Daily Archives: 2011-08-04

The Sweetest Sweetness

I puttered around lovely Croatia for the next few weeks absolutely loving every minute of it. I rented a small but very modern and comfortable flat right in the old town.

********Ok so here is a sweet (and I mean literally) story:

I am chillin’ in my lush rented apartment in old town Dubrovnik enjoying my very peaceful space when pandemonium erupted in the courtyard below my second story window. I peek out my wooden shutters to see a pack of 20 young boys creating a ruckus like no other. Slightly annoyed, I do my best to tune out their screams, hoots and hollars. Unfortunately, that became harder when the mob of hooligans invaded my building came barreling up the stairwell right past my door and upstairs. Not just upstairs, but into the room directly above me. That was 7 hours ago.

This is an old building made of stone way back when and though the architecture it is unbelievable to look at transporting one right back into a medieval time, it is by no means soundproof. Every stomp, thump, and squeal magnified 100 times echoing through my now quite shaken soul. I decided that I would go out for a while in hopes that maybe the swarm would dissipate when the sun went down. Surely these kids have parents who would be wanting them home for dinner, right? After all, I was 10 once. Never did I ever shatter anyone’s eardrums but hey, boys will be boys.

I wandered out with my camera and iPod snapping up inspirational shots here there and everywhere. It is pretty much impossible to be photographically challenged here with the stunning angles, magnificent designs, and blissful lighting. Not to mention the locals who almost seem to be placed perfectly for every single shot. I was feeling quite smug with my artistic achievement which for once, captured the moment perfectly. I noticed several people filing into the church and decided I should take a look inside too. A service was just about to start so I sat down and absorbed the stillness. I lasted about 15 minutes before boredom overtook me so I quietly slipped out leaving the priest bellowing his sermon behind me. I am sure if I understood what he was preaching in Croatian, I would have left much sooner.

I decided enough time had passed and I would likely be safe to venture back into my sacred space. But on the way home, just for insurance, I stopped by the grocery store to pick up some goods. Of course I spent another half hour in there, studying the wares, trying to determine if the package with the cartoon cow on it was cheese, butter, milk, or yogurt. I was proud of myself for remembering how to use the digital scale to measure and price my apples. Last time the storekeeper hastily did it for me as I watched and learned, slightly self-conscious for my ignorance.

I swung my bags cheerfully and looked up at the darkening night sky as I rounded the corner to my building. Just as my foot hit the first step on the stoop, I was reminded of the reason I had left in the first place. The decibel level had now risen ten fold and I decided that someone who really hates me must have fed these little buggers sugar. I clambered up the spiral marble staircase and let myself into my now practically vibrating apartment. I sat on my bed and stared up at the ceiling with distain. It was as if a herd of elephants, no make that two herds of elephants were playing dodge ball right above my head. I seriously began to worry that they were going to bust right through onto my bed.

At this point, I pulled out all stops. I tried to practice my Vipassana meditation (especially useful in situations such as this) technique but I don’t think that Goenka himself could have withstood this level of crazy. Next I dug deep, and I mean REALLY deep to find some compassion for these little brats that were now like mosquitoes on my soul. Finally I had enough. I decided that I would talk to them, reason with them, and if need be, beg them to please keep it down. Maybe  I could even send them away if they were infact just some stray gang using some random empty room for a sports center. No sane adult would allow these delinquents such free reign, so I was sure they were unsupervised.

Determined to create some order from the chaos, I made my way up the staircase. Only as my fist banged on the door for the third time to try and overcome the din, did I realize that they probably didn’t speak English. How was I going to communicate with them? Finally when the little monsters opened the door, it turned out that no, they didn’t speak or understand anything I was saying. Shushhing them with some basic gestures, I indicated that they should pipe down, for goodness sake. One confused boy motioned for me to wait and blasted past me up the stairs to the next floor.

A minute later, a exhausted looking woman carrying a chubby toddler in her arms informed me with perfect English that the boys were infact celebrating a birthday. She shrugged tiredly reassuring me flatly they would only be there another hour or so and that there was really nothing she could do about it. All I could do was apologize profusely that I didn’t know and that it was no problem. I felt like such a schmuck. The ultimate party pooper and grumpy old lady. Who did  I think I was coming into their country and telling these little kids to stop being kids, having fun, celebrating their friends birthday? I was so embarrassed and ashamed of my impatience and intolerance. I felt ugly.

It only took me a few minutes to realize what needed to be done. I dashed out back to the supermarket and bought a giant package of cookies as a peace offering. I delivered a plate of sweet vanilla cream filled biscuits with a gentle smile and sheepishly mumbled Happy Birthday. As I turned to head back downstairs, I was surprised to hear the boy respond with a very clear “Thank You”. I felt really good after that and knew I had done the right thing. How many times before had I felt an urge to do something like this, but didn’t out of laziness, fear, or self doubt? All those times that I had robbed myself of this very pure form of happiness that I was currently experiencing. I smiled gratefully at the still loud but no longer annoying thrashing that was going on upstairs.

I silently blessed these unknowing young lads for providing me an opportunity to grow. What a valuable lesson they had taught me. I was still feeling high from the interaction when there was a knock at the door. I assumed they had devoured the cookies and were returning the plate. To my surprise and shock, here was the mother, no longer looking tired but much more energized. She beamed me a huge smile and thanked me warmly for being so understanding. Before I could respond she handed me a big bag of fruit from her garden and returned my plate which was now full posh desserts surrounding a giant slice of birthday cake. I just stood there stunned trying to find the words that would match her kindness and generosity. Here is a classic example of you get what you give. Though I will admit, I felt a shade inadequate when I compared my simple cookie offering to her bountiful and elegant present. I reminded myself that it’s the thought that counts and that it was the pure intention of my gesture that this woman was responding to…not the two dollar plate of cookies.

So today I am grateful for the wondrous, loving and clever ways the universe works to teach us our lessons. I am grateful for swallowing my pride and doing the right thing. I am grateful for the courage to make things right. I am grateful for patience. I am grateful for the process. I am grateful for the opportunity to practice compassion. And I am grateful for boys being boys. ******

I met some lovely friends including Dejana who was an absolute delight to my soul. She graciously took me around and shared so much of herself with me, it wasn’t just the sky that was overcast when she bid me adieu at the airport. I knew I had made myself a very special friend who I would know for years to come.

Grateful for connectors.

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