Where it all Began: Part III

Majka Zmajka Love Story

Where it all Began: Part III

Where it all Began: Part III

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Where it all began: Part III

Sweet Home Sveta Klara

Drawing in a deep breath filling my lungs with the country’s rich and viable oxygen, I looked across the landscape and seeing the swaying green grass and trees meeting a vast blue horizon. In the far distance, you could see the massive concrete building tops of Siget, the neighboring hood of Anela’s youth. The morning was orchestrated with a symphony of birds singing passionately and gleefully. It looked like the finest impressionist piece my eyes had ever met, or at least I was tricking myself into believing so. I was looking out of our bedroom window in our small apartment situated in Sveta Klara. We were very lucky because our view faced the east, which wasn’t developed – nature still remained. It was quite an escape from the city’s chaos; it was simple and tranquilly blissful.

Majka Zmajka Love Story
The beautiful view overlooking Siget from our bedroom window

Having settled in a bit, it was a great place to think and reflect. I needed much time to do this as I was still subconsciously in shock. The return had gone as planned. The four of us under one roof: Anela, Jasmina, Bella, and myself.  I was outnumbered severely: 3 to 1. The estrogen level was through the roof, but I got used to it quickly. I learned to just agree. The biggest adjustment was Jasmina’s introduction to Bella. Jasmina was a wonderful person. She was kind, compassionate and she always saw my good quality; she and her family were some of the best people I had ever met. However, she dreaded something more than anything; it was our four-legged furry friend, Bella. Jasmina had an extreme phobia of, well, almost anything. Dog’s were no exception. Even the small type, she would approach with great trepidation. When Ms Bella came trotting through the front door, Jasmina scaled the wall like a cat. She wouldn’t go home alone without someone being there. However, in time Bella’s persona infectiously grew over Jasmina. Her spell of love and affection won Jass’s heart. They soon became the best of friends, even sharing the same bed.  This was inconceivable to us all; moreover, Jasmina couldn’t believe it herself.

Life in Klara was simple, and I adored it. Growing up in America, I had been used to the lifestyle of hurry – everything was on the go. In Klara, I walked everywhere I needed to go. I had time to think about things, to absorb nature and to appreciate the simple things in life; I had always overlooked them before. I started noticing new and simple things like the beauty of a budding tree or flower, and I simply felt happier and more at peace than ever before; I was living, but more importantly, I was aware I was living. There I saw people living without worry – only doing the day to day tasks. This provoked my thought of the liberation of having less. There was not a worry or burden I shouldered. All the superfluous material things I had before were no more. I only had love for Anela, and I had love from the people close to me. That was all I needed.

I started working immediately, and I was extremely fortunate for that. The people whom I worked for were kind to me, and I thank them for that and will always remember them; they gave me an opportunity of employment in Croatia in the time of “the crisis”. We had fun at work, and we enjoyed each other’s company. It was a great opportunity to meet many different Croatians, gaining insights into their culture and way of thinking. I would go to the center from Klara sometimes twice a day, and this served as good exercise as I wasn’t comfortable with public transportation. Anela was always busy during the day, so we usually didn’t see each other until the evening. It was this time she always relished the opportunity to make us all dinner. It was a feeling of being together as one – as a family.

The Queen of Klara

As the Autumn leaves were turning into their beautiful array of colors, so were our thoughts about our future. We were engaged and comfortably living together, but we hadn’t specifically discussed a date. After giving it much thought, we finally decided. Our plans of becoming husband and wife were really on the horizon. The thought of this brought along with it the utmost euphoria one could imagine. The things we had discussed and talked about for so long were materializing before our eyes – We were really getting married. It felt like a dream, but it was not; it was imminent. Before us lay the biggest event in our lives. November had come and we decided to make our vows on its 23rd day.  The day was approaching and the butterflies in our stomachs were multiplying exponentially.

So then it came – the day of our union as one. Our wedding day wasn’t the one you see in a beautiful cathedral with hundreds of people – this was for obvious reasons. Instead, it was held in the city’s municipal court building. We both dressed – Anela wore a tight dress fitting halfway up the thigh – anything but conservative; she looked like she was going to the club and how foreshadowing :). But she looked like the most beautiful woman I’d ever laid eyes on. Not by her wardrobe, but within in her eyes. When I looked into them, I could see a soul of warmth and compassion. A heart wanting love and wanting to give love. I was only the lucky guy to be on the receiving end. I wore a simple light blue suit represented by the fine Croatian brand, Galileo.

The weather wasn’t agreeing with our plans, but we really didn’t have any plans to begin with. We had arranged to go downtown, get hitched (as we say in the South), and have dinner at Sofra. So we set out to the center under soft droplets of sprinkling rain. We hadn’t thought to bring umbrellas, but Anela’s friends happened to have some, and luckily these umbrellas coordinated beautifully with our wardrobes; it looked as if we had planned it perfectly. After entering the building we waited nervously for the people ahead of us. Only Jasmina and Anela’s close friends attended. My family also attended with the aid of some modern technology, Skype. It was finally our turn to go. At this time, we had to hire a translator for me to say, “da.” and what a ripoff that was 🙂

So there we stood in front of each other, in front of our family and friends. Our hearts beating like thundering war drums, the feeling of joy and pure ecstasy overwhelmed not only us, but everyone in the room. Rain droplets were falling outside these walls, but inside droplets of tears glazed the oak floor. This moment was the product of all events leading up to it. From the first mentioning of Anela’s name, the request on Facebook, the wild texting and talking, the trip to Zagreb, the night on Vir, Anela’s trip back to America – all of that was solely for the next few moments and the words of, “I do.” or in my case, “da.” We knew exactly what we were doing, we couldn’t have wanted it more. We were drowned with so much love and feeling toward the other in that single moment – more than we had ever been in our lives. It was our time.

The lady administering this procedure couldn’t have been more amiable and compassionate. She versed us with warmth and resonance, and even though I didn’t understand her words, I could feel her. It was time for me to take my vow. I did so and then placed the ring on Anela’s finger as tears of happiness were falling from both of her rosy cheeks. We ended the small ceremony with our lips locked and inseparable, eyes gazing into the others. We were then met with a cheering roar from our small audience. It was now official and we were husband and wife! It went by so quickly, we didn’t really know what to do next, so we rushed out of the municipal court and immediately drove to Sofra located at Green Gold.

We celebrated with the usual starters of rakija and feasted on the typical mixed meat platters accompanied with the more than occasional shot of nešto kratko. The table was surrounded by a quintet of music in which Anela danced the remaining time. She definitely stole everyone’s attention dancing so effortlessly and flawlessly to the sweet sevdah melodies. She loves dancing and it’s in her blood. When there’s a rhythmic song being played rest assured Anela is somewhere moving her hips swirling back and forth. She’s also been known to end up on the table which wasn’t the case at Sofra thank God. So with our bellies full of food and drink and our hearts content, we departed back to our beloved Klara.

What happens in Dallas stays in Dallas

Arriving back to our apartment, we settled in and took a moment to digest the events that had taken place. I took a cold mug of beer, sat back in the chair, breathed in deeply and exhaled slowly. Reality still hadn’t set in for any of us, and we were all gathered around a bit confused for we hadn’t planned anything after Sofra. We sat around the table looking at each other with blank faces when one voice spoke up and said, “I know of a place.” The voice was Anela’s mother and she did indeed know a place; a place located nearby called Dallas. Anela nor her friends had been so we cordially agreed. At that point, I had never been to any club in Croatia, so I honestly I didn’t care where we went. I did question the name of this club to make sure I had heard correctly, and indeed I had; It was Dallas. So off to Dallas we went and upon reaching the parking lot, its appearance lived up to its name. Honestly, it looked like a shithole, but within its walls, you could hear music echoing toward the neighboring villages in the dead silence of the night. We were met with security guards carrying metal detectors searching for weapons – I felt as if I were back in America entering a club; I was right at home. I guess this was foretelling of what was to come. The moment we walked in, my jaw dislocated and dropped to the floor. A huge crowd covered the inside as music shook the foundations of the building. It was dark and smokey with strobe lights painting the walls and floor in sync to the rhythm of the most “beautiful” music I had ever heard in my life (hint of sarcasm). Furthermore, a raised platform with a shiny chrome pole situated the far end of the dance floor. Keeping this pole company was a fully animated woman wearing a thong bikini of the United States of America – they must have known we were coming. But wait, it gets even better! After finding a table closer to the front (in case of an emergency evacuation) and away from the dangerous bikini woman, another woman holding a microphone made her way directly toward our table like a lioness preying on a gazelle. But this was no ordinary woman! She had the stuff that some consider “very thick” and her clothing fitted so tightly, it was squeezing her upper half almost to the bottom of her chin. I honestly didn’t know how she could breathe, but how this woman could sing; she had a set of pipes. She came directly beside me with the microphone! I had to lip sing until our company informed the lioness that her prey couldn’t speak Croatian. We ordered a bottle of Jager cheaper than you could buy at the local grocery store and had a couple shots to celebrate and absorb the shock of Dallas. Anela didn’t need Jager; she had song and dance. Wearing this tight white scandalous “wedding dress”, she looked to be in her natural habitat. Through the smoke and lighting, you could see flashes of this white bride, The Queen of Klara, spinning around with her long black hair flowing hypnotically like waves in the sea. She impressed the audience, to say the least. It was announced that we were celebrating our wedding, which resulted in more saluting, singing, dancing, and drinking. I was growing wearisome, and my head began to ache, so before leaving, I headed toward the bathroom. As I was washing my hands I was confronted by two young men looking very intrigued at me or maybe possibly confused. The next thing that happened is still a thriving joke between our family today. They asked me in a hesitant manner,” Is your wife a…a..a…gypsy?” I replied with a dead straight face, “why yes of course, don’t you see how she dances?” They looked amazed and then started speaking about other nonsensical matters before I politely ended the engagement to leave the premise of this legendary night spot, Dallas. So this is the story of how we, two ordinary people split between thousands of miles, met and simply just followed our hearts. With a mixture of luck, good timing, but most of all determination we achieved something beautiful and unforgettable. Nothing we did was special in any way; we just simply followed our feelings and planned our future accordingly. Life is simple and I say it’s best to keep it that way. Don’t think too much, just do it 🙂 P.S. The following summer we had a real reception. We concluded that we could do just a bit better than our Wild West Ending:)

Where it all began: Part II

majka zmajka love story

Where it all Began: Part II

Where it all Began: Part II

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Where it all began: Part II

The Return


Arriving back on American soil, I was happily greeted by my good friend, James “Cotton” Pugh. We talked about the whole experience, and he was extremely happy about the news; he had always believed in me, and I always appreciated that. I described how wonderful things had gone, how beautiful the country was, and how amazing Anela was. The trip from the airport was always the longest part of the entire journey. The highway was pitch black and desolate. One could easily drift off to sleep if not careful. It would have felt like an eternity if not for all the stories I had to share. I think “Cotton” thought I was pretty crazy, but he definitely didn’t fall asleep at the wheel out of tiredness or boredom.

On the other hand, telling my family was a very stressful time for me. By leaving them, one might think I had a lack of feeling or emotion toward them, but that simply wasn’t the case; I love my family more than anything. I had always been close to them, and it was really hard knowing I would be leaving, not knowing when I would see them again. They were very excited to hear about my experience. I think they were treating it more like a vacation, believing I would come to my senses; however, this wasn’t the case. During this time I gave them a lot to absorb – I told them everything to the smallest detail.

My first goal was to comfort them. I wanted them to know I was going to a safe place – actually a much safer place than where they lived. The safety issue was always an interesting topic because, unfortunately, most people could only allude to the War of Independence. They thought the atmosphere was volatile. Remember, this was an era before the “Game of Thrones”, and many people in America knew very little of this region except the happenings of WWI, and the mid-’90s.

I did lessen their concern of safety, but they were still interested in Anela. Who was this girl who was taking away their son? How was she like? What did she do? I, of course, answered back enthusiastically to the detail. It was easy because I simply told the truth (like always lol). However, one thing was very different about Anela than anyone else I had met before. She came from a Muslim family. For me, this was totally new. I had met only one Muslim prior in my life, and that was in high school. Understand this, I come from the South, where Islam simply doesn’t exist – only 0.3% to be precise. The region is predominantly protestant, and I was personally brought up in a Lutheran environment.

So this was a new experience for me and for my family. However, Anela wasn’t the “stereotypical” person of faith I had imaged. She was always held at the mercy of good pršut, and she would occasionally indulge in a cool glass of gin and tonic. It is my assumption this “label” identified her to the people who raised her and showed her love her entire life: her mother’s side. They were her family, so naturally, she associated herself with them. To me, none of it mattered anyway, for I was agnostic, but my family was very much interested in this topic. They asked the typical questions any “American” would, and I gladfully obliged them. Furthermore, I described Anela as ellaborately as I could. I’d never been a person full of words, but in this case, I had to make an exception. I wanted to reassure them I was making the right decision. My convictions prevailed and they couldn’t wait to meet her.

The Game Plan

With my family at ease, I had a full list of things to accomplish. It was around the first of July, and I had roughly over a month to make everything happen. The first thing was to give my resignation at work. I needed to give them at least a month, so I did this immediately. Some of my coworkers had known of my intentions before, but after resigning, everyone knew. One of my friends and coworkers, Susan, even made us a personalized coffee mug – how fitting for the Zagreb cafe culture!

The next thing to do was to buy the tickets! Yes, I said tickets, as in two tickets! Anela and I had planned that she would first come to America on August 2nd, and we would return to Zagreb together on August 28th. Sounded like a plan to me! Well as you know, tickets aren’t so cheap, and I had to minimalize anyway, so I sold my motorcycle and other things I didn’t need to buy us tickets. Of course, there were so many other things on the to-do list, but I’d accomplished two out of the three big ones.  Now only a single task remained albeit one of epic proportion affecting our lives significantly later on.

Jurassic Dog: The Dilemma

If you’ve followed Anela’s Instagram profile, then you are fully aware of Bella, our family pet. Bella’s life began on September 22, 2012, and six weeks later, I went to pick her up and make her a part of my life. She was just a tiny little creature, fitting snugly in the palms of my hands. Everywhere I went, Bella also went. From being just a tiny puppy, she loved travelling and sticking her head out the car window. If one saw me driving, they would soon see a blue pitbull puppy’s head sticking out the window enjoying the fresh air and scenery of the new world. I showed her love, and she has reciprocated that emotion to this day not only to Anela and me but more importantly, to our children. But Bella’s destiny wasn’t so certain, for I was caught in two dilemmas. The first being, how would I get her there, and the second, how would she be received by Anela and her mother? Naturally, this caused me a great deal of stress because this little dog had been such a big part of me; I couldn’t imagine leaving without her. But even if Anela and her mother accepted her, how would I get her to Croatia? Well, this took a lot of investigating on my side. It was very expensive to transport a dog, so that wasn’t an option. I searched and searched and being the pragmatist I am, I found certain airlines which permitted “emotional support animals” Alas! My golden ticket – or should I say Bella’s ticket! ESA policies essentially prescribed the dog to the passenger as medication – Bella would be my prescription! All I needed was a diagnosis for a mental disorder, which I probably already had anyway! Additionally, this meant Bella wouldn’t be travelling in the cargo area, but instead, under my feet in the cabin. So, how did I do this? I sought my local physician and told her my story. I told her I was moving to Croatia, and I couldn’t imagine being without Bella. She, being an animal lover, prescribed Bella to be my emotional support animal. After this, I had to send the airline company all information about the dog including her breed type. I was a bit worried as Bella’s breed wasn’t the “shining star” to the public eye. I additionally researched breed-specific legislation in Croatia and the EU because there were some countries which had outrightly banned her breed like Germany. This stress never left me until Bella was on the other side of Pleso airport! Nevertheless, I did all the paperwork and additional vaccinations for both Croatia and the EU, so Bella was set to go! She only needed the approval stamp from Anela, but more importantly, the Punica-to-be. Now, I had to patiently wait for Cinderella’s arrival, August 2nd.

The Arrival and Charleston Bound

The date had finally come. I remember it being a beautiful, hot and sunny afternoon – not a cloud in the sky. I pulled into the pickup zone at the airport and got out to search for my beloved. I didn’t have to search far because she had just walked out of the exit! Glowing, smiling, and looking as beautiful as the day. It felt a bit like déjà vu for obvious reasons, but with the absence of fear and anxiety – just pure excitement. This meeting was different. After seeing each other, we ran and met. I picked her up, held her, and our lips touched with purpose and passion; it was real, there was no hesitation or awkwardness, which was quite the antithesis of the first airport experience. Being swept away in excitement, time withdrew from us. We had to come back down from the clouds rather quickly to pack the car with luggage. And Lord Jesus, what luggage it was! I thought she’d planned to move forever with the amount of stuff she’d brought!

I’m not a planner. I’m more of an improviser. This day was special, so instead of going back to Hickory, I had something else in mind; we were headed to Charleston, South Carolina. If you’re not familiar with Charleston, it is a very special place. I knew Anela had been to the usual cities such as New York and Miami, but Charleston was different. Charleston is one of the oldest port cities in the United States. Its architecture is well preserved, and you get the feeling of being lost in time. In this city, you’ll find an abundance of weeping mossy oak trees, old cannons and artillery, and the beautiful sea. It is also the home for many films such as The Notebook, Forrest Gump, Cold Mountain, Magic Mike XXL, and The Patriot.

I chose this place because it was an atypical city, but moreover, I knew the city very well because I had gone to college there. So, we found ourselves in the famous words of Willie Nelson, “On the Road Again”. Our first task was to find a Subway sandwich shop; Anela loves Subway. I don’t know how, but she can eat more Subway sandwiches than anyone I’ve seen in my life. Therefore, we definitely fulfilled this task at the beginning. She always orders the same thing: toasted ham, cheese, bacon, tomato and mayonnaise on white bread. I’ll confess, it is pretty good, but I’d had enough of that food to last 10 lives.

The trip only lasted about 2.5 hours from Charlotte (Americans don’t use distance for measure, rather we use time), and it was filled with music, junk food, and excitement! We didn’t hurry, we stopped as we pleased and lived the moment as we wanted. We were lost in each other, only enjoying the energy and presence of the other. The only thing Anela kept complaining was the dirtiness of the car. I thought I had cleaned it enough, but not to her standard.

We finally arrived at our hotel located in Mt. Pleasant, just outside the center. It was the only one available as everything else had been fully booked. In short, it was no five-star wonder, but it fulfilled its purpose. We rested a while and later set out to see the center. Crossing the beautiful Cooper River Bridge, I could see the luster in Anela’s face – she was excited. She had never experienced a place like this and her look seemed to approve. Charleston is known for its cuisine, but the romantic I was, took her to my favorite Mexican Restaurant in the Center, La Hacienda. There we had our fill of margaritas and burritos, and the Mexican staff were a bit confused by Anela’s accent. They started speaking Spanish at first but were utterly surprised when they discovered she was not from latino descent. This lead to more curiosity in their faces, you could hear them gossiping about her in the background, but they never inquired. I guess they’ll never know:)

 

After la buena comida, we walked around the center. We strolled down Market Street, seeing all the crafts and culture of the town. This part had a very dark history as it had been used as one of the main slave markets in the United States. I would always get an eerie feeling there, but at least today it’s been made into something useful and nice. We then headed to a local club, waiting in line for half an hour, only to discover I wasn’t allowed inside because I was wearing flip flops. So we went out to find another “fine” establishment accepting “flip flops”. We did manage to find a place and had a couple drinks. Anela told me afterwards she had been proposed to by some Hispanic while coming out of the bathroom, so I guess either she left a lasting impression or he had way too much tequilla – maybe both ! We finally we made our way back to our Special “5” Star Hotel to get some much-needed rest for the next day.

The next day we ventured to the coast, Folly Beach. This was Anela’s first experience under the blistering Charleston sun! The drive was pleasant, with its fill of beautiful water inlets and marshes. Naturally, we stopped at a Subway on the way, ate, and finally headed to the beach. After arriving, we found our way to the beach. The sand was so hot there, you couldn’t walk barefoot until you reached the damp sand colliding with the water’s edge. After finding ourselves a comfortable spot, I came to realize I had left my phone at the Subway. I was unbelievably pissed off, so I hurried my way back in fear of it being stolen. Anela stayed on the beach and absorbed the sun. Luckily for me, the phone was waiting, but it took a bit longer to get back because of the heavy traffic. When I arrived back to the beach, Anela was still soaking in the rays, so I joined her. It was so soothing to hear the crashing waves, wind, and seagulls. So tranquil it was, that we both fell asleep.

ADIOS PAPA JOHN’S

We both awoke only to discover our bodies were turning bright red. It was time to go, but it was too late – we looked like two bright red lobsters. You could smell the burn if that’s any indication. We made our way back immediately to the hotel. There, we applied the cold aloe vera lotion sending cold chills to the spine. It hurt to lie down, it hurt to move, it even hurt to talk. We tried resting, and then I suggested one of my favorite pizza delivery restaurants, Papa John’s. Maybe some good food would distract the pain.  I actually had been praising about this pizza for a long time, so we ordered it.

When it arrived, I proudly brought it to the bed wearing a big smile and opened it slowly. To my surprise, I was met with a burst of intoxicating laughter that filled the room and probably the rooms adjacent. My eyes looked to see what was so funny, and I discovered it wasn’t the quality of pizza I had once known. As a matter of fact, it was an embarrassment – a total abomination. Croatia had ruined it all – there just wasn’t any competition in pizza. After that moment, I never thought of a Papa John’s Pizza the same. My whole childhood of Papa John’s Pizza was utterly destroyed at that single moment. With Anela poking fun at my “special” pizza, we attempted but didn’t finish it. I must confess, there is some damn good pizza in Croatia.

So the next morning and our final day, I gave Anela a final tour of my Alma Mater, The Citadel. If you’ve watched House of Cards, this is Frank Underwood’s school represented as The Sentinel. After the tour, we met my dear friend and roommate from school, Don, and his future wife-to-be, Melisa. We met each other at a little restaurant on a beautiful water inlet called Shem Creek. It was a very nice outing. Anela took a liking to Don and his then-girlfriend. Don was great as always, he didn’t tell too many bad things about me nor did I about him. We then said our farewells and returned back to Hickory, NC.

Guess who’s coming to dinner

We remained in Hickory the remaining weeks until our departure. We all stayed with Anela’s father, Mr Gordan, and that was a treat. It was always amusing hearing the rhetorical battles between those two. Gordan, being a joke master,  seemed to always succumb to the verbal whit of what he named Anela as “The Warden”. It was nice being all together, and it was Anela’s first chance to meet, what Gordan named Bella, “Jurrasic Dog”. Actually, Gordan had a name for everyone – mine was “Hutch”. Anyway, Anela was very timid toward Bella at the beginning. Bella didn’t help matters when she ate one of Anela’s wooden high heel shoes. They finally made their amends, and Bella soon won Anela’s heart and ever since, they’ve become inseparable. Anela, of course, convinced her mother to bring Bella, which was a marvellous achievement as Jasmina was afraid of even her own shadow. Anela might have left out some minor details like “pitbull”, but all was well in the end.

Before meeting my family, Anela and I stayed there maybe a day. I think she was a bit nervous, but the event was inevitable and imminent! We finally had our gathering at my Grandmother’s home, where Anela cooked for them. She made, of course, stuffed peppers since it was a local favorite “Mexican dish” we were accustomed to. I remember before we started eating, my Grandmother went into prayer mode. She started addressing “Jesus” in every sentence, praying for me, Anela, and every other living thing under the sun. I couldn’t help but open my eyes and glance at Anela’s face. I might have even giggled out loud, but we all made it through without our food getting cold.

 

The Point of No Return

With the departure date approaching, things were getting serious. The realization of packing, planning, and saying our goodbyes was setting in. Anela helped me with the packing. It seemed everything I wished to take wasn’t approved by the fashion police. I was rather restricted, to say the least, but it made it much easier, I guess. All I really cared about taking was my dog and a guitar – everything else was compromised. I took a lot of family photos and some sentimental things. Imagine, putting all your belongings into two suitcases and leaving the rest behind for good. At first, it’s very shocking, but later it’s actually a relief. You realize later you never needed 90 percent of the stuff you had in the first place.

August 27th, the day of our departure came. Our flight wasn’t until 17:10 so we weren’t at all rushed. Our families chauffeured us to the airport around 15:00, and I remember the ride being pretty brutal. My mother had a hard time holding back her tears and this, of course, domino affected all of us.  The tears were; however, mostly happy tears.  As I mentioned before, my family was really behind me and supported this decision. I couldn’t imagine it being the other way around.

Standing in front of the terminals, we all talked a little bit, hugged each other, and said goodbye. I remember them watching us until we vanished on the other side into the terminals. Anela and I were pretty emotional – Bella was the only one under control. We all three sat and waited for our flight. It felt like an eternity, and we all were overcome with anxiety, sadness, and happiness. Finally, our flight was called and having an emotional support animal, we were allowed on the plane first. We boarded and situated ourselves – Bella lay underneath my legs and Anela to my right – this was our first flight together and Bella’s last! Finally, the sadness dissipated and the adrenaline kicked in. I thought to myself, this is really happening. I’m on a plane with a fiancee and dog, and I’m headed to a foreign country I had never heard about 8 months before. What could be better![

The flight went smoothly, but again I kept worrying about the dog being quarantined upon entering Croatia. I just wanted to get there, I couldn’t stop thinking about it! In hindsight, maybe this was a great distractor to keep me from thinking about other things. Bella had just lain there the entire time; she never moved an inch (or now centimeter). People around were probably wondering what the hell a pitbull is doing in the cabin, but it couldn’t have passed better. We landed in Munich for our connecting flight, and I tried taking her to the bathroom by putting paper towels down on the floor, but she politely refused. So we finally boarded our last flight to Pleso.

Setting foot on the solid earth was a great relief. At last, we arrived and Bella would either be approved or my worst fear, denied entry. Standing in the customs line, tension slowly growing, every bad possible thought arising, a was becoming a bit nervous and began sweating. Ms Anela saw the customs officer with a Bosnian surname, so she told me, “Let me talk.” I did feel a little relieved but still, the time of judgement was imminent. I gave Anela all the paperwork for Bella, about 10 sheets total, and my passport. She handed all the passports and information to the kind looking gentleman. He looked at Anela with comforting eyes and then turned to Bella and me with a hint of suspicion. A moment passed then he loudly announced to the entire airport, “If the dog’s good enough for Germany, then welcome to Croatia -STAMP!” I was shocked and frozen out of disbelief –  we weren’t checked in Germany – the officer didn’t even look at one paper! Jesus, and all the bureaucratic bullshit we had to do for nothing – how amazing this was! I loved Croatia even more at that moment!

So then we moved promptly as to not wait for the kind gentlemen to change his mind! There we waited for our luggage, picked it up, and finally broke free to the side of freedom – we’d finally made it! We were greeted by our friends Hrvoje and Josipa, and of course the Punica-to-be! We didn’t stay around so long inside to talk. We made haste for the outdoors where I quickly lead poor Bella to the green grass to finally relieve herself. Home at last. We did it!

Now we’re just getting to the good stuff. To be continued in Part III.

Where it all began: Part I

majka zmajka love story

The Beginning Part I

The Beginning Part I

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If someone had told me 7 years ago I’d be living in Zagreb, Croatia, married with two kids and a dog, I’d have told them to take a visit to Psychiatric ward.

Jamey’s Story Pt. 1

In the beginning…

The story began on a quiet spring evening in March. I was at a friend’s house, and somehow the subject of “Gordan’s daughter” came up.  Gordan was a mutual friend, who I had known for years, and who happened to be the father of Anela. A bit confused, I answered “no” because it was the first I had heard of “this daughter”. Anela’s first visit to America was in 2012 and we never met. So naturally, I was curious and I took a look at her facebook account, and to be frank, I was quite taken away. Taken so far as to reactivate my facebook account, which had been deactivated for over a year, and request friendship.

majka zmajka love story

The request…

So, I waited ever so patiently for a reply and nothing. Finally one day, Gordan and I were driving somewhere, and I informed him of my rejected status. To my surprise, he immediately called Anela, speaking in what I interpreted as Russian, and left the conversation with a satisfied grin. No sooner had he got off the phone, then I received a confirmation of friendship. Magic. Things were looking in the right direction in my social media life- All thanks to Anela’s father. Thank you again, Gordan! 🙂

Now, my first interaction with Anela was an utter embarrassment. I couldn’t have done anything more foolish; I made some cliche comment of her in a bikini; what an idiot! I almost lost everything there, and I had to recover quickly. I then directed all attention to the pictures of family and children. I noticed she liked kids from the start because they seemed to be in every third photo of hers. My commentary in this new genre saved my ass big time. We then went into facebook messenger and made the usual rounds of small talk. I really can’t remember exactly what I said in these moments, but apparently, it was enough to continue our friendly little chit chats to a different platform: Whatsapp!

majka zmajka papaya
The picture that almost cost me everything!

It’s a Whatsapp World

Now in America, 2013 AD, Whatsapp was a new technology. No one had ever heard about it. I thought it was the coolest thing ever – the ability to seamlessly text someone from a different continent! Anyway, our chit chatting evolved into a more serious tone, all the while keeping it strictly to texting (WhatsApp hadn’t come out with voice call). It was very strange and surreal to me to be communicating so frequently with someone I had never met. Moreover, I had always made fun of people meeting and starting relationships over the internet. Well, wasn’t I the laugh of my own joke, falling blindly in love with someone living 5,000 miles away. What an achievement.

But how does one achieve this – to fall in love with a total stranger living so far away? We didn’t actually start talking to each other until Anela became more comfortable with English. I remember the pauses between messages, and later on, her dad told me, “You can’t talk like Benjamin Franklin.” I actually remember the first video message she sent me. In that deep “Russian” accent it went exactly like: “Hello Jamey, (giggle) that’s enough for now.” I compared her to the deadly brunette from the James Bond Film, Golden Eye. We attempted to talk on the phone a time or two after but immediately went back to just typing. A person is very limited with sense via typing. There is no tone or inference of mood. This definitely restricted our connection to a level until she became comfortable enough for actual conversation. Wow, did this open a whole new world. It felt as if there were no distance between us. We laughed together, cried together, and talked about things we had never discussed with anyone else. Isn’t it ironic one could open up to a “stranger” so far away than with someone actually present?

Another obstacle was the time difference. There were 6-7 hours between us. That meant a lot of our communication was during my work (oopsy daisy). I also, remember I always set my alarm in the middle of the night to wake up and tell her good morning! That’s how gone I was, but of course, it was a totally mutual feeling. I’d spend my lunch hour in my car, talking, talking, and talking. After work, I went immediately to the phone until it was goodnight time for her. This continued for months on average at least 4 hours every day.

We talked about subjects which deeply resonated our feelings. We had similar family stories which gave us great material to deepen our conversation and understanding toward each other. We simply “felt” each other to the core.  We could read each other’s mind.  We fed off the other’s emotion. More importantly, one of our main topics was the importance of family.  I immediately felt Anela’s longing for a family, and this was something I had never longed for until I “met” her. This was a huge signal for me. It struck me to the core, and I knew she was the one.

In hindsight, I think this communication really helped us in some ways. There was obviously not a direct physical element in our relationship. It was all communication, knowing each other to the detail, sharing interests and differences, and talking about life and the future. It was like a form of escapism for me. When I was on the phone with her, I felt comfort and safety. I felt at home.

Majka Zmajka love story
Anela in her “younger years” haha

To-do-list

Life is very simple. We often just distort it and make it complicated. I believe if one puts one’s mind to something, then one can achieve it. I knew I wanted her, and that she was the one for me. So, what did I do? I devised a plan to get her. The plan was simple and clear to me. If I wanted her I needed to go to her. I was to go to Croatia. This may seem like a major step and it was indeed. Everyone I was around thought it was a joke or thought I’d be back in less than a year.  I understood them because it sounded like something unimaginable.

I was helping my mother clean houses after my regular job. I remember mentioning my moving and remember her nodding her head in agreement. God only knows what she was really thinking. I knew she had her doubts, or she was questioning my judgement which is totally natural.  I did, however, have the full support of my family when things materialized into something more real, and their blessing really comforted me.

Ok, so I thought to myself, “What would I do in Croatia?” Well, the most natural answer was to teach English. So, I researched and got certified to teach English as a foreign language. After this, we started planning a trip for me. I didn’t know exactly where “Croatia” was before “meeting” Anela, and if you remember in her “Romanian story”, it was a bit embarrassing. Anyway, I finally brushed up my geography skills and planned a visit that summer. It was very convenient for me because I hadn’t taken hardly any vacation before this moment; therefore, I took an outstanding 10 days off! In America, 20-30 day vacations don’t exist! So we set the date for June 14th, and the countdown began! I only had one more important thing to do! I needed to buy an engagement ring!

Well, this might seem like an extreme thing to do. My logic was this: I wanted to come fully prepared – better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. My purchase of this ring also came with a side anecdote. After researching, I found a local diamond dealer with good reviews and pricing. Well, of course, the staff were fully inquisitive of my bride-to-be, and I simply told them the truth. I told them we had never met, but I’m visiting her in Croatia, which caused confusion on their faces. I showed them pictures of Anela, and they, of course, complimented her beauty. I think in the end they thought she was some kind of mail-order bride! Anyway, I chose a simple stone because Anela wasn’t the flashy type. It was subtle but beautiful. I’m a firm believer of “less is more” – at least in most circumstances. I did, however, have one problem. I didn’t know her ring size! So, the jeweller and I went through pictures of Anela’s hands! We then agreed to at least make it a little bigger so she could wear it – even with tape! I then promised in time I would bring her back to meet them and they agreed (I kept that promise too). I’m sure they were glad to see me leave their store, as they probably thought I was mentally disturbed. With ring and ticket in hand, I was fully prepared to begin my journey to the unknown – To go where no other North Carolinian had ever gone before!

majka zmajka love story
The countdown timer application to arrival time!

The Arrival

Being my first long flight, I was a bit nervous. My family took me to Charlotte Douglas International Airport and bade me farewell. I think they were hoping that I would come to my senses after this trip or maybe even during the flight. So I boarded the plane and one connecting flight later,  landed on Croatian soil. Finally, the feeling that this was really happening took over me. I started feeling very anxious and nervous! I then, stepped off the plane to face Pleso International. I thought to myself, “I’m I at the right place? It doesn’t look like much of an airport.” It looked a bit worn down and tattered, but nevertheless, I continued my course, along with my growing anxiety. Waiting in line to get through customs, I could see a large standing area behind a massive piece of glass. It was there, I first laid eyes on Anela! She was standing in the first row, waiting and smiling – probably as nervous as I was. She looked bigger than life to me. I waved in excitement and then a pain arose in my gut as I cleared the initial customs! As I was waiting for my luggage we playfully gestured to each other. In my mind I was thinking “holy shit, this is really happening.” It was such a strange feeling that the woman whom I talked with for 3.5 months was waiting only metres away. She wasn’t just a figment of my imagination – she was REAL! I became paralyzed in thought and proceeded to get my bag and walk to the other side.

I reached the other side and there she was in front of me. I clumsily moved toward her. I then made a motion toward to hug and kiss her politely. Then, not knowing what to say, I made the stupidest comment ever.

“You’re not so tall.”

She really didn’t know how to react. In fact she was taller than me, so my comment didn’t make any sense. We just changed the subject and proceeded to walk out to the car!  The surrealism was mutual between us both, I think. We really didn’t know how to act! So, we got in the car! She turned on the ignition and we left Pleso Airport listening to “Blurred Lines” by Robin Williams. I’ll remember that song forever. I noticed her driving ability was good compared to US standard. She was changing the gears like Mario Andretti. We finally reached our destination in Dugave – all thanks to Anela’s friend and later mine, Hrvoje.

Alas! I was still living in a dream – a hurricane of emotion and even confusion! I felt her, but things were happening so differently than I had expected! I think we both had imagined some magical encounter, but it wasn’t the case. We both hadn’t realized yet we were actually together!

One of life’s ironies is how the anticipation and excitement of an event can surpass the actual event itself! This was a perfect case because we both imaged this fairy tale encounter, but it just wasn’t the case.  Meanwhile, she had prepared stuffed peppers. I might have commented that we had a similar dish, which you could find at Mexican restaurants.  I actually couldn’t eat them because of all the stress.  I don’t think she took a liking to that either but she understood and showed compassion.  I admired her cooking, and we sat and talked and hugged and then I passed out on the couch. How romantic!

majka zmajka love story
Anela posing in her new opel corsa before a slight customization.

A “Bangin” Night in the City…

Later, I awoke and we planned to take a walk in the city! Before this plan, I met her mother, who was working at the hair salon downstairs from our apartment. Jasmina and I hugged, and it all was fantastic! Anela and I then went to the center! We finally started becoming more comfortable with each other. We were coming to the realization that we were in each other’s presence. Everything was falling into place. So Anela led us to our first romantic adventure in Zagreb.

We found the parking garage, and Anela’s driving “skill” was making me a bit sick; however, I was still impressed with her ability. I started to make the comment, “Anela, you know what? You’re a pretty good…..,” when BANG! She hit a metal vent while backing up into the parking place! I couldn’t believe it! She took a deep breath and started crying! I held and comforted her saying everything would be ok. She was so upset because she had just got this car several weeks before. Everyone knows, when you get a new car you are extra careful for at least the first several months. We got out to look at the damage to find the bumper had been partially knocked off. I popped it back into place and then gave it a firm kick – just like new! Her tears started drying up as she saw the damage had been reversed. I jokingly told her I was about to give her a compliment before she interrupted!

We proceeded to dinner at Nokturno! I thought the food was fabulous, but I noticed the staff weren’t so hospitable! Regardless, the dinner couldn’t have gone by better. We walked through the city, holding hands – in love. Things were becoming more natural and we were both, finally returning to ourselves. We talked to each other as if we had known each other for years. It felt good – like it was supposed to feel. The night was beautiful and romantic. We strolled through Gornji grad, St. Marks etc. I had never been to Europe so I was amazed, making the occasion all the better. At the night’s end, we journeyed back to Dugave, waiting for the next day’s gift: A trip to the coast.

majka zmajka love story
Our romantic evening in the center.

Burek and Mountains: Our First Road-trip

Anela is a planner, an organizer, and a boss. I let her. She had everything planned out. She had organized everything down to the hour of every day. This day’s plan was to visit the coast at her friend Josipa’s home. But before, we had to make our way for some road trip food fit for royalty, homemade burek. Anela stopped by her grandmother’s home in Siget and picked up some of the most delicious smelling parcels my nostrils had ever inhaled. I sank my teeth into one of these juicy pastry pies and my taste buds jumped out of my mouth! Wow, what a good way to start a road trip.

So we drove and I remember observing the landscape and comparing it to home. It was almost identical – at least until we reached the other side of Sveti Rok Tunel. Then everything changed. The first glimpse of the Adriatic – what an impression it left. I was totally amazed and went straight into camera mode – a rare case. Anela was probably laughing to herself, especially, when I kept commenting how beautiful the damn mountains were. For some reason, the most memorable part of the landscape were the mountains for me.  Even the next day I woke her up at 0600 to get out of bed and look at the sun hitting the Velebit.  She didn’t take this so kindly and went back to sleep. She probably thought something was extremely wrong with me 🙂

majka zmajka love story
Our first roadtrip and view of the Adriatic.

The Most Beautiful Island, Vir.

We first met some of Anela’s friends in Zadar: the usual coffee etc. In the meantime, our presence with one another became even more blissful! I was so happy to be with her! This confirmed everything to me. I knew what I had to do and felt it instinctively. I made my mind up to ask her to marry me. I didn’t care about anything else in the world. You may ask me why I didn’t wait longer to see. It, after all, was only the second day we had been physically together. The answer to me was simple. The number of days was irrelevant to me. I’d rather have asked sooner than later and get it over with. I came for a purpose and this was the purpose. Everything was confirmed and clear to me, so why wait?

Now, this decision brought with it more anxiety. I was lost in thought of how, when, and where to propose.  The drive from Zadar to Vir was pretty silent. She thought something was wrong and kept asking me if everything was ok! I kindly replied yes and that I was just thinking. When we reached we unpacked and stayed a bit with Josipa and her family. It was a beautiful night. The moon was full and there was a gentle breeze. All this time I had this ring in my pocket and was fearful that it would fall out somewhere. I wanted to get rid of it as soon as possible, so why not this beautiful night!

Anela and I walked toward the coast. No one was out and the moon was reflecting beautifully off the sea. We came where our feet met the water and lay down by the shore together. It was then when I pulled the ring out of my pocket and asked her to marry me while sliding it delicately on her finger! She couldn’t believe what was happening but instantly said yes and started crying and laughing at the same time. We remained by the sea for a long time, lying beside each other and talking about our new life. We then hurried back to tell everyone at Josipa’s house!

majka zmajka love story
Talking in the moonlight and taking it all in.

The Return to Klara!

So I made a big mistake! I hadn’t asked Anela’s mother for permission! I was in trouble 🙂 We excitedly made our way back to Sveta Klara, where Anela and her mother were living. There we drank coffee with the punica-to-be and friends. The news was out that we were engaged and Jasmina had one problem. The problem was I hadn’t asked for her permission. This is the one thing I forgot about, but my proposing was so spontaneous, I really didn’t have the time to even think about it. Nethertheless, I then humbly asked for permission and permission was granted. It really felt warm, and I didn’t feel like a stranger; I felt like family – we were family.

The following days I freshened up my CV and went with a taxi and a printed map of all English schools throughout the city – about 20 stops . In the end it was worth it because a got an email before I left, confirming employment. Again, everything was falling into place. The “only thing” I had left to due was go back to America, tell my family the news, resign from my job, and come back to Croatia. 🙂

To be continued…

Christmas #OOTD (Outfit of the day)

Christmas OOTD

Christmas #OOTD (Outfit of the day)

Christmas #OOTD (Outfit of the day)

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Svaki mjesec prosinac uvijek isto pitanje, što odjenuti za domjenak iliti Božićni party ?

Znaš da moraš zabljesnuti na kraju poslovne godine i zatvoriti godinu u comfy i wow outfitu.

Ne želiš biti prevulgaran, a ni preposlovan i prefin.

Ja osobno, volim sve što vole i mladi bez obzira što  nisam više tako mlada i što sam udana majka dvoje djece.

Volim staviti na sebe ono što mi se sviđa i ne ugađam u toj prilici drugima već sebi, jer drugi će uvijek pričati i komentirati, na to ne možete previše utjecati, pa odjenula se u redovnicu opet će biti, ah vidi ju hodajuća prevara.

1. ODABIR OUTFITA I PRAVILO  DEKOLTE ILI KRATKA HALJINA

Poslovno odijelo sa wow topom, šljokasta haljina, crveni kombinezon, hlače i bluza, crno, crveno, zeleno, srebrno ili zlatno?

S ničim navedenim ne možete puno fulati ukoliko ne pretjerate ili obučete krive cipele ili čizme.

Jedino zabranjeno su niske cipele! Pa za tih par sati svaka žena može obući štiklu. Ne možete izgledati wow u niskom.

Ne volim pravila u odijevanju, ali pravilo dekolte ili gole noge ispoštujem.

Volim duboke izreze i gore i dolje, ali uvijek izaberem jedan. Jedne godine sam imala dugu zatvorenu crnu haljinu do poda sa Angelina izrezom u kojem je noga bila u prvom planu, outfit je bio efektan, ali nije bio najbolji izbor za partijanje, više za fotkanje, izbaciš nogu i top si.

angelina-dress majka zmajka #ootd

Prošle godine sam imala široku šljokastu haljinu u kojoj nitko nije primjetio moj trudnički trbuh star 5 mjeseci, tako da je odabir takve haljine pun pogodak za one koji imaju viška u tom predjelu.

shiny dress majka zmajka #ootd

Ove godine idem s dekolteom gore i hlačama dolje, i ta komba sam najviše ja ja.
Bio je izazov stati u kožne hlače veličine S.. Stala sam iako sam sa 2 ziherice morala pričvrstiti gumb 🙂

Odabrala sam VAMP look i mislim da mi on najbolje stoji.

vamp look majka zmajka #ootd

2. ODABIR PRAVIH NAJLONKI

Molim vas, pazite na odabir najlonki ukoliko kupujete boje kože jer nema gore nego kad se fotkate i kad se noge sjaje, em izgledaju seljački em debelo.

Mrzim najlonke, ali po toj hladnoći bi stvarno bilo smješno, a i kobno doći golih nogu.

Najbolje najlonke boje kože su calzedonia, 20 dena, boja bronze (tropical samo za one izrazito tamne).

Ukoliko imate majicu na bretele i otkrivene ruke, nikako nemojte izabrati crne grilonke, to je veliko  NE.

Ukoliko izaberete  little black dress u nekoj najjednostavnijoj verziji, haljinu možete upotpuniti najlonkama sa uzorkom kakve npr. Julia Roberts nosi na reklami za Calzedoniu. 

najlonke majka zmajka #ootd
fotografija preuzeta od calzedonia

3. DOBAR MAKE UP

Kada imate dobar make up ne treba vam čak niti ikakav poseban outfit.

S obzirom da se ne znam šminkati za posebne prilike niti koristiti ništa više od maskare, pudera i rumenila, uvijek odvojim novac  za profi šminkanje kod profesionalke Ivane @ivana.make.up, em se kod nje zabavim em iz ružnog pačeta napravi vamp ženu. Nemam umjetne nokte, nemam umjetne trepavice i ne plaćam frizure pa si šminkanje uvijek mogu priuštiti. Svaka žena zaslužuje bar jednom u godini neko novo wow lice 🙂

Najviše volim rezultat transformacije.

Christmas OOTD

Mama mi ima frizerski salon Hairtique, no unatoč tome frizeru idem samo za posebne prilike kao što su svadbe i domjenci 🙂

Više manje se uvijek peglam jer mi je to neki prirodan look, a ne kaže se bezveze da ipak na kraju krajeva ljudima  pristaje najviše ono što je prirodno.

HAIRTIQUE ZAGREB majka zmajka #ootd

Ove godine sam odabrala kovrčavo, imala sam afro frčke i cijeli dan sam se privikavala na promjenu.

Na kraju je izgledalo cool, neki me ljudi nisu ni prepoznali.

Jednostavan outfit zahtjeva naglasak na kosi i make up-u.

Ukoliko imate upečatljiv outfit, odaberite slabiji make up i jednostavnu frizuru.

!ukoliko imate zatvorenu haljinu do grla ili nešto slično dolčeviti, podignite kosu ili ju odmaknite od lica!

HAIRTIQUE ZAGREB majka zmajka #ootd

5. ENERGIJA

Džaba vam najljepši look i najljepša haljina ukoliko ne zračite dobrom energijom.

Dobra energija je must have svake zabave. Plešite, skačite, grlite se i ljubite jer to je jedinstvena prilika da budete prisni i opušteni s kolegama.

Nitko ne voli Grinch energiju, a i vi se na kraju nećete dobro osjećati, i zato ne budi Grinch !

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