Left cheek kiss, right cheek kiss. Kiss the very ground.

“Going back to a simpler life based on living by sufficiency rather than excess is not a step backward. Rather, returning to a simpler way allows us to regain our dignity, puts us in touch with the land, and makes us value human contact again.”
— Yvon Chouinard

No where I have ever visited more acutely embraces the primal need of Chouinard’s words as HugsCroatia; physical human contact is a standard of ‘being’ here, vastly unlike the requisite three feet of personal space which Americans demand. Each greeting begins with this – you place your hands on the upper arms of the person standing before you, lean in to close the space between you, place your left cheek against theirs kiss, then the right, and kiss. You connect, you share physical space, you communicate with your heart as well as your whole being. If you are less than presenting yourself in ‘fullness of being’ you will be felt. Authenticity reigns supreme in this physical connectedness. I love this. I absolutely, unconditionally, LOVE THIS.

I sit here, four days back in Croatia after an absence of five and a half months, and I feel whole again. Really whole. I shed tears of gratitude for the wondrous gift of being here. I light candles in churches for the same reason. I stand calf deep in fountains in her cities and towns and the Adriatic (there is no time for a swim right now). I walk barefoot on Rovinj’s sidewalks in darkness and Pula’s streets in blazing July heat. I see fig and olive trees full of fruit and weep. The scent of the air dense with the sea, and earth’s minerals, pine, lavender and citrus assaults my senses and my heart.  I pull the energy of the land and its people into my being through every possible means as though I would perish from thirst and hunger should I fail. I am HOME.

When we arrived in Venice, (my business partner Ken Herron and I are in Istria, Croatia participating in the #ShareIstria campaign – the final week of a total of eleven – as #IstraKT), I was utterly exhausted. I was drained from the machinations of the culture of the USA, as well as the indifference and greed and IMHO the truly wrongheadedness of core values.  I was weary from the (foolish?) decision to simultaneously give up my apartment, put my things into storage, and stay not for the single week of the contest but through October. To embrace Croatia again, fully, and make sure that this is the path I will take – to make her my permanent home. [The truth is that were it not for remarkable friends in Rochester, NY I would not have been able to get on the plane to get here – they were still picking up the pieces of my life (and my shoes!) and putting these into storage for me as I simply ran out of time to do everything – my angels on Earth, I love you for this enormous gift more than you can know.]

The very first Croatian ‘touch’ on this return trip for me was on my left forearm. Our driver Glen, hired by the Istrian Tourist Board to collect us in Venice, did this several times as he listened to me speak of his country during our three hour drive to Rovinj. This was not uncomfortable to me, this is a balm. This tells me in the most elemental way that someone not only hears what I am saying but wants to reinforce the importance of my words to them on a personal level of what I am saying without using words of their own. I told Ken “I get petted a lot in Croatia.” I haven’t quite figured out the why of this, but it means the world to me that my energy is such that people feel comfortable in doing this.

We drove through Italy to Slovenia, stop at the border to get our passports stamped, drive on 20150724_114904-2perhaps 200 yards, and cross into Croatia, another stamp. ‘Dobar dan’ is expressed, smiles exchanged, our passports handed back to us.  A large sign another 200 yards ahead welcomes us to Croatia. My throat clenches, my eyes fill. I look behind our car quickly but there is traffic, no opportunity to get out of the car, kneel, and kiss the ground (I have now quietly attended to this ritual of a traveler returning home.)

From the 24th to today, the 28th, I have greeted each Croatian I encounter through an introduction not with a handshake but with this intimate touch and kisses on the their cheeks.  Our handler Goran said that I am the first person from all of the #ShareIstria teams to do this; I am shocked. How can anyone come into a culture and not make a tiny effort to know? Yet my reaction isn’t prideful. Rather it is concern that I might have offended. No, no, no he says, it is appreciated. Croatians generally, Istrians in particular right now, make me feel beyond welcomed, as we hug and kiss I better understand this (the second time around) the context of closing the space even further with me on parting company, Istrians are making me feel as though I am a native daughter returning to the nest after being away too long. For all those I have met along the journey to be here, amongst you again, your kindness and hospitality swamp my heart in the best possible way. Hvala lipo.

We would love your support of our participation in the #ShareIstria contest I hope you will follow us as #IstraKT (across social media platforms Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and help amplify our various posts on social media. Hvala lipo. Aj bog.

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and then, please do share the blog with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

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