...a blog for the friends and family of dan, jen, worthy, william, calvin & christian

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

CCV part 2: Enter the Helpers

You might think that the villa disaster would be what we would remember most about our Christmas vacation. To us it was just a precursor to what God had really planned for us. You might recall Mister Rogers' advice to "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." Our vacation allowed us to be dependent on God and on some very beautiful people.

After we drove away from the Disaster-on-the-Adriatic, the Haberls kept us constantly wired. Christian is a professional techie so we were never without GPS and thorough directions on the road, and never without an internet connection with Netflix wherever we ended up. Christian also works with a Croatian back in Vienna who found us options for places to stay and eat. The two families were able to stay positive through the whole experience and we ended the vacation being much closer, as adversity tends to do. Plus, Worthy and their son are the same age and had a great time together.

We were able to find a reasonably priced hotel near Dubrovnik where we stayed a couple of nights. For New Year's Eve, the prices of hotels would shoot up and the availability would dry up, so we immediately began to contact some other people through the Home Exchange website, explaining our situation and asking them if they would be interested in a last-minute exchange to Vienna--after all, New Year's Eve in Vienna is pretty awesome! While we awaited responses, we enjoyed Dubrovnik, one of the most beautiful towns we've ever seen.

We heard back from many people who were eager to help. One in particular was especially eager, empathizing with us as she, too, is a young mother. They live in Zagreb but have a vacation home in Omis, and without any expectation of us being able to repay, offered it to us for as long as we liked. So on New Year's Eve we once again packed up the cars and headed up to Omis, an old pirate town.

Christian H took this pic standing in our doorway

One thing the Omis home lacked which we had expected of the villa down in Dubrovnik was an oven. Not a big deal--except that Calvin's birthday was New Year's Eve and we had brought all the ingredients and pan for his birthday cake. So I thought, "What is there to lose? I am going to find an oven somewhere in this village." I headed into the old-town and found a bakery, hoping they could bake the cake. The baker didn't speak English, but in the bakery was a cashier from the shop across the street who spoke some German. Her boyfriend was with her, whose sister lived across the river and had an oven. He gave her a call and she said she would be glad to help. (Did you follow all of that?!) So we walked home, Jen mixed up the batter, and the boyfriend-of-the-cashier-that-works-across-the-street-from-the-baker met us and walked us over to his sister's house.

What a beautiful family. The father--Pijero, I think was his name--is a boat pilot who takes tourists up the river. He also makes his own schnapps and poured drinks for himself, me, Christian, and the boyfriend-of-the-cashier-that-works-across-the-street-from-the-baker. He and his wife, the sister-of-the-boyfriend-of-the-cashier-that-works-across-the-street-from-the-baker, have six children and three rabbits. We put the cake in the oven and agreed to come back in an hour. I came back with the Haberls' little girl; the cake wasn't finished (the mom could tell by listening to it), so we got to play with the rabbits. Once it was done, we took the cake home and celebrated Calvin's birthday!

Capt. Pijero with his 6th and newest child

The next day we made the drive up to Split. What an amazing town. The Roman Emperor Diocletian came from this part of Croatia (or Dalmatia as it was known then) and had a huge palace built for himself on the shoreline. The city of Split arose around and in the ruins of the palace. It is unlike anything I've ever seen. Another helper arose--a older gentleman who guided us around the city when we asked him if he knew of a place to have lunch. He gave us an insider's history of the city and his own experiences of being openly Catholic under Tito's atheist, anti-religious, violently suppressive regime. He risked imprisonment and death by doing so, but avoided it because his cruise company was too important to the economy. We finally found a place to have some appetizers, and went on to enjoy this beautiful city the rest of the day.

A Roman mosaic floor now exposed to the elements

Christian H's suberb picture of the cathedral of St. Dujam (description in pic above)
Exhausted from the whole experience of being homeless and moving around several times, we came back a day early. We realized on the way home that there were 6 other helpers along with us the whole time, 6 children whose attitudes were always positive, playful, and rolling with the punches. It is not the vacation we would have planned, but we are grateful for these new family memories!

'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' - See more at:
'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' - See more at:
'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' - See more at:

Monday, February 11, 2013

Croatian Christmas vacation, part 1

Last summer Jen and I decided to give a try. With 4 children, vacations can get very expensive. Few hotels have rooms large enough for us. Guest apartments charge per head. But with a home exchange, there is no rent, there is often a full kitchen, and if you exchange with another family with children, there are toys for the kids to play with. It was a great experience. We did a weekend home exchange since then and it was also a blast. We figured we had found the perfect strategy for a family vacation.

So as we looked ahead towards Christmas break, we decided we wanted to go someplace twenty degrees warmer. We found an amazing looking villa on the Croatian coast not far from Dubrovnik. It was big enough to invite another family along. So with 6 children in town, the Beilmans and the Haberls begin the journey to southern Croatia.

We split the trip into two legs, stopping at Plitvice Lakes overnight. After seeing some of the falls we made our way down the coast. At around 6pm, long after the sun had gone down, with a stout, cold wind blowing in from the sea and having had no dinner, we pull into the villa. What we found was more than we could have ever hoped for imagined!

Boxes of stuff lying around for nightly organizing parties!

Real bird feathers for Native-American-headdress craft time!

The kitchen had been removed so we could
have a place to play Four-Square!
A moist pillow to keep one's head cool at night!
A wet bed so we can combine bedtime and bathtime!
A filthy toilet so we can feel right at home!
Our children's education doesn't have to stop on vacation--
we can teach them how to fold (someone else's) laundry!

A free, mostly-consumed mixed drink waits
next to the bed of one lucky vacationer!
On one of the beds we found this unique, Pollock-style art left
by one of Croatia's many artistic birds!

Having been overwhelmed by all the perks of this particular villa, we felt we just couldn't stay. Kidding aside, we felt angry, betrayed, stressed, still very hungry, nervous about finding a new place to stay, and since this whole trip was our idea, embarrassed. Having just unloaded our cars, we packed them back up and and headed down the winding coastal highway. We were homeless in a strange country not knowing where we would stay that night or when we would eat.

To be continued...

Monday, February 4, 2013

Mother :: Cook :: Wife :: Ice Skating Instructor?

I've added another title to my growing list of accomplishments... Ice Skating Instructor.  I am by no means an accomplished ice skater.  That being said, I'm better than Dan :).  So, I'm not 7 months pregnant this year, so I get the task of teaching my children what all dutiful Austrian children seem to know innately.  This past week, I took William to the ice rink to begin the teaching process.  

First off, the weather was beautiful.  Meaning we really didn't need hats or gloves.  
Secondly, it was SO affordable.  We had a pair of used ice skates - so no rental needed.  And the kids teaching rink was FREE!  Yep.  Maybe that's because the location was so lousy... oh wait, don't think that was the reason.  
The teaching was greatly eased by these wonderful gliding penguins.  I don't know what they are but it saved me from having a tremendous back ache the next day.

It turned out to be a really, really fun afternoon for us both.  

And of course all that hard work deserved a hot drink afterwards.  
Hooray for Kinderpunsch!