Pond Jumpers: Spain

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there’s a lot to love

Posted on November 4, 2009 at 12:30am Madrid / 6:30pm Cincinnati by Kelly Larbes

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“Jedan, dva, tri, pet, šest, sedam. Jedan, dva, tri, pet, šest, sedam.” The monotone counting repeats over and over in my head as I shuffle around and then trip over my own feet and laugh. It is a frequently repeated scene at our new Salsa classes, as well as getting tangled up in each other’s arms. Jay and I have just started taking Salsa lessons, and right now, they are pretty comedic. Any rhythm I have shaking my booty on the dance floor is lost. We are atrocious, so don’t expect us to come back to Cincinnati one day and be able to dance, but hopefully we will have a couple moves. And most importantly, I am having a lot of fun (and most classes Jay is too).

Salsa classes are one the many things I love about living in Croatia. I know I could take Salsa classes back home in Cincinnati, but I always wanted to, yet never did. They were always too expensive and too time consuming. Here in Split, they are less expensive, we have less commitments, and I work less (though Jay sure doesn’t), so we make it happen. Even though I am a little frustrated at how hard it is to learn since we are complete novices, I haven’t given up hope yet.

Croatia can be a frustrating place to live some days, but most days, I really appreciate living here. Here is a list of what I love about living in Croatia. The second, third, and fourth things on this list made my list of frustrations too, but the benefits usually outweigh the negatives.

SALSA AND RUNNING

Salsa and running may not seem to go together, but they do. They are both things I am doing here that make me happy, which I am not sure if I would’ve ever done back in Cincinnati. Even though we look silly at Salsa classes right now, I don’t care because we are having fun. It is entertaining to try to move with the music, learn the steps, and shake our hips. We are the only foreigners in class, so we are getting more of a taste for the culture. Luckily, most people in the class speak some English. A few of them talk to us. Most of them just smile at as. I think they find us peculiar. The instructions in class are given entirely in Croatian, which spices things up too. Luckily, we just usually just need to repeat what the teacher is doing. We should be great at charades some day.

Running is another rewarding activity I have taken up here. I was never much of a runner because I always struggled with it and I enjoyed playing sports more. But whenever I did run, it always felt good afterwards. Here in Croatia, women’s recreational sports aren’t popular and I am too cheap to join a gym (plus there aren’t any close by), so that left me with running to get a good work out. It was a blessing in disguise. I can run six miles now, which I never thought was possible, and it feels great. I have been running twice a week with my good friend here, Paula. We have been great motivation for each other to reach our six mile goal. The beautiful sea views along our running routes help too.

NO CAR

Not having a car can be frustrating, and I admit, I wouldn’t want to live without one forever. But for now, it does me a lot of good. I am not losing weight (I guess my body is at its set weight – or I like sweets too much), but I do feel fresher and healthier because I walk almost everywhere I go. I usually clock two and a half miles going to and from work, on the days we go to dance that is another three miles, and if we go into town in the evenings or on the weekends it is another two miles. Sometimes we take our bikes, which make the trip a bit quicker, but is still a good workout on the way home up the hills. I take the bus some days, usually on a running day, but not often. I have definitely never walked so much in my life.

Not only is not having a car good for me, but it’s good for the earth.

APARTMENT

We have the most amazing view from our apartment’s balconies. It looks out over the Adriatic Sea. The blue water stretches for as far as the eye can see and is only broken by a scattering of islands. It puts a smile on my face every single day. There is something about being so close to the sea that feels so nice. Sitting out on our terrace and enjoying a meal or a drink is very relaxing. We can watch cruise ships pull in and regattas race by. And we get to see some beautiful sunsets that turn the sky and sea brilliant shades of pinks and oranges.

A regatta taking place along the coast, as seen from our balconyA beautiful sunset, as seen from our balcony

WORK

Working at Elevator really immerses me in the Croatian culture. I learn so much about Croatia from everyday interactions with coworkers and projects. I am always amazed at the aspects that seem leftover from an old Communist culture. For example, one day we were throwing ideas around for an in-store headline for a redesigned package. I suggested “Change is good,” and got the weirdest look from Maja. I was informed that a Croatian would never ever say, “Change is good.” No one would ever think it either. People here think change is bad. Tony said, “Nothing ever gets better when it changes.” I think that is kind of a sad viewpoint, but it is interesting.

Working at a small office, also gives me the chance to work on a variety of projects. One day I am working on meat packaging and the next day I am working on an identity redesign for a pricey hotel. Sometimes I miss working on larger projects and on larger teams, but then I think about the good things. And one of the best things about working here, is that I leave work almost every day at 4:30. This really allows me to take advantage of living in a foreign country and enjoy everything it has to offer.

HISTORY

Croatia may be just a baby when it comes to being its own country and government, but the cities, especially Split, are very historical. The city center of Split is set in the old Roman Diocletian Palace. It’s very unique how the town has grown with the palace and the lives of the citizens are interwoven throughout. People live, work, and play in the palace. One could argue that the alterations people have made to the palace are destroying history or one could argue that living in the palace is the best tribute one could give to its founders. I don’t know who is right, but I know I really enjoy walking through all of the little alleyways and sitting in the almost two thousand year old Peristil listening to live music. It feels pretty amazing to be sitting on an old step and thinking that a Roman emperor walked on the same stone thousands of years ago.

A street in SplitThe Peristil in Diocletian Palace

TRAVELING

Everything in Europe is so much more compact than in the United States. It makes traveling to completely new places much easier, and Jay and I are definitely taking advantage of this. We’ve traveled more in the past six months than ever. We’ve been to three island paradises that are just an hour boat ride from Split (Brac, Solta and Hvar); two Croatian National Parks (Krka and Plitvice); Trogir; Duce (visiting Trogir or Duce is kind of like visiting Dayton from Cincinnati, but, still, they were both neat and new to us.); Sarajevo; and Italy twice. And we leave for Egypt in less than two weeks. I cherish traveling and experiencing new places, so I really appreciate that living here has given us the opportunity to do this more.

ISLANDS

The Croatian islands could just go under ‘traveling,’ but they deserve their own nod. There are over 1,000 islands on the Croatian coastline. Most of the islands are small and deserted, but about 20 of them are large and inhabited. This is a lot of islands for a country the size of West Virginia. There are three large islands off the coast of Split that are just an hour boat ride away and several other large islands just beyond those. The nearby islands are great for day trips. Ferry rides are only $5 each way (so much cheaper than ferries in Italy). The islands all have quaint historic towns and beautiful rocky beaches with clear turquoise water. The water is so pristine and refreshing for swimming. The islands make me feel spoiled and overindulged in the summer.

A Jadrolinija ferry ready to departThe town of Maslinica on Solta Island

WEATHER

Split has similar seasons as Cincinnati, but the summers last longer and the winters aren’t as cold. It’s not a tropical paradise, but the weather sure beats what I am used to. There are over 300 days of sun every year. Even cooler days feel great with the clear blue skies and warm sun.

FOOD

The food in Split is perfect for Jay and I, considering we don’t like our greens. There is lots of meat, pizza, and pasta at every single restaurant. The lack of variety may annoy some people, but it suits us just fine. Jay particularly likes the real ham topped on the pizzas. There are bakeries on every corner in town. People buy fresh bread daily, and it is delicious. The gelato is the best I’ve ever tasted, and a cone is just $1. Some lunches I enjoy a cheese ‘pita.’ This isn’t what I would normally consider a pita, but instead, it is a warm flakey croissant pocket filled with a creamy cheese. It is sooo yummy, and is probably the food I will miss most when we leave one day. Jay and my new favorite enticing dessert is a Krempita, which is a type of vanilla pudding cake. There are also scrumptious vanilla cream filled fresh donuts. Clearly, self control is a necessity here.

Pita SirKrempita

CULTURE

We really enjoy immersing ourselves in a new world. We are are taking in so much. We have learned a lot about the history of the region and the Croatian way of life. We’ve acquired a little of the language. We enjoy talking to locals and seeing how they can have an entirely different perspective on life from food to health to work to their soul. We find it interesting the people here will refer to things as being good for their soul. People in the United States who talk about their soul are often eccentric hippies, but here it seems more conventional.

PEOPLE FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD

Not only have we met Croatians, but we’ve gotten to meet interesting people from all over the world since we’ve moved here. Jay plays soccer with guys from about eight different counties. We’ve met an Australian couple who works for six months of the year and sails around the Mediterranean in their sail boat for six months a year. We’ve met a Canadian lawyer who helped establish the Kosovan government while working for the United Nations and now works on humanitarean efforts in Bosnia. We’ve met an outgoing gay British millionaire who travels with his personal chef, owns homes all over the world, and was lending his Spanish home to the President of Malowi while he was in Croatia. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

We’ve also made a few good international friends. We had friends (Yes, it feels good to finally be able to say we have friends here.) over one afternoon to enjoy lunch and drinks on our terrace. We joked about what a strange stew of people we had together: two Americans, two Aussie Croatians, a South African, and a Frenchman. The mix of perspectives sure made for fun conversations. Cincinnati will always be home, but on afternoons like that, there is no place I would rather be than here.

11 Reader Comments to “there’s a lot to love”

  1. Aunt Fran on November 6, 2009 at 9:04pm Split / 3:04pm Cincinnati

    Hi Kids,

    I’m finally getting caught up on your blog. It sounds wonderful. Kelly, your Mom and Dad met us at the granite place one night and after that we went to dinner. Since we all had the same thing, 2 meals for 20 dollars, the bill was exactly the same. Both your Dad and Uncle Bob paid with their Americian Express cards. So they signed the checks and we went on our merry way.

    Last Friday night, your Uncle Bob and I went out to eat, went to Costco, and went to Sears. We spent about $300 on gifts and what not and when we were at Sears Uncle Bob was charging his purchase and all of a sudden your Dad’s name popped up on the screen. Well, your Uncle Bob signed your Dad’s name and then we went home. Later that evening your Uncle Bob called your Dad and thanked him for buying some of his Christmas presents.

    Your Dad and uncle had each other’s American Express cards for two days and no one noticed. We hooked up with your Mom and Saturday and exchanged cards. We’re still laughing about it.

    I hope you have a wonderful time in Egypt and Jordan and that you’re keeping a scrapbook of all your adventures.

    Have a wonderful weekend!

    Aunt Fran

  2. Pat on November 7, 2009 at 1:42am Split / 7:42pm Cincinnati

    hahaha, I can’t see you guys doing salsa but it’s pretty cool you’re doing that. Are you the next ones on “So You Think You Can Dance” ??????? lol

  3. Betty Bone on November 9, 2009 at 8:18pm Split / 2:18pm Cincinnati

    Okay, really my only comment: you found food you love!?! Wow.

  4. Paula Babic on November 9, 2009 at 11:52pm Split / 5:52pm Cincinnati

    Kelly i Jay, bas lipo kao uvijek procitat vas vijesnik, i nami sve drago da ste vi ovde :)

  5. DAD Klocke on November 12, 2009 at 4:34am Split / 10:34pm Cincinnati

    As usual, I am jealous that you can write such an interesting article. I wish that i could write as good as you do. You are meeting so many interesting people that you will member forever. Paula seems like a great friend. Also Paula got you to run and that is something that I could never get you to do. I remember trying to get you to run around the fortball field at West. When you get home, you will be able to outrun me. That will be difficult for me to accept!!!!!!!!! Just think when you get old you will be able to tell your kids about your experience living in Crotia before you decide to settle down.. They will probably tell you that they already heard that story many times, just like you tell me when I repeat myself. I am looking forward to see you and Jay in a few days to experience a life long dream of visting Egypt. You should have plenty to write about when you get back to Split. ( I am looking forward to going back to Split again – maybe in May, 2010 or sooner).

  6. Kelly on November 12, 2009 at 10:11pm Split / 4:11pm Cincinnati

    Aunt Fran – Thanks for sharing that story. I was laughing so hard.

    Pat – laugh all you want. I understand. It is funny.

    Betty – Yes, it is a miracle that we like the food here.

    Paula – I need to remember to ask you what this says, because Google translator didn’t do too well with it. But I can tell it is nice, so thank you.

    Dad – Hopefully I can outlast you running someday, but I think you will still be faster than me for years to come. Your comments always make me smile so big. I can’t wait to see you in Egypt.

  7. Paula Babic on November 13, 2009 at 10:30am Split / 4:30am Cincinnati

    The translation is “As always Kelly and Jay enjoyed reading your blog, and we all love having you guys here too”
    And Dad Klocke… thanks for the kind note, but with the running thing… Id like to take credit for ‘getting Kelly running again’, but actually I think she got me ‘running again’… Id been going for some ‘leisurely jogs’ thru Marjan, but I let them slide, then one day Kelly joined me, saying ‘only a short one, cant run more than 20minutes’… then turns out she is a “Closet Quarter-Marathon Runner”! :) … its been great motivation for me, I never thought I could run 10km… and now they have me going salsa dancing too! :) Have a great time in Egypt all of you.

  8. Kristen on March 4, 2010 at 6:42pm Split / 12:42pm Cincinnati

    I was doing some research online and came across your website. I hope you don’t mind me reaching out to you. I’m a casting assistant in New York for a popular show about people relocating outside North America. It’s called House Hunters International and airs on the Home & Garden cable network (HGTV). We are casting people for this show right now and I was wondering if you or anyone you know would be interested in participating.

    Our show consists of a family or couple who has relocated in the past few years and the property they live in. The purpose of the show is to demystify the process of moving and living abroad. You can learn more about our show and watch episodes here: http://www.hgtv.com/house-hunters-international/show/index.html.

    Putting together an episode with you would be a real treat for our audience and it’s a lot of fun for you too. Contributors to the show get a nice keepsake shot in HD video and also receive compensation for your time and efforts.

    If you or anyone you know is interested in learning more, please contact me at househunterscasting@leopardfilms.com. Thank you in advance for your prompt feedback on this. Have a wonderful day!

  9. Natali on June 6, 2010 at 11:12pm Split / 5:12pm Cincinnati

    Hey your blogs are really interesting I love reading them! And the ‘cheese pita’ thing you get to eat is actually called Burek which is pastry with a meat or cheese filling; a traditonally Turksh dish.

  10. nina on June 30, 2010 at 2:20pm Split / 8:20am Cincinnati

    Hi there Salseros,

    Hope you can give me some insider information! I will be in Duce last two weeks in July. Have been doing salsa for a couple of years and would like to check out a salsa venue for a party night in Split. Do you know details of anywhere i can go?

    Best Wishes
    Nina

  11. Kelly Larbes on June 30, 2010 at 4:59pm Split / 10:59am Cincinnati

    Hi Nina – There are two salsa clubs in Split that have dance party nights – usually Thursdays and Saturdays. They have been changing up the venues lately because bars aren’t committed to one thing in July and August here. The best way to find out is via their facebook pages:
    Salsa Tropicana: http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=100000412021340&ref=ts
    Miljen: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=126816270676868#!/miljen
    You may need to use google translate. The clubs usually put dance party info on their facebook page and send an invite out to anyone who friends them. Good luck and have fun!