How to communicate when visiting the old country? Speak every language you know!
It’s a tried and true linguistic fact that if everyone speaks all the languages they know, there will eventually be agreement on the topic of conversation. Comprehension increases with each glass of wine, as hand gestures become more elaborate. Smiling and nodding seals the deal.
We’ve spent the past few days visiting family on the islands of Cres and Losinj in Croatia. My father-in-law left when he was six and married a Scot in Canada, so English was the language spoken at home. It makes for interesting times when visiting family where English, French, Italian, Croatian and German are spoken around a table, but no one speaks two second languages in common!
Our family toured us everywhere and even took us to a cousin’s sheep farm. We walked through his extensive vegetable gardens and rows of bee hives. We picked wild asparagus to put in risotto and set traps for wild boars.
The boars are an invasive species slowly taking over the islands and wreaking havoc (they eat lambs and destroy the environment), so many farmers have sniper huts set up to lie in wait. Our cousin managed to shoot a 160 kg boar while we were there, which made tasty goulash that we ate the next day.
We made a trip to the village of Stanic where my father-in-law was born. We visited the local church and the girls were impressed to find that we practically have a private family graveyard. They will probably never see so many Benvins listed in one place again!
About half the family seems to have worked for the water utility at some point, including one cousin who retired as chief after a 40-year career. Because of this, we were given a private tour of the only water source for the two islands – Vrana Lake and its pump station. The lake is in my cover photo, but naturally I can’t post anything else that we saw.
As a municipal communicator, I asked about what they teach locals about water conservation. The answer was apparently nothing, as an underground aquifer feeds the lake and never runs low on water, even after one four-month dry spell. I wanted to ask about the demand on infrastructure, but the wine ran out.
We also saw vestiges of the Cold War on a hill overlooking Mali Losinj where the remains of a number of decommissioned bunkers stand that once held missiles aimed at Italy when Croatia belonged to Yugoslavia. Many people fled (escaped) after WWII when the communists rolled in, living in refugee camps until they could find countries that would take them in.
It’s interesting to note that much anti-Catholicism existed in Canada at the time. People felt Catholics would dilute Canada’s Anglosaxon heritage with their big families and “backward” religion. Good thing the negative voices about Catholic refugees didn’t take over or I wouldn’t have my husband and children today!