The Long Way Home


Osijek Winter
January 21, 2013, 11:42 AM
Filed under: Croatia | Tags: , , , ,
drava river

drava river

Before I married or became an artist, I quit my job of seven years, cashed out my 401K and took off to Croatia to do volunteer work at the Center for Peace. People thought I was brave, stupid or crazy and looking back, I’d have to agree with everyone. Most people turning 30 were planning weddings and buying baby strollers and there I was, giving up everything. I had spent time visiting my pen pal in Slovenia years before, and taught English to Bosnian refugees in Pittsburgh, so I had developed an interest in former-Yugoslavia and its politics. I wanted to give up everything because I felt burdened with the usual 9 to 5 routine. I was also having difficulty with my mother, whose mental state was becoming so painful to deal with, I felt I had to move thousands of miles away from home to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. My plan was no plan: I’d go, find teaching work, see what it’s like to live day-to-day instead of with routine, a challenge for someone like me who plans everything.  I mostly experienced solitude, peppered with surreal interactions and relationships  – it’s been hard for me to write about. Indeed, it took me years to even look through the photos I had taken with my Canon. I spent a lot of time documenting my everyday world there, and in some of these shots, I see my eye just beginning to show signs of a photographer emerging through the lens. These photos were taken during a snowstorm in January 2005; I’m sure I was on my way to one of the kinos (for some reason Osijek had two movie theaters flanking each end of one block, playing the same movie for weeks), my lunch of kulen and grain-bread wrapped in a napkin in my bag, the finger tips cut off my gloves so my hands were free to shoot or write. These prints are the only copies since I lost the negatives somewhere  along my journey.

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waiting for the train to pecs, hungary. it never arrived because of the storm.

waiting for the train to pecs, hungary. it never arrived because of the storm.

the number 2 train

the number 2 train heading west

i walked everywhere in this city with a giant skeleton key to my apartment tucked away in my bag.

i walked around in this city carrying a giant skeleton key to my apartment in my bag.

outside the national theater

outside the national theater

snow-ladened grapevines

snow-ladened grapevines

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14 Comments so far
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[…] day’s drive took over 15 because of torrential downpours. I’ve braved snowstorms in Croatia and West Virginia, and I’m still deciding what has been the hardest trip: it might be this […]

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Pingback by Lost Monday | The Long Way Home

One of the reasons I married you was because you’re so brave. It makes me laugh that you carried a skeleton key with you to get into your apartment!

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Comment by Jeff

Possibly the sweetest thing I read all week.

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Comment by Lisa

Yes, your eye is becoming a photographer’s eye for sure. What comes through too is a sense of coldness and isolation. Again your prose is terrific. Not sure I will be running out to get some kulen anytime soon though. Thanks for sharing.

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Comment by Michael Williamson

Michael – Your kulen comment made me laugh! I actually had no idea how it was made until I read the link description and now I’m kind of afraid that it rested in my belly during that trip. But I’d probably still eat it again if I get back there – thanks for the comments, always lovely to read!

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Comment by Lisa

Are those shrapnel scars on the buildings in your street photo? I love the “the number 2 train heading west”. An early Toboz photo.

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Comment by Bill

They could be shrapnel scars, and also just the general wear and tear of aging Hapsburg architecture : ).

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Comment by Lisa

I love learning more and more about you Lisa. I was a bit of a risk taker myself and although I wonder now at having had the courage to do the things I did, I am so glad I got out there, despite the disdain of friends and colleagues. I was lucky that in all the travelling I did, I had my parent’s full support. I didn’t realise until years later how worried they were for me and that they really would have rather I’d stayed closer to home. I will forever be grateful to them for staying quiet.

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Comment by Photobooth Journal

“I wonder now at having had the courage to do the things I did, I am so glad I got out there” – Katherine, I know exactly you mean – so true! It’s a big reason I pulled out the photos again and wrote the post, thinking about how I used to go off on my own often, not worrying possible dangers – I just felt the freedom. My family and friends were worried, and now I appreciate their concern. I can tell through your photo collection that you are well-traveled too – it’s great to connect with a fellow adventurer (and photo-collector!).

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Comment by Lisa

Thanks Lisa. I really enjoy our connection and common interest,too.

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Comment by Photobooth Journal

You can really see the ‘early you’ in the photo of the #2 train. It’s that combination of the documentary and the romantic (and I mean ‘romantic’ in the old sense of the term).

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Comment by greg

Thanks, Greg – I thought the ‘early me’ was in the bridge-reflection photo, but now that you mentioned the #2 train (as well as another friend commented here in this post), I can see it more – almost instant-film-like.

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Comment by Lisa

Beautiful, amazing, haunting, serene, isolating. The photos say it all. It reminds me of what I imagined Europe looked like in the 80s.

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Comment by motherblue212

thanks, kimmy. much of eastern europe looks as if it stopped time in the 70s. i was there shortly after the collapse of communism and the end of the balkan war, so i’m curious to see how much has changed since my time there.

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Comment by Lisa




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