Not for Naught

 

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Two weekends ago now, I was in the hospital, as you may know. I took the past week to recover and have been back in Ljubljana since Sunday night and have been going to my language course.

Before the whole incident took place, I had had a stressful week because there was something on my mind. Where should I go to college? This thought, and the many that came along with it, put me under a lot of stress. I was consumed with the decision that lay before me. My friend Lili was right, this was truly the hardest part.

I had narrowed it down to three schools: the University of North Texas, the Fashion Institute of Technology, and Azusa Pacific University. Three very different schools, three very different locations. I was overwhelmed, to say the least. I talked to my parents and friends and they all said very different things, albeit helpful.

When the weekend came, I prayed on the drive down to Crikvenica that college would not be on my mind. That I wouldn’t think about the decision or be overwhelmed by it but instead be present with my friends and cousins that weekend.

Well, being sick and stuck in a hospital definitely took that decision off my mind! When it was all over, it was like I had a clean slate. All the thoughts and pros and cons lists from last week sort of vanished after that experience. I had more clarity afterward. It’s easier for me to just tell you where I’m going now instead of saving it for the end in order to make the storytelling easier.

I have decided to attend Azusa Pacific University in California this coming fall! And I could not be more excited about this decision. It’s really quite cool how this all came about, let me tell you about it.

I applied to this school on a whim. The school had emailed me directly and said I was apart of their “invitation only application.” I have no idea what I did to qualify for this. I had shown no real interest in the school previously and had only visited the website from what I recall. But the application was free so I thought why not? Might as well have another option. I didn’t do a whole lot of research and didn’t even know the tuition rate. When people asked me why I applied there, I said (somewhat ashamed) that it was because they sent me an “invitation only application.” What kind of reason is that?

There were times when I thought to myself: Why did I even apply to that school? It’s not like I’m actually going to go there. What a shame that I wasted a whole $17 by sending them my transcript and SAT score. And without even telling my dad that I used his money to do it? (sorry pop)

The week before I’d left for Crikvenica, my eyes were set on the Fashion Institute of Technology. It’s located in New York City, which was the biggest appeal for me. UNT was more of a backup, but I was still considering it. Each school and its appeals and drawbacks. The big problem with FIT for me was the major I chose. This school is very rigid about majors. When applying, you have to choose one and you’re pretty much stuck with it. I called the school the Thursday before I left in hopes of changing to a different major because the one I applied for really didn’t appeal to me anymore, but the program I wanted to switch to was full.

This helped get my mind off of FIT. I was disappointed at first. I really thought that’s what I wanted, but knowing I would likely be miserable in terms of what I’d be studying made it easier to let go of. With UNT, my thoughts varied a lot. There were many reasons why I thought I would like the school, but I ultimately realized that I was just too comfortable with the idea of it. I wouldn’t be leaving my comfort zone at all, and for me personally, it’s way too close to home.

Last Monday I talked to my admissions counselor over the phone for Azusa because I had some questions. He was super friendly and we had a good chat. I realized how much this school had to offer and started to become excited over the thought of going there. We also went over the financial plan which surprised me, to say the least. They’re giving me how much??? Wow, they must really want me there. Feels good since all these other schools seem to not care much about me or have rejected me altogether. 

My cousin Mirjam also went to Azusa Pacific, so being in Prekmurje gave me an opportunity to talk with her about it. I got to hear about her experiences and better understand what the school is like. By the end of that day (last Tuesday) I pretty much knew where I was going.

The week before my hospitalization I was barely even considering Azusa. Then after it seemed like the doors to that school just flung right open. It was so obvious. I am so beyond grateful and excited. I had prayed many times that the Lord would make it clear where he wanted me, yet I didn’t think I would come to a decision as soon as I did.

A few years ago, I said to my mom that I would never want to live in California. It’s too liberal, the economy is bad, there always seems to be drought happening. Little did I know. It’s funny the places the Lord leads us. It’s cool to see how he does it. The school I thought I was just applying to as a “backup” for the sole reason that they offered me a free application is now the school that I’m going to this fall.

I often wonder about the future. I had always wondered about this decision. I wondered for months and months about which college I would end up at, and now I know. I must say, it’s not as crazy of a feeling as I thought it would be. But there are still times when it hits me. I’m finally getting to go back to school! In California!! At Azusa Pacific University!!!

I am so grateful and blessed. Thanks be to God who has provided me this opportunity and has made it so clear that this is where he wants me to be.

 

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A Misadventure

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Crikvenica, Croatia

So something pretty wild happened to me this past weekend. What I thought would be a restful and relaxing weekend away on the Croatian coast with the church I go to ended up with me in a hospital bed. Let me explain.

I’d been losing a lot of blood the past two weeks. As you may know, losing a ton of blood is not so good for a human. I’d lost about a whole liter of it! This caused me to start feeling dizzy around last Wednesday and Thursday morning, but I brushed it off. After all, it went away come afternoon. But on Friday, the moment I stepped out of my cousin’s car and onto the Croatian coast for the weekend, the dizziness became stronger.

I walked up the steps to the building we were staying in and had to squat down because going up the steps only made it worse (it was only like 5 steps). I walked up a few more steps (couldn’t have been more than 10) to the room I was sharing with my two cousins and that caused pounding to occur in my already aching head, heavy breathing, and furthered my heart palpitations. But it was nothing right? I’d get over it. It’ll go away, I can last a weekend.

Ha, wrong. I did not last the weekend. The rest of the evening was manageable, but the next morning I didn’t feel so hot. I didn’t look it either with my pale complexion. At breakfast, I remember sitting there seeing the world but feeling like I wasn’t really there. The dizziness had gotten stronger. When talking with other people I had to lean against rails and walls because the mere act of speaking put me out of breath. Same with singing during worship time. I had to prop myself up against a big pillar that I was lucky enough to have sat by.

I texted my mom about all these strange feelings and she called me after the service when I was out by the sea with my friends going through some discussion questions. My mother was worried, to say the least, and urged me to tell my cousins so that we could go to the doctor. She ended up calling them for me and we left to the nearest hospital in a nearby town.

That hospital was old and had a weird set up. They took my blood and told me I had a severe case of anemia. Long story short, we went back to Crikvenica, said goodbye to everyone, and drove to the hospital in Ljubljana. I can’t say I was too upset about this because there was nothing I could do to change it, and at that point I was beyond ready to get better. What made me more emotional was seeing how sorry everyone felt.

We arrived at the hospital around 9 pm. While there, the doctor told me I would have to have a minor operation in order to get the bleeding to stop and also a blood transfusion to get my levels back to normal, which were apparently so low that I could have died. I wasn’t scared during this process, I was just ready to feel better! So for the first time in my life, I stayed a night in the hospital. And now, I’m with my aunt and her family in a village close to Murska Sobota recovering for the week. I’ve been here since Sunday afternoon.

Throughout this process, my family here in Slovenia has been so helpful. I felt a bit bad that my cousins had to leave the retreat early with me, but they didn’t seem upset. One of my cousin’s had to drive a whole lot. To the hospital in Croatia and back which was around an hour and a half, then to Ljubljana, another two hours, then to Murska Sobota, another two hours! One of my other cousins had to do some translating for me and kept me company before I was moved to the hospital. And my other cousin provided emotional support by being with us through it all even though she didn’t have to be, which meant a lot. And each of them had to go through quite a bit of waiting around.

Now I am staying with my aunt who used to be a nurse. She’s provided her home and food and also helped me obtain medicine that will regulate my hormones and balance everything out. So I’m feeling grateful!

Some people wondered why I hadn’t said anything sooner? Why wait until it was so bad? Well, to be honest, I was being dumb thinking that it would pass away. That everything would just magically disappear in due time. I thought surely I could get through a weekend. I didn’t want to inconvenience anyone. I didn’t want to spoil anyone’s weekend. I didn’t know how serious my situation really was. It’s a good thing my mom woke up at 4 am that Saturday and told my cousins what was going on because I can’t say whether or not I would have. At least I wouldn’t have emphasized it like she probably did.

While this whole experience has been very new and very unexpected, some good has come out of it. But I will leave that for the next blog post! (;

April Showers

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Here in Europe, we have yet to spring forward. The EU waits a whole three weeks longer than the US to spring forward and they also fall back a week earlier. That’s a whole month of extra unnecessary darkness in the evening! As you can see, I love daylight savings. I always look forward to the clock jumping up an hour and having that glorious daylight until 9 pm. Such a good feeling. It reminds me of summer and not having a care in the world. It’s beyond me why the EU is waiting an extra three weeks until we get to experience those magical long evenings again.

If you didn’t know, I’m from Texas where it’s HOT. And if not hot, then warm. I knew coming here would mean getting to experience colder weather and actual seasons, ya know, like the leaves changing color in September and not December. Also having to suffer through a “real” winter with temperatures that actually go below freezing. To my surprise though, being in Slovenia this past winter hasn’t been as challenging as I thought it would be. This is simply because I got lucky. According to those who have been living here longer, this was one of the most (if not the most) mild winter they’ve ever had. Still, I got tired of the cold weather real quick. By the beginning of December, I was over it. Sure, winter is nice… for like a week, but three months? I could hardly believe I still had three months left of this. I wanted my 70° and sunny Texas winter again. Spending these past months experiencing “real” winter has definitely reaffirmed my preference for warmer weather, but it’s also changed my attitude towards spring.

Something I’ve noticed about others and myself as spring begins to make itself known is that we talk about the weather and how amazing it is all the time. We ooh and ah at blossoming flowers, we look forward to when the leaves on the trees will grow back, we always comment on how warm and sunny it is that day.

Never in my life have I talked so much about how warm the weather is getting or how I can’t wait for the trees to be green again or how exciting it is that I can wear short sleeves today. This is because in Texas, winter is like Slovenia’s autumn and even in January there are days that are 70° and sunny (21° C for all my non-American readers). I’ve never had to look forward to spring because it never really left.

I realize now how much I like this about Texas. Sure the hot summers can become unbearable, but the warm winters always made up for it. Seasons are great and everything, I’ve enjoyed actually getting to experience them for once! But there’s just something so great about walking outside in January and feeling that balmy air on your skin. I must say, I’m surprised by how much I actually love Texas weather. I thought for sure my preference would lean towards four seasons versus hot and less hot, but it doesn’t! Maybe at Christmas it would have been nice to have some colder weather, but other than that, having sunny warm weather in January and February is amazing! Standing at the bus stop in the cold and being so bundled to the point of feeling like you can barely move is not my jam.

But there are good things about cold weather too. I got to wear a nice fancy coat, something I have always wanted to wear but never had a need for. In the winter you get to enjoy hot tea and being cozy in your bed. Sweaters. Looking at snow. Having to walk around in the snow and even playing with it gets old, but looking at it doesn’t! Especially when it’s covering the trees along the hills. That’s amazing. Truly a winter wonderland. It was looking at those hills that made me think hm, maybe winter isn’t so bad. Until I’d have to stand in the cold again.

Along with spring came some refreshed feelings about being here. The past month or so I’ve been less than excited to be in Slovenia. Even a week ago I found myself longing to go home. I was dissatisfied, unmotivated, and lonely. But I prayed about this, and God is good. Those feelings are miles away now! The very next day I found myself enjoying class again. For the first time this semester, I thought about more than just going home. I didn’t feel dumber than everyone else. I participated. I had an interest in learning Slovene again. My mood has also increased significantly! I feel like I did when I first came here: excited, content, at peace, looking forward to the next day even though I’ve nothing special planned. Thank you, Jesus! His timing is always perfect.

With all that said, spring is upon us, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

 

 

My House in Budapest

I took a trip to Budapest about three weeks ago. I didn’t really feel like writing about it then, but I changed my mind! Below is a recap of my 3 days in Budapest. Enjoy!

DAY 1:

We started the journey with a 1:05 am bus ride! That was rough. I can’t sleep on anything that’s not a bed. And with the ride being only 6 hours, I didn’t have much time anyway. I think I got around an hour and a half to two hours worth. Lucky for me, I do pretty well on little sleep. Upon arrival, my two friends and I purchased public transport tickets and made our way to breakfast! The cafe was cute and cozy. We decided then to make our way to the Széchenyi (I don’t know how to pronounce it either) Bath House. Our Airbnb wouldn’t be available until three and we didn’t want to drag our bags and tired bodies around all day, so we went and hung out here for a few hours and just relaxed. There are many bathhouses in Budapest, but Széchenyi is the most popular. There were 18 different pools, all different temperatures, and saunas too!  The three pools outside were my favorite. The sun was shining, the wind was blowing (a little too harsh at times), and the pool was the perfect temperature.

After the bathhouse, we went out for lunch. I had traditional Hungarian goulash, yum! We proceeded to hang out there for a while and since I was sitting on a couch, I nearly fell asleep. But I didn’t! We made it to our Airbnb, got settled, and played some card games. We were pretty pooped, yet still managed to go grocery shopping later that evening in the most cramped and crowded Aldi I’d ever been in. We ended up going to bed around 8:30. A big day awaited!

DAY 2:

We awoke around 8:00 the next morning (almost 12 hours I know), ate breakfast, and headed off to our free tour of the city. Did you know Budapest actually used to be two separate cities? Buda and Pest. Separated by the Danube River. My friends and I stayed on the Pest side. This was also where the tour began. We traveled over to the Buda side and I came to realize how different the two sides of the cities are. Pest is much more modern and lively. Full of energy, and full of traffic as well. Not as green as the Buda side, which had more of an old world charm to it. A much calmer feel. Personally, I liked the Pest side better. The tour ended up being really good, we had a wonderful tour guide and were able to see some beautiful things! Afterward, we continued to explore some of the sights on the Buda side, which included a wonderful view of the Pest side and exploring the “castle” a bit (it looks nothing like a castle).

We walked back over to the Pest side for lunch and ended up on the same street as the day before and found a gem of a place. The place was small and cozy and full of delicious Hungarian dishes for really cheap! Really everything in Budapest was cheap. There were a lot of ATM trips because they don’t use euros, but instead Hungarian Forint (HUF). One euro is worth about 315 HUF! For those of you not as familiar with euros, one dollar is equal to about 279 HUF. We typically found meals for only around five euros!

After a satisfying lunch, we went up to the top of a church I forgot the name of for a view of the city. This view made me realize how tiny Ljubljana is. For real, Ljubljana is a baby of a city compared to Budapest (and probably most European capitals). When walking over the Danube River, I thought about how itty bitty the Ljubljanica is in comparison. The Ljubljanica takes mere seconds to walk across, the Danube took a good five minutes. After the view, we headed to the parliament building, which was quite a sight! Such a gothic design, and quite large! One lap around it then we headed to a memorial called “Shoes on the Danube Bank” which was created to honor the Jews who were shot into the Danube during the Second World War.

After a day of walking, climbing up steps, and taking pictures, my friends and I decided to try some typical Hungarian sweets on the way home. First, a chimney cake! We walked up to stand where two younger looking guys were jamming out to some music, so we bopped along with them. We bought two “cakes”, one cinnamon and one surprise! This is what we told the two guys working at the stand because we were very, very indecisive (and we thought it’d be fun). We received our cinnamon chimney cake, and while handing us our surprise, the guy looked at me and said, “I’ll give this to you guys if I get a kiss from her! (;”

I really regret the way I reacted to this, and I chuckle just thinking about it. I’m not a natural when it comes to romantic or flirty things. I’m quite the opposite. So when he said that, I just kinda freaked out! My first instinct was ew he’s a stranger no! I must’ve looked horrified by his request. I made the most disgusted face, and I still feel kind of bad! Could I have just blown a kiss and winked? Sure! But I didn’t think about this until after the matter. Sigh. Oh well!

We then headed to the grocery store to pick up a túró rudi, which is cottage cheese sort of mixture covered in chocolate in the form of a bar/log, basically. We bought two since there were two different types in the freezer section. My friends hated it, I loved it. It was a successful day with 8.3 miles (13.4 km) walked, 21, 640 steps taken, and 35 floors climbed! Woo!

DAY 3:

We woke up again at 8:00 to make it to another free tour. This one was of the Jewish District in Budapest along with the history of the Jewish people within that area. We ended up eating lunch in that area and afterward, we bought another typical Hungarian food. It’s called lángos, and it’s basically fried dough with garlic rubbed on top. Maybe some sour cream or cheese as well. I think this stuff is delicious but my friends didn’t quite agree.

Something I noticed about Hungarian food is that it is very heavy. Full of fat and typically contains quite a bit of meat. Huge lack of veggies. It was definitely good, but I could never eat like that every day. But hey, it’s part of the experience.

After lunch, we walked through the city a bit and explored while admiring the architecture. We stumbled upon a WWII memorial that had been recently been put up in front of another one as a sign of protest. We made our way down to the market hall which was full of fresh fruits and veggies and even more meat. Seriously I’ve never seen so much meat in one place. Not sure what to do afterward, we decided to walk up to the Statue of Liberty located on the Buda side. Over the bridge we went! The was up was tiring, but it provided a lovely view.

We then wanted to go to a cafe. After a lot of walking and a long bus ride and some more walking, we ended up on the Pest side again near the shopping street and had tea and cake. The kind of break my aching feet needed. We made our way home afterward and had dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant near our Airbnb (we really needed some veggies). ‘Twas another successful day with 8.4 miles (13.6 km) walked, 21,378 steps taken, and 62 floors climbed!

DAY 4:

We had to wake up earlier in order to catch our bus home, which, thankfully, was around 9:00 am and not 1:00 am. The few rest stops on the way home made me realize how much nicer European gas stations are than American ones. We also passed my mom’s hometown (Murska Sobota) on the way and I could see it off in the distance. And of course, the views of Slovenia’s hills and mountains blew me away as we approached Ljubljana.

My feet were hurting and swollen from walking so much in the same pair of shoes, but completely worth it. I haven’t worn those shoes since. Below I’ve posted some photos, please enjoy! (: And in case you were wondering, yes, my friends and I sang “Budapest” by George Ezra the entire time.

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St. Stephen’s Basilica (the name I forgot earlier)

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Part of the Shoes on the Danube Bank momorial
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Me on top of St. Stephen’s Basilica

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View from near the “castle” 
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Breakfast! (Mine was on the pink plate)
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Waiting for our 1:05 am bus!

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The outside of the bathhouse
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Inside of the breakfast cafe
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Inside of the bathhouse!

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Matthias Church (one of my fav sights for sure)

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The parliament building!
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The “castle”
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Second largest synagogue in the world!
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The courtyard of our Airbnb

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Ti si sama?

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I went to coffee with a friend yesterday, and she asked me how I felt about going home in a few months. I told her I was excited. I told her about how I wouldn’t want to stay in Slovenia for the rest of my life and how coming here has brought about this newfound appreciation for where I am from. I tried to explain why Slovenia just doesn’t feel like home and how I’ve experienced somewhat unexpected feelings of homesickness and a sense of not belonging here. Being from a different country herself and having spent much more time here, she told me that I’m experiencing culture shock. Which came as a surprise to me, I didn’t realize that’s what it was. But it also came as somewhat of a relief. I felt a lot more understood after she said that, and it makes sense. I’ve been living here for quite some time, it was bound to kick in at some point. And to be honest, it’s been here for a while, I just didn’t realize it.

You can look up culture shock online and get a standard definition of what exactly it is (that’s what I did). But like all things concerning individual experiences, it’s different for each person. For me personally, culture shock has come with a lot of loneliness and longing. I’m different from the people of this country, no doubt about that. There are a lot of things we don’t share, and being different makes it hard to feel like I have a place here.

Of course, I have my friends I made through language school and bible study and I am beyond grateful to have these friendships. They make all the difference, and we understand each other because we are going through the same thing. But when I find myself in my own company, it’s a bit of a different story.

Though I am someone who loves their own company, someone who enjoys being by herself and often looks forward to it, I have my limits. And recently I’ve found myself reaching them more and more frequently. I’ve been by myself a lot since being here, and not just in a physical sense. My cousin’s go home on the weekends and I’m left to an empty apartment, no school, and nothing on my schedule. I’m often left with more time on my hands than I know what to do with.

For a while I would just sit around and waste my time, waiting for someone to reach out to me instead of taking that first step. Taking social initiative is not really my strong suit, even with good friends at times, so I’ve really had to work on reaching out to people and being the one who invites others to do things. It’s still a work in progress, and sometimes I’m still hit with that irrational fear of rejection, but it’s something I’ve been working on and hopefully am becoming better at.

When it comes to loneliness in a less physical sense, it can get tricky. I can be the only one in the apartment for hours at a time and not feel lonely. I can also be in a room full of people and still feel completely isolated. This has led to me realize how important it is to have deep friendships, or as my friend yesterday put it, to be known. I would not still be here if not for the friends I’ve made. As humans, we thrive off of relationships with others. We are social beings and need to both know and be known. Spending five-ish months here has not only taught me the importance of having community, but how much richer life is with it.

I feel like there is so much more I could say on this topic, I could have a five-hour long conversation on this topic. It’s a difficult topic to write about simply because it’s hard to put some of my feelings and experiences into words. I’m not sure how to fully describe culture shock and the loneliness I feel as a result of it. It’s one of those things you have to experience for yourself. Though I am naturally quite independent, being separated from friends and family for an extended period of time has proved to be a wee bit more challenging than I expected. Just a wee bit. But I will say that I’m grateful for it. It’s quite eye-opening and it changes the way you view other cultures next to your own. Upon first realization of how much I miss my home culture, I was tempted to think that mine was “better” in some way. But this is far from true. My home culture is familiar while Slovene culture is not. They are simply different. There is no better or worse.

I am still very impressed by everyone who has chosen to live in a place they did not grow up in. After living here for a while, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of how difficult it would be to leave everything you know and love and are familiar with behind (permanently!). I also used to look down on people who preferred staying in one place their whole lives, but now after realizing my sense of home is stronger than I thought, I no longer see them this way and can even resonate to an extent.

Thanks for reading! If you ever want to chat with me about this topic or anything similar, I am more than open for discussion as it is something that fascinates me.

*I was stuck in a serious case of writer’s block today and yesterday, so special thanks to my mom for helping me come up with an idea when I was about to give up and call it a day. The title translates to “Are you alone?”

 

Thoughts..

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Sometimes I have writer’s block. No idea what to write about. Fresh out of ideas. Don’t know what would be interesting. I went to Budapest this past week! That’s pretty cool, but to be honest, I can’t write a whole blog post about my trip without it just being a huge recap of what I did, which I don’t think anyone would find all that interesting. Maybe you would, but it would still be incredibly boring to write. I need to have a little more oomph behind what I write. Below are some random paragraphs that just show one big thought process of mine. I started out trying to write a blog post because it’s my weekly deadline, but got bored and started writing about the way the sunlight was spilling into the room, and it just keeps going from there. Enjoy this mess of a blog post!

*The paragraphs below are 95% unedited.

Today was the first day of my spring course of Slovene. The third and final course. When did this happen? This course lasts three months, and then in three weeks, I go home. My mom pointed some of this out to me and wow, it all feels awfully soon.

The room I’m sitting in has natural light. A lot of it. It pours in through the two large windows and makes its way onto the walls. It’s the perfect mixture of white and yellow, and I can feel its gentle touch on my face. There has not been natural light such as this for some time. Clouds blocking it out or simply my absence at approximately 3:24 pm in mid-February. This time of day, this time of year, the angle of this house in relation to the sun, my activities today or lack thereof, all make up the equation of me being in this moment, appreciating the way the sun’s rays sit in the room just right. No burning ball of gas piercing the pupil of my eye, no unwanted heat sneaking in through open blinds. Just a stillness that speaks. A time of day that is surpassed by no other, for no other brings the light and energy into this room the way it’s being brought in right now. No passing clouds to create variations in color or hue. Nothing in the way. Nothing but tangible light that I allow myself bask in, soaking, soaking, soaking, but only for a moment, dreading the fall of that glorious sun.

Nothing makes me anxious. Meaning I get anxious, but about absolutely nothing. It’s just something that hits me some days (or weeks). And I can’t seem to pinpoint where it’s coming from. Or get rid of it.

I mope around and get frustrated with myself for not speaking up and practicing enough. I fear that I’ll never change because I simply don’t know how to. The mental barrier I’ve built feels like it reaches to the moon. So I try to motivate myself. I ask for some help, for a word of encouragement. I receive it, but man is it hard to change. How hard it is to be something you’re not. I try to take a positive spin and look at it as an opportunity to grow, to leave my comfort zone. I tell myself when the next opportunity comes, I’ll take it. That things will be different this time around, but they never are. When an opportunity comes, my mind feels weary and I can’t find the words. I’m at a loss. I don’t know what to say. And the truth is, sometimes I don’t want to say anything. Sometimes I don’t wanna talk. Sometimes I’m tired and I want to be by myself. At the same time, I want company. I want to have an enriching conversation without feeling guilty about the fact that it wasn’t in my target language (despite that being impossible). I feel like I’m not trying hard enough. I beat myself up and my mind becomes filled with negativity. I am usually very good about not letting negative thoughts run rampant but sometimes it feels like their soldiers outnumber the positive ones. And the encouraging words always tell me that I’ll overcome this, that in time I will get there. What if I don’t have time? What if I don’t overcome this? The only thing scarier than that thought is that one soldier that says “but what if you never even try?” Maybe it’s simpler than I think. What’s the worst that could happen, really? Just step out and DO IT. Stop thinking so much.

It takes a lot to get me started sometimes. I wish I was a natural initiator socially, but I’m just not. And I have to accept that, make peace with it, and work on becoming better. It’s just fear. It’s just fear holding me back. That’s it. Just a flimsy fear that holds nothing. Fears that are irrational but leave me feeling terrified. Of awkwardness. Of not knowing what to say. Of mistakes. Of stumbling. Of people laughing at me. Of what people think of me. And why? I don’t know why. It’s just how I am. It’s something I wish I could change.

But I can’t change it. I need help. I need God’s help because I have failed myself time and time again. And I have a strong feeling that will continue. I need His help. I need to lean on him. I need reminders that it’s okay to feel this heavy sense of incompetence. That my fears only exist in my mind. That through Christ’s power, love, strength, and endless grace, I can change. I can grow.

On the first day of my first Slovene language course, my mom came with me. I was timid and a bit nervous. I had no idea what to expect or who I would meet. My mother interacted more with the students than I did at first. I made a few friends with the help of her extroversion and when she left I clung onto them for the rest of our time there until later more people came up to us. Everything was so new, so unfamiliar, but it soon became familiar and sometimes I think back to those beginning days when it was still warm enough to go outside during the break. The sun would shine down on my friends and me as we chatted about our varying curriculum, discussed our cultures, and got to know each other better. Today, after being through the process twice, I walked around like I owned the place. There were so many new faces along with the familiar, friendly ones that I already knew. I had the confidence to introduce myself to new people and caught up with friends I hadn’t seen a while. It felt good. I felt good. I love having experience. The trouble with this is that you have to gain experience, and gaining experience means starting out with none. For me personally, and I assume most people, there is such an amazing feeling that comes along with knowing your way around something, whatever it may be. I love to be the master. I love to give advice. I love to speak from my experience in a way that helps someone else. There’s a great feeling in showing someone the ropes and being the person who knows. But in order for me to get to that point, I have to deal with the less enjoyable part of being a rookie, a beginner, a newbie. Someone with no experience. Someone who made mistakes. And I dread this to an extent, but it’s the only way to get to the place where I wanna be. There’s no way around it, and knowing what lies beyond me makes it bearable. I dread the day I get a new job and am terrible at it, but boy do I look forward to the day when I’ve mastered it and get to help someone else. Until then, I actually have to figure out what God wants for my life, and until I do, my answer to the question I hate the most is: I don’t know what I want to study or pursue as a career because I don’t know what would be a good balance of passion and also job stability. I have no clue what my future holds! But ya know what? That’s okay and I’m not afraid about the future. I don’t know if I ever have been because God knows what he’s doing and my life is in his hands. That truth will forever and always bring me peace.

Eat!

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I was in Murska Sobota for the weekend spending time with family. When I go there, I become very aware of a few cultural differences. They all revolve around food. I don’t know why, but it seems these differences are much more magnified when I’m in Murska Sobota. Perhaps it is because I’m with family.

I drove here with my cousin and we arrived here on Thursday night, around 9:45. In my head, I always imagine getting dropped off at my aunt’s house, my cousin leaving after a quick hello, and then me going to get ready for bed. But this never happens. I’m not even sure why I expect it anymore.

When we arrived, we sat at the table for a while. My aunt brought out some food for us that was made earlier that day. Spaghetti and chicken paprikash. Also some pickled veggies, bread, cottage cheese, and meat to put on the bread. She also warmed up some tea for us. And my uncle gave me a spritzer (white wine and sparkling water mixed together, it’s very common here). And of course, we sat and ate and talked for a good while. This also happens each time we drop off my other two cousins. We are invited inside and provided food. Lots of it. Also alcohol and other various drinks. This all usually takes place at around 9:30-9:45 because that’s when we arrive. At this time, all I really want to do is start getting ready for bed. But nope! FOOD.

I’ve noticed that when I go into a Slovenian household, one thing always, and I mean always, happens. I’m offered a drink. Whether it be juice, tea, coffee, a cappuccino, or a spritzer (but never water). I’m also offered food or asked if I want to eat something. I see this happen to other people too. When someone comes over to the place I’m staying in or to our apartment here in Ljubljana, they are offered coffee or tea. Every time. Even if it’s the shortest, most casual visit you can think of. And maybe you’re thinking that’s just good manners, Megan! 

But I think the reason I find it so interesting that Slovenes do this is because here it is normal for people to just randomly stop by for a visit or only give a short heads-up. Especially if it’s family. There is no need to schedule anything. And if someone does come over, there is nothing worse than them not having something to eat or drink. You can almost always guarantee that coffee will be made.

It’s pretty ingrained into Slovenes that you must offer your guest something. Even if it’s a very brief visit. In the US this doesn’t really happen. You can’t go to someone’s house out of the blue, not even on the weekend. If you do go to someone’s home, it’s because you are invited, whether for coffee or tea or lunch or dinner or whatever. It’s all a lot more scheduled and you know what you’re gonna get.

Since going to visit family means eating and drinking a lot more than I usually do, I have to be strategic. I also need to be firm with my no. Family members will ask me multiple times if I want something, sometimes even insisting. There have been many instances where I ate or drank something that I didn’t really want. When it comes to wine, if I don’t want to have more than one glass, which is most of the time, I try to keep mine full because they will fill it up again if they see it empty. Or even if it’s not. Avoiding overeating is hard, truly. There is always so much food. I find myself wanting to try it all. This is not the problem though. The problem lies in when there is extra. The logic of the host is, “well since you are the guest, you get to eat the most!” At least in my experiences.

And if I ever go to someone’s house for a long period of time, it usually goes something like this: Eat, wait 2 hours, eat again, wait a few more hours, eat again! This happened to me twice while I was in Murska Sobota over Christmas. Both times on Sunday after church, but with different family members. I was invited over for “lunch.” Which means that you eat a snack, wait 2 hours for lunch, eat a gargantuan meal which makes you want to never eat again, sit around for a while waiting for your food to digest, more people will probably come over, you have coffee and cake, you sit around and chat some more, then dinner! Leave at around 10 pm. When dinner rolls around, I’m always still full from lunch, but of course, I partake in the meal anyway (like I have a choice).

While I love to eat (who doesn’t?), spending time in Murska Sobota sometimes makes me feel like I’m going to explode. But I can’t complain. I enjoy spending time with family and eating all their delicious food. Even more than that, I love to observe Slovenian culture and chuckle to myself about all its quirks.