Monday, December 29, 2008
On 20th of December we set sails south on our regular Christmas pilgrimage to Serbia and Bulgaria. We always know and humbly accept that we are a part of a mass exodus of gastarbeiters (including ourselves) from the west to the south but we always hope that somehow we would not be a part of the main wave.
This time it didn't look that bad and at one point Jelica even said 'There is not a living soul on the road'. I didn't quite agree as there were quite many Austrian, German, Swiss, Italian and Swedish cars swishing by, passengers' faces a bit darker than the average Swiss or Austrian's.
What was our surprise then when we got to the border and we realised that there are about 5 km of cars waiting in line to cross the border. We quickly calculated that this would be 6-8 hours of waiting which is a terrifying thing with two kids in the back, one banana and two oranges.
Then I somehow felt compelled to use my diplomatic registration, semi diplomatic status whatever. Sometimes I feel ashamed for that but I somehow managed to get away with 50 min. altogether, something that would have taken many hours otherwise.
But my post was not about that. It was about all those many thousands of people - like us at the moment - who spend their lives travelling back and forth from Zurich to Kraguevac, from Munich to Pristina, from Lucerne to Pozarevac, from Salzburg to Adana and many of them from Wien to everywhere. We sometimes unfairly call them the Viennese Turks or the Turkish Viennese.
Observing all those migrating people would make an excellent sociological research. I wonder if someone did his PhD studying these people's lives, travels, families, the cars they are using, their links with families back in the countries, the financial streams from west to south and the admiration streams from east to west.
I remember these people (or more precisely the Turkish part of them who were crossing Bulgaria) even in the 80s when they were still driving old black Mercedeses full of veiled women and several kids. It seemed to me then that they had some strange, distorted lives.
But....I still often get amazed that now I am in a very similar situation.:-)
Thursday, December 18, 2008
As a non-integrated foreigner, you are always a bit more lonely than you would be at home. There are just not so many friends around, and the family is far away. And people who are around are working and, therefore, busy.
This reminds me of the times when I used to do night shifts--every week, two nights in a row. I would be free during the day and then would work from 6pm to 6am. By the time I woke up the next day (somewhere around 1-2 in the afternoon) my flatmate was gone to work. I would have a free afternoon but no one to spend it with because my friends were leaving work exactly at the time when I would be heading to the newsroom again.
So, for days at a time, the only communication I had was with colleagues with whom I shared the shifts. And, let me tell you, no one feels particularly chatty in the middle of night.
Today, I am thinking that there is no greater solitude than when you feel betrayed by those you love and trust the most. Because then you are not alone merely in a city, but in the entire universe. But I digress.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
The great thing about this market is that they don't seel cheap 'beads and trinkets' but good quality and often hand-made things.
Gingerbread is abundant at this time of the year.
Cups ready for mulled wine.
Every year I discover something new on the market--I don't remember seeing these colorful slippers before.
Monday, December 15, 2008
We were sitting in the very front row, in complete awe of her voice and stage presence. She looks striking, with her cropped bleached hair and tall, skinny figure, dressed in black. She made such a great atmosphere--by the end she had us all on our feet, clapping and dancing.
I am still amazed that such a fragile-looking person can pull out such a mighty voice. I mean, she practically doesn't need a microphone; in fact, one of the 'bis' songs she sang unplugged (accompanied by an acoustic and a Portuguese guitar) and it was very powerful.
The concert hall was packed, to my surprise, since I never expected that many people to be into fado (not your standard contemporary music fare). I myself discovered her music by chance, browsing through the world music section of a Borders bookstore in Oxford, some years ago. I had a vague memory of hearing her name mentioned here and there in connection with the BBC Radio 3 Music Awards, but I had not heard her before.
I got the disc as a gift for Ruslan and we've both been hooked every since. So to have a chance to hear her sing live makes for a very fitting--and very special--birthday present. The wait was more than worth it.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Now we are playing football very often in our living room and I notice with satisfaction that his skills are improving. The power of his shot is betting bigger and he occasionally hits the vase with the flowers but never mind. He has also been trying recently to kick the ball with his heel and he uses his hands less and less. Andrej also joins the games and even Jelica occasionally. I am also struck at how good Jelica is with the ball without having played football in her life. There is something inborn in the Serbians. Two weeks ago they beat Bulgaria 6-1 for some reason.
What should I say of my skills? Well, after injuring my ACL two years ago I have been trying to get used to the thought that I will not play football seriously any more. However, it is amazing how much I enjoy playing with my son and aiming at the open door of their bedroom instead of the goal.
I think that in general taking people and things for granted is one of our main obstacles to enjoying life more through appreciating people, places and phenomena fuller. By taking for granted I mean two things. The first is somehow assuming that what we have around us is here to stay forever or I would rather say forgetting that it is not going to be here forever. The second is getting so used to the beauty (in terms of relations, nature and artefacts) and grace (in the meaning of good fortune) around us that we stop valuing them at one point.
I guess that limiting the intensity of our daily appreciation of people and things is a normal psychological phenomenon and is an outcome of some subconscious prioritization, i.e. if one has a newly born baby and one’s mental (and physical) energy is spent there then one has less psychological resources to spend on enjoying the sunset. This would be one of the theories: that we have a limited capacity for appreciation and even empathy and that it is spent on priority targets depending on the period of our lives.
However, there might be another theory and this would be that if we learn or better find the time and the energy to appreciate more certain things around us, we would also appreciate more all the other things around, i.e. bigger empathy and sensibility to some things does not come at the expense of neglecting other beauty.
My message is: when crossing Margit Bridgelift your head and look at the view: it is beautiful.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Four years ago on November 18 it was a beautiful, sunny day, although I couldn't appreciate it that much, being strapped to an intravenous drip and all kinds of measuring devices all day in the delivery room. I will always remember it as very long day, although it is fair to say that we spent a good chunk of it playing UNO cards (Todd's birthday gift), listening to radio and eating smelly pizza. At the end of it--literally, as it was three minutes to midnight--Boris finally appeared, to everyone's relief (especially mine).
Up until now he was pretty unexcited about his birthdays, not quite comprehending what the fuss is all about. This year he actually started asking about a good month before, inspired, no doubt, by his best friend Lance's special day in October: "When is my party going to be? Is there going to be cake?"
He is a real party guy, enjoying the hustle and bustle of big gatherings. It's not even about gifts--when grandma asked what he wanted for his birthday, he said "nothing." Although he did ask me for a teddy bear, to complete his collection of bed companions (currently consisting of a lion, a tiger, a dog, and a small cushion with stars on it).
And while his party is scheduled for the coming Saturday, last night we took him and Andrej to a farewell gathering at Isabelle's, Ruslan's colleague who is leaving REC. They totally enjoyed themselves and the birthday boy did some crazy dancing, in between eating all the snacks they could lay their hands on. When we left about 21:30 they were still full of energy and would have loved to go on (especially while the snacks last). So, all in all, a great day for Boris, and a good rehearsal for Saturday celebrations!
Да отидеш до телевизорa и да го включиш от копчето на стабилизатора.
Да поставиш игличката на грамофона точно там, където започва новото парче.
Да върнеш бурканчетата от кисело мляко и бутилките от олио в магазина.
Да си оставиш ключа под изтривалката, когато излизаш.
Да пишеш писма на руско другарче.
Да идеш на градска баня.
Да носиш лентите във фотото да ти ги проявяват и после да чакаш да си в земеш снимките, за да ги видиш за пръв път.
Да позвъниш на съседката в неделя сутрин с молба да ти услужи с чаша захар, понеже магазинът не работи, а после в знак на благодарност да й занесеш 3-4 парчета кекс.
Да си оплетеш блуза по образец от списание Бурда.
Да бързаш да се прибереш, защото ще ти "звъннат".
Да отидеш на сладкарница и да ти налеят от кранчето една от шест.
Да вариш п рясното мляко след като го купиш, защото ще вкисне.
Да отключвиш с ключа, както ти е на врата.
"На ти две лукчета, че нямам да ти върна."
Да събираш салфетки и станиоли от шоколадови яйца.
Да си абониран за Славейче, Пламъче, Мурзилка, Веселые картинки, Космос, Паралели, Септемврийче…
Да се качиш в асансьора, да дръпнеш решетката и след това да пуснеш монетка 1 стотинка, за да тръгB Dе.
Да сложиш индиго м/у два листа и да напишеш доклад по биология в 2 екземпляра.
Да влезеш в детската градина и да видиш всичките деца облечени в сини или червени пресилки и шорти под тях, на ситни или едри квадратчета, тип " голям пипит".
Да пушиш в самолет.
Да пиеш кафе смляно лично от теб с ръчна кафемелачка.
Да се вълнуваш, когато "пуснат" нещо в магазина.
Да имаш да пишеш дома шно и да отидеш в читалнята да търсиш материали, защото няма Гугъл.
Да си разменяте подаръци в училище за Нова година – старателно надписани книги и грамофонни плочи.
Да свириш от балкона на детето да се прибира за вечеря, а не защото е тъмно или страшно.
Да ходиш до "Домашни потреби" за тиган, до "Плод-зелечук" за чушки и домати, до "Млад техник" за детски играчки, до "Битовия комб нат" за …
Да си купуваш плочи с музика.
Да сменяш ремъка на касетофона.
Да бъркаш нескафе със захар и лъжичка докато направи пяна, за да стане фрапе.
Да играеш на криеница, стражари и апаши и пътни знаци. Да играеш на ръбче /без да мине никаква кола покрай теб/.
Да звъниш на вратата на някоя бабичка и да тичаш да се скриеш.
Да си дадеш чорапогащника на 'ловим бримки'.
Да си вариш Dомашна кола-маска.
Да хвърляш яйца от балкона върху неприятелите си.
Да гледаш на черно-бял телевизор "Студио Х" всяка събота, след 23.30 часа.
Да скачаш на ластик на улицата пред блока.
Да участваш в Ленински съботник.
Да гледаш в неделя сутрин "Бързи, смели, сръчни".
Да познаваш мириса на "Кореком".
Да цъкаш пред величието на новия Москвич.
Да се съберете родата на копане или бране на царевица или грозде.
Да печеш чушки на чушкопек на терасата и да се питате с приятелката ти от 2 етаж коя колко има още да пече.
Най-големият магазин, който си виждал да са централните хали.
Да разлистваш Некерман и да му се взираш с влажни очи.
Да си правиш захарна вода за косата, вместо гел.
Да се подредите всички от семейството за банани на Нова Година и да се правите, че Dе се познавате.
Да си шиеш разни дрехи, когато те поканят на сватба, банкет или друго събитие, за да си по-модерен.
Да си боядисваш дъвката с магданоз в зелено.
Да се състезаваш с другарчетата за най-бърза подредба на кубчето на Рубик.
Да събираш лайка, мащерка, други билки и кестени за чавдарско поръчение през лятото.
Да те гледат кисели продавачки, а ти да се отнасяш с тях кат=D 0 с богини.
Да имаш уокмен и за да не му се изхабят батериите, да въртиш касетата на химикал/молив.
Да си мечтаеш за "ходеща кукла" от СССР.
Да отидеш на истинско изпращане на войник.
Да чакаш с нетърпение Дядо Мраз на Нова година, да се чудиш какво ще ти донесе и още преди да е дошъл, да откриеш подаръка в гардероба, прилежно скрит из дрехите.
Да се возиш в автобуса с билетче от 6 с тотинки.
Да купуваш бира и да вдигаш всяка бутилка, за да провериш дали няма утайка, като избираш само зелени ил само кафеви бутилки.
Да носиш пръстенчета, направени от обвиката на бонбони Лакта.
Да си опечеш филийка на печка с дърва или на котлона, вместо на тостер.
Да увиваш чужда книга, взета назаем, с вестникарска хартия, за да не се повреди.
Да влезеш в супера, а там да има20само сол и оцет.
Да стоите до тъмно с децата на вън и да си разказвате страшни истории за извънземни. След това се изпращате взаимно, защото си умирате от страх.
Да звъниш на телефон 177, предшественик на чатрумовете. Включваш се в конферентен разговор с още n на брой хора, ако някой ти допадне - разменяте си телефоните и си звъните.
Да заминеш на море с руло тоалетна хартия в багаD0а.
Bсеки възрастен, познат или не, да може да ти плесне един зад врата или да ти издърпа ухото, ако си направил нещо нередно, а майка ти не само няма да се възмути, че някой е пипнал безценното й чадо, което се държи като диване, ами и ще им благодари и после сама ще ти плесне един зад врата и ще ти издърпа ушите…
Да си купиш половинка хляб за 15 ст.
Преди филмите да има преглед със сериозен чичко, който да ти обясни какво ще видиш и как трябва да го разбереш.
Да ядеш луканка по празници.
Да си носиш стотинките в кожено портмоненце на врата.
Да си прибираш ключа на връв под блузата, за да не ти го снимат от самолет и после да влязат у вас.
Да слушаш всеки следобед нивото на река Дунав в сантиметри.
Да нямаш видео, да слушаш филма, преразказан от приятел, коjто го е чул от приятел, а после да го преразкажеш толкова подробно и цветно на друг, все едно си го видял сам.
Да идеш в чужбина точно след падането на режима и всичко, което да можеш да напишеш в картичката до близките да е 'Тук магазините са пълни!', от което майка ти да умре от срам.
Майка ти да донесе огромен чувал със соц дамски превръзки, на които лепилото не им държи даже прeдпазната лента, и вкъщи да настъпи небивала веселба, защото сте три жени, а лигнинът е неудобна работа.
Да има само два канала на телевизията: Първа програма - работи от сутринта до 12, завършва с химна; Втора програма - работи от 5 следобяд до 9-10 вечерта.
Да си "дежурен" до вратата на класната стая и да викаш "Клас стани! Клас мирно!"
Да си простират съседите от първите етажи прането н0 онези простори, дето бяха поставени пред всеки блок. Гащи, чорапи, гащи, чорапи, потник.
Да си купиш еспадрили и да им слагаш подметки при обущаря.
Да се прибереш вечер и ако вашите ги няма, да тръгнеш да си търсиш в съседите, ако не ги намериш, да ги изчакаш у тях.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Of course, this is just a humble prologue to the full-fledged "festive season" kitsch that is soon to hit all the stores: the glitter, the omnipresent Santa, the over-decorated plastic Christmas trees... And the worst offender of all: the music! The same old, wretched, half a dozen songs with some kind of a Christmas motive that we are going to be hearing on an on, from now until December 25. If I were Santa, I'd be puking all the way from Lapland.
I don't know what's the deal: are the tunes supposed to work subliminaly, creating a cozy atmosphere (making you more predisposed to shop) or is it supposed to be a blatant reminder (omg, only X shopping days left, have to buy, buy, buy!)? Neither way is working with me. When you hear those songs once or twice it is actually ok, and some of the tunes are nice, so it does make you feel a bit... Christmas-y, I guess. But when it is hammered into your head for weeks on end, it's a major turn off.
That said, 'tis time to start making Christmas shopping lists (those of us anal-retentive types who can't shop otherwise), and I'm adding ear plugs to mine.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Recently I came upon a very touching moment in Khaled Hosseini's novel 'The Kite Runner'. The story teller (the hero), his father and a group of other Afghani were trying to escape to Pakistan from Russia-occupied Afghanistan in the early 80s. At one point their truck was stopped by a Russian guard who was on drugs. A recently married Afghani couple was a part of the group and the Russian guard decided to have some fun with the woman as a price for letting them go. Everyone froze. Then Baba - the story teller's father and a courageous man in general - stood up, objected and told him that the soldier would have to shoot him before doing that. It was more than certain that this would happen when, miraculously, the guard's superior came, apologized himself for the soldier's bad manners and let the group go. The girl husband went and kissed Baba's hand.
I was very touched by this and I was a bit surprised by that as I thought I had heroism immunity having lived through some socialist times in the 80s when heroic acts were mainly committed by Russians and were closely linked to literature on the WWII. This made them very suspicious of course.
But I realized, when reading, that it is a bit unfortunate that nowadays and especially in the type of lives that we live, there are never acts of heroism, acts that even vaguely remind you of the above episode .
Of course, it depends on how we define heroism. If Hero was a Greek demigod - half human, half god - we quickly get to the notion of sacrifice, i.e. a heroic act is when the hero acts against his/her interest, even life, in order to defend a moral stand. And I can't remember anybody now that sacrificed a lot to defend the higher good.
We somehow live in a culture of moral relativism and even if we see that someone or someone's deeds seriously suck we are ready to negotiate, to make peace to explain this somebody's acts with the complex situation, with a multitude of factors etc. And even if we understand and we fully disagree, then we leave because a serious fight would endanger us and our families seriously. And this is not an atmosphere where heroic acts are born.
Sometimes I think of the times when people invited each other to duels just like that, for entirely prosaic reasons from todays's point of view. Well, I don't call that heroism but somehow, I guess, heroic actions would rather be born then.
If you read that by any chance and if you disagree with me and think you know of acts around us which are worthy of the adjective 'heroic' and which truly involve a big degree of sacrifice, please let me know.
P.S. When searching for literature on the topic I came upon these six lecures by Thomas Carlyle who described 6 categories of heros: the Hero as Divinity, the Hero as Prophet, the Hero as Prophet, the Hero as Priest, the Hero as a Man of Letters and the Hero as King.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
I am not a collectioner by nature but I regret one thing and this is not having collected the dozens of farewell letters of all the colleagues who left REC during my 7 years there. I think it would have made such a great treatise on the psychology of leaving. Don't you think that it tells so much about people?
I have to admit that as much as I hate the fact that my friends and colleagues are leaving, I am a farewell letter junkie and I open each one with unhidden emotion in search of originality. Somehow, subconsciously, I wish everyone left the next coming week so that I could read everyone's farewell messages including mine. There I look for pictures, old names, good poems, hidden messages, diplomatic and less diplomatic criticisms, brevity, details and what not.
What a treasure these letters. I remember that Erzsebet told me she was composing her letter for a year under the shower (sorry, if I am exaggerating). Isn't it amazing? Here, I can recollect several masterpieces like Robert's sailing related images, Steven Stec's Herman Hesse's poem, etc. I still remember Miroslav Chodak's message where he said that he didn't agree with the management approach and then said 'If you want to know how I see REC's development, go here and here and consult this file'.
Well, enough on that. I just wanted to say what I am missing in almost all these letters, after the 'thank yous' and the 'it's been so great', is an uncensored, undiplomatic, unpoetical and non-metaphoric account on why a person leaves in reality. This must be extremely difficult and I am sure I will not do it either. However, if I were a director of an organization, I would kindly ask all the employees to write their true reasons for leaving and this would be one of my inspirations for management.
I had never thought I would be so excited about the news and I am not ashamed to admit that tears came to me eyes when I was walking from the hotel to the office. These might be naive tears and heaven will certainly not come on Earth but they show the relief I feel at the end of the most unpleasant, uninspiring, regressive, aesthetically challenged political era in my conscious life. (My God, people just hated America these eight years, its moral authority totally collapsed.)
My excitement also shows how happy I am about all my American friends. I couldn't agree more with my friend Kristin who said that Obama is simply the good side of America. It's stupid to say but I started wondering some time ago how is it possible for this nation, so inspiring at times, to end up in such a political situation. I started questioning my knowledge and perception about America. I am also happy for myself and now I know that my adolescence fascination with Kerouac, Salinger, Saroyan, Steinbeck - to name but a few - is not an illusion. And.....what is more Obama seems such a cool and INSPIRING guy. I am deeply convinced that Europe and the US have one major vocation on Earth and this is to inspire the rest of the world. Finance, military, politics come second.
There are a couple of poems that I would like to point to like the beautiful Ithaka exploitng the myth of Odyssey. It is a great and encouraging metaphor of life far from the home place and a reminder that this life is, after all, defined by this home place: 'Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey. Without her you would not have set out. She has nothing left to give you now.'
I also want to single out another poem - Myris, Alexandria in 340 AD - which takes us to a long forgotten perion in the 4th c. Alexandria AD at the time of the suppression of the pre-Christian gods, namely Serapis, when the worship temples - Serapeums - were slowly replaced with Christian churches. However, this poem is about tolerance, humanity and sublimation of religious hatred.
Friday, November 7, 2008
"At present women's perspectives are not represented either in Budapest's urban development strategy, in service planning, or crime prevention."
"Parking spaces designated for women, streets named after prominent women and public institutions with facilities for mothers with babies are among proposals seeking to make Budapest more women-friendly, Nepszabadsag daily said on Thursday."
So, another thing I learned yesterday (very productive day!)--that there is such a thing as a special parking for women. Perhaps this is my non-driver's perspective, but this sounds a bit condescending to me, implying, as it does, that women are less able to park properly and need special conditions. I'm sure a lot of women would be offended by the idea; as for guys, although they would probably agree that women have crappy parking skills, I'm not sure they would appreciate preferential treatment for women, given the dearth of parking spaces in downtown Budapest.
And how would you prevent guys from grabbing these spaces anyway? Well, you could paint them pink and surround them by flowers, as they do in Bern, Switzerland, where they believe that "the average male driver will be too embarrassed to use the pink parking spaces."
Fortunately for all, this eye-opening piece of research and its recommendations are probably going to be tossed on the dusty shelves of some local administrative office and quickly forgotten. How about tackling some real problems, instead? For example, making Budapest a more cycling-friendly city? Or more wheelchair-accessible? Or more green?
Monday, October 27, 2008
Except that farewell parties are not supposed to be cheerful because the next day you not only wake up with a nasty hangover, but that's when the reality sinks in--yet another friend is gone for good.
I've had it with farewells. If I had a euro for each friend that left Budapest in the past two years, I'd earn a fortune (or at least considerably more than with our ill-timed investments).
We feel like the last survivors of a once great tribe. Ana Maria and Roberto, Tina and Marco, Iva and Codru, Giorgia and Marco, Dana, Eli, Todd and Radka, Laura and Claudio, Robin and Ayesha, Loucine and Tom, Natalie and Michael, Willo, Lucija and the rest of the Habitat crowd, Sergiu and Wiolka, Adriana, Pavel and Emese, and now Robert--all gone.
It's the downside of the expat life--you hang around with other foreigners and they tend to leave, sooner or later. Budapest is not the kind of place where many people come to stay and settle, unless they have Hungarian roots or a significant other. You come with a job, you leave with a job but the in-between can last for longer than you planned or predicted. It's a beautiful city, and it's an easy, comfortable living; even if it's not all perfect, it feels damn good most of the time.
Then someone leaves, again, and you're thinking, 'have we overstayed our welcome?' Whose turn now?
Monday, October 20, 2008
The phone started ringing at 4:43 on Sunday, startling both of us out of deep sleep. Ruslan quickly picked up and I knew it was time for him to leave, but for a nanosecond I just stared at the darkness outside, my heart beating hard (waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of a very loud mobile makes you think of bad news instinctively).
Only we knew this was good news--we had agreed with Tsvete that she will call us when the labour starts so that Ruslan can go and stay with Lia while they head to the hospital. We've been waiting for this phone call for a long time, but days just dragged on and "Masodik" (baby's working name) showed no signs of wanting to leave his cosy environment.
Ruslan left quickly and I tried to go back to sleep, but it was impossible, I was too excited. I thought of Tsvete dealing with contractions, and everything that was to come--fourth floor of the hospital, doing paperwork while the midwife measures the baby's heartbeat, the obligatory shower, waiting for the doctor to appear, then going into the birthing room....and all that follows.
When Boris and Andrej woke up, shortly after 8, there were still no news. I remember thinking, "well, it should be over really soon." Good guess--Maxim was born at 8:35, almost 4kg and 60cm long. It took a lot of pushing but Tsvete managed without the epidural! I am still in awe of that completely heroic dead.
So, well done Tsvete and welcome Maxim!
Friday, October 17, 2008
Saturday, October 4, 2008
So, on Friday I dropped him off in the morning and went about my own business. To be on the safe side, I returned to the nursery about noon, just in case there are problems with lunch. It turned out the morning went quite smoothly, but when they sat him down for lunch he started crying.
He is a bit fussy about eating in places he doesn't know--usually he gets overexcited by the new environment that he refuses to eat. This time he was a bit tired, too, and he told me he wanted to play with cars. I had to explain that it is time to eat, and that other kids are eating, too. The sight of his new friend Dora eating right next to him was persuasive enough so he attacked his rice and meat.
I'm a little bit worried that he might fuss about food until he gets to know the place well and feels comfortable. That's one fear I never had with Boris--mealtimes were his favorite in the nursery and we often tempted him with the thought of food to come when he was reluctant to stay in the bölcsi.
I still remember one breakfast during Boris's first week in the nursery--the kids were all seated at their little table, eating some bread with butter and ham. We, the parents, sat behind because that was part of the introduction process. Boris sat next to Ami, a Japanese girl who would later become his best friend. He quickly finished his portion, while most other children were not even half way through. Ami was fussing about her food, clearly not hungry or not interested. At some point she turned to see where her Mum is and, without much ado, Boris grabbed her piece of bread and stuffed it in his mouth. He later become famous for always asking for a second or third helping. I even once saw him trying to scoop up some soup that fell into his bib while eating. No, definitely, food was never a concern with Boris, at home or anywhere else.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
Then it was great discovering that Tirana is changing for the better indeed. I first visited the country in the spring of 2006, then in January 2007 and the city has always looked to me as the only city in Europe messier than Sofia. I am not sure about that any more: the roads in Tirana are nice now, the sidewalks are wide and free from parked cars, it is relatively clean.
And the city is really lively. We were there on Friday night and it was packed with young partying people.
The other great thing about this trip is that I went out of the city for the first time - in Kruja and Berat. Kruja is an interesting place not far from Tirana but it was dark and we didn't see much, just some stars and a landing plane. Otherwise, it was the birthplace of Skanderbey and a capital of the country in the 14th century.
Then we visited Berat which resembles Plovdiv I think with its old Ottoman style houses. The weather was great and we just spent several hours there walking around, drinking coffee and watching the hens and cats walk around. We were about the only tourists there give or take a few. We thought that it would be cool to be able to turn into a hen. Andras chose dolphin and a bird. We thought it would be cool to be able to change into a bird and fly away during a boring workshop. The only problem would come if you jump through the window having been transformed into a dolphin.
We also visited the ethnographical museum in Berat where the small dark room where women stayed when men had guests became the highlight of the visit. Our Swedish and Dutch friends really appreciated that and said that they would like to introduce this model in their countries.:-)
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
So what is the only way to cope with that?
Remain really, really COOL I say.:-)
If I am able to say that my mood is really getting better.
The kids seem to be really happy otherwise and that means that they don't care ab out the weather at all. I guess for us, adults, bad weather brings some nostalgia while kids cannot feel it. Kids fully live in the present.
With Jelica we were amazed this summer how easy Boris and Andrej get adapted to different places and countries. We toured the Balkans as usual visiting Jelica's parents in Lazarevats, Serbia and my mother - in Sliven, Bulgaria. They fully enjoyed the two places. Borders really don't matter for them which is great.
Friday, August 22, 2008
In fact, now that I've seen quite a few places on the Black Sea coast, my vote definitely goes to the north over the south. Through luck or wisdom, the north managed to avoid over-construction, and the natural beauty has been preserved. You get this feeling of space that you absolutely don't have (anymore) any place south of Varna. I hope they manage to preserve it as it is, although Ruslan thinks it is just a matter of time before they ruin it, too. Let's hope they learn from their own mistakes, since the results of chaotic, unbridled building are already hurting tourism big time.
And speaking of north, I have now seen the last remaining corner of Bulgaria that I hadn't visited before--the northwest. We decided to experiment this time and rather than travel through Sofia and on to Serbia we took the road going from Veliko Tarnovo through Mezdra, Vraca, Montana and Kula. This was the closest I ever came to Vidin but there was no time to stop and see it. I know it is not famous for its sightseeing attractions, but it reminds me of my friend Vlado, who used to live there before moving to New York (via Blagoevgrad). I would have liked to see the place he grew up.
Instead, we had to stop in the village of Dimkovo because we were getting pretty hungry and hadn't passed a single restaurant in miles. We had lunch in a zakusvalnya (small restaurant) on the central square, the kind of place which has plastic tables and chairs and probably questionable hygienic practice in the kitchen. The prices were unbelievable: 1.5 lev (70 euro cents) for a soup, 2.5 lev (1.25 euro cents) for a meal and the food was actually tasty. If you ever pass through the village of Dimkovo and you're starving, might be worth a stop--if not for the food, at least for the feeling that you've traveled back in time and landed in the '80s.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
It is so perfectly absurd and Monty Python-esque that it even makes sense. While the most powerful military alliance in the world is looking for you in the most God-forsaken places all over Bosnia, you just grow a beard and moustache and, voila, go all zen in the middle of Belgrade.
You'd think plastic operations, hiding in caves or even bunkers, deep secrecy and all that--hmm, think again. All it takes is a bit of facial hair, an ugly pair of glasses and the look of an old hippy and no one would ever guess.
Apparently, no one ever asked him for references either.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
The other day he showed me a rabbit in his little picture book and said: "Nyuszi." "OK, that is how Erika calls it, but Mummy says zeka," I told him. A few days later I showed him the same rabbit and asked him what it was. Sure enough, he says: "Zeka...mmm...nyuszi." So, yes, he is getting the same linguistic confusion as Boris did, but he just absorbes everything that comes his way. It will never cease to fascinate me.