Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Saying Stuff Wrong

As anyone who has ever lived away from home -- or, heck, even spent time in a multilingual family (both apply to me) -- knows, dealing with two different languages can get you mangling words, grammar, and complete sentence construction. Look, I am no language purist. I believe that language is a tool to convey your message, and you can use whichever words and phrases you need in order to get your point across. That said, I am a writer and an occasional English language proofreader and, as such, it still makes my eyes or ears burn when I see or hear blatant misuses of the English language. So you can only imagine how I felt during my recent visit to America, a friend pointed out to me that when I speak to the Captain, I not only take on a slight accent, but I also use funny expressions. I had been slightly aware of the modifications, but didn't know it was THAT obvious. Oh well, like I said, I guess that is one of the side effects of expatdom, and what better place to air it on this blog about my expat life. So, now, for your reading pleasure, here are


1) "Thanks God" - Usage: "Thanks God we got here in time." Correct phrase: "Thank God"
2) "Let's go sit in the shadow." - Correct: "Let's go sit in the shade."
3) "Let's sit on the sun." - Correct: "Let's sit in the sun." (which I guess is still funny-sounding)
4) "This is very touristical." - Correct: "This is very touristic."
5) "She got a baby." - Correct: "She had a baby." (I actually rarely use this last one, because it really makes me cringe)

The last one also reminds me of a whole other list I could write of Slovenian appropriations of English words that are all totally wrong (like saying "yooohoo!" instead of "yahoo!"), but I'll save them for another day. I'm much more interested in hearing your language foibles. Do share!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Scratch That ,Slovenia

Well I know I was all in favor of how humble the Slovenian players were the other day, but after watching the nervous way they played against England last week, I am going to have to sorta scratch what I said. When you are in competition, you gotta come with your game face. The field of battle is not the time to let your anxieties hang out. Slovenia certainly played hard and well, but I can't help feeling they could have done more with the right mind set. And so, I recommend that next time around Slovenia get a non-Slovenian coach.... May I present Mr. Ricky Bobby....

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Game, the Character, and My Finger on Things

"The quality of England is clear. England, for me, are still a favourite to win the World Cup," he said. "But if we play our game tomorrow, I am sure we can get to the second round."

Sometimes when I am out of Slovenia, I just feel so itchy and eager to get back here. And then I am back home for a week and I am baffled as to what I so missed about the place. This morning, I read this article on BBC with reportage from a news conference with the Slovenian football team's head coach Matijaž Kek and team captain Robert Koren, and I just put my finger on it: I have become totally accustomed to and enraptured by Slovenian genuiness. I rarely deal with any jadedness or sarcasm; people generally say what they think or say nothing at all. At the core, I find the national character to be humble (sometimes too dangerously to the point of utter self-deprecation,but...), the character is such the antithesis to anywhere else I ever find myself that I find myself coming back for more (for better or worse).

If my eyes don't deceive me, that's what is reflected in the above article, and I am glad to see it magnified on the world stage. Now let's get out there and (despite the Charlie Brown jersies) get some gooooooooooooooooooooaaaaals. Gremo fantje!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Triage, No Man's Land, and The Festival of Film

Way back in 2001, I was a student participant at the Telluride Film Festival (in beautiful Telluride, Colorado), and somewhere along the way I was told to go along with someone to pick up a Bosnian director by the name of Danis Tanović, who was there to screen his magnificent film No Man's Land. In the car, I made brief small talk with Tanović telling them I had just made the acquaintance of a good Slovenian friend (aka The Captain). Danis was surly and of few words and somewhat jokingly asked me what about Bosnia, and why didn't I have a Bosnian friend. I told him I'd get one. We got to our destination, I watched his incredible film, and tried to keep an eye out for something else from him. I never managed to catch any of his other films until I went to the website of our local uniplex a few weeks back and noted he had a new film and it was headed my way.

So, last night, I pedalled over to said trusty neighborhood cinema to catch Tanovic's latest, Triage. I stepped in and requested a ticket and the girl at the ticket window informed me that I'd be the only person in the theater. I guess she thought she would dissuade me from coming in and then she could round up the boys and every one could go home early. No sirree. I replied that being alone in that theater was nothing new. If I had a euro for every time I sat alone in the Radovljica Kino.... well I could at least buy myself a reasonably filling dinner. So I flipped my ticket to the ticket-taker (not sure what he's there for, but anyway) and went in to see the flick.

Triage mostly takes place in 1998 Ireland and focuses on a very skeletal young Irish war photographer played by the charming Mr. Colin Farrell (who lost like 40 some pounds for the role) who is dealing with personal strife resulting from an assignment in Kurdistan gone terribly wrong. It is at times lopsided and forced, feeling sort of more like a play than a film, but the actors (Farrell is joined by the lovely Paz Vega, the dignified though slightly unconvincing Christopher Lee, and our beloved Branko Đurić once again proving the weird film belief that former Yugo people are the right choice whenever you need an actor to be somewhat ambiguously ethnic) and the art direction somehow pull it together into a credible and compelling little story that just barely misses being cliche.

The last thing I saw Farrell in was In Bruges, another nice little film and I really admire him for challenging himself by taking these sort of projects that are doomed to fly mostly under the radar. I think he is just getting better as an actor, and I highly recommend catching Triage when it comes your way.

BTW, Danis if you're out there, I have a few Bosnian friends now. But I imagine you'd say I ought to have more. With pleasure!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Who Even KNows Where Slovenia Is?

While I am of the mind that anyone who can't be bothered to go to Google Maps and find out where Slovenia is is basically a lazy cow. I am also OK with people making Slovenia the butt of these kinds of jokes, because it really isn't an insult to the country, it is more about making fun of a funny "foreign-sounding" word and it really is funny.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Grumpy in Wheelville

I have oft been accused by people -- mostly those people who barely read the blog -- of being totally negative and down on this country. While I may be quite down on this country, it is with good reason, and frankly I believe there is something to be said for airing the negative perspective. And now, my belief has been backed up with cold hard science.

((via BBC News) Feeling grumpy is "good for you"

Professor Forgas said: "Whereas positive mood seems to promote creativity, flexibility, co-operation and reliance on mental shortcuts, negative moods trigger more attentive, careful thinking, paying greater attention to the external world."

The study also found that sad people were better at stating their case through written arguments, which Forgas said showed that a "mildly negative mood may actually promote a more concrete, accommodative and ultimately more successful communication style".

(click the above link to read the whole article)

So there!

Monday, June 7, 2010

German Blacks - A View Ahead

"My, but you speak excellent German - flawless grammar, perfect accent. Keep up the good work!"

I just heard a great piece on BBC Radio's The Strand about the dynamic young Afro-German theater troupe Label Noir Berlin that is presenting their unique view of racism in German. The piece resonated with me while filling me with an old familiar feeling of dread. Amongst the few other black people I know here in Slovenia, all of them (including me) are very concerned about having children in this country where people are so ingnorant, insensitive, and totally unsophisticated especially when it comes to matters of race. So to hear that young native-born Afro-Germans are still struggling through people approaching them and assuming they are foreign (and thus stupid) really worries me. I look to Germany to get a sense of what Slovenia might be able to achieve in the decades to come with regards to social change and integration, and while some of what I see is promising some is just cause for dismay. Despite my hand-wringing, I must say that I am inspired by these young actors's hopefulness, humor, and perseverance considering the low level hostility from ignorant Germans and the high level terror in the face of very real threat of racist violence from white supremacists -- all remnants of vehemently racist institutional policy. While I'm still not sold on having children here, at least if I do, I can point them in the direction of Label Noir Berlin as inspiration to push the conversation about race, space and belonging even further.

"We wanted to address certain issues of identity and 'Heimat' [the German word has more gravity than 'homeland'] without any self-pity," said Lara-Sophie Milagro, artistic director of the theater production company Label Noir Berlin and a member of the cast. The disturbing encounters portrayed on stage "are things that happen to us, but they don't define our lives 24 hours a day," she said. "We're not victims."

"Theater ensemble serves up snapshots of German racism" (via Deutsche Welle online)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Hello American !

In the weeks since I returned from America, I have been a bit in the doldrums and very discouraged about my life in Slovenia. This is a tough place to be a foreigner and particularly tough for a former New Yorker, who just spent a three-week vacation having a fabulous time in New York.

Today as I walked down the fair streets of Wheelville in the same spot where I met my best friend over two years ago, I saw two men rolling down the street -- one on a bike and one on a skateboard -- and I called out to the skateboarder, "Where are you from?" He immediately hopped off and told me he was from Germany and told me he was here working on a solar plane project but was, alas, leaving tomorrow. I told him I was from America and was married to a Slovenian. He told me that the head of the plane project was the man who'd sped off on the bike, Eric Raymond, and as he hopped onto his skateboard in pursuit of Mr. Raymond he instructed me to Google "solar plane" and I'd find out everything. I bid this friendly German "Schuss" and walked home. As I neared my house, I saw Mr. Raymond and yelled out "Hello American!" but he kept right on riding. I must say I've had little success with Americans in Europe, but I don't mind. They are forgiven.

So, unperturbed, I followed the friendly German's instructions and discovered the link to this fascinating project where these adventurous Americans are putting together planes that run on solar power. It is happening right here in my neighborhood in Radovljica, and I never even knew. That is somewhat encouraging, and I hope there are more things like this for me to discover, more things like this to ease my discouragement and frustration away...

Read about another blogger's visit to the Solar Flight workshop here)