Halfway Through The “Trial Year”

I hugged a total of four humans in the past two weeks.

Thought I’d start with the most important news! After three months of touch-deprivation, it’s beyond wonderful to hug actual, living, breathing people of flesh and blood. Now, I’ve always been a cuddly hag, but the last few months have made me appreciate the sense of touch even more.

It’s also midsummer. The Solstice happened on the 20th this year and was a time of intense, deep emotions for me, because a dear friend back in Ireland, Brendan, died just the day before, in one of those freak accidents you sometimes read about, never thinking it could happen to anyone you know and love. I cried until my eyes couldn’t produce any more tears and paced up and down for hours (most of the night, actually), then I did a ritual Solstice dance to process the sadness, anger, and mourning. After 24 hours I was able to function again, and on the other side of the weekend I’ve begun to, I don’t know, accept? Not that I’ll get used to talking about Brendan in the past tense any time soon. But it’s beginning to sink in.

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At my birthday weekend in Vienna. Brendan in front.

On a happier note, last weekend may have been the first day of summer, but today is the first day of summer weather. 29 degrees! Over the past few weeks, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the first proper spring I’ve seen in years, with a mix of sunshine, cloud and rain and constant mild temperatures between 18 and 24 degrees. Now it feels like we’ve made the jump into full-on summer, and in Croatia that means serious business.

Over the last weeks, I bought:

  • summer clothes (because I hardly owned any),
  • a beach towel,
  • beach shoes (beaches are stony rather than sandy here),
  • a straw hat,
  • and sunscreen.

After around 18 years of not swimming in the sea – which I love – I was being a bit of a chicken, but thankfully Aleksandra dragged me along last week, and it was great!

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First swim of the year/decade!

The end of June of course also means that the first half of the year I gave myself to decide where I’m going to live, is now over. To spoil the ending: I’m no closer to a decision. But I thought I’d share my thoughts and feelings so far, unfinished as they are (and I’m not pushing myself either; there’s a reason I gave myself 12 months).

I love it here. Croatia is everything and more – much more – than I ever expected. Obviously, I picked the worst time to move to a new country. I’ve been here for six months and have hardly seen anything or made friends, because I’ve been a) gone and b) in lockdown for all but a few weeks of my time here. Having said that, I’ve met quite a few amazing people already, people I can truly relate to on a meaningful level – in other words, friends. That this happened so quickly astonishes me and is, in my humble opinion, a good sign.

It’s so beautiful here, I have to pinch myself several times a day because I can hardly believe it. Seriously, this place… the bay, the towns and villages, wedged in between the mountains and the sea… it’s breathtaking. Obviously, the weather is great, too. And the people are lovely and helpful throughout. I’m already in love with the language, and my little house may be small, but it’s beautiful and functional and really everything I need right now.

Sounds like a no-brainer, right? And it is, or would be, if it wasn’t for the fact that I’m so homesick it hurts physically. It sounds mental, but I miss the wind and the miserable rain, I miss the lakes and the green and the rough Atlantic coast. At this point I’d give a lot to be able to go to a cafe and order a proper sandwich. I miss my lovely friends, obviously, but most of all Mayo, Massbrook Woods, and archery. I’d give a kidney to be able to teleport myself there for just one day.

Reminder: This is my fifth country. I’ve missed people from all these places after moving away, and I smile fondly when I remember places and experiences. But there’s only one home, one place I actually belong. And while Croatia suits me better in almost every single way, I’m going to have to decide, come December, whether I can make a worthy life away from home. Others have done it, of course. My job is to find out if I can, too.

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