According to a recent report, this small and (somewhat) insignificant country has shown small but not insignificant growth in the last year. The population has grown 0.8% to a whopping 2,042,335, and about 9,000 foreigners have moved to the country in the past year.
Welcome to all the new born and newcomers who contributed to the growth of this little slice of the planet. May we all make something more of this place!
Monday, December 21, 2009
Saturday, December 5, 2009
So today I went to the supermarket and there were just finishing up some big children's party. As I walked out of the story I noticed several children's drawings of what appeared to be the easter bunny. I wondered why in the world they'd hang pictures of him at a time like this. I came home to find The Captain's niece and nephew gnawing on a bread version of what appeared to be the rabbit from Donnie Darko.
I neared this baked monstrosity for a closer inspection and was informed that this creature was called "Parkelj". Grandma went on to inform me that he was some bad guy who hung out with St. Nicholas (or Miklavž as he is called here) came after bad kid on St. Nicholas's holiday (which is actually today).
Internet research revealed more about this Parkelj guy who is known to our cousins the Austrians as Krampus....
Krampus is a mythical creature who accompanies Saint Nicholas in various regions of the world during the Christmas season. The word Krampus originates from the Old High German word for claw (Krampen). In the Alpine regions, Krampus is represented by a demon-like creature accompanying Saint Nicholas. Krampus acts in conjunction with Saint Nicholas; the latter gives gifts to good children, while the Krampus gives warnings and punishments to the bad children.
What...the...hell? Catholicism is wild, this shit is scarier than Freddy Krueger....and at times it's very near the line (over the line?) towards racist.
I have more questions than answers. Why would anyone let their kids accept anything from St. Nick if this is the kinda company he keeps? What in the world have I gotten myself into? This is supposed to be a jolly time of year....isn't it?
Friday, November 27, 2009
the groaning table at our Thanksgiving party last Saturday
On the heels of the report of my first successful Thanksgiving here in Slovenia,* some New York friends sent along an interesting an article from the New Yorker (abstract here) by a woman who's cooked Thanksgiving in seven different countries. It was a harrowing tale, and one section especially jumped out at me:
"The worst was a dinner I put together in Södertälje, Sweden, in the fall of 1975, for the families of three Yugoslav workers from the local Saab-Scania factory. It wasn't the food that failed. My cranberry (well, lingonberry) sauce was good, and the turkey, fresh from my babysitter's boyfriend's mother's oven, across the street, even better. But my guests, as history soon showed, didn't really think of themselves as Yugoslavs. They though of themselves as Serbs, Slovenes, and Croats, and, while, they had always been agreeable and even effusive when we talked alone, they were not in the habit of breaking bread together. The conversation was, putting it nicely, strained; it flowed with the slivovitz that the men had brought, and each of them brought two bottles. They were close to brawling when the Slovenian's wife opened a box of homemade pastries -- flaky, buttery, mille-feuilles layered with thick whipped cream.** Peace returned to the kitchen table in my borrowed flat and lasted until, flushed with compliments and brandy, she smiled at the Serbs and Croats and said, "Slovenians make the best cakes."
* Super holiday party. 15 people strong. Juicy turkey, gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and more!
**kremšnita without a doubt
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Last week, your fateful narrator took a lovely jaunt to the dreary but sparkling and wonderful London. It was food, friends, family, more food, and fun! Here are some images from my wanderings.
early morning Camden
massive amounts of donuts in Camden Town
(for you dad!) a weimaraner on the counter of a laundrette in Croydon
pieces of the Parthenon at the British Museum
at the Palm Tree jazz bar in Dalston where the cutest little old lady was on piano
something greasy and huge in Camden
the Lord Mayor's Parade - an old and annual tradition
a narrow London street
Camden Lock - the Horse Hospital side
celebrating my birthday at the National Gallery's cafe - two free scoops of ice cream!
a performance at Institute for Contemporary Arts
cupcakes at Old Spitalfield's Market
me under a rainbow in ASDA's car park - Mitcham, Surrey
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Tomaž at Kolovrateater last year (taken by me)
I came home from vacation (more on that later) last night to find that the wonderful Tomaž Humar had died. An intrepid mountainclimber from our region of the world, he had insane drive and never stopped pushing himself, even after nearly dying in the mountains of Pakistan . I was lucky enough to meet him last year at the opening of Kolovrateater when The Captain spotted him and slinked up to get a little fanboy.
Tomaž seemed remarkably laid back considering all he'd been through and accomplished. I thought after the horrors of the Pakistan experience, he'd hung up his gear, but alas that was not the case. He headed back out this year, but despite his best efforts, Tomaž didn't make it through this last climb (in Langtan Lirung in the Himalayas). Really sad, but he'll will be remembered by thousands of fans, family, and friends.
You can read more about him and his final climb here.
Friday, November 6, 2009
A meditative little moment a few weeks back in the tunnel from Ljubljana's Tivoli Park. The city recently "cleaned up" the graffiti in the tunnel and I'd been complaining that it felt lifeless and dull, but this guy brought a nice warm energy to the place.
The city is coming up aces these days, really growing on me!
Friday, October 30, 2009
OK, OK, I know I don't live in Bosnia, but hey, it's not that far. So I've been interested in the comings and goings of Serbian war criminals from the Hague.
If you are not clear about what went on down there, I highly recommend this painful but informative BBC Radio piece called "Bosnia's War Babies". They've only presented Part 1 (so far), but it gives you a good insight into some of the horrors that were perpetuated there not so very long ago* and how difficult it will be to pursue justice when there are thousands of perpetrators walking free.
*In fact, near enough ago, that I don't understand how anyone could get out on "good behaviour".
Friday, October 23, 2009
One of my pet slogans for this country is "Slovenia: Underachieving in our Underachievement", and today I was given just another reason why that is.
I went to a friend's house today for a little visit. Her teenage son came into the room and I asked him how school was going. He informed me that today was Cultural Day at school and they'd all gathered in a hall to watch...wait for it.....
Gran (muthaf%in') Torino.
If you have not seen this movie, here is a synopsis. Clint Eastwood plays Awful White Supremacist (which is, curiously enough, what he plays in real life too). A nice Asian family (Hmong, to be specific) moves next door. Awful White Racist has a negative interaction with the son of the Asian family. Awful White Racist then takes on the son as a helper and tells him and his family awful racist things. He continues to be awful and racist until someone (probably angry at the incredibly racist, infantile, and horrifically stereotypical way that people of color were depicted in this awful racist film) finally shoots him. The End.
Here is the 2 minute version of the movie
Slovenian School Systems - A Bunch of Dimwitted Underachievers Committed to Churning Out the Next Generation of Underachievement --- For You!
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
On Saturday, I took my friend Pat from Zimbabwe into Ljubljana to see a dancer from Zimbabwe. The performance was a shortened lower-fi version of Nora Chipaumire's Chimurenga.I thought it was a little too short, but The Captain thought that 30 minutes was all he could handle. Pat found it very moving, as did I.
Anyway, we met up with Nora (who was gorgeous) afterwards and then this other guy from Zimbabwe showed up and there was this impromptu Zimbabwean lovefest and Pat was teary-eyed since she hadn't seen any other Zimbabweans since she had to flee the country (and landed in Radovljica) a few years back.
Thanks to Mesto Žensk (City of Women) for organizing the event and facilitating the Zimbabwean expat lovefest.
Nora again, because...why not?
Friday, October 16, 2009
Go over to Pengovsky's place for a really great and informative post of the exciting new proposed changes to the Slovenian Family Code. Fingers crossed it goes through and gives me one more thing to make me feel proud of this place (despite its shortcomings).
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Friday, October 9, 2009
When I saw world-renowned industrial designer Philippe Starck on the local news the other day, I had to do a double and triple take. What was he doing in Slovenia carousing with Slovenian people? Save for a few bright outliers whom I hold very dear, Slovenia is, sadly, the home of much drab and uninspired design. BUT I guess that will soon change, since Starck, the high-king of all things design, recently announced a partnership with Riko, a company famed for...wait for it, wait for it....pre-fab houses.
Turns out Le Starck is working on environmental and stylish pre-fab houses with the company, and I, for one, would gladly get in line to cop one.
I'll let you know when we get it delivered, and you can swing by and see us here in stylish Slovenia!
Read more about the partnership here.
See his TEDtalk below.
Monday, October 5, 2009
I am trying to formulate some thoughts on something. Some intelligent way to put this.
Some days I don't want to go out at all because I don't want to be looked at. No, well, some days I don't want to go out because I don't want to be gawked at, glared at, so obviously and disrespectfully remarked upon.
When people say they are not racist, I wonder if they know what that means and how they can be so certain of what their gaze says. What it means for their face to turn towards mine, for their eyes to run over my face and my being, with a look of curiosity, annoyance, even disinterest. Those things mean something, those things can sometimes mean the difference between going to the supermarket today or putting it off until tomorrow.
I am amazed how people here will stare, intently like children. When I stare back they just carry on staring, utterly shamelessly, until their eye is finally distracted by some other concern. My eye contact has gotten immeasurably better, steadier, because of this.
The other day my friend, a gorgeous young African girl, told me she went to the doctor's office here, and the doctor walked into the examining room and exclaimed "My God!You are SO DARK!"
Those things, the big and little things, that little line, that mark in the sand, where on one side lies ease, and on the other side sits troubling discomfort.
Friday, September 25, 2009
members of Afro Plus in Moscow
When I went home the first Christmas after moving to Slovenia, a family member came up to me at a holiday party and beckoned for me to "say something in Russian", when I told him I didn't live in Russia, he just laughed. Throughout the night, many people came up to me to "ask me about Russia", and I still come across people (old friends who find me on Facebook, long lost family members) who seem to think I live in Russia or thereabouts. In many people's estimations any country ending in "ia"=Slavic=Balkan=Eastern European= somehow Russian. While I won't deny that there certainly must exist some vague Slavic similarities between Russians and Slovenians, this ain't the same place and it's nowhere near it.
And after reading this article, I couldn't be happier.
(BBC) Africans Under Siege in Moscow: Nearly 60% of black and African people living in Russia's capital Moscow have been physically assaulted in racially motivated attacks, says a new study.
While Obama is busy making buddy with Medvyedev, scores of black folks on Moscow streets are looking over their shoulder every two seconds in fear. It's horribly ironic.
All this is not to say that Slovenia is perfect on this front, it certainly isn't but I feel more than safe walking down the streets, and pray that one day soon black people in Russia will be able to say the same.
Yesterday night, I was walking through the center of Ljubljana when I came across UNICEF's latest campaign, "Help Get Rwandan Kids off the street". The first image I saw was a big sticker over a bus shelter which featured the slogan up top and then a "Rwandan person" laying down writhing in pain at the bottom. I thought "Hey, this is dumb" and then walked off.
When I walked a little further I came upon this little fella.
A cardboard cutout of a Rwandan boy supposedly called "Eric".
The street ahead was filled with these young'uns. It was beyond bizarre.
I even saw a stack of back up "kids" laying in a side alley in case the originals got vandalized or someone decided to go Madonna with one.
They weren't joking when they said "get them off the street". The direct implication being, "You, nice white person, give us some money and we'll get these black kids out of your way."
I am annoyed by this on two fronts, first the idea that the black presence on Slovenian streets is posited in this way -- some sad, dirty, unfortunate character who needs handouts from white Europeans. Secondly, considering there are almost no black people in this country and many Slovenians can't help but stare and isolate the black people they do see, I can't imagine this ploy working. As a matter of fact, I think it far more likely that the cardboard kids will get tired of being gawked at and having their hair touched and just up and walk away...
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
There was a nice little interview with Slovenian film director, lecturer (at the very cool new private art academy here called AVA) , and blogger Andrej Košak in D magazine of Sunday's Delo newspaper (their decent attempt at producing a Slovenian version of the NY Times magazine).
Košak was the director of popular Slovenian film Outsider, and he splits his time between Berlin and Ljubljana. He comes off as a really cool guy in this interview (tell him to call me for a coffee some time!), and I think he has some very illuminating thoughts on president-day Slovenia .
Here are some of my favorite excerpts from the interview (wonky translations by yours truly)
a screenshot from Outsider (which I guess I should now watch)
Berlin in three Slovenian words?
Velik, odrpt, multikulturen (Big, open, multicultural)
Ljubljana in three German words?
Klein, aber mein (Small, but mine)
Do we Slovenians know how to enjoy ourselves?
Slovenians are not wild partiers, but then we always go away with the feeling that we haven't gotten our money's worth. I adore the French, whose lives revolve around good food, sex, and art.
How do you enjoy yourself?
In work. When I am working, I feel like I am living one-hundred percent. Otherwise, I consider the French prescription: good food, sex, and art.
What sort of prime time program does Slovenia need?
A program that would cultivate Slovenians, let them know what is happening in art around the world.
interesting to talk about, but best to stay out of. I am a big adherent to the idea that the the amount of politics on television should be reduced to a reasonable limit. In Slovenia from 6pm to 11pm, television is dominated just by politics. This doesn't happen anywhere else in the world, even during socialism it was much less.
Three things that were better during former-Yugoslavia?
Ljubljana, Zagreb, and Belgrade in the eighties. Great people and seriously big artists (goes on to name a massive list of artists and events)
Three things that are not worthy of Yugo-nostalgia?
The Yugoslav army, rizi-bizi, and Zvečevo cognac.
Haiku du jour, s'il vous plait....
Life is a bitch, a way too short.
(note: this part was already in English. I think it should say "but way too short", but I can't be sure)
Sunday, September 6, 2009
75% of the conversations I have these days
Slovenian Person (usually a woman, men don't talk to me as often): How long have you been here?
Me: Almost two years.
SP: You speak the language very well.
SP: Slovenian is a very tough language.
Me. Yes. Yes it is.
I feel like I should just make up some cards with this on it and give them to people. I think the flipside of the card should say,"In the rare event that you'd like to continue this conversation, I'll be just over there, smashing my head against the wall."
Monday, August 31, 2009
(via B92 blog) SARAJEVO -- The International Committee of the Red Cross data shows that 15,655 people are still listed as missing from the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s.
The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), based in Bosnia, said on the occasion of International Day of Disappeared marked this Sunday, that 40,000 people are estimated to have disappeared in the wars in former Yugoslavia, 30,000 of those in Bosnia.
This organization also said that its data showed there are between 8,000 and 10,000 unsolved cases there, and 12,000-14,000 in the region.
"On International Day of Disappeared it is important to stress that the problem of the missing, and the human suffering accompanying, it is a universal problem of human rights," said ICMP chief Catherine Bomberger.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Mariachi setting in Ljubljana
Sorry I haven't been posting much. There really just hasn't been a heck of a lot going on. Or maybe I haven't been thinking much about the things that have been going on.
I've been working a little and putting more time into driving since I STILL am shaky on the whole enterprise. These days, I am actually eager for my lessons (The Captain has now taken the helm as my instructor), and I can see my goals coming slowly but surely into view. This time, I am gonna stick with it until I get there.
I recently had a new (but good) friend come to visit me from Berlin and it got me thinking about a lot of things. We had a lot of good and interesting (and sometimes hilarious!) chats and we really just connected. One day, we were in a cafe and a couple in hilariously awful outfits strolled up, and she and I just looked at each other and started cracking up laughing. It was wonderful. I don't have that connection with any of my friends here. That's the good stuff, the stuff that I hope will come in time....
Since my friend and I are both Americans who are living the expat life at the moment, talks and thoughts did tend to focus on that. While some expats are here in Europe with a definite expiration date, a clear feeling that they want to live in America, yearly trips back home. I don't have that feeling, I don't have that urge. I even mentioned to my friend that I think that when I have kids, I'd like to send them to Ghana on a regular basis so they can learn the language and be familiar with family and culture. She asked how it would work being "tricultural" and I told her that I think I'd just cut the American part out a bit; meaning I probably just wouldn't be taking them or sending them to America much. I was trying to think about why. Am I denying some part of myself? Am I harboring some sort of chauvinistic animosity towards the US? I don't think it is any of that. I think I am fairhanded toward the country, it has definite plusses and minuses as any other. It's definitely a neat place, it's the country with places that I know best. It's the country where , when I speak, I am best understood. I will always be plenty American and pass that along to any kids I might have, since that is what I am and the only thing I can honestly bring to the table culture-wise. I guess there is some idea that I could equip any children I might have with things that would help them combat that Non-Belonging feeling that I've grappled with so much. Maybe Non-Belonging is sometimes just part of the human condition?
I haven't formed any one real coherent thought to express what I am thinking, what might be the reason, but here are a couple thoughts:
One idea surrounds around the fact that, as a black person, I kinda feel more or less uncomfortable everywhere.
I miss my family and friends, but they are not necessarily centrally-located in one American city or anything.
I do miss shopping and cultural events and bookstores and certain foods, but I am unsure whether that all is worth building a life around.
There is also the fact, that I don't think I was very successful at America. I am not sitting on top of the world here in Slovenia, but I think I am doing considerably better.
So, I don't know what the truth of the matter is -- probably a little from column A and a little from column B. Do you have similar or divergent thoughts about your expat experience? Hey Mom!! You are an expat, any thoughts? Do share!
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
A friend turned me in to this New York Public Library lecture by one of my favorite writers Zadie Smith, on the topic of speaking in many ways and having many voices in your ear. It is complex and thoughtful, moving from Shakespeare to Little Wayne to Obama to Pygmalion to Eliza Doolittle.
Listen if you have a moment.