We arrived at Tivat airport in Montenegro at 9:50 am last Tuesday morning. The elation of arriving in eastern Europe was subdued by the baggage claim which spit out only 2 of our 3 bags. Since this wasn’t the first time a checked bag didn’t meet us at the destination, I approached the lost and found desk with a sanguine strut. “Be nice” Lisa advised me. The guest in front of me, however, was not.
“What you mean, you don’t have my f*#%ing bag!” The man barked at the manager named Marija.
“Sir, please calm down” she replied, keeping it professional.
“I come here on holiday and you lose my bag! How come this?”
I decided to give them some space and time to sort things out. Through the window into their office, many sweeping arm gestures caught my eye but the tone emanating from the room eventually became more cordial and the patron left Marija with the closing before walking out: “Don’t worry, be happy“. Some consolation after ripping someone a new asshole.
Customer service people have it rough. They’re dealing with people who are at their worst, most pissed off and seeing only red. Working a few similar gigs like this back in my 20’s, I learned that people in this situation are generally more helpful when shown a little kindness and empathy. When it was my turn, I tried my best to not seem overly pedantic, but it came out all wrong. I blamed the jet lag.
“Hello, how are you today? You look nice!” I asked Marija.
“Vat do you vant?” She replied coldly.
“Yes, well, my bag didn’t show up and I was wondering if you could help me.” I started. “I have the baggage number right here.” After a few keystrokes, Marija tracked down its whereabouts.
“Eet is een Moscow” She told me with the same joy and ebullience of a doctor diagnosing a benign tumor. “Eet will be brought on an afternoon flight and brought to you in Kotor tonight. No charge.”
Marija and the good people from Aeroflot eventually lived up to her promise by delivering my Osprey Sojourn later that evening, but not before we settled into our apartment in the heart of Kotor’s old town and started exploring. Kotor seems like the lovechild of Dubrovnik and Venice with beleagured city walls, and tchotchke selling souvenir shops peppering the labyrinth of winding alley ways. Locals are always smoking. And drinking. Then smoking some more.
Getting over jet lag sucks, but after traveling back and forth over the pacific from Asia to the States for 17 years, we’ve gotten used to it. Our time in Kotor was no different and our internal clocks woke us up at 2:30 am on the first day and then later and later as the week progressed. Getting up early has its advantages though. My morning stroll through the city at 6:00 am to my cardio site on the bay yielded a city that seemed abandoned save a few bakers delivering their loaves to hotels and fishermen hauling their catch to shore. We stocked up on groceries at the local produce market and supermarket soon after arriving, and soon after had a fridge stocked with an assortment of pasta, borek, wine, cheese, prosciutto, olives, cherries, strawberries and water.
Kotor has had a lot to offer. We’ve made multiple trips to the local beach and the girls took a photographic scavenger hunt while daddy hiked the old fortress overlooking the city. We took a boat ride around the bay, swimming in the blue grotto and even boating into an abandoned submarine storage bunker. Most importantly, we were setting the routine of our trip. It looks something like this:
The morning starts with an exercise circuit of 30 minutes. Then, Ava and I read a chapter of her book taking notes on key details with every chapter around common core standards. Ava then sits down to the keyboard and works on typing through ‘Typing Club’ and then we work on ‘Khan Academy’ after breakfast. Overall, we spend about an hour to an hour and a half on school work but that will stretch out to be longer when we really ramp up schooling in the late summer.
After that, we’ve been free to do what we want as a family. We write, photograph, sketch (something I haven’t done in years) and read. We’ve fallen back into the European style siesta of a nap from 3:00 to 6:00 in the afternoon and have most dinners in. Staying at Airbnbs, we typically have breakfast in, eat lunch out at a nearby restaurant and take the leftovers home for dinner, all under 100 euros a day excluding accommodation. At night, the adults cozy up on the couch with a cheap bottle of wine, using the chromecast we brought to stream shows and movies from netflix or our emby site. Currently, we’ve been watching ‘Chernobyl’- heavy, but fascinating.
The best thing however, is spending so much quality time as a family. Tickle tortures (or ‘gets’ as we call them) on the couch and inane arguments about trivial matters are what have made for the best stories. Just this morning, Lisa tried to convince me that Bosnia and Herzegovina was north of Montenegro. I argued that it was west. After 30 minutes of debate, the issue was unsettled despite the evidence pictured above so I decided to add an addendum to my will stating that the line “It was West!” be added as an epitaph to my gravestone. Lisa will counter by adding “No, it was North!” to hers and our burial plots will continue to argue the point throughout eternity.
It is west. Anyone can see that.