60 under 30 #8: Croatia

Somewhere in Croatia, between Plitvice Lakes National Park and the Slovenian border is, to most, an ordinary back road. It winds through forests, past farmhouses and even through villages still bombed out from the war of the 1990’s. The route is nothing if not beautiful, the true embodiment of taking the scenic route.

This road, however, is known to four people by a slightly less…err…elegant name. These four people are, of course, my family, and leave it to the Elliotts to turn something majestic into a road now known to us as the Chundy 5 Hundy.

How did it get this name you might ask?

Chundy, is first, short for the slang term “chunder” which my brother and I had recently picked up having spent a week on a boat with several Australians and Kiwis.  Urban Dictionary defines this particularly pleasant word as:

“Chunder means to be sick, it originates from old seafaring days when sailors would get seasick and stick their head out of the porthole in their cabin. As they did this they would shout “Watch Under” to warn people in lower cabins of the forthcoming puke. Over the years this has evolved in Chunder.”

Yum.

5 Hundy is, of course, a reference to races such as the Indy 500, which, although we did not get lost enough to do 500 laps, was an apt enough description of my fathers driving through this particular stretch of back roads.

Amusing? To my father and myself in the front seats, as I had my GoPro out the window taking videos of the scenery zooming past, abso-fucking-lutely.

To my brother and mother turning green in the backseat? Unlikely, regardless of how apt a description the Chundy 5 Hundy became.

Now if you’d asked me a mere couple years prior to this trip if I’d like to have spent two weeks of my holiday on a road trip with my parents, like an average teenager I probably would have looked at you like you had two heads. However, age comes with perspective, as does nearly three years of living abroad, and here we go, I’m about to get emotional.

I miss my parents.

I’m not ashamed to admit it, anyone who lives three thousand miles from their family is lying if they say they don’t. At the time of writing, it’s two weeks from my mother’s fiftieth birthday and a little less than a month until my father’s fifty-fifth. Smack in between the two is my twenty-sixth, all of which won’t be spent together because I live on another continent.

Even in the age of FaceTime and Skype, I still miss a lot. I traded in those birthdays and family holidays to selfishly create my own memories elsewhere. However, out of that, it’s created a whole host of new memories that we otherwise wouldn’t have had. Silly ones like the Chundy 5 Hundy, beautiful ones like hiking through the serene lakes of Plitvice, and the unforgettable meal we had in Ljubljana.

I haven’t quite come around to the humour in my dad’s attempt to embarrass my brother and I at every given opportunity, but he’s right, we’re never going to see that waiter in Piran again so maybe I really should “give less of a shit” as he so elegantly puts it.

One thing I’ve certainly learned is that if you happen to be lucky enough to be able to travel with your parents, do it while you can. It will test you at times, and patience is indeed a virtue. But they changed your stinky diaper, so yes, you better goddamn wait for them to catch up when hiking up the side of a mountain.

But does there necessarily have to be some deep and meaningful lesson buried in all this about travelling with your parents and how rewarding it can be?

Probably not.

Could it simply be the lesson that we shouldn’t let my father drive manual on a winding road in rural Croatia?

Almost certainly.

But if you asked me if I would pass up the opportunity to do it with my family all over again?

Not one chance in hell.

 

In Defense of Our Officers

Firstly let me begin by explaining myself. I do not usually write about so called “heavy” and political topics, it is not why I started this blog. Lately I find myself unable to contain my contempt for the way police officers are viciously criticized and scrutinized in both the news and on social media. This particular issue hits extremely close to home for my family and I. For those who do not know, my father is a police officer, and my grandfather before him as well. The fact that I was raised by an officer of the law does in fact give me a bias on the issue. I also believe it gives me a perspective of police officers that is very much unknown to the general public.

I am now, and always have been a proud son of a police officer.  Parent career day at school meant seeing my classmates racing to the police car to hear the sirens or flash the lights. I would be there, standing next to my dad, beaming with pride as my friends experienced a small part of what it was like to have a police officer for a parent. Whenever anyone asked what I wanted to do when I grew up, my response was “I want to be a police officer, like my daddy”. 15 or so years later, believe it or not, I did not grow up to be a police officer. There were many times, not just at a young age, where I considered it. The absolute truth as to why I didn’t choose that path is that I couldn’t do it. It’s not that I couldn’t physically do it. It’s that I couldn’t mentally do it. There are few people outside the families and friends of police officers and other first responders that understand what I mean by this. Growing up, my father was, and still is, my hero. To me, there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do. With this in mind, I want you to picture the first time you saw your dad vulnerable. Some people may never have experienced this. Others may have seen it when a relative or family friend passed away. The first time I saw my father cry will forever remain engrained in my head. I was somewhere around the age of 7 or 8 years old. My dad had worked nights the night before, and as usual was sleeping in long past when my brother and I had woken up and started playing. At some point in the morning, much earlier than usual, my dad got out of bed. Curious, I wandered over to see him and saw that his eyes were bloodshot and puffy. Being a typical young child, I asked my mom why Dad was sad. To give my mother a lot of credit, she explained it in a much more suitable manner for an 8 year old than this, but what happened was that an officer my father had been roommates with in police college had been shot and killed in the line of duty. I did not fully understand what was going on at the time, but looking back, this was the first point in my life where I began to understand the burden police officers live with.

Now that I have added a bit of context, let’s get back to the issue at hand. When the issue of police brutality comes to mind, most people lately would immediately think of the incidents in Ferguson, New York or Los Angeles. In terms of statistics, this video (http://goo.gl/FcGXBX) gives some very interesting points for discussion. Let me be clear, I am not saying all officers are perfect, and as with any occupation, there are bad ones. There will always be outliers that skew the data. Unfortunately, what we see on Facebook and on the news are these outliers. When was the last time you saw an officer mentioned by name on the news for making a routine traffic stop, or helping an old lady cross the street. The reason we don’t see these stories, is because they are not out of the ordinary. Think about what I just said. Ordinary things do not make the news. What the media in general does not seem to discuss, is what it’s like to actually be in one of these situations. This is the inherent problem with the way this issue is debated. I would guess that a very small percentage, if anyone reading this, can speak from experience as to what it would be like to be in a situation where you have a gun pointed at another person, hoping they just listen to you and don’t try to pull a gun or knife. This video (http://goo.gl/GeAjQC) shows the dash cam footage of the reaction of a police officer after he shot and killed a civilian in the line of duty. Imagine being that officer, having a person disobey an order, reach for what very well could be a gun. In that split second, the officer has to decide if he is willing to wait and see if it really is a gun, in which case it could mean his own life, or to fire. Police officers are trained extensively on how to properly deal with these situations. The split second decisions they are trained to react and make are made to protect not only their own lives, but the lives of other officers and civilians.

At the end of the day, my biggest problem with how this whole situation is developing, is that it has made me scared. There have been many nights throughout my life where I have laid awake, thinking about the possibility my father may not come home the next morning. To anyone who’s dad is a doctor, a lawyer or an accountant, you cannot understand this the way I do. The reason you do not have this fear, is because men and women like my father do what they do. Society’s reaction to a small percentage of incidents, damning the other 99% who have done nothing wrong terrifies me. In the past months we have seen officers murdered, purely for having a badge and a uniform. Society does not condemn all doctor’s because one wrote a bad prescription. Why do we do it with police officers?

I’ll leave you with these words in hope that the next time you see a police officer, perhaps your perspective will be a little different. Try to see past the uniform, to see the man or woman behind the badge. The man or woman who just had to tell another mother or father that their son or daughter died. The man or woman who is doing what they do so that you can sleep easy at night while their family is awake worrying. The man or woman who at the end of the day, just wants to go home to see their little boy or girl who wants to grow up to be just like them.