Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Day Off

Today is Dan Reformacie (explained eloquently here by the great Pengovsky) and I just met a big deadline for work and the Captain has the day off, and so -- like any true red-blooded American-- I'm going shopping!

(Picture by Flickr: sadalit)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Matter of Taste

I am still on the hunt for the local specialty, žgnaci z kislim mlekom. I must travel to the mountains, I hear. Grrr.(pic by The Captain, a natural talent)

From time to time, I've been known to complain about the quality of food here. I am an avid cook and a bit of a foodie, and I've found a lot of the food here bland, with far too few sauces for this condiment junkie. I've gone to gostilnas (local pubs) and been served a plate of roasted meat with only a side of onions and bread. While my fellow diners heartily dug in, I just glared. No nice presentation? No sauce? No festive sprig of parsley on the side? What?!! I was practically clutching my pearls.

But you know what? I realized I need to take (some of) my criticism back. I have, actually , had quite a few fantastic culinary experiences here, and I thought I better share (if only to keep me off government watch lists).

In Hvar, Croatia: We got the most absurdly fresh olive oil, sold to us (in old water bottles) by the very woman (a fiesty one she was) that made it. We grabbed slices of fresh bread, a little salt, and some of the wine she'd sold us. It was heavenly. We also came across the most incredible tub of salted sardines. We'd slice the thin skin off on both sides, de-bone, and go to town. It was addictive.

Here at home in Radovljica, I've had some of the best freshly made apple streudel (with apples from our tree!) and just the other day I tasted sarmas for the first time. For someone-- like me--who thinks cabbage is an underappreciated vegetable, the sarmas (meat and rice wrapped in slightly vinegary boiled cabbage with a light tomato sauce)was lovely. Just yesterday, I ate a fresh salad (pulled also from our garden) with mache' (a very expensive salad green in the states) . I am also enjoying going to the bread shops early in the morning for cheap warm baguettes (I was worried that all this bread would make me fat, but with the rampant inflation, I think bread will be axed from our diet, soon enough).

So, there, it ain't all bad! My mouth isn't angry. I am available for dinner, any night. Just tell me what you're making, so I can bring the sauce. ;)

EDIT: (Poulette, never fear! I printed out your list of gostilnas and we are headed there soon!)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Radovljica of Old

I had some business to do in staro mesto (old town) Radovljica, so I decided it was a good excuse for a picture post. Hurray!

this is a statue of Josipina Hočevar (a benefactor of Radovljica)

roller blading girls

war monument

a tree

the gate in front of a stately home

an old see-saw that i thought was an art installation but was just an old see-saw

in New York, my default bar is Max Fish. in Radovljica this is our Max Fish. alas, i won't be sitting next to sean lennon here (like i did at the fish), but at least i dont have to take a cab or wait in a freezing cold train station in order to get home. ahh, the little things.

more trees

the municipal building. all the city museums are in this building. also the music school and a few other things.

The only proof I've seen--so far-- that Halloween is celebrated here.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Identifying Features

Once when I was 12 or 13, my family took a trip to Ghana to visit my mother's side of the family. I was certain that, when there, I would fit in perfectly and that my biggest problem would be trying to explain to everyone why I didn't speak the language. I was dead wrong. Everything about me, from my shape to my walk to my clothes to the undertones of my skin, screamed that I was not from there. However all these glaring indicators all took the backburner to the most gleaming one of all: my braces. When I'd smile to meet family and new friends they all peered, and when we posed for family photos they glimmered in the hot sun. So many people marvelled at those thin bands of metal across my teeth that I actually sat down and wrote a funny postcard to my orthodontist thanking him for boosting my fame quotient.

These days I find myself in yet another environment where I am--again--glaringly foreign. However, this time the braces are gone and there is a new site of fascination: my hair. I wear my hair in a dreadlock style that tumbles down my back, and for the past few years I've barely been able to leave the house without someone making some comment. I like my hair and I am pleased with the good job of maintenance I've done, but much like the singer, Indie.Arie, once said, I am not my hair. So it is with some annoyance that I receive questions about my hair on a daily basis, and I really start to tense up with fear and anger when people (without asking) reach out and grab it. While Ihave been curiously peered at in the past, when I had the braces no one ever actually reached into my mouth.

Now there have been full magazine articles and countless blog posts on this topic and I don't aim to type up yet another angry least not today (too busy). I will accept (for the moment) that the way this happens in America is maybe slightly different than here in Slovenia and thus Slovenians are less deserving of my wrath. And so, while I have no plans to turn everyone's favorite petting zoo into a dangerous wildlife reserve (keep all limbs in the car!), with all the interest in my hair I might just have to find a way to be declared a national monument so I can start charging for admission. With all this inflation, I could certainly use the extra euros.

P.S. I'm not sure why I went two days without posting, I keep going to bed thinking I'd forgot something but couldn't remember what. Oh silly me. Sorry!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Sweet Thought

I spend a lot of time studying Slovene by myself (though I have designs on starting a study group up here). The other day I looked up the word "befriend" in my handy-dandy electronic dictionary (ASP Slovar) and did not find a direct translation, rather I found the words pomogati, pomoči, podpreti - words that mean "to help", "to aid", "to lend support". In light of Slonček's recent post about his difficulty in making friends with Americans, I must say that the Americans he's meeting are at an unfair advantage since Slovenian people (at least the ones I've met so far) appear to be pretty incredible friends. The relationships I've witnessed and the kindness I've received shows that Slovenians take friendship very seriously. Friends are not merely people to meet for an occasional drink, rather they are absolutely true blue extensions of family, and so very available to assist each other.

The other day, the Captain's neighbor and very good friend called for help since she'd thrown up her hands after days of water blasting out of the broken pipes of her hot water heater. The Captain went over,inspected the situation, and delivered (his patented phrase): no problem. I accompanied him to the hardware store numerous times and back and forth to the friends house as he ran around looking for the right pieces. I was amazed that he never really complained, rather he seemed to take the problem on as his own. Today I know, he wasn't just helping, he was being a friend.

I want to thank everyone who has been a friend to me--thus far--both here and back home. You are all the most remarkable people. To all my new Slovenian friends: I know I am new here (and thus) in need in so many ways , but I hope one day to be able to return all the incredible assistance and care.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Frosty Getaway

So we went to the mountains on Saturday. Despite the fact that I was both shivering cold and gripped with fear at every shaky step I took on the slippery ground, I managed to have a nice time. I also took some pictures. While my friends back in New York seem to be ever-so-slowly packing away their summer clothes, we managed to wander into a wintry wonderland.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Return of the Treat

(a doggie treat from someone else's Flickr)

As a child, we never had juice or soda in the house. Never did a single name-brand (or even knock-off) sugar cereal cross the threshold of our door. Candies needn't waste their time, they hadn't the faintest chance.

My mother almost never took us out to dinner and fast food was such a rare treat that you never saw two children eat their (flame-broiled!) Burger King Whoppers slower. We would pick up the burger, take a bite, put the burger down, chew each bite 10 - 20 times, wipe our mouths elaborately, and slowly pick up the burger again. Somewhere around the 3/4 point, I would exclaim that I was utterly full and cover the last quarter of the burger with my napkin, informing my little brother that I would have to eat it later. I'd tell him to go on and finish his up. At this point my outraged brother would insist that he was also full and we'd go back and forth encouraging the other to finish up, until my mother came by and told us to finish up before she finished us off.

Now my mother was a good cook, but we still were enthralled by the glamour of outside food. Because of this excitement for food made in commercial kitchens, we would eat hospital meals and airplane food with unforeseen zeal and we would get dressed to the nines and wait patiently in the car whenever my mother announced that we were going to the local Sizzler buffet.

As a broke college student, eating out was a little more common but not much more. When I could scrape together my pennies for the occasional slice of pizza or burger, I would still make it into a ritual. As I walked home with my take out I restrained myself from nipping anything from the bag, no nibble off the slice, no casual slurp of soup. As often as possible, I'd set the meal out on real china and eat with proper silverware, relishing this treat. When my cool older (richer!) grad student friends would take me out to lunch, I was as appreciative as if someone had given me a kidney. Honestly, you've never seen a more appreciative guest.

However everything changed when I moved to New York. In NYC there is no shortage of places to eat at every price point and the restaurants work around you. Even McDonald's delivers! In addition, so much of social life is structured around meeting for meals. And so I went from eating cereal at home to a daily morning delivery of a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich at my desk; from packing my lunch to an afternoon salad at the deli; and I often ended my day with a post-work meal and drink with a friend. I was never particularly thrilled with the quality of food in New York, but it became sort of a necessary evil. After 6 years of life there (and especially after all the goodbye dinners!), I'd gone out to eat so much that I was annoyed with it. I could no longer be asked to pick the restaurant and I'd developed an aversion to menus, just tossing them on the floor and begging my dining companion to pick for me. So it is my good fortune that I am now living in a town where the pickings are slim to none.

I can count on one hand the number of times I have gone out to dinner here, in Radovljica . It just isn't a feature of this suburban life. While I do often grab a bite when I make my intermittent trips to Ljubljana, dining out there doesn't present nearly the amount of stress of the New York meal. While I am definitely wracking up a list of food that I can't wait to eat when I'm in the states again (sushi, Mexican, Thai, I'm looking at you) when I sit down to chow on those meals, it will be more like the treats of yesteryear. For old times sake, I might just have to get dressed up to nines....and invite my pesky little brother.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Lets Go Lego Laibach

Laibach concert in Legoland

Kind of a busy day here at Wheelville Manor, so instead of some lengthy thought-provoking post, I thought I'd give you something light-hearted. I awoke this morning to find an email with this image from my friend, Simon, an exceedingly talented gentleman. This email reminded me that Simon had previously told me the most incredible story about coming to Ljubljana in 1989 as a 17 year-old American in order to, essentially, look for the famous Slovenian industrial band, Laibach.

Now, if you know anything about Slovenia's history you will know that 1989 was not a great time to be coming down to jolly old Yugoslavia and just wandering around the charming streets, and Simon's great story (honestly you have to hear him tell it himself) seems to corroborate that. The streets were tense with the rumblings of separation from an ailing post-Tito Yugoslavia. Slovenians were in the streets arguing about a new currency called lipa, some fought against it while others wore shirts with an image of the money demanding it ("I Want Lipa!" the shirt screamed). Simon bought one of the "pro" shirts and proceeded to wear it into the ground (alas he no longer has this priceless piece of memorabilia).

While young Simon and his sole travel companion (his 14 year-old brother) did have an *ahem* interesting time here I don't know if he'd count it as a success. It seems that no local Laibachians (note: Laibach was the German name for Ljubljana) were able to point him in the direction of Laibach. So he and his brother left, tails between legs, and headed to greener pastures... Berlin 1989.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


As it turns out yesterday was international Blog Action Day on the environment, but I just found out today(thanks, Dr. Fil!). So anyway, I'm sure today is just as good day to post this picture I took as I walked home from the želežniška postaja (train station) on Saturday. You can see the lights from the tracks and then valley below. I live on the higher ground side of the tracks (not sure if it's the good side or not).

The Captain is obsessed with nature and has been really pushing me to go out on small hikes with him. This weekend we are supposed to go for an 8-hour one. Now, I have (thus far in life) prided myself on being a real city girl who is not interested in nature. While it it is all well and good and yes, I know we should save it, I never had any strong desire to go to it. I think it is party of the city girl thang, it just comes with the territory. Dirty hiking boots? Peeing in the forest? Eating trail mix? City Girl say Nooooo. I'm also not a person who gushes. I certainly have feelings (somewhere in there) but I just don't clutch my heart and spin around and sing to the heavens about much. Certainly not about "breathtaking mountains" or "aaahhh, just smell that fresh air", nope nope nope.

In the past this has never been a problem, there wasn't really much nature to be had in New York, and none of my friends every demanded that we hop on the train in search of any. But, now, due to my bizarre choice of partner and abode, I am grappling with this issue. Being in and going to nature is The Captain's greatest joy and it seems to be quite the popular past time for many here. We see piles and piles of cars headed to the mountains every weekend with their bicycles, kayaks, and climbing poles, even from places as far away as Spain and the Netherlands. I kinda just don't get it, and I don't know if I ever will, but I am wondering whether (for the sake of peace) I should just do as the Romans do. It's not something worth fighting about, and I am not really sure why I care so much. The truth is--and I know it sounds silly-- but I think that I'm just worried that, while I'll never be mistaken for a Roman in all these doings, I just might lose myself.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Back n Black

I am back and feeling great, having cured myself without need of the world's 38th best healthcare system.

I was going to post something thoughtful, but as we were driving back from Bohinj, I heard the most awesome song ever and felt I needed to post the super awesome video of it right away.

So for your viewing, listening (and laughing) pleasure I give you.....

6Pack Čukur and his song Number One Žena (Number One Wife) in which (inspired by such superspecial tracks as Jay-Z's Girls and Ludacris' Area Codes) he raps about what ethnicity of woman he wants to marry by rattling off a bunch of silly sterotypes like: an Italian wife in D&G that would make spaghetti and espresso, a Chinese wife who he wouldnt understand, and American who'd give him McDonalds . Utterly ridiculous, but slightly sweet for the fact that he is looking for a wife rather than compiling an international harem...anyway enough rambling, enjoy this shining example to the true internationalism of Slovenia.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Another Star Turn

Dear Readers and Adoring Fans,

As you may have read in the local tabloids, Camille (of Adventures in Wheelville fame) was spotted early yesterday afternoon in Ljubljana expelling that morning's breakfast (a healthy helping of corn flakes and bananas) out into some bushes not far from Cankarjev Dom. Luckily she was with a friend who quickly whisked her off to a local clinic where she was fed copious amounts of prežganka (a thick kinda flavorless, kinda gross, but oddly soothing soup).

She is now resting comfortably at her stately home in Radovljica. She thanks her fans for their support (namely whoever sent her the above weird illustration), and wishes to reminds you that food poisoning can happen to any one at any time, so be careful out there.

Her reps at The Will-not Bore-us Agency

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

I'm Only Dancing

So like I was saying, I had my first official Night On The Town last Saturday. It was a whirlwind tour wherein I hit all the hot spots of Ljubljana, with the evening culminating with a few hours of dancing at Global. For some reason 80's night at Global opened with about an hour's worth of Hits of the 70's, but I managed to power through and have a nice time nonetheless.

Since this was my first time out dancing I can't make any definitive judgement, but being a blogger I was still taking it all in and making lists in my head. Here are two lists I made that night:

Things that kinda suck about dancing in Slovenia (as compared to NYC):

1) The sheer number of European mega-hits that I don't know
2) The sheer number of American non-hits that I've never heard that were nonetheless European mega-hits
3) The sheer number of American (western) mega-hits that were also European mega-hits, but are just plain embarassing to dance to (someone tell me, what or who is a Su Su Sudio)?
4) The dizzying array of big sweaty cornballs who bump into you, breeze past you, or try to proposition you while writhing to abovementioned songs.

Things that kinda rock:

1) People here actually dance!
2) Even the men! (and with zeal!)
3) Discovering that despite my music snobbery, in the right (fun!) company I'm able to have fun dancing to abovementioned songs
4) Discovering that no matter where you go in the world, almost everyone on the dance floor (including YOU!) is a big sweaty cornball at one point or another.

Monday, October 8, 2007

You Never Can Tell

I know I live in a small place. Slovenia is a country only slightly bigger than the city where I came from, and a friend recently told me that according to a recent news article, everyone in the country is 1.6 handshakes away from almost anyone else and only 2.2 away from the President. When you mention someone here you are often asked their first and last name, people scan their memories to figure out whether they know who you are talking about. It's possible, wholly possible that they know each other. So I know I shouldn't be surprised by what happened the other day.

As I was idling in the summer house in Croatia, I happened upon a stack of newspapers and magazines and pulled out an interesting looking woman's gossip magazine. Staring back at me from the cover was the paparazzi wedding photo of a girl I'd met only a few weeks ago. A girl I pissed off at a party.... a girl I din't know was an actress... let alone a famous paparazzi'd midlevel celebrity. Now I am not going to get into the boring details, but long story short, once upon a time this midlevel celebrity spent hours preparing some food and once upon another time I spent about 10 seconds accidentally dropping half of said beautiful preparations onto the ground. Celeb was unhappy, I was embarassed, and she didnt speak to me for the rest of the party. I was fine with it, OK alright, you win some you lose some. But as I stared at the cover of the magazine the embarassment came rushing back. Not only had I slighted the Slovenian equivalent of a, say, Sienna Miller or something, but with that slight went my chances of joining the ranks of Slovenia's glitterati. The community's too small, word would get out too fast. I'd be known as The Spiller and banished forever!

No sooner had I told that story to Dr. Fil (who fortunately didn't shun me), then we were out on the town in Ljubljana, enjoying the nightlife, and meeting people. By some lucky stroke, we ended up at Opera Bar where they were celebrating their third anniversary with cake, booze, and a live performance by popular Slovene singer, Alenka Godec (whose music I'd just been introduced to that day). I was fortunate enough to take a photo with her (and another Alenka :)) and minutes later we met up, (by coincidence)again in the ladies room where we said another brief hello and smiled. With that brief exchange, the door to the big time just cracked back open. I don't wanna jump the gun, but next time I see Alenka I'm gonna wave like an old friend and see where it takes me. I think I'm almost ready for my closeup...

(Thanks to Alenka U. & Alenka G.!)

Friday, October 5, 2007

Selective Service

(art from Humor Works exhibit at Galerija Škuc)

It had to happen because it is lingering in the air around us all the time: To mention or not to mention. In theory I want to put it all out there, but in practice it's not so easy....

this week while in Croatia, I went up to vist the busy men baking as they worked the long day away up on the roof. While they rested for a moment against the tile roof, sweat trickling off their brow, our lovely host, a jovial, friendly, cosmopolitan, and seasoned world traveler turned to me, chuckled, and made some quip about how we now all knew why they used nigger slaves in America.

Now, I am not certain what I was supposed to say. I have no shortage of buttkicking swear words for any American white who would dare to make such a joke, but here and now I am not 100% sure which way to go. I mean he wasn't calling me that. And those words don't mean quite the same thing here as in the states, they don't have the frightening radiating danger sign and barbed wire around them. Racism is, no doubt, a global system, but the ways it manifested itself that time just didn't seem to fit the modes I am used to dealing with. I feel I'm lacking the right/ best tools in my toolbelt, something quick and to-the-point to do. I didn't feel like hanging around at that moment to give a history lesson nor did I feel the need to have any sort of outburst one way or another, and so I stared blankly back at him and walked away.

Later that day, as we are oft to do, I read an article to The Captain from a silly magazine and Cap translated the words I couldn't make out. In one article they said something about a mulatka and Cap asked me what the English word for it was, "What do you call it when someone is half black and half white?" I know the word, mulatto, having run across it in old history books, dusty old stories about slavery and miscegenation, I've always hated it. So when he asked me I paused for a moment and said...."Uh we dont have a word for it, there used to be a word but we don't use it anymore..."

I'm still not sure if that was the right thing to say. I'm not trying to be the board of censors, but in the mood I was in, it sounded good at the time.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

And So It Was...

Here are some pics from our trip to Vrboska on island Hvar in Croatia's Dalmatian islands. It turned out a friend of ours needed to go down and do some work on the roof at his summer house. So in exchange for The Captain agreeeing to hang out on scorching hot tile roof for hours per day we were given passage and beautiful accomodations. As usual, I got off easy by acting as the cook for the crew. Sometimes traditional gender dynamics = gooooooal!