Whytecliffe Park

Come sit with me on this rocky ledge
And gaze into the bay
Water greengrayblueandwhite
Splash-splash-crash and spray

I had read to watch for seals that frolic in Horseshoe Bay at Whytecliffe Park near Vancouver, British Columbia. Still, it was a pleasant surprise.

Even without the frolicking seal, I could have sat by the water all day.

Anticipation — part one

I got almost giddy talking about my upcoming trip to Croatia and Bosnia when I ran into a friend in the grocery store.

“Are you excited?” she asked.

I was practically speechless. Then I gushed. Effusive words of anticipation poured forth. It was hard to stop.

My sister sent me a passport holder for Christmas. I promptly put my passport in it and hung it on the back of my door where I see it every time I go in and out of my room.

passportputovnica (English to Croatian)

When I go for walks, when I’m making dinner, when I’m doing the dishes or laundry — I multitask with my language app, practicing Croatian words. Sometimes, when I’m struggling to hold the words properly in my mouth, I pretend that I’m a burly bearded Balkan man and try to say them in a deep guttural voice. It helps, but this is not the ideal way to learn a new language. I need someone to explain things to me, how it all works.

ticket = ulaznica

I’ve got my plane ticket. My friend and I have made reservations at Air BnBs.

entrance = ulaz

When the day finally arrives and I walk through the entrance at airport, I’m sure my heart will be doing cartwheels.

journey = putovanje

The words have common threads. I can see them, but I can’t fully sort them out yet. It’s a journey all by itself, this learning something new.

Even if the whole thing turns out to be a bust — which I’m sure it won’t — but if the travel is awful and the accommodations terrible and the food unappetizing and the people unfriendly and my friend gets tired of me by the end of our trip — even I get bedbugs and a GI bug and see strange new European bugs — if everything bad that I can possibly imagine happens (short of serious injury or death), the trip has already been worth it all.

Hope. Dreams. Anticipation.

Who can place a value on that?

More Croatian

Helen looked at my Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian textbook sitting on the table.

“Do you really think you’ll use this?” she asked when I told her it was mine. “When I went to France, even though I was taking French at the time, I was too afraid to try to say anything.”

I understood what she was saying. “I think there are some useful phrases,” I replied. “In my last set of words, I learned ‘I understand’ and ‘I don’t understand’ — it’s like, hmmm…” I tried to remember. “Rooma-zooma….?”

“Ramen noodles?” she asked.

“No, it’s roomy-something. I have time to practice though. I just learned it.” I replied.

I practiced it later on my walk. Razumijem — pronounced ra-zoo-me-yem. I guess it’s sort of like Ramen noodles.

Ne razumijem — means I don’t understand. That one will come in handy, I’m sure.

Also, Gdje je kupaonica? — Where’s the bathroom? — very important. Except that one is pretty hard for me to pronounce.

Try it, English-speaking friends, say “guh-duh-yay yeh coo-pa-on-itz-ah” really fast. It rhymes with pizza, in case I’m not writing it phonetically correctly.

Last night as I walked, I practiced my Croatian, ruminating on the rhyming words. I came up with a poem.

Cesta, ulica
Gdje je kuaponica
Sviđa me se.
Dječak, djevojčica

Road, street
Where is the bathroom?
Thank you.
Excuse me.
I like it.
Boy, girl

The more I practice, the braver I’ll be when I get there.

Hopefully I won’t say something stupid.

Learning Croatian

I walk around the house these days repeating Croatian phrases, preparing for few days in Croatia this summer.

Dobar dan —  Hello (literally, good day)
and variations on that theme:
dobro jutro — good morning
dobra večer — good evening

The linguist in me — or the linguist wannabe — wants to take apart the words to understand the how. Clearly dobar means good.

So, if dobrodošli means “welcome”, does it literally mean “good welcome”?

Je li to u redu? —  Is it okay?

Oprostite —  Excuse me.

Rolling my r’s doesn’t come naturally or easily.

Plus I get frustrated not knowing the real names of the diacritical letters. I make up names for them in my head — s with a smile, c with a smile, d with a crossbar, etc. It’s dumb because the name of the letter doesn’t really matter — it’s knowing how to say it.

But I can’t say the lj digraph, no matter how hard I try. My tongue won’t cooperate.

And I often forget that the j isn’t pronounced as it is in English, French, or Spanish, but more like our y as in year.

Learning a few words in the language of the country I’m visiting feels like the respectful thing to do. I don’t want to rely on them to know English. It seems so… so… American.

Still, I have a feeling I’m going to need help.

pomoć — Help

Lots of it. A translator would be nice.

If I can learn to pronounce this correctly — gdje je kupaonica — where is the bathroom — I should be all set.


Wouldn’t you know it? Yesterday I discovered the A to Z Blogging Challenge for April, where for the month of April the challenge is to blog every day except Sunday, and use the letters of the alphabet to mark off the days.

April 1st, A, I decided could be Assistance, since that’s what the story was about. Today, I could say B is for Bus, but I semi-promised no more bus stories.

So B is for Bluff, more precisely, Circle Bluff.

I’m no longer telling a chronological story; it’s an alphabetical one, but I hope you’ll bear with me.

The destination for all my travels was a place called Laity Lodge in the wilds of Texas. I’ll have to come back to my time at LaGuardia and Charlotte airports, my short stay in San Antonio, my first real Texas barbecue, and even my drive through the river to get to Laity Lodge.

Let me simply say that Laity Lodge is pretty close to heaven on earth. Pretty. Darn. Close.

I heard someone say “Friggin'” there, so I knew it wasn’t heaven. Still.

A group of us went for a hike on Friday. The fact that it felt like it was straight up half the time was a testament to how out of shape I am.

It was up, but not straight. Straight up is a cliff.

And straight down is the direction I looked once we were up on the bluff.


I wasn’t alone past the rocks.

Apparently there was a sign — “Don’t go past these rocks.”

I honestly didn’t notice the sign.

I just saw all these other people out there and climbed over the rocks.

The view was spectacular.  I kept looking at this little out-jutting ledge, thinking how fun it would be sit on it, and dangle my legs, and really enjoy the view, but when I looked back at our trusty hike leader, she was literally holding her heart in her chest, like it might fall out from the palpitations we all were causing.

So I just took a picture of the ledge.

It would have given me a great view.

I considered sitting here.

Because, really, I never got that close to the edge. See?

Me, taking pictures of the view.

Me, taking pictures of the view. (photo by Kristen Kopp)

And the truth is, the farther away from the edge, the less spectacular the view.

In fact, Evel Knievel said, “Where there is little risk, there is little reward.” I remember watching his daredevil stunts when I was a kid.

But he is also listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the survivor of “most bones broken in a lifetime”. 433, to be exact.

So I risked a little, but not too much, and loved the view.

From the bluff.

Which begins with B.

Looking down from Circle Bluff.

Looking down from Circle Bluff.


Q: How many stories can I eke out of one bus trip?

A: This is the last one. I think.

When I began the trip, I was determined to have writer’s eyes and ears, paying attention to the details and scribbling them down. Once I reached my destination, that plan evaporated, like a puddle in the Texas sun.

Still, I now have this notebook full of notes. When I pulled it out this morning to help me recall the next leg of my journey, I realized that I had left out a little chapter about my bus ride.

Here is the story verbatim from my notes.


Aviary Photo_130723656517667067I’m dozing.

Dubai mom walks to the front of the bus.

“Anyone have a paper bag?”

Someone gives her one.

She goes back to her seat and hands the bag across the aisle.


Take-charge nurse-type across the aisle from me calls back questions.

“Does she have asthma?”


“Does she have an inhaler?”

No answer — vomiting.

“Does she have a pump?”


“I’m coming back…”

Thank you for these little heroes on a bus.

“I work in a hospital,” she said to me later, “used to work in the ER.”


As fair and lovely as Dubai mom was, ER nurse was dark and strong. She reminded me of Hattie McDaniel who played Mammy in Gone with the Wind. 

I was so thankful for both of them. Dubai mom (who turned out to be from Greene) was compassionate and caring enough to not ignore the distressed passenger across the aisle from her.  ER Nurse was exactly the kind of person to handle such a situation to a safe conclusion.

Another woman in my vicinity kept muttering that the driver is supposed to stop if someone is sick.  However, we were already an hour late, and he was hired to drive, not talk; I’m not sure that compassion was in his job description either.

A final note from my notes on this (“she” refers to Dubai mom)

“Quite a ride, wasn’t it?” she said, smiling.

Was she referring to the broken down bus or the vomiting woman?

Blogging from A to Z Challenge — my word for the day: Assistance