How is it possible that six weeks have gone by since my last post?! I clearly need to be more disciplined about regular updates…
I jumped the gun a bit on feeling settled when I posted back in January. It has actually taken much longer on this trip for me to start feeling really settled and comfortable than it did when I was here in 2013. I think that’s for two reasons. First, on my last trip we were still on a quarter system, and I arrived in late February–that’s significant in Dubrovnik, since most of the town shuts down in January and February. Very few restaurants are open, my favorite spot for an evening drink was closed, and the few Dubrovnik residents I’d made friends with last time were off on holiday. Second, on this trip I have far fewer US colleagues and no family with me, which has meant that I didn’t have an easy social support system in place to rely on.
If you know me at all, you know that I’m a classic extrovert–I draw emotional energy not from being alone, but from being with other people. So the past few months have been a bit of a struggle for me. On the plus side, however, this pushed me to do something I hadn’t done on my last trip, and that’s to reach out more consistently to my Croatian colleagues for coffee dates, dinners out, and conversation. On my last trip, I was here for only 12 weeks, and didn’t know if I’d ever be back. I didn’t have a lot of incentive to do the hard work of building relationships here, and my colleagues had even less incentive to invest that time in me. On this trip, I’m here for nearly twice as long, and have committed to returning next year. That means that it’s worth it for me–and for my colleagues–to build meaningful connections. And while that’s been hard work, it’s been very rewarding as well.
On the more mundane side, I have once again found myself without some comforts of home that I’ve had to arrange to have imported. Because it’s pretty chilly at night in January and February, and my apartment has minimal heating, I splurged on a heated mattress pad (shipped by Amazon.co.uk) and a space heater (purchased at the local appliance store). It was well worth the increase in my utility bill to not be cold all the time! I also asked my partner Scott to send me a few items I’d forgotten: maple syrup as a gift for my landlady (I’d only brought enough for myself), Frank’s hot sauce for comfort food, pushpin thumbtacks, and my favorite gloves. Since those arrived, I’ve discovered a few more things that I wish I’d brought with me, and since I’m meeting Scott in Paris later this month, followed by time with Lane in London, I’ll have one of them bring those things with me. Rather than listing them all here, however, I’ve put up a separate page here on my site of things that an expat might want to bring with them from the US if they’re planning to spend extended time in Dubrovnik.