‘Ride it like you stole it’

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The first cruise ship of the season has already come and gone from the harbor here in Zadar, Croatia. We are not far behind it. This is our last week in this beautiful country.

There is a word in Croatian that describes a state of mind I will miss long after we leave. It’s called “fjaka.” It’s a day-dreamy state I fall into when I stare out at the water and watch ships go by.

Here in Croatia, drifting into that fjaka fog is a way of life.

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When we arrived a year ago, I wasn’t sure how I’d fit into a place where it feels like time can stand still. In my American life, I’m impatient and overscheduled. Now I know the value of enjoying a more leisurely pace. There’s something captivating about the cafe culture here. There’s no shame in sitting down with friends for a coffee with real cups and saucers. They still believe that life is better without the distraction of cell phones.

Even our boys, who have been homesick at times, are feeling emotional about leaving. They’ve had their last sleepovers with friends. They’ve sold their bikes and given away their Nerf guns.

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Our oldest, “A,” has been practicing every night for a week for his last big school project. He has the role of American inventor Thomas Edison (the villain) in the school’s animated film about local hero Nikola Tesla. The script is all in Croatian, and I can hardly believe my 12-year-old can read it.

Our youngest, “W,” who’s almost 11, was determined to hate it when we got here. He went on to be voted class president. It took many more months before he would admit that he likes it here. My local friend says that makes him like a real Croat: someone who loves to complain even if deep-down he likes it.

Sarge, who came here to be an instructor pilot, is back at the airfield today. He’s off. I think he just wants to hang out with the guys. The other pilots took him out last weekend and gave him a Croatian football jersey. They said they expect to see pictures of him wearing it back home.

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As for me, I have been having the strangest dreams. One was about corporate jargon. One was about dryer lint overtaking my laundry room. Another was about sea surges. My dreams seem to be about my life here colliding with my “real” life back home. I will be glad to get back to my family and friends. But I don’t know what I will do without fjaka.

Some things here may not be as idyllic as I’ve made them out to be. There can be a frustrating side to time standing still. I’m still impatient. I’ve experienced the country’s bureaucratic offices and inefficient postal service. My local friends tell stories of bribery and corruption doing business here. My language barrier has sheltered me from worrying too much about the negatives. Every place has its problems.

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I’m still awed by the things that drew me in about Croatia. I will miss simple things, like church bells and cobblestone streets. I’ll miss seeing people stop and read the death notices on the corner bulletin boards. I’ll miss the sunsets and the eerie sound of the Sea Organ.

If we were staying longer, I’d buckle down and really learn to speak the language. I’d master driving a stick shift. I’d learn to garden.

What I do know is that life will not wait for you to get around to everything on your list. We are lucky that we have had a year to see more than most people who live here. I’ll savor those moments.

When Sarge quit his desk job to follow his passion, I thought it meant everything would fall apart. Instead, it meant we needed to adopt a new philosophy. “You only get one life,” Sarge likes to say. “Ride it like you stole it.”

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32 thoughts on “‘Ride it like you stole it’

  1. This is the most beautiful piece of summary i have read in a while. Its quiet obvious you did had an a great time over there. May those memories live in your hearts on this path of life….Ride it like you stole it.

  2. I have loved reading about your family’s adventures abroad. Insightful, poignant, bittersweet, funny. I always looked forward reading your posts and living vicariously through your stories. I hope you get a book deal!

  3. I’ve been living expat life in Germany for almost 3 years now, and the thought of going back to the states eventually gives me such complicated feelings! I’m glad your family has had a great time in Croatia and best of luck on your next adventure!

    1. Thank you for reading. I’ve loved live abroad. Time for some extended family time and “normalcy” with the comforts of home. I will miss the adventures!

  4. Ride it like you stole it! I love that! What an amazing opportunity to live in a beautiful country for over a year. Your writing makes me want to visit Croatia!

    1. Croatia is amazing. I don’t know if I could have found it on a map a few years ago. Now I’m Croatia’s biggest fan.

  5. I love that I have a name for my daydreaming – fjaka! Its like having a minibreak every day 🙂 And I’m going to be using that phrase – ride it like you stole it, pure class 🙂

  6. I have loved your tales of life abroad! Don’t stop writing when you get back because I love hearing about home, too!

  7. LOVE IT!!! Please keep your blog about transitioning back to your ‘real’ life! Look forward to seeing you all but have loved that you shared just a little bit of your adventure with me!! Safe travels my friend!

  8. That’s so interesting to read how your kids adapted to Croatia. I work at an international school and I think it’s so impressive to see how quickly kids adapt to a new place. And I really like that expression “ride it like you stole it”. I will try to think of that more often.

  9. Love this, Tanya B! What an amazing year. So glad we got to experience a little piece of it with you. See you soon!! 😘

  10. This is a lovely piece; I can really feel your emotions – I feel like I’ve been living there with you! But you’ll have amazing memories which will last far longer than a year. Funnily enough, I was looking at flights the other day and saw one to Zadar – got me very tempted now!

    1. Fjaka is something like a Spanish siesta, or “island time” when we lived in Hawaii. But it’s not the same as being lazy. It’s more of a Zen state of mind.

  11. Still loving your writing. Please write books. I’d buy them. Took a Viking river boat from Bucharest to Budapest with stop in NW Croatia.

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