„Sometimes I wish that I could freeze the picture
And save it from the funny tricks of time
Slipping through my fingers“
ABBA, Slipping though my fingers
I was sitting in the bus, coming back from the Croatian coast for one last time before this volunteering ends, when this Abba song was played by Spotify. One last time I was coming back to Zagreb after the weekend, to the flat that was my home for the last ten months. I came back home with the people I shared this flat and so much more with for the past ten months.
I cannot understand how it is possible, that this project is about to end already. Time really seems to be slipping through my fingers. It feels like I just arrived in Zagreb, after 12 hours of train, nervous, excited, curious, and very tired, not knowing what would await me in these ten months.
I remember very well the first meeting with my roommates and co-volunteers, which was of course a bit awkward but at the same time very exciting. Our first time going to the Amazonas office, when we put the wrong address in Google Maps and ended up somewhere else. Me thinking “great, how can I keep up the German stereotype when I’m already late the first day of work? “
I remember going out my first night here and learning my first Croatian word: Pivo.
I remember hearing all the time “može “, wondering how many meanings one word can have.
I remember my first P”iroška sir špinat” from the bakery next to the Amazonas office that became a must-buy every time I went to the office.
I remember the first two weeks, where we didn’t really have to start working yet and could use the time to discover Zagreb. The city seemed so big back then and I wasn’t sure if I could ever orientate myself well.
I remember writing my first blog article in German first and later translating it, because I didn’t feel like I could express myself so easily in English. Now I very much prefer the contrary. Plus, writing about this experience comes much more natural in English, since I lived through all these things in English.
I remember having my first German lesson and being super nervous about it. It took me so long to prepare it. Also, I was insecure if it would work out the way I wanted it to.
I remember the first capoeira trainings and how nervous I was when I had to play in the final Roda. I only knew two moves.
I remember going to Rakhia Bar for the first time and just joining random strangers at their table, that later would have become our friends.
And I remember all the in-betweens, that shaped this year and made it the way it was: beautiful, messy, exciting, intense, funny and full of joy.
The last times
In all of this, time seemed to be out of hands. Literally slipping through my fingers. It’s unpredictable, incomprehensible, weird, and funny. I remember all these first times and happenings as if they happened two days ago. Sometimes I reminisce about that one specific night out or funny conversation and I realize it was in January. Which is fine, considering it was last month. No wait, it was five months ago?
And even though time seems to move so fast, so many things happened that you would think this number of events happens in more than a year. Maybe in half a life. Because in some way, this kind of experience makes so many things happen at once. It fastens things up and in only a few months you establish a new life. On the contrary, the life we have in our home countries, is usually steadier and naturally everything is building slower.
Now all the last times are happening, and it makes me feel nostalgic but grateful at the same time.
The last time in Rakhia Bar, dancing between too many people in the smaller room.
The last time having a drink in the upper town while enjoying the view over Zagreb.
The last time taking the bus to the office that was always late when I was in a rush.
The last time attending the capoeira training, which became a fundamental part of my every week.
What about now?
Now, I have my favourite spots in Zagreb and feel like knowing this city so much more. I can confidently say that I am able to find my way through the city. Although I might still have some issues with the trams from time to time. Also, I maybe end up somewhere else than planned.
Of course, I got to know my flat mates and co-volunteers much more throughout the whole year. I never really know how to call them, because flat mate seems way too less for the intensity and amount of time we shared. Colleague is for sure too formal, and I wouldn’t call it a usual friendship either. It’s a special bond that we created through this year, there were so many moments, laughter and tears we shared. I will forever be happy to have shared a home and a life for ten months with people that were strangers at first and are basically like family now.
I became friends with the woman from the bakery who could see my progress in Croatian. Now I can confidently order my Piroškas (and even bread!) in Croatian.
I became much more confident in preparing my German lessons. I realized how much I enjoy teaching and learning more about my native langue.
Now, I love the Capoeira Rodas. I love to play with all the different people, because every time I can learn something new. And I can proudly say that I am able to do more than two moves now!
I could continue this article for so long, enlisting all the things that were important to me during this year. But it would probably fill a whole book and I already got too sentimental writing this.
Coming home with a heart full of love
Concluding this, I want to say that I will keep all these memories and much more in my heart. I will come back home with a heart full of love for the people I met here and a phone full of pictures (so many that I don’t have space anymore) of the beautiful places I saw.
I come back home with a lot of gratefulness for this experience. I could learn a lot; I was able to work together with a great team, being part of projects that really inspired me. I could grow, become more mature and confident. I met a lot of inspiring people, and I will bring back home friendships from all around the world.
I am beyond thankful that I had the opportunity to be part of the European Solidarity Corps, part of Amazonas for this year. The decision to volunteer abroad and to accept this challenge was definitely one of the best and Croatia and the people I met here will forever be with me.
Hvala za sve i vidimo se!