Friday, February 29, 2008

The Mystery of Merlene Ottey

The other day I was walking around Ljubljana. I was meant to meet with a friend but I felt sick and unfun. I walked down the street and spied the Slovene Ethnographic Museum and figured I'd stuff myself in there. I'm not sure what I was thinking since cultural artifacts in big quiet rooms scare me, but I toughed it out. I learned a bit and I really liked the musical exhibit they had up. However the most intriguing thing of all was the discovery of Ms. Merlene Ottey.

I think this sez something like: " The guests were considerably surprised at Merlene Ottey's party to celebrate both her acquisition of Slovenian citizenship and her 42nd birthday. At the venue TMG-BMC, the new Slovene awaited her guests in our national garb (in the photograph of Borut Jurčič), each attendee was also treated with bread and salt.

I read that and was scratching my head. Who was this woman? How come I never heard of her? So as soon as I got home I wiki'd her. It turns out she is an Olympic medal holder (many times over) and one of the world's most preeminent athletes in the area of track and field. Born in Jamaica she ran for that country for many years. In 1998, she moved to Slovenia to train with her Slovenian coach and after a whole bunch of Jamaican national team drama, she threw up her hands and decided not to represent that country any more. In 2002, she became a citizen of Slovenia and has represented the country in many meets. She hasn't won a medal for Slovenia and at the ripe old age of 48, I don't think she's liable to, but I think it interesting that she's here as a black woman living the life of a local celebrity and national treasure.

In Merlene's own words:

"There is a very simple reason for such a decision. Here in Ljubljana I really feel like a "normal", ordinary human being - like any other citizen - which not only means that nobody bothers me here, but mostly means I can relax just like all other people."

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Zoran Predin...Live!

Yesterday was yet another concert. The Captain is really classing up my life here with all these great outings. Zoran Predin is a really fun musician (spanning pop,rock, and jazz) with this killer smile and great energy.That night he was playing with an excellent Dixieland swing-type band, with one of the best jazz guitarists I've ever seen. Predin's subject matter was sort of random (one song was about removing pigeons from Venice) and sometimes outright bizarre, but the performance was still top notch. Unfortunately, it seems The Captain and I are getting old, and when the theater director went back stage to beg the band for a second encore, we had to race out. No offense to Zoran, we just needed to get to bed!

Anyway, here are some pics.

His son, Rok, on the left hand side.

Here is a little video of him doing Sonček je with a big band.

Alcessa, are all the best musicians from your part of the country?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

United Nations of Wheelville

However, I haven't just been sitting here mourning all day. I've also been out with some of my new friends. Yes, it's true, I've finally made some of my very own buddies here in Wheelville. Owing to my "high visibility", one of them just walked over to me on the street and started talking! I've been so excited to have friends that it is pretty visible on my face, but luckily that hasn't scared anyone away. My few days of friendship have already revealed that Wheelville is actually far more diverse than I'd originally thought. The Australians down the road, the Argentines around the corner, the Chinese up the block, everything is starting to unfold and it's been fun. Nay a mention of the "e-word", only good times and good tails of our lives
grappling with the language, adapting to the country, meeting new people, and figuring out which grocery store is best.

Oh and by the way, this is the website for some of my new pals. I'm sure they'll appear here in future adventures very soon!

Tales of Loss

Slovenia recently suffered the loss of its beloved former president Janez Drnovšek, and Monday marked the memorial.

This is current President Danilo Turk delivering a eulogy

I, too, have suffered a loss. Though, not one so great as a loss of life. My beloved 100GB hard drive (wherein lived my 50 gigs of music, movies, and irreplacable photos) died out the other day. I've spent the last few days mourning. Fortunately in my case, there is a €2000 opportunity to bring it back to life so I am keeping it cryogenically frozen for future resucitation.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Tax Dollars at Work: Protest Sunday in Ljubljana

I guess I live closer than I thought...

Just got this nervous message from the US Embassy email list....I don't know the details of this protest (for or against or what?) and I'm kind of in the mood for some action, but I guess I better take heed this time.

Warden Message February 22, 2008: Kosovo Independence

Following Kosovo’s February 17, 2008, declaration of independence, street protesters caused damage to the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade, Serbia. A large, organized demonstration is scheduled for Sunday, February 24, at 12:45 p.m., near the U.S. Embassy in Ljubljana, which reiterates its longstanding guidance to American Citizens to avoid large crowds or demonstrations. American citizens are urged to maintain security awareness.

In the event further information is obtained regarding this or any other security or safety situation in Slovenia, the U.S. Embassy will provide updates via this same channel and on the Embassy's web site:

More Kosovo

My fantastic dad sent me this the other day, for a number of obvious reasons (I'm still just learning Slovene, I aint going to Serbia no time soon) I won't be needing this for a while.

Yes, I'm blogging about Kosovo again even though I don't exactly live near there. It is just that it definitely does have some effect on this part of the world (we being the western Balkans and all), and frankly it is interesting for me as a young political scientist...though according to the accounts it is appearing to be a frightening case of history repeating.

Here are a few more great links I found today:

* Anegdote - Déjà vécu
Many people were injured in Belgrade today, and one person died. But that feels like nothing compared to knowing that lunatics are once again politicians and that people are capable of such hatred, again.

* B92 (Serbian radio station whose offices were attacked) blog - Vojo's viagra: same old, same old
It may be just me, but there seems to be something inherently wrong with so-called “people’s protests” which are in actual fact not organised by the people themselves, but by those working in state institutions.

Slobo used them to great effect in the late ‘80s, bussing in the confused, ignorant and fearful for the yoghurt revolution and similar managed pantomines that collapsed autonomous governments in Vojvodina and Kosovo presaging the years of misery that followed.

Then, as now, the “people’s protests” were orchestrated for internal political gain by conservative demagogues manoeuvring against domestic opponents in a bid to retain power in Belgrade.

Attacking US embassies is nothing new, but for a government to post no police to guard it on the most sensitive day in the past seven years, while providing, in effect, the looters with a holiday and free transportation to expedite their activities, must be a first in the annals of anti-Americanism.
I mean, if you want the US embassy sacked, you should have the balls to say so out loud to the crowd, and if you don’t, then this is a case of massive incompetence.

* A Fistful of Euros - The interesting smell of burning embassies

This came at the same time as a government-sponsored mass demonstration against Kosovo’s declaration of independence. (Yes, Serbia still does government sponsored mass demonstrations. It’s a bad old habit that they still haven’t shaken.) The official line is that the two events were completely unrelated, and indeed the US and Croatian embassies were a couple of kilometers away from the center of the demonstration. On the other hand, there’d already been embassy attacks earlier in the week — the Slovene embassy was broken into and looted on Monday — and the Americans, at least, had pre-emptively evacuated their embassy and asked for increased police protection.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Hotel Rooms and Stuff To Do In Them

Sorry I haven't posted in a few days, I've been oddly uninspired. But, in the interest of holding your interest, I've decided to post my favorite Slovenian music video to hold your attention for a moment.

The song isn't that great, but I still like it anyway. Compared to most of the drivel that comes on the radio here, it is absolute genius. I never thought I'd say this, but I miss American radio stations. Oh dear.

Jan Plestenjak & Lara - Soba 102 (Hotel Room 102)

I'll be back with something better a little later.

Monday, February 18, 2008

All To Sea

Yesterday was an impromptu trip to Slovenia's thin -- but beautiful! -- strip of seaside. Our first stop was Portorož Marina.

As you might have guessed (or already know), The Captain works in the glorious boat industry. So we stopped in to "kick the tires" on one of the new boats.

We had to wear these funny shoe covers so as not to scuff anything.

It felt good to be on a boat even though we didn't go anywhere. Ahhh sailing.

From there we were off

to beautiful (but chilly) Piran.

This is a statue of Tartini, the famous composer who was born in Piran.

I randomly saw this poster with a gyenyame symbol, my family is from Ghana and this is one of the most famous Ghanaian Adinkra symbols, what is it doing in Piran??

Piran used to be part of the Republic of Venice and it definitely feels like it, though it has far fewer crowds. In other parts, it felt like Hvar a bit.

I am obsessed with this statue

Ahh, seaside cities are the best!

The End

Saturday, February 16, 2008

In A Land Far Far Away

On this, the eve of Kosovo's "independence"*, I feel the need:

first, to post the map of former Yugoslavia so my family and friends can see how far away Slovenia is from the drama

Look Mom, look Pop, no danger!

secondly, to post some educational links about the situation for your leisurely perusal:

Knowing is Growing, peoples!

*I am tempted to post a link to the Merriam-Webster definition of independence, but I don't want to have any fur fly. I'll stand here on the safe sidelines for now.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Noodling Around

I am supposed to be on a diet: lower calories, lower carbs, all of that. So what in the world possessed me to go noodling around in the kitchen making fresh spinach pasta from scratch to create a delicious tray of lasagna?

I think it had a little something to do with all the cooking programs I've been watching on Voxtv. I don't even understand German, but I get sucked in! I think I've also been a little bit, erm, influenced by Ms. Alcessa's subtle hints, little notes about yummy spices, little images. It was all too much . I couldn't eat another carrot stick!

Oh dear, what was I thinking? What have I done? Someone call a doctor....right after I have another plate full of pasta.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

On The Road...Almost


Keeping with one of this year's resolutions, I finally had my first meeting with my new driving instructor. I think I may have worked out something where I will edit his kinda crummily translated English-language driver's guide in exchange for some kinda of hookup on the price situation. So that will get me up to speed with another one of my resolutions: get my finances in order. Great, two for one! Suze would be proud.

It turns out I have some loose ends to tie up before I actually get behind the wheel, but its gonna happen soon, very soon. Fear not good citizens, my instructor is a pro with a cool head, and I think everything's gonna go smoothly. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Vlado Kreslin ...Live!

Last night was my first official Slovenian concert. We went to Linhartova Dvorana (our beautiful local performance hall) to see the very great Vlado Kreslin, who I would describe as a Slovenian Bruce Springsteen. He was described to me as a Slovenian Bob Dylan, but I don't really care for Dylan much so I vote Springsteen.

Vlado sings

Anyway, apparently he wrote a book about his life and touring, so the concert featured him singing songs and interspersing them with humorous excerpts from the book.Sadly, between the fact that I only have basic level comprehension and the fact that he was speaking in a strong northeastern accent*, I could barely understood anything. Nonetheless, it was nice to be there and Vlado was fantastic. He played without a band, but was so gripping that it was more than enough.

Vlado reads

Here is a video of him doing one of his songs: Nocoj Igramo za Vas (Tonight, We Play For You)

*Oy vey! Remind me to tell you about all the drama with accents and dialects here. For such a small country, it is a big headache!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Friendly Skies No More

I just got this from my mother.....

The Guardian
Monday February 11 2008
Bush orders clampdown on flights to US:
EU officials furious as Washington says it wants extra data on all air passengers

The US administration is pressing the 27 governments of the European Union to sign up for a range of new security measures for transatlantic travel, including allowing armed guards on all flights from Europe to America by US airlines.

The demand to put armed air marshals on to the flights is part of a travel clampdown by the Bush administration that officials in Brussels described as "blackmail" and "troublesome", and could see west Europeans and Britons required to have US visas if their governments balk at Washington's requirements.

According to a US document being circulated for signature in European capitals, EU states would also need to supply personal data on all air passengers overflying but not landing in the US in order to gain or retain visa-free travel to America, senior EU officials said.

And within months the US department of homeland security is to impose a new permit system for Europeans flying to the US, compelling all travellers to apply online for permission to enter the country before booking or buying a ticket, a procedure that will take several days.

The data from the US's new electronic transport authorisation system is to be combined with extensive personal passenger details already being provided by EU countries to the US for the "profiling" of potential terrorists and assessment of other security risks.(click here to read the rest)

At first glance, the article struck me as a bit alarmist, but it appears to be true. Here is another report from The Daily Mail.

Apparently, Brussels is urging the EU states to stand together and bargain collectively but the Czech Republic seems be scrambling to sign it, with Greece next in line...Now I'm not holding out much hope that Slovenia will be some kind of maverick and stand up and say no, but I hope that -- as the current president of the EU--they might at least be swayed to toe the party line....We'll see.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Prešeren Praznik and Procrastination

How is it possible that I am still busy? More deadlines? How can it be? I just met some and celebrated. ...Oh procrastination!When will our love affair be over? What's that? You'll tell me next week? You have a meme to fill out and a Youtube video to watch? Oh, brother!

Today is a national holiday here, Prešernov dan (Prešeren Day), in honor of Slovenia's most beloved poet, the great France Prešeren. Poets love to lie about lazily and muse about things, don't they? I'm certain that's what the good Sir France would have wanted us all to do in his honor. So that will make a fine excuse for why I've been a bit lazy today...

Here is a picture of an accident I passed where a big rig had tipped over onto its side. This picture would be more exciting but I reached my camera a little too late. It seems I have caught the bug from my father and developed an interest in shooting accidents. I do hope I don't see another for a while...

..aany old way, I will go ahead and conclude this post with a beautiful poem (from by the good Mr. Prešeren, and bid you a beautiful weekend with promises of meatier and more beautifully picture-filled posts to come.

Midwastes of Africa
Mid wastes of Africa a wanderer sped:
He found no pathway; night was now afield.
Through clouds no stealthy glimmer was revealed;
Craving the moon, he made the grass his bed.

The heavens opened, moonbeams then were shed;
He sees where poison-serpents are concealed,
And where their brood of cubs the tigers shield;
He sees the lion upraise his wrathful head.

Thus 'tis the wont of youth perforce to view
What now befalls, so long the veil yet drapes
The future from the road he would pursue.

Clearer has grown the night, and from it gapes
Loathing of life; of pangs and griefs not few,
The deep abyss from which none e'er escapes.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Shaking It Off

Is there any where good to go dancing around here?

This is a question I've been asking for years, ever since I left California and headed east (and ever "east-er"). I've rarely received a satisfactory answer to this question and truly fun dancing experiences have proved exceedingly elusive. A club that was fun one weekend would be dead the next, the house party that rocked until the break of dawn last year turned out to be a total fluke and even consistently fun places (like the old Bulgarian Bar space in NYC where every Thursday Hutz from Gogol Bordello gets drunk, break stuff, and DJ to a truly international crowd) change ownership, move spaces, or simply close down. I won't even get into all the One Day Only incredible festival events (like last year's incredible Boa Drum event in Brooklyn, see pics & pics). So all this to say that, no matter where I go, a good and consistent place to dance has been a fleeting fantasy... until now.

A few months ago, a friend of mine told me about Five Rhythms dancing and -- while I listened intently as she talked -- the whole thing sounded, frankly, too hippy dippy for me. Just the sort of thing I should do, but utterly disdained. However, despite this feeling, I still went home and googled it anyway, scanning through the website and reading about the events. Judging from the pictures, people seemed to be having a genuine good time. Nonetheless, I probably would not have gone save for the fact that I have been trying to renew my promise (inspired by my dear friend Jenni) to go places where I wouldn't expect to find myself. I mean I'm all the way in Slovenia, there's no need to get shy and cowardly now, right?

So, against my usual troublesome kneejerk snob reaction, I emailed the group leader who was bright and friendly and super inviting. I told her I would come, a few weeks passed, and I finally found the courage to goyesterday. Last night, I hopped on to the train and nervously headed into Ljubljana. Despite all my googling I was still unsure what I'd find and how it'd find me, whether I'd jump in and start shaking it or run crying from the room. I had to jsut head in and find out.

It turned out to be two full hours of free form movement in a safe and inviting space. Unlike a nightclub, there was no drinking or having to swat away pushy men, people were naturally free and uninhibited. Everyone was nice, and because there was almost no talking it really calmed me down. It was one of the few times where I could be out without worrying whether I could communicate; I didn't have to wrack my brain searching for words or translating sentences from English to Slovene. It was a relief. It felt like almost any one from anywhere could walk in that room and just jump in. Of course, you do your best to respect each others space and be respectful but besides that everything was open. Feeling nervous, feeling stressed? Put it in the dance, see what comes out? Falling flat on the floor, leaping across the room, stomping your feet, go for it. Wow wow, just what I needed! I'm glad I took the leap.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Super Torek

To the elections with the new working success!

I admit it. I've gotten swept up in the American election excitement. Between my weekly Meet The Press podcasts and daily coverage on CNN, I am following the coverage of the issues andcandidates and I have caught full on Obama-mania. That having been said, I am not voting. Nope, not at all.

You see, I have been an avid non-voter for years. I think voting is the equivalent of pressing that door close button on the elevator, it doesnt make a difference, the door is on its on timer. Because I have not shaken much from this attitude I haven't actually registered to vote in ages and I've actually gotten into verbal arguments with thos Get Out The Vote people who try to guilt me into signing up. I lived in New York for 6 years and never even glanced at a voter registration form, and now, now that I have raised my head to actually care just a tiny bit, I am living outside of the country.

When I got back from the states I googled "expat voting", landed at the website, and went through a series of questions that generated a 9 page PDF document. Somewhere in there I am supposed to fill in info, sign somewheres, walk down to the post office, and mail it off to New York. However that document is NOT the ballot. It is a request for a ballot. Upon receipt, I think someone in New York has to look it over, make sure its valid, and then mail me a ballot and then if it actually gets here I will have to fill in, sign somehweres, walk down to the post office, and mail it off once again. At this point it will get counted with the others (hopefully) and then a bunch of "delegates" in an electoral college (if someone can explain this to me in 4 sentences or less, please write in) will decide who gets to be president....Oh brother.

So anyway, voting is on my to-do list this year ...not at the top...but its on there. In the meantime, if someone finds out an easier way to do this, lemme know, okay?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Fiinally! Snow!

Snow finally came. On Saturday, The Captain and I went to Tarvisio, Italy and walked around and had coffee.Then we came to this side of the "border", went to a wonderful dinner, and then to a silly event in Kranjska Gora (which I guess was mostly just sort of a Pust event combined with skiing). We also watched a tiny bit of a (criminally bad) band called The Tide and then went in and watched the (even more criminally bad) Eurovision song contest competitions.

Here are some pictures. I stood in front of a lot of signs.

My footprints. I took this picture when I came back in the house.

Another NYC themed place. This is definitely a new photo project

The grammar

My incredible steak and knedl dinner. Yum!

EMA...the costumes! the horror!

Partiers in Kranjska Gora

Kranjska Gora - the scene

Apres-ski - at last! good music!

The Captain indicates