Storm and Lightning

Growing up in Oklahoma we are taught to respect the weather. We are raised scanning the heavens in fear that at any moment a tornado may just come writhing out of the sky in a grey clouded doom-spiral that’s capable of killing you and everyone you love in a matter of seconds! Sounds fun, huh?

From an early age we learn what to do when we hear tornado sirens. As early as three I knew that when the sirens began I needed to take shelter into the small closet under our stairs. The ominous drone of the tornado sirens wailed in the background of my childhood nightmares as swarms of tornadoes descended on me from above. I would wake up in a panic with my heart racing, hoping that the sirens had just been a dream. But, sometimes they weren’t. Sleepily my parents shuffled us into the closet or the basement while they turned on the TV. Out of the the flickering shadows came the calming and reassuring voice of the local weatherman, telling us when to take cover, who was in danger, and what to do.

The Oklahoma weatherman is almost like a member of the family. You trust him. You believe him. And you count on him telling you what to do when there is an F-5 tornado hurtling towards your house with the ferocity of a wolverine driven freight train. And these guys aren’t just pretty faces. They are trained meteorologists. They know science and stuff. We have radar that can show you the very street that the tornado is on. Our technology is so sophisticated that once a tornado forms, the weatherman can tell you down to the second what street the storm is passing over. In Oklahoma we take the weather very, very, very, seriously.

Then I moved to Croatia and... well... let’s just say my vigilant concern about the weather, my upbringing that demands we know where we stand between a low pressure and a high pressure system or what kind of fronts are coming is... um... unsatisfied. And even misunderstood. When a storm rolls in, out of instinct I frantically search the various channels for some information about its intensity, direction, and predicted duration. All I find are Turkish soap operas, Larin Izbor and Raymond.  Where our wether updates are filled with fancy maps of live radar, I have never seen a picture of live radar in all of Croatia. Usually there is just a map with some tranquil suns and harmless clouds dotting the landscape. Where we devote 15-20 minutes each hour to the weather report, the weather report on the morning news show in Croatia is usually just a guy standing in front of a list of temperatures in between segments of aerobics.

Near the end of the forecast comes the most puzzling thing. The TV displays one temperature for the entire seaside, and one for inland. WHAT? Given how diverse Croatia is said to be in all other aspects, local dialects, local mentality and culture, local food, it’s a ironic that the temperature of the entire coast can be reduced to one number and that the temperature for the not-coast is equally reducible to a single number. This is something that I will never, EVER understand.

Then there is the biometrik forecast. I don’t even know what to say about that.

I feel like living in Croatia, like the country’s weather, lacks the intense dynamics of life in Oklahoma. There is a storm-like fury that drives life in the US that is absent in Croatia. High street crime, fear of losing your health insurance, rushing large distances to work, not to mention the actually threat from the skies. These fears all form into a maelstrom of anxiety that I sense pulsing through American society, regardless of the weather. Though there may be a bit of political theatre and an economic malaise, the social life in Croatia is like the Adriatic: mostly calm and enjoyable. I’m not sure why this is the case, so we might as well blame it on the weather. Even when I see cloudy skies in Croatia, I’m sure we will be able to brave the storm. If I were faced with such a storm in the US, I’d want to turn to the weatherman and hide in the closet.