Wednesday, June 27, 2012


It's been about twenty days since I've returned to Dubrovnik. It was a fairly smooth journey back. Lufthansa is high on my list of preferred airlines at the moment. Pricey Yes, but very prompt (as germans usually are.) and good service. Planes were great, and even though I had 45 minutes between connections, even with a delay I made it on time. Plus I got to fly in am Embraer jet for the first time.

First thing I noticed when I got back to Dubrovnik. It finally got WARM! It was a total relief after experiencing a mild winter in Vancouver... for the second time. It was like Vancouver realized my Aunt Claudette had passed away and decided to get cold and rainy after her passing.

It was really nice to get to spend time with my family after my aunts passing. I really felt like we all reached a new level of communication and friendship. I really look forward to spending some more time with them soon. During that time I was fortunate enough to spend time with my uncle and was even luckier to get a chance to document and take picture of the old family boat. the boat was originally built in 1964 and has since been in the hand of my grandfather and my uncle who each year tenderly care for the wood and keep the boat in fantastic working order. While m uncle showed me around the boat I managed to snap this portrait of him... I think it reflects him, the boat and his personality perfectly.

When I returned to Dubrovnik it was pretty much pedal to the metal once I hit the ground. Maria was amazing enough to cover my shifts while I was gone dealing with family stuff. She really was a superstar as the hostel was full every night after I left, yet she didn't complain or hold it against me that I left. It was time for me to pull my weight. Since then my month has been more or less filled with adventures. I've been running tours, cooking curries, exploring the city and working the front desk. "Save money for winter" has been my mantra over the last few weeks. I recently discovered the amazing classical music at the "Rectors Palace". My friend Anshel came to visit from Hong Kong for a few days and it was an amazing reunion. Especially strange when I think about it. We had met back in 2007 for two days while he was drinking at Fresh*. You know a true friend when you see one again after five years... and it's exactly as if no time had ever passed. A fantastic visit. Anyway he has introduced me to the classical music at Rector Palace which also happened to be my friend Jon's first time ever in eight years of living in Dubrovnik. Imagine a beautiful medieval feeling venue, with a world class orchestra as your entertainment while you sit amongst marble arches above... then imagine paying ten bucks for it. Amazing evenings.

Anyways I won't bore you with all the details of my last month. But I have been painting a bit, heading to Lokrum island on my days off, taking hostel guests on tours and trying to stay out of the oppressive heat. It's consistently been 32 celcius plus... with humidity. The poor little chinese made electric fan I bought isn't nearly cutting it. Fortunately it has cooled down last night... for the first time in two weeks. It's 26 C and night instead of 30. Bearable.

Here's some photos to pass the time.

Anyways I think everyone here in Dubrovnik has grown up a little in the last year. It's been really nice to spend time with people again and it feels a bit more like home than it did last year. Stay tuned to further blog posts as life gets interesting.

Future highlights:

-Lian comes to visit in July.

-Ben's brother and girlfriend come for a visit!

-Sailing up the coast with Bastian and friends!

Looks like it'll be a great summer... hope June-unary in Vancouver is finally coming to an end.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Long Road Home

So life took an interesting turn last week. The last while had been going really great in Dubrovnik. I was shifting gears into work mode and the season was moving ahead great. Did my first tours of the season. First dinners, first Sangria nights. Things were looking good. Then I got word from back home that my Aunt Claudette had been admitted into the hospital due to gallbladder cancer that was really tightening it's grasp. Things weren't looking good and time was really ticking. Family always comes first for me so I immediately booked a ticket home and two days later I was on a whirlwind flight back to Vancouver.

I nearly pulled an all nighter as I slept for an hour before catching my bus at 3 am on thursday morning. A quick flight to Frankfurt and a few hours to kill before my flight departed. I was flying with Lufthansa and we boarded our Airbus 340-600 for the nine and a half hour flight to Vancouver. Realizing I had bought my tickets really last minute, I knew the potential for my seating arrangement to be shitty was a real possibility. I tried requesting a window seat... they were all taken. A center seat for nine hours was do-able. For some reason I ended up next to the bulkhead... which was home to four babies. Great. Babies on an intercontinental flight. Ok they all looked pleasant enough. All except the one next to me. I sat next to the baby from hell. For the next 9.5 hours... this kid cried for 8 of those hours. I understand that children sometimes get ear problems on flights but this was excessive. The child would constantly cry and while.. all because the parents weren't constantly comforting the kid. This kid had some serious whining problems... and as I tried to sleep would get hit by kicks and flailing arms which conveniently jarred me awake. If there was a child ejection seat button, I would have pushed it. The only respite I had was when the kid slept for an hour... or when I glared straight into the kids eyes projecting nothing but hate. I guess it scared the kid enough to stop crying... for about ten minutes.

Fortunately Alex, my seat mate was a younger guy who was on his way to Vancouver for the next four months. I was able to tell him about the city. How to find a place to live and explained to him the little differences in canadian culture vs german. It was nice to have a chat and distract myself from the wailing kid.

When I arrive back in Vancouver, it felt as though I had never left. Although it was finally sunny in Vancouver. I got off the plane, cleared customs and called my dad to pick me up. It's about a five minute drive from the airport to the hospital. During that drive I got word that my uncle, the husband of my aunt was being checked into emergency because of an unknown fever and extreme shivering. Ohhh great. Both my aunt and uncle are now in the hospital... just as she is getting critical. I arrived at the hospital and found the room my aunt was staying in. I said hello and little did realize how much effort it took her to open her eyes. She looked at me and tried her best to focus... but I could tell it was really difficult for her. I talked to her and told her about my flight, about Dubrovnik and how it was good to be by her side. I consoled my other family members and chatted about how life was. When I return to my aunts bedside, I saw she was back to having her eyes closed. Little did I know the effort she must have made to look at me. That was the last time I would see her with here eyes open.

From then on, it would be 24 hour bedside family vigil. My dad and my uncle would take midnight to 6 am, my mother 6 am to noon. I would fill in from 10 am until I was tired. People dropped food off to the palliative ward to keep us nourished. We talked, we laughed, we cried. And my aunt kept breathing.

In the meantime I wandered down to visit my uncle. He was hooked up ao a steady stream of antibiotics while the doctors tried to figure out what was wrong with him. Two relatives in the hospital at the same time is stressful, let alone when they're from the same family... and one is critical, the other mysteriously ill. I slowly got to know my uncle much better than ever before. We talked about living on the coast, fishing salmon in the Fraser River, my grandfathers life, my uncles life and travels and slowly grew to connect with him like never before. We were all going through a tough time and that was the plain and simple truth. It was time to come together.

It was monday. We were all exhausted, and it was time to start planning for the next week or the bedside vigil. It had been five days since I had returned and it had been a marathon of family, fighting time zones, living in a hospital and dealing with my own personal loss. I was fading. So there I was napping away around 3 pm, when my uncle decided to walk in. He Walked in and sat down next to my aunt. I got up and decided to give my uncle some space and wandered into the common area to stretch and get some fresh air on the balcony. It wasn't two minutes later that my uncle walked in, and told us, that she had passed away quietly.

It's one of those things you don't really want to have happen. It's inevitable though. Death that is. To be totally honest I'm not really scared of death, but at the same time, I don't want to be the only one there when somebody passes away. I'd much rather if be with more loved ones to fall back on for support should I need it. I had been somewhat worrying about my aunt passing while on my watch that way. Beautifully, she ended up passing while with my uncle.. the one she loved. It was magical to say the least. We had been there for nearly a week 24/7 at her bedside and my uncle walks in, talks to her gently, tells her everything is okay and then she passes on. As much of a sad situation it was, it couldn't have worked out better. I walked into the room to take one last look at my aunt. I contemplated her passing... and remembered her spirit. It's something I won't be able to forget. The following days were spent with my uncle, keeping watch over the house, welcoming any guests who stopped by. It was a tough. It was hard to get back into daily life again with somebody missing. It was even harder watching my uncle try and patch together his life without his partner. But slowly things have come together. Funeral plans were made, family gatherings were had, lots of memories, laughter and tears were had.

My cousin Mariko decided to host a games night at her house on one of my last days in the country. My family converged for a night as we drank coffee, ate the best rhubarb pie and played board games with each other. Aunts, uncles, cousins, boyfriends and girlfriends (and fiancees!) all came together. It made me realize that we don't do this nearly enough. We don't create nearly enough new memories together like that. We need to spend more time together, share stories, hang out, play with the kids and feel like a family again. I realized my aunt Claudettes legacy is us. We're the ones who carry on the name, the family and the commitment. It takes effort yes, but family comes first at the end of the day. At least it does for me.

It seems to be some kind of tradition that I finish my blog posts at the airport before my flights. Waiting around with nothing to do but reflect on the situations of the past. Take a minute to realize what I'm leaving behind. A strange tradition. I feel a little bit like Ryan Bingham in "Up In The Air". Always coming, always going. Take a minute and remember my Aunt Claudette with me. Check out the video below to one of my favourite songs, played to beautiful time lapse of Los Angeles. Take a moment and pause.

LA Light from Colin Rich on Vimeo.