Water, water, everywhere

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We may have nothing on Hurricane Irma or the storms devastating other parts of the world. But we do have something here in Croatia I’ve never experienced weather-wise: a cyclone.

The news is saying Cyclone Gracija hit us overnight, dumping more rain in one day in this part of Dalmatia than twice the monthly average.

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It felt like getting smacked by “ponedjeljak” (the Croatian word for “Monday,” which even sounds like a punch in the face) on this Sept. 11. We got the kids to school only for school to be dismissed because they lost power. Since I don’t have a car, I walked to the school to take the kids sturdy umbrellas, which didn’t help much on our walk home, when some drivers pelted us with water.

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Thankfully, our power went out only twice and came back on. I had to change my socks twice but still found dry ones. Sarge got stuck for two hours in traffic on the flooded streets but made it home. We live on the third floor of a building on a hill and didn’t flood. I just got a text that tomorrow is school as usual.

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I guess it takes days like today to remind us that we’re at the mercy of the weather and forces beyond our control. I’ve been getting updates from family and friends back home about Hurricane Irma and the next storms in the forecast. I joked that one of the best things about being here is not having local news in English. I wasn’t worried at all that this was coming. I didn’t have to watch TV reporters stand in the storm and tell others to get inside. No one warned me today was going to be a bad day.

I did hear the same stories of heroism that I expect are happening around the globe: firefighters pumping out buildings, strangers coming to the rescue, neighbors helping neighbors.

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The garden out my back window is flooded. I trust the waters will recede. In time, something beautiful will grow. I hope the same is true for other parts of the world ravaged by storms.

Even in Croatia, a ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’

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The boys are disappointed that we are not in the United States to view today’s solar eclipse.

There’s no doubt that, if we were there, we’d be buying eclipse glasses, fashioning projectors out of cereal boxes and eating MoonPies or Oreos as we kept an eye on the sky.

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Instead, we have the windows flung open in Croatia, and we’ve been watching something else that could burn our eyes. There’s a smoky fire a few miles away in suburban Zadar that firefighters are battling with the help of planes.

And not too far away on the island of Hvar, close to where our visiting friends are touring today, there’s a wildfire being fueled by the wind.

Fires have been a problem this summer across Dalmatia. They’ve closed highways, displaced tourists, forced evacuations and left people scrambling to defend their homes and businesses.

Yet, a little bit of smoke is easy to overlook with the mountains and huge expanses of water all around us. Being an expat here, it’s easy to dismiss all of Croatia’s rough edges. I try to ride my bike past gritty Communist-era apartment buildings without really looking at them. I’d rather head to picturesque Old Town to look for architectural styles dating back to the Middle Ages.

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This is a land of contrasts. Sarge warned me not to hike off the trails here because there are still minefield warnings. The physical scars of war are not that noticeable here anymore, but it’s clear when you start talking to locals that there’s lingering opposition between the Croats and the Serbs that’s been around forever.

Our friends in town from the States want to know more about the war a quarter century ago and about all the history, warts and all. But it’s kind of like watching a solar eclipse. Isn’t it nice sometimes to blot out everything and focus on staring at something in awe?

Our favorite spots to show off to visitors have all revolved around water – and solar events like amazing sunsets.

With their American neighborhood friend in tow, our boys have jumped in the Adriatic at sunset, just off the steps of the Sea Organ. They’ve played the Croatian version of “Wipeout” at a beachside aquapark, and we’ve gone swimming by waterfalls at Krka National Park for the second time in a month.

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I won’t tire of this place and its natural wonders, even when a little smoke gets in my eyes.