Saint Nicholas Day

A Look Back

 Reflections of 2013

I love this time of year.  I have always written a ‘Year in Review’ letter to family and friends highlighting the crazy things I have been up too and stuffed that letter inside a Christmas card.  With the advent of so many social media channels I find that I really don’t have to recap my year because everyone has come along for the ride.

However, this is my first year with a blog and sometimes I want to tell my story in more than 140 characters or have more connection than just filling an album with pictures.  There are stories behind the pictures that just need to be told, and memories that I want to expound on beyond a tweet.

This was quite a year.  As 2012 ended we had thought we would be in Panama for at least two years but things changed quickly and we realized that our time in Panama was at an end.  It was while we were leaving that I came up with an inkling of an idea and we turned our lives into The 6 Monthers; a concept where we would stay 6 months in every country we wanted to live in.  Six months allows us to really get to know the locals and to explore more of the country on a completely different basis than just being on a two-week vacation.  So our adventure began.  I started out looking for countries where we could live for 6 months on our regular visas and while there are some, not all the countries we want to live in allow it.  Those that don’t we will deal with them on a case by case basis.  I also began in 2013 to work on obtaining dual citizenship for Italy which we hope will help with our request to stay someplace longer than 3 months.

Where we thought we would live for two years turned out to be no more than 6 months but it gave me an idea...

Where we thought we would live for two years turned out to be no more than 6 months but it gave me an idea… © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Leaving Panama we looked north and decided on giving Mexico a try.  Other than stopping in various Mexican cities during cruises I had never spent any real time in Mexico.  Arranging our time in Mexico was easier than I expected and we found the ideal location to begin 2013 in Cuernavaca.  Mexico was a nice surprise and nothing like what the news media would have us believe.  We never heard a gun shot and we never felt unsafe.  We met nice people and we ate wonderful food.  We visited amazing places and loved every second of our time there.  Yes Mexico has its challenges but there is nothing about Mexico that should stop someone from exploring this beautiful country.

See more about Teotiuachan by clicking here

See more about Teotihuacan by clicking here. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

We returned to the US for a short period to exchange clothing and to clean out the last few boxes of items we had left in my parents’ garage.  We then packed for our move to Scotland.  Hindsight they say is sometimes best and sadly living in Scotland was not the dream that I was hoping it was going to be.

Being ever alert to prospects for new adventures, and wanting to build our 6 Monthers brand, earlier in 2013 I had connected via LinkedIn with the manager of Dhar Media in Zagreb, Croatia.  They were looking for journalists interested in exploring Croatia and filming a web series called Discover Croatia.  Filming was scheduled for the month of September.  September couldn’t come fast enough and while our 24 day filming schedule was grueling our time in Croatia was fun and filled with great contacts and new friends.

I know this was supposed to be serious business but I was having so much fun!  Our visit to Zelingrad Castle happened during the filming of Discover Croatia. Loved it!

I know this was supposed to be serious business but I was having so much fun! Our visit to Zelingrad Castle happened during the filming of Discover Croatia. Loved it! © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

But we returned to Scotland because we had prepaid our six months rent.  We were however increasingly unhappy in Scotland and wanted to leave.  The people were not friendly or in some instances unkind.  I received more than one look from strangers where I just felt that if anything happened to me on the street no one would help me.  The weather was turning colder and the costs to heat our small apartment that had no TV, no internet and no elevator was getting to be ridiculous.  We talked with our landlady who would not return our money since she said the banks didn’t allow money to flow in reverse but that if we found someone who would take good care of the place we could sublet to them.  And the hunt was on.  I told Mike I was determined to find someone to get us out of Scotland.  He wanted to know where we wanted to go.  I told him Sibenik, Croatia.  He was surprised since I have family in Sicily and they could have arranged a place for us to stay, even on short notice.

Scotland is a beautiful country and there is a lot to see. It was just not the right place for us to live.

Scotland is a beautiful country and there is a lot to see. It was just not the right place for us to live. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Luck was on our side, or fate intervened, and we left Scotland without looking back on October 26th and landed once again in Croatia. Since we had already spent 24 days in the country we were only allowed to stay in the country on our regular visas until early January 2014 but we didn’t mind.  We found a great apartment to rent in Sibenik for 2.2 months and we grabbed it.  We connected with several locals who toured us around and we learned more about this region and this country.  To thank everyone we had met and who treated us so warmly we threw a Holiday / 6th Wedding Anniversary party.   It was a happy event and we are glad that we did it.

From left; Our own Personal Insider - Biljana Lambasa, Tina Vickov, owner of Sibenik Plus Tourist Agency, Mike and Me.  We were in good hands with these two who showed us the Sibenik we called home.  We wouldn't have learned as much without them.

From left; Our own Personal Insider – Biljana Lambasa, Tina Vickov, owner of Sibenik Plus Tourist Agency, Mike and Me. We were in good hands with these two who showed us the Sibenik we called home. We wouldn’t have learned as much without them. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Holidays in other countries are always interesting because so many customs and traditions are different from our own country.  Here in Croatia they celebrate St. Nicholas day (December 15th) and the Epiphany (January 6th) which hold just as much significance as the main event; Christmas.  New Year’s Eve is yet to come but we already know there will be parties to attend and more stories to file away.

Mike and I met St. Nicholas along the waterfront in Sibenik - he tells me I've been a good girl this year

Mike and I met St. Nicholas along the waterfront in Sibenik – he tells me I’ve been a good girl this year. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

So while 2012 ended on a sour note we turned 2013 into a time of new beginnings, new friendships and new memories.  After all, isn’t that what the ball drop on New Year’s Eve represents?  Isn’t this why everyone cheers and sings and toasts the coming year?  New Year’s Eve is a time to say goodbye to the past and to look forward to the future.  New Year’s Eve is a time to make a toast to the coming year’s possibilities and a time to sing to let the world know that you are coming.

Here we come 2014, let’s see what you’ve got…

Florence Lince

http://www.6monthers.com

The Sibenik Regatta

Or St. Nicholas Really is Coming to Town

As expats who are usually not home with family and friends during the holidays we have always tried to immerse ourselves in the culture and the traditions of the country we have adopted during our 6 months.  As Christmas approaches instead of feeling sad or missing our families we look around and see what traditions or holiday events we can attend in our new country.  In doing this we have enjoyed multiple Independence Days, May Day festivities, and feast days for many saints, among other holidays.

In Croatia one of their national holidays is the feast day of St. Nicholas.  St. Nicholas is the Patron Saint of sailors and fisherman and his feast day is December 6th.   Yes, this is the same St. Nicholas that is Father Christmas (Santa Claus) and children do receive small presents on this day.

Mike and I met St. Nicholas along the waterfront in Sibenik - he tells me I've been a good girl this year

Mike and I met St. Nicholas along the waterfront in Sibenik – he tells me I’ve been a good girl this year. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Since the town of Sibenik sits on the waterway that leads from the Krka River to the Adriatic Sea many people here make their living as either sailors or fisherman. There stands in the old part of town a tiny Church honoring St. Nicholas which is only open for three days every year. The church is decorated with nautical flags and model boats are hung from the ceiling.  These boats represent the boats that will run in the Sibenik Regatta, an annual boat race held to celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas and to give him thanks for another safe year of life on the water.

The Church of St. Nicholas is only open three days a year

The Church of St. Nicholas is only open three days a year. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Boats come from Italy, Slovenia and Croatia to participate in the race all for the first place prize of a trophy.  This year the race was run on December 7th and Mike got to ride on one of the boats and to help with the yeoman’s work of keeping the boat from keeling over.  There were 35 boats in the race and Mike was part of a four-man crew on a boat called Champagne.  I opted to be on the much larger and much warmer observation boat (okay I partied on a yacht) while taking pictures of the boats in the water.

Mike spent the day on board the Champagne

Mike spent the day on board the Champagne. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

It was a bright and sunny day on the water and the sailboats whizzing around on the water with the centuries old city of Sibenik in the background certainly made this a special experience.  Of course seeing Santa water skiing by as the cannon sounded to begin the race or in getting to meet St. Nicholas made this a special occasion and experience anyway.

Sibenik is a town of 46,000 residents and many of them were out to enjoy the beautiful winter day and to watch the sailboats parading up and down SibenikBay.  This was just one festivity marking the upcoming holidays that is not celebrated back home but which means a great deal to the people of the land we currently call home and we loved sharing this holiday with them in some small way.

Thirty-five sailboats parade in the waters off Sibenik for the 14th annual Regatta.

Thirty-five sailboats parade in the waters off Sibenik for the 14th annual Regatta. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The Holidays are a time of being with family and friends. What we have learned however is that no matter where we are we do have family and friends with us.  They are just ‘new family and friends’ and we feel blessed to have met them along the way as we live as The 6 Monthers.

Happy Holidays!                 

holly       

Florence Lince

http://www.6monthers.com