Shortly after we returned from Orahovica our group was completed with the arrival of Monika. Alessio, Irena and I had been anticipating this for over a month, and the previous two weeks had been lived in expectation of an imminent arrival. We weren’t sure exactly when Monika would arrive, and it seemed to be continually delayed.

Finally the day had come, and in order to welcome her properly we had bought some ingredients for a welcome dinner on her arrival. Unfortunately, one final delay (because of a cancelled bus from Ljubljana to Koper) meant that we had to wait 4 more hours before meeting her, and the welcome dinner didn’t happen (but Alessio, Irena and I did have a good dinner without Monika). This late arrival meant that the welcome ‘party’ was more subdued, and less of a celebration.

New arrival Monika

New arrival Monika

Luckily for Monika (and more so for me) the next day was full of celebrations because it was my birthday. After Monika met everyone at the LDA I was presented with: an English-Croatian dictionary, to help me in my attempt to learn the language; a bottle of wine from Umberto’s region of Italy; and a bottle of homemade medica, the local spirit made with honey – two gifts to help me to use the language.

In the evening we went out for dinner, to celebrate both Monika’s arrival and my birthday, to Aquarius, which Nina had recommended for the best pizza in Buje. This time though, Alessio and I decided to share a Balkan plate of much grilled meat, with a few roasted vegetables and potatoes. Over dinner we discovered Alessio’s ability to talk about highly technical, political and economical topics very easily and fluently in English, including phrases like toxic assets and sub-prime mortgages, perhaps spoken with more speed and confidence than he handles some more common conversation.

Not a birthday present...

Not a birthday present…

When dinner was finished we went home and toasted the evening with the medica (I was drinking from one of Croatia’s finest crafted shot-mugs, a gift from Alessio), and continued to get to know each other, especially our new volunteer.


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