“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things”
I can feel a balkan feeling spreading in my body.
It’s the polako rythm of life,
a new way of seeing life,
a new way of loving life.
I’m as much into clichés and the bubblegum pop side of wisdom as into any other form of it. They might just be different colors of the same human experience…
“Is she going to say that EVS in Croatia has been a life-changing experience?”. I might as well say that. And I would be tellling the truth. And yet, life-changing is such a beaten word that, putting it down on the white page suddenly sounds meaningless. Like a chewing gum that lost its flavour.
There is another way to put it down: the polako rythm took hold of her soul.
You know when you listen several times to the same song playing in the background? You can’t help youself but start singing it inside your head, or even out loud. It caught you. Similarly, we synchronize with the rythms and patterns of the cultures we live in, sometimes without even being aware of that happening.
Some rythms sound like this… A job that you don’t like. In front of a computer, tasks pile up. Mails need to be answered. Many small details to be had in consideration. It beats like this… Do. Do. Do. Time booms. Obligations build up like dirty clothes. No matter how much you clean, you can always manage to invent more things to do. Head booms. Fast. Fast. Fast. And so on… Yes, you just caught the rythm.
And some rythms sound like a flowing river… Polako polako. Idemo na kavu. Take your time.
In Karlovac, it’s easy to take your time. In Carpe Diem, it’s easy to learn to enjoy your day. This town seems to be designed for you to pause and listen. With its four rivers, slowly flowing, circling the city. Eveloping you. With its idemo na kavu, sun ray in Cohiba, chilling in promenada, moon light in Papas’ terrace. With its electric air and its electric feeling. Isn’t this the spark that fired the spirit of Nikola Tesla and the brothers Seljan? Isn’t this the spark in so many people that walk around these streets, taken by a subtle passion? You can’t see it with your eyes, but the rythm is there, like an undercurrent. In Radiceva and in all these summer festivals that seem to be born out of this feeling.
Here, there are gods in the water. In the Korana and the Mereznica rivers. In the Adriatic sea. They tell secrets to those who listen. They hide spells in your skin while you swim. Spells long ago forgotten… Swimming naked late at night, not finding our clothes in the dark, laughing. Yes, those small things. Believing in something, and yet not knowing exactly what it is. You can feel the bite of time in those moments. You can feel it caressing your every cell, reassuring you that you are alive. Just like that.
Again, pause. Yes, learn to take the time for those small things. Idemo na kavu. Polako ili nikako. As counterintuitive as this may sound, it’s with a polako spirit that things start to move. Slowly move. You start to see what’s under the surface. Under the river. And they say that the silent river runs deep.
I love Henry Miller’s quote “one’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things”, which we used in our Traveler’s Café event in Carpe Diem. We pasted it on the cups; those small things again, like a breadcrumb trail in the forest. Personally, I would say one’s destination is never a place, but a new way of loving life. A new way of finding the lost paths to our core. And of building new ones. In Croatia, I learnt to love in new colors, in new sounds, in new smells. I learnt to love with the fantasy that Korana and Mereznica display, the fantasy of the Plitvice jezera or of the island of love in Duga Resa. The abundance of this land fertilizes the body with dreams and desires, with secret memories and delightful images.
Volunteering was a part of it. Volunteering is a missing piece that brings together the human tribe and the individual’s yearning for meaning. It turns giving and sharing into a natural human way to live. Volunteering is also a rythm. In our identification with others, we melt; in our getting back to our heartfelt desires, we strenghten. In-out. Inhale-exhale. Breathing our humanity and exhaling our gifts. Intertwining with the people, blending in the soup of life, growing roots in the air of Karlovac, infusing Korana water in our veins. And fearing the separation, for the pain of cutting our human roots can’t be avoided…
Yes, the people were a big part of it. With their taste and their color, and that certain something you can’t put your finger on. A once in a lifetime combination of possibilities. And yet, it’s so easy to take that for granted… My mother told us once, when we weren’t but kids licking ice-cream by the beach: “I fear not being able to meet every person in the world.” I never forgot those words. And yet, it’s so easy to take that for granted. To forget the feeling of the sheer proximity of another human being caressing us. The taste of their experience of life tainting ours with a new tonality. Just like I have the taste of rakkija running in my blood and the lessons learnt from everyone I met tattoed on my skin. Just like, in our need to travel, and share, and connect and understand, we intertwine with people, we blend in the multicolor soup of life, we grow roots in new places and we get caught in new rythms.
And now I can feel a balkan feeling spreading in my body. It’s the polako rythm of life, a new way of seeing life, a new way of loving life.
Story written by Per Aida Díaz Solà, EVS volunteer, Croàcia, 2016. You can see the story published on the website of SCI Catalunya.
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