Well, I’m back in my “hometown” -- Zagreb, Croatia. Do you know how I know? Last week, just hours after arriving by plane from the U.S., the doorbell rings. Suddenly, a tall, older man with a clipboard has burst his way into my apartment demanding to know where the electricity meter is. Still reeling from the jetlag and not quite dressed, I dig deep into my memory of Croatian (after all, it’s been five years!) and inform him I do not have the key to open the box he is pointing to. Exasperated after nearly ten minutes of hilarious banter in English and broken Croatian, I push him out the door and collapse into a fit of laughter, remembering all the encounters with determined postal workers, electricity workers and various other state bureaucrats. You see, I am now able to pay my bills on-line in the U.S. and have forgotten about many long days here of queuing up at the post office.
Thus are some of the frustrations of living in a former socialist country. Old habits die hard. But, modernity has its drawbacks, I must admit, when today I am able to purchase fresh, domestic cheese at the open air market from a nice woman who insists I take home almost entire hunk for a mere 20 kuna (less than $4 US). Together with prsut (proscuitto), fresh tomatos, cucumbers and strawberries – all for the about the equivalent of $10 – I will have a lovely lunch. Ah yes, and there is also my bottle of Postup, a red wine given to me by my old driver, which will accompany me.
It’s quite nice to be back, I decide – and am glad some things will never change.