Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Hugeness

Yesterday's trip to Postojnska Jama was a lot of fun and yet another opportunity to face my fear of heights. The place was incredible, vast and just surreal. It was hard to believe we were standing in the middle of millions of years of rock formations, stalagtites that take decades to grow mere milimeters, there is no way to fathom it. We stared, mouths agape, in between the times when we would joke or our tour guide would quip about certain rock formations' similarities to items and creatures we knew in our daily lives. She'd shine her flashlight on a "bunch of hanging bananas", a "giant lizard", something more accessible to grab hold of to make this all make sense; it's funny how the brain demands that, simple bite size pieces so as not to overwhelm.

Alas, taking photos was prohibited and while I coulda totally gotten away with it, I didn't think mine would really top the thousands of great ones (like those above) taken by scores of pros over the years.


With The Captain off from work for a few days, it was great to be able to just up and go on a whim like that. Of course, I really do have that option every day, as these days, my time is 100% my own. Projects I thought would be getting off the ground by now have not come together the way (and in the shorter time frame) I imagined. So I am more free than I've been in ages and frankly, it's a bit much.

I have been working consistently since I was 16, and I have come to the slow realisation that I like the way that a steady job structures your time. It is important to have places to be, tasks to accomplish, people to answer to. Years of working in mindless temp jobs turned me into a taskmaster, I can create lengthy to-do lists in the time it takes others to find a piece of paper and a writing implement. I can create work out of thin air, elaborate project ideas out of mindless quips, due diligence lists for the vaguest daydreams. I am worker, hear me roar. And so it is, that finding a job soon is moving up on my list of priorities. However, the questions now are the same questions I've had since college graduation what? where? with whom? what is my time worth? There has been no easy answer. I've worked for so many people that sometimes I forget until I pull out an old paystub from a file or glance at an old email. Weeks and months of my life, gone forever and I don't remember it, and they don't remember me or my works.

Part of the plan of being here, in a new place with new opportunities and ample time to sift through them, would help me sort all this out. I am still very hopeful, but I must admit, the hugeness of it does overwhelm....I guess I better get on those bite size pieces...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Out Of The Office

Impromptu trip to Postojnska Jama (Postojna cave). Pics forthcoming....

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Standing Tall

I haven't posted pictures in a few days, so here are a few to make up for that.

I just sorted out quite a few technical difficulties here soI will try to be more disciplined about it. Unfortunately the biggest technical difficulty (my crappy Nikon Coolpix camera) is still being in the slow process of being remedied...Fingers crossed for my upcoming birthday!

Me in front of the New Yorker store in Ljubljana shopping center. So surreal...

Radovljica municipal building

Local fire department



Centromerkur department store

Kamen Grad (Kamen Castle) at Begunje

Sculpture at MGLC yelling to me "Yo chick, museums are closed on Mondays, fool!

Monday, September 24, 2007


Alright, I'll admit it: I packed totally inappropriately. I'm sorry, so sorry, but I just couldn't bring myself to go out and buy the clothes I really needed for my life here. I did acquire jeans (something I swore I'd never do) and a few warm sweaters, but beyond that I could not. The hiking boots I knew I'd eventually need, the piles of hoodies, I just couldn't. You see, Slovenia is very much like the Bay Area, where I grew up. They are both full of hills and flatlands and small towns and suburbs unto slightly bigger urban spaces, but all featuring large wide open green spaces at nearly every turn. I believe that striking similarity was part of the charm of the place, the feeling of being at home, of course the languages are different and the culture is different but it's very very much the same. Unfortunately, the one place where I so desperately wish the two would diverge is the least likely: fashion.

Yes, you got it, people here dress like people in the Bay Area aaaaaaand I hate the way people dress in the Bay Area. Smart dressing there was all about layers, undershirt under t-shirt under sweater under hoodie. Blech! I have always been a fan of clean lines and I strive to wear clothes that are ever-more flattering to my figure. The bulky bulges and unsightly creases caused by layer upon layer of clothes never struck me as appealing, and so I would often find myself out with friends and either freezing to death or sweating profusely. I didn't care though, because I looked good.

My efforts to look stylish and well-put together got an even bigger boost when I moved to New York City, a fashion capital where even a short trek to the post office was cause to put on high heels and an extra layer of lip gloss. I occasionally spent days just poring through my clothes, trying new ensembles, seeing what worked, posing, posing, posing in front of the mirror. Oh, and I won't even tell you how many fashion blogs I subscribe to...So, naturally, it is much to my dismay that I have put myself in a situation where my pretty dresses and artfully created cardigans have no place. I can scarcely bring mself to look at mine when I open my closet here. For some reason, mouthing the words "I'm sorry" won't cut it, so I avert my eyes.

Yesterday the Captain and I went hiking and he took a few photos of me. Damn those digital cameras! The more I looked at the photos of me, sitting on a rock in flat sneakers, a hoodie, unflattering jeans the more irate I became. As the Captain extended his hand to me to come up to the top of the rock we were climbing, I folded my arms and refused. Not only was I deathly afraid to go any higher but I simply wasn't that girl. He folded his arms and a few minutes of stand-off ensued. Eventually he went on without me as I requested and I stood there and sulked. A few minutes later as he came back down the hill and helped me crawl down, he told me he was proud of me for coming so far up and facing my fear. Later that night as we sat outside in the garden drinking and laughing with our friends from the hood, the temperature began to drop and my body slowly turned into one solid ice block. I stood up and went inside and put on a layer of long johns underneath my clothes. So, it turns out we're gonna have to add an 's' and make that fears, I was facing fears.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Parallels: A Start

Yesterday as I was walking through a small grassy field to the supermarket, I passed by a small, very hunched-over, old man who stared intently and ambled slowly in my direction. I said Dober dan (Good day) to him at which point his eyes quickly lit up and he became very animated saying (in Slovene) Good day and welcome to you, my friend from Africa! > When I told The Captain, he laughed and shook his head, making some comment on my ability to turn mundane tasks into funny stories.

One of the hopes in coming here was that I would be able to start drawing parallels, finding commonalities, ties that would bind, but in a non-hippy Kumbaya kinda way... The hope is that I could join/ be part of building communities of people that moved beyond nation and culture and built bonds around beliefs and actions. I think that world is coming together daily on the many blogs I frequent, and the few that I am writing.

(aborigines, roma, and american blacks - a few of the many groups struggling. how to make the bigger connections?)

Recently, the blogosphere has been on fire with news of the protests in Jena, Louisiana regarding the unfair prosecution of six teens (read the fact sheet here). Following this clip of Michael Moore on Slovenian TV, I had a lengthy conversation with The Captain on the matter of Slovenia and the world community, which eventually led to a discussion of the treatment of Roma here in Slovenia. Today I was lucky enough to happen upon this informative update post (by way of Michael at Carniola ) on the matter. It is interesting to see the way apartheid is manifesting itself throughout the world and the variegated (and often disappointing) responses (or lack thereof) to it. The Roma story also reminds me of many of the current struggles of Aborigine people in Australia, who are living in a situation comparable to the late 50's/ early 60's American south, at best. Though the details differ in all the cases, it is often all too familiar: the majority holding up some antiquated separate but equal standard and feeling perfectly justified in doing so. I am not sure what it will take to bring about a positive shift, but I have a feeling it is not a big protest or press conference, thought they certainly look impressive. I have a feeling that the real change must manifest in many small, mundane, and sometimes funny ways.

Nebo v Ustih (The Sky of My Mouth)

Thanks to my fantastic friend, Emma (happy birthday-eve!), for sending me this forward and giving me some perspective.

Though I am scrapping with the Slovenian language like Cassius Clay in a title bout, I am ever so happy that I am a native English speaker. To all those trying to learn English, you are in my prayers!


1) The bandage was wound around the wound.
2) The farm was used to produce produce.
3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
4) We must polish the Polish furniture.
5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.
6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
7) Since there is no time like the present , he thought it was time to present the present
8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
10) I did not object to the object.
11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row
13) They were too close to the door to close it.
14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.
15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail
18) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
19) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

Let's face it - English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren't invented in England or French fries in France . Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat. We take English for granted But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth, beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices? Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell?

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which, an alarm goes off by going on.

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.

PS. - Why doesn't "Buick" rhyme with "quick"

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Just The Basics

(picture by Flickr user: Expatriate Games)

Someone just taught me how to use a washing machine in Slovenian and German. I don't speak German, I speak only a little Slovene. Nonetheless, the clothes are now washing. I know how to use washing machines, and I am good with machines in general, so I probably could've figured it out myself....but it might have taken quite a bit longer...

After she finished her presentation her face was red and she looked like she'd just given birth. I think she is now somewhere napping. I'd commend her on a job well done... if only I knew how. Instead, I said what I always say, Hvala (Thank You), and hope it makes the point.

Teta iz Amerika

Teta iz Amerika (my aunt from America), the Captain tells me, is a popular explanation when someone you know is spotted flaunting something they couldn't possibly have procured on their own. The person will gesture at their new gold watch, flashy leather jacket, or shiny red sports car and say that, self assured, glib phrase. And so it is, with the arrival of the Captain's niece and nephew that I have been said teta.

When we came home the other day and saw his brother's car in the driveway, his toddler nephew in deep repose in the back seat of the car, I was excited. Not only because I love children but also because I thought, Finally, some people who speak at my (low) level of language comprehension. Alas, not exactly. As I whizzed around the house chasing the 4-year old niece as she taunted me, hiding around corners and jumping out yelling BOO! I realized that while I'd be able to cook up something witty in two seconds in English, I was still out of my depth here; not only for lack of vocabulary, but lack of context. What is child-appropriate here? What are the familiar refrains? I don't know, and I won't know for quite a while.

I am trying to be in touch with my newfound alien status. Greg Tate, once wrote, that black people live the alienation that science fiction writers write about, and so it is that I often feel a profound sense of outsiderness whether I am at home or abroad. But this new and self-imposed alienation is thrilling and exciting because I chose it. Back in New York, I kept trying to train myself to be more restrained, to run over my thoughts once, twice, three times before words came flying out of my mouth. Now I rarely have the choice. In my head I ask myself, Do I have to say it? Do I know how to say it? What raw materials do I have to construct it? Words come sliding out of my mouth slow like molasses. The first sound is an Errrrrr followed by word after word at a turtle's speed, mispronounced, mis-conjugated, but there they are. Can you do anything with that?, I ask the listener with my eyes. So far so good. They want to understand, necks crane and ears lean closer into my direction. It feels nice.

And, the other day, as the Captain's niece hid at the end of the hallway, I heard her tiny voice counting in English, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6......when I jumped out of my seat to watch her, she giggled and ran back down the stairs.

BTW, sorry I failed to post yesterday, just as I was eeking out the first few words, the massive rainstorm knocked out all the power. For this same reason (and a few others I could cook up), there are also no pictures today.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Measure Twice, Cut Once

The Captain gets home early on Fridays so those afternoons are often reserved for tennis with his very good friend, Turtle The Greek, with whom he has been playing for over 20 years...though you wouldn't tell from watching them play.

Whilst at the court, we received a visit by another one of Captain's good friends, The Russian. I met The Russian on my last visit and he quickly became one of my favorite people. Not only because he's a fellow art-geek, but also because he's just all-around cool. He and I chatted for a while and made plans to all go to dinner later.

After coming back home and quickly changing clothes, Cap and I head over to dinner with The Russian and his beautiful partner. We ate at a local diner (gostilna) which was a local haunt for the Cap and Rus in their younger days. Needless to say, the staff knew them well and we all had a great time.

Once, during a discussion of culture and language, The Russian asked me where my father's family was originally from and I explained that they came as slaves so we weren't really sure. This received a collective sigh of sadness and onwards to a discussion of how The Russian had read Roots some years back. This really touched me since I have been used to so many years of people shrugging off slavery that I realized I, myself, had developed a glib attitude towards it. I fell asleep that night pleased that my new home was full of such sensitive and sensible people....

The next afternoon I was adled with yells of Črnka! Črnka(Black lady, black lady) , as two little girls on tire swings pointed at me and giggled and shouted as they happily glided through the air. At a loss, I pointed at them and yelled belka, belka (white lady, white lady) and walked back to our campsite. Yes, people, I was camping. Amazing, but true. Early in the morning, at some ungodly hour, The Captain roused me and told me to get packing so we could take off. I knew we were going to a party, but I knew nothing of the camping or the fact that we had to go so early. However, these days, I am trying to do the whole "be positive, say yes" thing, so I threw a handful of clothes into a backpack and rolled into the car.

The camping was an interesting experience, not just because I scarcely go into the Great Outdoors, but also because it was My First Real Slovenian party. I can't make any grand sweeping statements about they way people party here, since this was my first time, and apparently this was a once-a-year epic blowout that they do, so I will just list component parts of this particular party:

* one massive (i'm talking mid-size concert) stereo system replete with a microphone in the owner's tent for aoccasional crazy announcements to the rest of us campers
* plenty of corny non-jams of the 80's played on high-blast(ie. Toto - Live In France)
* a small (but deep!) bathtub full of sangria (I had an accident early on wherein I spilled about half the fruit and lost some fans. Me so sorry.)
* a ton of gypsy music and old Yugoslav classics
* a huge roasting pig
* way too much (depending on who you ask) barbecued chicken, sausage, and kielbasa accompanying way-too-little (depending on who you ask) side salads
* beer from the pub on the campsite
* random (kinda dumb) locals wading into our campsite for free booze and food
* a few guys who appeared to have arrived drunk and stayed that way for 24 hours
* random annoying overly political dub reggae tunes played at
* a handful of people who decided they needed to stay up until the crack of dawn getting wasted and stoking the fire and blasting aforementioned music at the highest possible level so the rest of us couldn't sleep but had to lay there cursing the deity of our choice.

Luckily, as the first glint of sun rose on the horizon, those bloodsuckers revelers were finally convinced to put out the fire, hit the hay, and let all of us good citizens get some rest. I woke up a few hours later, happy and loving humanity again and promising myself not to go to the party next year.

Alas, due to the insanity of the previous night, I missed the lovely Dr. Fil at Kravji Bal in Bohinj(though The Captain and I did take a brief leisurely stroll there late that afternoon.). However, Dr. Fil and I shall meet soon, and in the meantime, according to her, I have a doppleganger to look out for.

Here are some pictures:

Friday, September 14, 2007

A-hunting we will go

So I succeeded in finding the library (knjižnice) yesterday. I selected four rather lovely looking children's books, however when I went to sign up for a card, I was informed that I would have to pay €17 for the privilege. I stared back at the woman in shock. How quickly the communists changed their stripes! 17 euros, for what? I threw the books in her face, flipped over the desk, and burned the place to the ground...Erm, well actually I just told the woman politely to hold the books and I'd be back in the afternoon. I haven't gone back yet...I'm still sort of in shock.

After the library debacle, I navigated my way further through town and ended up back at the trusty grocery store where I bought a few more items to make a first attempt at preparing a meal. The meal turned out alright (I made a fish curry and rice) but I think I need to do a bit of reading on high altitude cooking .Everything seemed to get hot and cook really fast. I guess my old habit of leaving things on the stove while I wander off to make leisurely Google searches is gonna have to come to an end.

Today, I went through Captain Ultra Chill's disorganized bookshelves looking for some easy books and study guides. I found a few handy childrens books and I am currently in the painfully slow process of slogging through a book which I believe is entitled The Trouser Tailor. I will try to enlist the Captain's assistance when next we meet.

This afternoon I made my way to the post office. I had a nearly flawless transaction, but when it came time for the teller to give me my total I was utterly confused. You see, I had not taken the time to actually sound out the word "euro" in Slovene. It is ay-oo-row and when the woman said this I nearly dropped to the ground with frustration. Luckily she (like pretty much everyone here) spoke English and saved the day.

Pleased with that exchange but in no mood for any more (and also still on the run from the library ladies), I headed home. Once home I decided not to go right inside but instead went around to the garden, where I sat under the apple tree, ate an apple, laid back on the ground, and took a small pleasure in the fact that at that very moment, no one knew for certain where I was.

Here are a few more pictures.

Plan A (Pursue life of crime) came to a screeching halt when I realized how close I live to the police station.

There is always a basket full of fruit from the garden on the front doorstep.

Looking down into the garden.

Under the apple tree.

Study materials.

The road to the Mexican restaurant. I think that will be next week's food adventure.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Round Up, Round Here

I arrived in Trieste, Italy on Tuesday afternoon, dead tired and hungry. Young Captain Ultra Chill thought it would be great to take the scenic route home, passing through Karst where we ate prosciutto and wine served by a young man with a bad case of palsy and an even worse sense of humor. We got home late in the evening, after driving through the mountains and passing the world´s largest stone arch (amongst other sites I would´ve rather seen after a good night´s sleep). Once home, we foraged through the house for food and went to bed.

Yesterday afternoon, I took a harrowing solo voyage to the grocery store where I thought I´d be a space oddity, but then a black man walked right past me in the dairy aisle, without batting an eye. Soon after, an elderly English couple came over demanding someone help them navigate their dairy options in English, and they were obliged. I later saw an Asian woman searching for soup. So it was basically United Nations Mart in there. I actually conducted my brief transaction at the market entirely in Slovene. Niiice.

From there, I did a brief search for the library and discovered I was walking into the local schoolyard. Loathe to appear to be a creepy old lady, I headed back home and unpacked groceries. In the evening, the Captain came home from work and we went to the Chinese restaurant. You haven´t seen anything until you´ve seen Chinese people speak Slovene. They just weren´t built for all those rolling Rs.

My hunt for the library continues today. We passed it on the way home from Chinese, so I think I should be able to find it. Anyway, a lot more interesting stuff is gonna happen this weekend. We are going away overnight for a friends´ birthday party and then a bit of a Slovenian blogger geekfest at Kravji Ball (Cow Ball) in Bohinj.

Of course, I am taking a ton of pictures. Here are a few crappy unedited ones.

I will post more once my own computer is up and running. I also have a WHAT THE HECK? post coming up where I will answer your general questions, like:
˙Where in the heck are you?
˙Say what?
˙and the all important.... who in the world is Captain Ultra Chill?