Mark Thomas - The editor and big chief of The Dubrovnik Times. Born in the UK he has been living and working in Dubrovnik since 1998, yes he is one of the rare “old hands.” A unique insight into both British and Croatian life and culture, Mark is often known as just “Englez” or Englishman. He is a traveller, a current affairs freak and a huge AFC Wimbledon fan.
Three new “bendy” buses will soon be on the streets of Dubrovnik as the public transport company Libertas has signed a contract for the lease of these flexible buses. These new buses are intended for the use of transporting cruise ship passengers from the main port to the Old City of Dubrovnik and will hopefully aid with the overall congestion during the main summer season.
Why these buses haven’t been thought of before is a mystery but with 41 seats and room for another 107 standing passengers they hold almost three times the number of passengers as a normal coach. Just do the maths and it is clear to see they will solve the number of coaches that suffocate the roads during the height of summer.
The new bendy buses have been taken on a seven-year lease and the first bus is expected to hit the streets in January next year. Not only will they be used on the cruise ship lines but also on the most frequented of public lines in the city. And although three have been ordered a further three are also in the pipeline.
In the period from January to August 2019, 58 foreign cruise ships sailed into Croatian seaports, completing 466 cruise ships. There were 733,000 passengers on these ships, who stayed in Croatia for 929 days, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS).
The largest number of voyages was made by ships flying the flags of Malta (137 voyages) and the Bahamas (79 voyages), while the largest number of passengers arrived by vessels flying the flags of Panama (184,000 passengers) and Malta (182,000 passengers).
Of the total of 466 round trips, the highest number of trips was made in Dubrovnik-Neretva (59.4%) and Split-Dalmatia County (26.2%), which is 85.6 percent in total.
The largest number of visits by foreign cruise ships was the port of Dubrovnik (339 visits), followed by the ports of Split (175 visits) and Zadar (77 visits).
“You really remind me of John,” suggested the Canadian lady in front of me, looking to her children for confirmation, “doesn’t he girls.” John apparently was an English man the family had met on safari in Kenya. And the common thread between the two of us was apparently our sarcastic sense of humour.
As we probably all grew up on the same comedy diet it wasn’t that surprising that John and I had a similar darker look on humour. Monty Python, Blackadder, Yes, Minister, Allo, Allo, Fawlty Towers the list, and indeed the side-splitting humour, could go on and on. “You English just seem to all have a parallel look on life, and even though we have plenty of your old comedies on our TV, and enjoy them hugely, we don’t really have any local comedians who can emulate that black wittiness,” the Canadian lady added.
And apart from the sarcasm the other thing that connects most of the comedians in the famous shows is that they have all finished some of the best universities in the world, such as Oxford or Cambridge. For although this English comedy may appear at times as wacky and pointless it is actually extremely intelligent. For unless you have a superb understanding of the world around you and current affairs it is impossible to have a dry wit. Even one of the daftest comedy shows ever, Mr. Bean, was dreamt up by Rowan Atkinson whilst he was a student at the Oxford University Dramatic Society. The same actor who went onto play Lord Blackadder.
It isn’t only a darker sense of humour but more importantly it is a self-depreciating one. There is nothing that a Brit likes to make fun of more than himself. Humour is in many ways a reflection of the population. In America the comedy tends to be more optimistic and hopeful, just as the society generally is, well at least they were before Melania’s husband came into power. Italian humour is more physical based, with actions and outcomes. And Japanese jokes are probably the politest you’ve ever heard. But the Brits just love satires.
And no, and I mean no, subject is taboo. From sex, to the church, to disability and especially politicians, everything is fair game and everything is attacked with equal gusto. In fact, I once saw a sketch about a politician having sex in a church with a disabled person, there that covers all those subjects in just one short sketch.
As the great Stephen Fry once said “All the great British comic heroes are people who want life to be better but in fact in reality life shits on them from a great height. They are utter failures, British comedy is based on failure but we bring glory to this failure, we celebrate failure.” This is why comedians are having an absolute carnival with Brexit and Thomas Cook and the current horrible weather, well they have plenty of opportunities to joke about the rain to be fair.
I am currently in the UK on family business and am seeing at first hand just how important the odd witty comment, the sharp jokey remark, is to lighten the mood and break the depression. For comedy can heal. It is better to laugh than cry, or even cry laughing. One of the things that I first noticed when I got off the plane was the dry wit. Even from the border guards and the police at the customs, and indeed the people waiting in the queue. It was a jocularity that I has forgotten, and, once I had rediscovered it, missed.
So I’ll finish with one of my favourite jokes from an absolute legend, Tommy Cooper, - A woman gets on a bus with her baby. The driver says, “Ugh! That’s the ugliest baby I’ve ever seen.” The woman stalks off to the rear of the bus and sits down. She turns to the man sitting next to her and says, “The driver just insulted me!” The man says, “You go and give him a telling off. I’ll hold your monkey for you.” Some times in your life you just need to laugh.
One of the slowest and most badly organised forms of transport in Croatia is about to receive a much-needed shot in the arm as new investment is planned. Croatia’s railway system has for years been the poor cousin of the country’s infrastructure links, when billion were invested into the motorway connections, new airports and ports the railways have become somewhat forgotten.
However, the government has announced a new project of investment. Oleg Butkovic, the transport minister, has said that a massive €3.5 billion would be put into construction and maintenance over the following decade.
“The transport strategy has recognised the potential of the Zagreb-Rijeka railway line for freight transport," commented the minister. Adding that "the European Commission too has recognised the potential of railway freight transport and has financed the construction of several railway lines in Croatia."
When did businesses lose all their self-confidence, so much so that they need to be constantly reminded that they are doing a good job? Why am I constantly being pleaded to rate, fill out surveys and give a review? Does every action and interaction have to be followed by a star system?
Just the other day I jumped in an Uber. Went for a pizza. And then called my mobile phone operator to ask about a bill. And of course I spent more time rating these three actions than actually carrying out the actions. “How was your Uber driver?” flashed up a message on my app. Then Google asked me, “How would you rate the service at the pizzeria?” and finally the mobile rang and an electronic voice pleaded “Were you satisfied with the service you received from Tele 2?” I only wanted to kill my hunger, get a lift to a meeting and pay my phone bill but ended up grading everything like a school teacher marking homework. And then you try and buy something online! Jesus that’s just a minefield of reviews, ratings and comments.
I recently bought some roses for my mother online. And then came the emails. “Were you pleased with the delivery?” – “Was the product to your satisfaction?” It is a bunch of red roses for God’s sake! How the hell do you rate a bunch of roses? Maybe “They weren’t as red as I thought they would be” or “I cut my finger of one of the thorns.” I just wanted a bunch of roses delivered not a relationship.
And the prize for the most idiotic review has to go to T-Com. I had spent what seemed like half my life on hold waiting to speak to a real person to sort out a problem. The plastic music that they play whilst you wait is forever embedded in my brain. And then when I finally got through to a real human being and sorted out my problem I was asked to stay on the line to answer a survey. I had just spent an eternity holding on I am not going to spend the other half of the day whilst waiting to answer a survey.
We are living in a society that constantly needs to be reminded its doing a good job. The new currency is Likes and the more we have the better. We need those Likes! When did we all get so insecure? Why this constant need for validation? Every step of the way in our lives we are now asked for our opinion.
And how was your visit to the WC?
I even saw a sign in Gatwick Airport with a green smiling face and a red angry face, you had to press one to grade a particular facility of the airport. And the facility was the public toilets! Presumably if you have diarrhoea you get to press the button numerous times. Don’t ask me how the toilet was just keep it clean and tidy and stocked with toilet paper and then I won’t have to press a smiling green face, because my face will be smiling!
Here is something revolutionary that will all save us lots of time. It also worked for the past 100 years before Facebook and other platforms came along. If you don’t like the food you get in a restaurant, then don’t go there again. If the taxi driver was rude then use another company next time and if the red roses turn up pink, then switch florists. It isn’t brain surgery. If you start going somewhere else, then that poor business will soon go bankrupt. And on the flip side if you get good service and great products reward those companies by using them again. It’s as simple as that.
Wasting time reading TripAdvisor reviews from “Hank from Alabama” who says “That was the best black risotto I have ever eaten.” It is the best because it is the first and only black risotto that Hank has ever eaten in his life!
The same way that customers complain in restaurants via the anonymity of their smart phones rather than just asking the waiter for help, or why the bread is stale, or the ice melted. Just speak to the person in front of you rather than hide behind your phones. How long before we start reviewing our doctors, teachers, bus drivers and postman?
“Technology can be our best friend, and technology can also be the biggest party pooper of our lives. It interrupts our own story, interrupts our ability to have a thought or a daydream, to imagine something wonderful, because we're too busy bridging the walk from the cafeteria back to the office on the cell phone,” wise words from Steven Spielberg.
It is necessary to maintain good relations with the United States, the biggest global power and an ally of Croatia, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, who was attending the UN General Assembly in New York.
The Croatian president underscored that she had very good relations with U.S. president Donald Trump. "It is absolutely necessary to maintain good relations with the USA. It is the biggest global power, let us face it, that country is our biggest ally, a friend of us," Grabar-Kitarovic said.
"Of course, we a member-state of the European Union, and we are also a member state of NATO. I want to do for Croatia what is important, not only the conclusion of the double tax avoidance treaty or the visa waiver programme," she said in the interview.
Donations are the lifeblood of non-profit groups like the Church. Religions are counting on the giving hearts of their members to support the organization by pooling together their financial resources for the seamless operation of their house of worship.
Moreover, the funds are used to help other Church members who are struggling financially. These may be the people who have high hospital bills or those who have permanent disabilities and cannot support themselves any longer.
However, while the Church is a spiritual temple, it’s not exempted from people with evil intent. There are still cases of theft and corruption in the Church.
If that’s your primary worry, it’s fortunate that a Church Giving App has been developed for transparency regarding the financial blessings that the Church received. This digital tool can make donation-giving more convenient and accessible for you.
Here are some reasons to donate money through text:
Mobile apps make performing tasks like giving to the Church more accessible and convenient for users. With the prevalence of e-wallets and cashless payments now, it makes a lot of sense for Churches to keep up with the times and accommodate this preference of their congregation.
No one brings checkbooks when attending Church services nowadays. Plus, even if it’s just a single check, it’s a bit of a hassle to carry it with you and ensure that it doesn’t get crumpled or stained. These factors affect its readability and increase the likelihood that the bank won’t accept it anymore.
Text-to-give tools connect with your e-wallet and allow you to donate through SMS. It’s convenient for you and the Church since it receives the funds directly without having to cash it in at the bank.
In today’s digital age, virtually any action can be done on your smartphone. Church giving is no different. Platforms like Text To Give Church: mobileAxept allow you to help your organization out with ease, anytime and anywhere. Plus, it doesn’t take much storage space in your device.
There are two different carrier-based mobile fundraising methods for Church giving:
● Text-to-Give – With this, the organization determines its keyword, donation amount, and shortcode, also known as a shortened phone number dedicated to receiving this particular fund. Typically, the denominations are limited between 5 to 50 USD, in increments of five. There’s also the option for recurring donations. It’s the most straightforward way for supporters to give through text.
● Text-to-Donate – This one requires the Church to set up a campaign keyword and a mobile-giving page. You still need to text the keyword to a short code and pledge a donation amount. Then, you’ll be sent a link to the giving web page and complete the process by providing your information. The primary advantage of this setup is that donors can make custom donation amounts.
While these are more on the technical aspect of giving, it’s beneficial for givers to understand their fundamental differences. This way, you can ensure that you’re giving to the right campaign of your Church.
3. Monitoring and Evaluation
Another outstanding benefit of carrier-based giving tools is the transparency that it provides donors. Churches can provide updates on the platform and have important ones sent directly to your mobile number.
Moreover, you can evaluate whether the Church is channeling the funds it received to appropriate projects. It holds the staff accountable directly to the givers and minimizes the risk of theft and misappropriation.
These tools also increase the shareability of the Church’s campaign. Unlike traditional methods where you receive a paper detailing your organization vision, you can forward a text message to your family and friends with ease. Afterward, you just need to wait for them to donate on their own accord and, maybe, join your services as well.
These are some of the key reasons why people donate to the Church:
● They Notice a Need
Ideally, people would give money voluntarily and wholeheartedly without being prompted. However, there are times when the needs of the Church aren’t directly apparent to its members.
That’s why it’s crucial that these organizations keep their congregation updated on the Church’s current status. They do this in the hopes that the people will be moved to donate and support the needs of the ministries, as well as other technicalities.
● They Believe in the Campaign
Your Church may run different campaigns depending on its needs. Nonetheless, the bottom line is that the organization is making an eternal difference. This vision is why people give to the Church and support its operations so that it can continue to transform the lives of others.
● They’ve Been Blessed by the Church
Another reason why people donate is that the Church has helped them before. Whether it’s financial or spiritual support or both, these supporters feel that it’s their time to give back to the organization through monetary means.
● They Know How
While you and your Church know the value of giving and the reason behind it, some people don’t understand why they ought to donate money to an established organization. It’s your job as a believer to help your family and friends see the benefits of giving.
The process is so much more than merely providing funds for Church activities. Think of it as an investment to eternity where you’re supporting your pastors and other spiritual leaders in gaining souls for heaven.
Also, the intricacies of text-giving can be a deterrent, especially for the older generation. You can do your part by patiently instructing them on how they can use the text-to-give method to send funds to the Church. It’s also an excellent way to get to know people from your congregation and establish relationships with them.
● They Want to Obey
For Christians, the Bible is the ultimate authority on giving, stewardship, and generosity. Spiritually mature Church members want to honor God through their finances. That’s why they give from the heart, without thinking of the cost. They allocate a portion of their income each month as their tithes and offer it to their Lord.
Conversely, here are a few reasons why people don’t or cannot give to the Church:
● They’re in a Tight Financial Situation
It can be challenging to navigate through life. There are instances when your income is just enough for your weekly or monthly needs while other times, your salary cannot even cover the necessities. Don’t judge people who cannot commit to donating because you can never fully know what their financial situation is like.
● They’re Undergoing Spiritual Transition
As much as you would like your spiritual journey to be a straightforward one, it’s not often the case. Even if they go to the same Church, people have different spiritual maturity levels. That’s why you’ll see some who are so tightfisted while others have no qualms about giving up their luxuries to support the Church.
All the same, it’s not for you to judge where they are in their spiritual walk with God. What you can do is focus on your growth and be an excellent steward of the blessings given to you.
● They Don’t Know Where the Money Goes
Meanwhile, some people have witnessed the betrayal of a pastor or a Church staff pertaining finances that’s why they’re distrustful of donations since then. Understandably, they’d be cautious about giving money for a particular campaign only to be used for a leader’s personal gain.
As mentioned above, text-giving can ease this worry by providing transparency through monitoring features and updates on the platform.
Security features of digital tools and apps, whether for travel or health and fitness, have significantly evolved in recent years. The same is true for text-giving apps, although you should know that SMS encryption carries over only from your phone to the cell tower.
Encryption is the process of jumbling the content of your SMS into random data that’s not easily decipherable. The message is organized back into the original text when the other person receives it.
To fully understand how text messaging works, here are the transfers that a single SMS goes through:
● Phone to Cell Tower – When you hit that send button on your phone, the radio waves containing your encrypted message are carried over to the cell tower. Data encryption is built into the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) or Code-Division Multiple Access (CDMA) standard.
● Cell Tower to Carrier – However, once your message gets to the cell tower, it is decrypted and then sent to the mobile carrier’s database typically through an unencrypted microwave link. Your network provider then processes and stores the SMS in their servers.
● Carrier to Recipient – The last step involves the carrier sending the message in reverse order, meaning the unencrypted data comes from them then to the cell tower. This time, though, it shouldn’t be returned to you but should be received by your intended recipient.
Fortunately, there are apps nowadays that are explicitly developed for encrypting text messages. iPhone users can enjoy secure SMS-ing through iMessage. For those with Android smartphones, you can download encryption apps on the Play Store and choose which delivers the best service.
Text-giving tools also provide encryption for bank card information that you share with them, and they work with payment processors that are compliant with government security standards. Moreover, these platforms provide transparency and control in managing your account.
More than Money
While the factors above are the advantages of text-giving, below are the benefits for your physical, mental, and emotional well-being that you gain through helping others:
1. Get on a Helper’s High
If you’ve ever felt a sudden surge of happiness after giving, you’ve experienced helper’s high. The term pertains to the feeling of warmth that comes after knowing that you did something positive for another person.
Giving activates regions in the brain that are linked with pleasure, trust, and connection with other people. Your brain secretes neurotransmitters that are involved with mood (serotonin), feeling good (dopamine), and compassion or emotional bonding (oxytocin).
2. Achieve Life Satisfaction
In a study by Purdue University’s Women’s Philanthropy Institute, it was found that giving is positively correlated with life satisfaction. This means that the more you give, the more happiness and contentment you feel.
There’s a pervasive culture in society that pushes people to put their own needs first. While self-care is not harmful, it shouldn’t lead to selfishness. Acquiring too many possessions like money, gadgets, and other stuff will only clutter your life.
Moreover, you can’t use them all, and you certainly can’t bring them to heaven, so it’s better to give them to people who actually need them. Billionaires, such as Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett, among others, know that material things don’t lead to happiness that’s why they choose to become philanthropists.
3. Reap Future Rewards
The concept that you reap what you sow is also founded on real experiences by givers. Sociological studies reveal that generosity begets generosity. This means that when you give to others, you’ll be rewarded with the same kindness somewhere in the future, whether it’s from the person or organization you supported or through someone else.
4. Enjoy Social Connections
The Church is more than a building. It’s the people of God who choose to come together despite their differences. Their faith unites them. This unity comes with feelings of trust as well as cooperation among members and results in positive social interactions, which have a favorable impact on your physical and mental well-being.
Donating to the Church is a reward in itself. The process has been made more convenient, straightforward, and transparent with text-giving tools. With this platform, you can send a donation and support a ministry anytime, anywhere without worrying about security because of encryption.
Another primary advantage of text-giving platforms is that they enable you to receive updates directly on your mobile phone. This way, you’ll be able to monitor where the funds are being used and whether it’s being spent for the right cause.
You can also easily share your Church’s campaign to family and friends. All you need to do is forward the message containing the keyword and shortcode then wait for them to support your organization. With this, you share the physical, mental, and emotional benefits that come with giving.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said yesterday that Croatia should become a full Schengen member and that the Commission was finalising its assessment.
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic met Juncker in Brussels and they talked about Croatia's Schengen entry, a law on the development of the eastern Croatian town of Vukovar, Croatia's preparations for chairing the Council of the EU next year, and the EU budget for the next seven years.
The Commission said after the meeting that Juncker reiterated the Commission's position that Croatia should become a full Schengen member and that the Commission was finalising its assessment.
In mid-October, the Commission should adopt a report on Croatia's compliance with the Schengen entry criteria. A positive assessment from the Commission is not enough for joining as the assessment is only about technical readiness. The final decision is made by all member states.
The Commission also said that Juncker and Plenkovic also talked about possible support measures for Vukovar.
Both officials expressed the wish that negotiations on the next EU budget be concluded swiftly, and Juncker thanked Croatia for its constructive role in the negotiations, the press release said.
If the negotiations on the multiannual financial framework are not concluded by the end of this year, Croatia will have to work on this issue as it chairs the Council of the EU in the first half of 2020.