Kobarid, Slovenia

Last week, 20 of us went to Kobarid, Slovenia to see a beautiful part of Central Europe, to have some adventure, and to enjoy some meaningful time and conversation with each other.  Our friends Stephan and Thea live in Vrsno, a small town above Kobarid and the Soca River.  Stephan and Thea showed us amazing places and enabled us to have some great adventures.

A quick overview of the week: 3 hour waterfall-hunting hike, rafting down the Soca river, cleaning/gutting and roasting fish over a fire, 7.5 hour hike to Krn mountain, jumping off of a 15 meter high bridge, a day of kayaking, searching for the Kozjak waterfall canyon at night, a half-day at Grado beach, and a wonderful final evening together in Vrsno hearing Stephan and Thea’s story.  For me, there were many “moments” and conversations that became highlights.  As one friend said, “I want to integrate these things into my life in Budapest and not stay the same.”

At the top of Krn Mountain

Launching Peaches 700 Meters Below

The Fish Gutting Team

Ready to Raft

The Leap

In life

From what I understand the Hungarian and Croatian words for “enjoy” are quite similar in idea, that is, they both literally mean, “to be in life.”  Our boys, like all children, seem to have a special talent for being “in life.”  They laugh, they cry, they run, they fall, they jump, and they play.  They’ve been teaching me a couple things lately.

Break the Silence:  Nathan (3) loves to randomly tell his mother, “Mommy, you’re so beautiful!”  Everything stops for a moment, and we see that mom is really here with us…and she’s beautiful.  It occurs to me that we can use many words but easily be silent in things that matter most.  Breaking this silence ushers us back into life.

Willingness to Ask:  Jacob (4) loves to get on the floor and wrestle with me.  A time comes almost everyday when his eyes light up, and he asks, “Dad, can we wrestle now!?”  I love it when he asks that question.  I love that he is willing to ask for my time, energy and attention.  There is vulnerability because the answer could be, “no,” but the chance to be “in life” with dad is worth the risk.

Two Years Old

On Friday December 28th, this blog turned two years old.  Happy Birthday utazni.com!  A few adjustments are coming for the new year!

According to Technorati’s April 2007 state of the blogosphere report:

  • there are 70 million weblogs
  • About 120,000 new weblogs are created each day
  • 1.4 new blogs are created every second
  • 1.5 million posts per day
  • 17 posts per second
  • Japanese is the #1 blogging language at 37%
  • English second at 33%
  • Chinese third at 8%
  • Italian fourth at 3%
  • 1% of blog posts are in Farsi

European Values and Family Trends

Recently I had the chance to meet with Vladislav Matej (Family Counselor with Socia) in Bratislava.  He outlined a set of recent sociological studies on European values and family trends.  Here are some of the highlights from Vladislav Matej.   

Prof. Jan Kerkhofs, University of Louwen, Belgium reported a longitudinal 20-year study of European values.  There were five primary shifts:

  • Ethics have entered the autonomous sphere (individually determined)
  • Ethical norms are influenced and created by parliaments and not by churches anymore (there are lots of examples of this)
  • There is a high tolerance to the actions of individuals
  • Individual ethics are limited by the freedom of other individuals

There has been a primary movement toward individualism, post-traditionalism, tolerance, and pessimism.

A report (D. Popeone, sociologist) shows correlating trends between the occurance of the sexual revolution, a rapid decrease of fertility, and a rapid increase of divorce.

A study by G.T. Stanton has found a rapid increase of cohabiting couples (not married) and several trends within these households: an increase in disturbing and painful relationships, an increase of interferance of the successful formation of follow-up partnerships (not sure what this means), an increase of conflict, an increase of domestic violence, and a strengthening of mistrust.

The following stats are taken from Eurostat.  The average age of men/women at first marriage in 1980 was 26/23.  In 2003 it was 30/28.  The percent of children born outside of marriage in 1980 was 8.8%.  In 2005 it was 33%.  In 1980 the number of divorces that occured in Europe was 672,917.  In 2005 it was 1,042,892.  Today, 2/3 of households in the EU live without children.  16% of families have one child, 13% have two children, and 4% have three children.  In the next fifty years, the population of the US is expected to increase by 150 million.  In Europe it is expected to decrease by 40 million.

life

From August to November of 1991 the 87 day siege of Vukovar took place leaving nothing but ruins, hardly any building fully intact, and 100% of the inhabitants scarred by the atrocities of this war.  There is still a heaviness being carried by Vukovarians.

But there is also life, a continued story.  One thing I clearly recognized while in Vukovar this time is the impossibility of outsiders to come and feel, empathize, and make any sort of real impact.  I see our friends Laci and Keri who moved to Vukovar almost three years ago, or our new friend Charles who moved there in 1995.  By doing so they entered the story.  By entering the story they have become fellow journeyers, able and willing to share burdens, meaning, and hope. 

I love this picture of the flowers growing out of a partly destroyed building.  Maybe it is an appropriate metaphor for many us as people, especially our friends in Vukovar.  Impact, meaning, and hope are the fruits of a shared story. 

differences

Had a good talk with a couple friends recently about marriage, personalities, values, and differences.  Someone once told me that we often have a process in dealing with our differences in marriage or relationships.  Ignore, Reject, Accept, Celebrate.  At first we tend to ignore our differences.  When we can’t ignore the differences, we consciously reject them.  Eventually we come to accept these differences (they are not necessarily better or worse…they are just different).  And finally, we are able to celebrate these differences, embracing and cultivating them and allowing them to flourish.