Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Lower Manhattan at Night from Brooklyn Bridge Park, NYC I found this interesting article on the condition of homesickness that describes the situation chillingly well. Thought I'd share with some of the other expats (and maybe even those who are in the same country but just miles away from the place they consider home), so that you know you're not nuts and you're not alone.

Here's an excerpt:

What Are You Doing Here?

A visitor is often asked, What are you doing here? It seems that in the question there is the suggestion that, because you don't belong here, there must be some good reason for you to be here. One can't leave home and just be somewhere else. People do leave their own homes for a variety of reasons: vacation, conferences, work, schooling, or resettlement. If they meet and get into conversation with inhabitants they are inevitably asked the purpose of their visit. We are all curious as to the reasons some people make temporary or permanent breaks with their home ties, perhaps with a sense of wonder regarding what would be deemed important enough to initiate such a violent separation of oneself and one's foundations.

Indeed, visitors too may privately wonder sometimes about their reasons for being somewhere, as did the Canadian woman who, while visiting the outback of Australia, suddenly came across a wild bull: "I stared at the bull which barred our passage on that dirt road. Its huge bulk seemed to rise out of the dust at me and say, `What are you doing here?'" Is the answer to this question worth the discomfort, the feeling of homesickness that may accompany it?

Nevertheless, visitors often strive to overcome aspects of this strangerness by making a space of their own where they find themselves. The hotel room becomes the inner space to which they return after venturing into the city to take a look around. It seems that the establishment of home (even if it is a temporary home) involves not only the "carving out of chaotic space a definite area set apart from the rest of the world" (Bollnow, 1961, p. 34), but also requires that one has a place from which to set forth and to which to return.

The establishment of a place to which we can return and feel a sense of ownness is indicative of what is missed in homesickness. Even if we recognize something as being similar to that of home, we still do not feel the sense of home, the sense of ownness, or intimate familiarity. According to Schutz (1971, p. 113), "the longing for re-establishing the old intimacy-not only with persons but also with things-is the main feature of what is called `homesickness.'" However, it is not enough to say that homesickness is a longing to reestablish old intimacies with things, space, and people. Home cannot be reduced to only people, places, and things; and therefore, to miss home involves something more fundamental to our way of being-in-the-world.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Wait, What?! A Brother Running for Mayor in Slovenia

I was walking along minding my business, when I came along this story (Slovenian only) on a Mr. Peter Bossman, a black doctor who is running for mayor of the lovely Slovenian seaside town of Piran. Well, go 'head bruh!

Upon further inspection, it seems that he is being subjected to the haterism that plagues a black man anywhere he tries to do something good. In this case, he is being pressured to step out of the race by people who are claiming that he is addicted to gambling. Mind you, he is a doctor who works healing people from their own addictions, but they think that he -- most likely one of the most noticeable people in his town -- is sneaking around feeding some sort of addiction, while also trying to build his own political career (he is already part of the presidency of the local chapter of his political party). Hmm, dubious. They also tried to out him as having a child out of wedlock, to which he replied that that didn't fly in his culture and that he was indeed paying his child support. Then the people said that as soon as voters saw a black face on the campaign posters they would realize that they didn't want a black mayor.

Where is this coming from you ask? Well, according to recent polls, it seems Mr. Bossman is some fierce competition for the incumbent, Tomaž Gantar, and the existing structure is none-too-thrilled about the threat to the established order. I don't really know what this Bossman cat is all about, but a little change -- in fact a lotta change -- sounds good to me. If Bossman wins, I might have to relocate to the seaside and help him paint the town a lovely shade of brown!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Black Water

Summer is here, a time that many people often associate with water sports and swimming. Many people, but not me, since I don't really swim. People here in Slovenia always react strangely when I tell them I don't really know how to swim and that I did not learn how to swim as a child. In fact, my mother and brother don't know how to swim and most of my black friends growing up did not know how to swim either. This doesn't mean black people can't swim*, it means that many of us simply never learn. The reasons are manifold, and many are outlined in this useful article from WNYC and this (more lengthy) survey report from the USA Swimming Association. From disinterest to fear to concern about damaging one's hairstyle, the reasons range from serious to inane and I have heard or been the deliverer of many of them, but I think the biggest issue is not learning as a small child, which is often the outgrowth of having parents who never learned or are afraid, no or limited access to a swimming people, and concerns about the costs of and time for swimming lessons.

Black Olympic gold medal winning relay swimmer Cullen Jones

In the past, I've posted about Cullen Jones, the black Olympic gold winner in swimming and his efforts to develop swimming education for young black American children (who are 13 times more likely to drown than white**), and I've also written about my efforts in learning to swim (efforts I'll maybe pick up again in the future), but I think it bears much more repeating. Not only to build awareness, but also to encourage tolerance and understanding in places where swimming is more the "norm" and action (by someone other than me!) in places where we can make a difference.

*Black people CAN and DO swim. All over the world. I have to say this explicitly, because I know some stupid person might read this and otherwise get the wrong idea. I've seen how quickly ignorant racist ideas fly around this country. BTW, here's a bonus to those same dummies, black people DO feel heat just the same as white people.

** Turns out a near-drowning was the impetus for Cullen himself to learn to swim!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Thursday Thought Exercise: Dreaming of A Perfect City

people second-lining in the streets in New Orleans

A friend on Facebook recently pointed me to this interesting Wall Street Journal article from last year where musician, artist, writer, designer, and one of my favorite people on the planet, David Byrne, outlines the elements of what would comprise his perfect city. As a person who is currently dissatisfied with where she lives but unsure as to where to go next, this is a perfect thought exercise for me. But I think I come up a little short since I have so many places I still feel like I need to visit before I could craft my Ultimate City. But for now I can still present you with....

Features of the City of My (Current) Dreams*

Size: Half the size of New York would be good. Maybe limited to the size of the three boroughs that I frequented the most -- Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn. Trim the fat, there's still plenty city there.

Density: The density of Berlin seemed just right to me. At around 3.4million (according to Wikipedia), it is less than half the size of NYC (and 1.5X larger than the entire country of Slovenia), which means you can usually get a seat on the subway and you don't usually have to fight for sidewalk space, but you still run into (or try to avoid) people you know on the streets. I also crave good people watching, something that this level of density offers.

Sensibility and attitude:
It would be a mix of New York and Berlin. I'd take the Berlin laid- back kindness mixed with the grizzled and blunt attitude of an old school native Brooklynite.

Security: I always feel pretty safe in NYC, because there are almost always plenty of people out on the streets.

Chaos and danger: There is something about the organized chaos of New York City that I really love. You don't know what you will find around a corner. There can be a film crew shooting or a man taking a crap on a sidewalk. It makes for interesting cocktail chat and creative inspiration.

Mixed Use - Creative/Culture Areas: New York does this mighty nicely, with work/live space where artists can paint or sculpt all day and then have awesome loft parties or dance exhibitions or rock shows in the evening. Ljubljana has Metelkova, but it is too grungey for my taste (plus it is only one place, not an area) as are these kinds of spaces in Berkeley and San Francisco. When it's done well, New York does it really smashingly and that would be a nice feature for my dream city.

My ideal city would have precious few cars and lots of bike lanes, buses, and subway lines...maybe some sort of congestion charge like in London to limit the number of cars in the center.

Public Space: I can't think of a city I've been to that really gets parks fabulously right (NYC does OK), but my dream city would have good green parks with ample space for exercising, walking animals, kids playgrounds, and public concerts and events.

New Orleans does this gorgeously. The city is so many different communities laid on top each other in so many fantastic formations focused on art, food, music, activism, academia.... They may not have the greatest work ethic but they do have a strong party ethic and a wonderfully unique culture that hold people together in good times and bad.

Dancing In The Street:
New Orleans wins for this one with its impromptu and very fun second line culture, though Berlin comes a close second with its "Any Reason is a Good Reason to Dance in the Street" attitude. New Orleans wins for better music. :)

*to be continually updated as I travel

Top 10 Cities I Think Will Affect My Vision After I Visit Them

1) Sao Paulo
2) Barcelona
3) Tokyo
4) Hong Kong
5) Dakar
6) Johannesburg
7) Bombay
8) Stockholm
9) Istanbul

What about you?