sweden so we understood. I had less trouble keeping up with the Croatian words to the music because it was much slower than Friday's chapel, plus the melody was familiar--Power in the Blood.

There is a separate door to the balconies, a left-over, I suspect from the days when these were the women's galleries of the synagogue.

We had dinner at a place down by the river that we had noticed on a walk. Not the greatest service, but it was interesting to sit and watch whole trees float by on the bloated river. It will be an excellent location when they have the river walk open again.

I went for a longer walk in the afternoon. I snapped this of the building next to a church near "home." Compare with the clean new roofs in Dubrovnik. This is how old roofs normally look--thick with moss and lichen.

In the evening we walked the two miles back into town for a free choral concert at a church near the central square (which is really a triangle, but I never heard of a town with a "central triangle.")

Kapucinski Monastery Church
 When we arrived (after a circuitous route, having mistaken on the map the courtyard the church was on), Mass was still going on. We were amazed at how crowded it was in this post-communist country, How much is faith and how much is nationalism, I'm not sure. Probably a mix. We were also amazed at the numbers of young people who came out.

When the choir opened their mouths, the sound was gorgeous. Wonderful reverberation in the building. But after a while it all sounded the same--rich and poignant Angus Dei without ever getting to the lively glorias and alleluias. Steve whispered in my ear that he was ready for a good spiritual. At that point a female soloist launched into an all-over-the-map gospel rendition of Ave Maria--in Latin. But after that came "O Sacred Head Once Wounded" at half the speed I would take it.

We stood out in the cold on the "Triangle" for a bit and caught the overheated tram home to bed. Now it is time for a new week of teaching and classifying.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Day 11: Saturday in Osijek

A day off from classifying books.  Hurray!

The first Saturday of the month is the antiques fair in the tvrda, the "old city" inside the Austo-Hungarian fortress between here and downtown. We were there last time, and I bought crystal fobs from antique chandeliers that I put on our Christmas tree. Today there was lots of beautiful stuff to see, but nothing I couldn't live without. The thing that tempted me was sweater/jackets in dark red, navy or gray with an ethnic border. Some were hooded or there were matching berets. My New Zealand "sheepskin" jacket broke the zipper in Dubrovnik. I have replaced zippers before, but not on something as heavy as this. I'm planning to abandon it. Replacing New Zealand with Croatia was attractive to me, but Steve thought these looked too folk costumey. Admitedly the cape in the same style made me want to sing, "The hills are alive with the sound of music." Looked like what Maria wore when they escaped.

The fair is in the main square of the Tvrda. One side is lined with outdoor coffee shops. So we took a break. In this panorama shot, you can see the back of Steve's head slightly to the right of center as you look over the coffee tables to the booths around the square. The spot of green is the brightest of the fleeces offered to keep coffee drinkers warm at this time of year.

I ordered hot chocolate, which the Croatians thicken slightly with corn starch so it's like hot runny chocolate pudding with lots of whipped cream on top.

We visited the Osijek Museum, which is on the right of the square in the pano shot. The school where we are staying is just outside the bounds of the ancient Roman fort that occupied the site of Osijek. Second to third centuries if I understood the museum labels properly. That was a challenge since they were all in Croatian, but there are certain expectations as to what information will be provided in the labels. The museum covered various local industries. We recognized part of the huge leather factory as the derelict building on a square near the river that we sometimes pass on our walks. What we had heard was that the factory owner was Serbian and left in the early 1990s. Whether it was still shoes and leather jackets at that time, I don't know. 

I tried to take a panorama shot from this point in the town two years ago, but under the old system of stitching separate photos, I couldn't get the exposures right with sun on part and shadow on the rest. Also vertical kept changing as I moved the camera around in the semi-circle and the corners of the buildings weren't necessarily in the center of the shots. My iphone does a much better job. The antique market and our coffee spot are up the street to the right.

Our ultimate destination was the zoo, up stream from downtown on the far side of the river. We reached it by a pedestrian bridge significantly downstream from the zoo. It was lunch time by the time we arrived, following the bike/pedestrian path on the river's edge, so we had lunch at the Zoo Hotel. In warmer weather they have tables outside along the path. Even now we ate in a sort of pavilion with clear plastic walls to keep out the wind. Comfortable with jackets on. Reminds me of eating on the deck at home in spring when it isn't quite warm enough but we are too eager to be content inside. I ordered something never on the menu in Minnesota or Wisconsin--carp. Not the greatest. I don't regret ordering it, but I probably won't order it again.
We had hoped to cross back over the river on the ferry we used last time. It runs on along a cable, propelled by the current like a sailboat sailing upwind. But evidentally it doesn't run at this time of year. Sigh. We walked back to the pedestrian bridge and up into the city to the street where the trolleys run. Just missed one, but didn't have to wait too long for the next, and got a ride home. According to the pedometer on my phone we had walked almost eight miles, so I guess we got enough exercise even with the trolly.

No plans for the evening beyond cup-a-soup in the room. We stopped at the bakery for bread on our way in. It is supposed to be rainy most of the rest of our time here, so we made it a point to spend today out. There is a concert we would like to get to tomorrow IF it isn't raining too badly.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Day 10: Osijek

I spent much of my day in the basement with that pile of book boxes. We rigged up Deborah's laptop so I could consult the on-line catalog from down there. Deborah's computer uses a Croatian keyboard. The keyboard I use in the main library LOOKS like a Croatian keyboard, but types English. That forces me to touch type so I don't get confused looking at a Z key that types Y and vice verse. Only, Deborah's keyboard actually types Z in the spot where it says Z, but I'm used to Y. That means I type words like "commentarz" and names like "Hardz". Of course, the search engine has trouble finding those. There is also an accented C where my fingers expect an apostrophe, so mostly I left the apostrophes out. The point was not to have to carry a heavy box of commentaries upstairs (even though we do that on a cart) only to find that we have multiple copies already. I checked the sets downstairs, and got them into the right pile of boxes, i.e. the one labeled duplicates for another theological library. At the end of the day I opened a large box--the sort that should have been packed with toilet paper, not books!--and found a large collection of books on evangelism and church planting. Those I took upstairs to the light of the main library to work on in the company of Deborah and a couple students.

I'm ready for a break so it's nice that it is Friday.

Friday is also chapel day. We met in the library. Steve was the speaker--Psalm 27. He spoke slowly without a translator. I think people understood, but it wasn't his usual animated communication. A couple of his students led the music with keyboard. Nice voices, especially the girl.

You'll forgive me if I didn't manage to keep up very well with the words even though they were on the screen.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Day 8 & 9: Osijek

The days have fallen into a routine. Not much to write about. Steve teaches; I work in the library. His students are enjoying the course, according to others who have heard comments. Of course, cross-cultural communication is a fascinating subject with opportunities for fun learning activities even for college students. I spent some time this morning in the basement, sorting the piles on a long table and figuring out what the various piles in corners were. I'm planning to spend some more time down there soon. We are hoping to get a computer set up there, so I can look things up without having to cart them upstairs first only to find that we already have multiple copies and don't need the book.

Nevenka, the psych and counselling prof who befriended us last time, invited us over for coffee after lunch. She lives in the next block so it was an easy walk. The house belonged to her parents. She has been remodeling it bit by bit into multiple apartments. She sold off one section and lives in another part while waiting to raise enough money to fix up another section. Her kids are in Dubai. I think her husband is in Jordan. They see each other for a few months a year, pursuing careers in different parts of the world.

Got our laundry done yesterday. It was actually a nice enough day to hang some stuff outside. I have managed to lose not one, but two sets of headphones since leaving home. (I think the second ended up in the sheets at our Zagreb hotel. Not sure what happened to the first.) Last evening I took a trolly downtown to where I had been told there was an electronics store and bought a new set for $6. Not Apple, but they work. (I had been missing my audio-books, and of course, a couple library books I have had holds on for months came through this week.) I walked home along the river until I reached the part that is all torn up. About 40 minutes.) Fun to be familiar enough with the area from our last visit to feel comfortable running around by myself. I did ask the IT guy where to go before I set off and recognized the area he was talking about.

That's all for today. I have some postcards I want to write for the grandkids.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Day 7: Osijek

Finally saw the pile of book boxes in the basement. Not the small pile I saw yesterday in an office and thought we were almost done. This one is a PILE. There are more boxes out of the picture to the left and a pile of empty boxes behind.

25,000 books is a lot of books! Got through maybe three boxes today. It's faster when there are a lot of obvious rejects like heavily underlined with lots of notes in the margin. Someone was an avid student of prophecy (probably about 60 years ago by the publication date of the books), but they aren't needed here in the 21st c. 

Andrew had the idea that I could open boxes and sort for priority in the basement, but there just isn't room to sort. The table out of sight to the right is covered with miscellaneous books. It seems more effective to open one or two boxes at a time and deal with them. Some are really good books that make a significant contribution. Some are good books but we already have several copies. Some are not worth having been shipped. We'll see what kind of dent I can make.

Lunch today was a bowl of bean soup and some bread plus the ever present pickeled peppers. So tonight we decided to eat out rather than make cup-a-soup and sandwiches in the room. On my walk I located the restuarant we had enjoyed two years ago when we were here. When Steve was done with his Skype conversation to South Africa with a Brazilian teacher for a program in Portugal (how is that for international?), we took another walk and ended up there. They don't have an English menu, but it is a picture menu. Steve ointed to the picture of the pizza he wanted. (Turned out to be twice what he needed so it will be cold pizza for breakfast tomorrow.) I pointed to I-didn't-know-what. Turned out to be thin pork rolled around bits of cheese and wrapped in bacon, served with rice, cream and sautéed veggies. Delicious. We will definitely be back. Good prices too. In Dubrovnik we didn't question the prices because they were comparable to US, but my meal tonight was about $7, Steve's slightly less. Cokes were $1.75 each for a small bottle.