Saturday, October 2, 2010

Dobro Jutro!

The red bag is full of dragon beans...

The market near my dorm.

Saturday morning in my neighboorhood is absolutly lovely. The student dorms are in a neighboorhood called tresnjekva, a neighboorhood close to the center of the city but still residential. They have their own green market and large Konzum (the chain of grocery stores) and lots of little cafes. Walking to the internet cafe from my dorms takes me though the green market where tables and tables of covered in vegetables of various shades, carrots ranging from bright orange to a pale yellow, cabbage-raw, pickeled, and chunked, dragon beans spotted pink, bundles of carrots and root vegetables for making vegetable stock, the stench of fresh fish from the edges of the market. The venders ask you what you want as you walk by, as I eye the brussel sprouts and pickeled beets, yearning for a kitchen, i always shake my head no, maybe uttering a "ne hvala" (no thanks). Today I am just passing through for the free smells and smiles. The market on a saturday morning is bustling. Some of the venders are older women, their heads covered with printed scarves, their bodies round and stout and hardy, often wearing large framed glasses, and their skin wrinkled like wet laundry. Other venders are young men and women, with pony tales or buzz cuts, jeans and tennis shoes. I pass on through, following a man with a giant sack full of dragon beans over his sholder, his lady-friend carrying a bag full of chestnuts, heading towards the cafe we always frequent where the young server smiles when I walk in because I'm sure he's curious why I'm here every other day, sitting in the back checking my email.

other interesting sightings:

A family of secret cat feeders in the early afternoon feeding the strays who hang out around the market, spooning cat food out of cans to the colorful bunch of kitten-looking cats.

A middle-aged man wearing the exact same yellow fanny pack I own.

A women with a new tattoo on the top of her left foot, wearing strappy highheels even though her tattoo is so new its still wrapped in clear plastic wrap.

On wednesday we had in-country orientation, so the people who are teaching english in other cities were in town, it was a nice excuse to do some sightseeing, including going to the ultra-new contemporary musuem in Novi Zagreb, where one can take a three story slide down to the ground floor... (see photos above!)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

"First it's a hobby, then it becomes a passion, and finally it's an addiction"

I survived my in-country orientation and my first event with state diplomats, people in nice suits and modest ties. It was a welcome party at the home of someone who works for the state department. The lovely apartment was painted in the TLC fashion, each room having one bright-wall and the rest white. The living room was accented with a bright blue, the hallway a welcoming orange, and the kitchen was a cheery yellow reminiscent of my bedroom in St. Louis. Mixing and mingling is always a skill to be honed, one I haven't quite perfected, but the wine served on fake silver trays and the tiny precise pastries filled with creamy cheeses, smoked salmon, or egg, made the conversations flow relatively easily. Perhaps it was the intricate etchings hung on the wall, or the presence of other people equally nerdy in their interests in the Balkans, but it felt strangely homely. Then off to a bar for drinks and chatting and absorbing. This is what I came back for, the smoky under-ground bars, young people dressed in funky outfits and hipster glasses, women with 80s hair, or short spikey-dos, and yet the conversations are of serious depth, oscillating between how to best do qualitative research and the pros-and-cons of ice ludges and parties that involve plastic swords. I don't know why but feels like an ideal that only comes to fruitation in my dreams.

One of the fulbrighters from last year is still lingering here, finishing up her research, preparing for a big move to switzerland with just a brief stay across the pond. She was kind enough to interduce us to local friends and researchers. At the bar I met her friend who is working on his Phd dissertation in the Balkans with a focus on how civil society and NGOS engage in post-conflict truth and reconciliation/transitional justice issues. We began speaking about Belgrade, and regional youth comissions, and common friends or names we knew. He asked many questions about my research and I fumbled with my words while trying to force some cohesive themes out into the thick-smoke-filled air... I felt inexperienced and young! There is an exclaimation point because rarely do I feel awfully 'young', but I have practically no experience doing this kind of research, it's like I'm playing house, but playing researcher instead. He responded positively to my project, "it's interesting" he said sure enough, but he also provided some really constructive feedback. To connect with another young person doing research and to hear about their own path and work helps me construct a framework to place myself in and understand my own goals and limitations. And so the web of connections and friends grows and hopefully multiples. I went home, to my dorm, feeling full and finally feeling like my feet were on some sort of ground, even if its still a bit wobbly or swampy at times.

Like katie, reading, finally, "If on a winters' night", oh the lovely words.

Monday, September 27, 2010

a window full of green trees, and a big wooden desk

Another rainy morning, this time as i type the keys are clicking in that kind of highschool way, the sound of a full key board of plastic squares sinking a bit with the pressure of my fingertips. Can you guess where I am, typing away carefully on a desktop computer? Well, my office of course. I have a desk in the office of my adviser, who is very kind and tall, his glasses resting carefully on his nose which seems always to be wrinkled because he is often furrowing his eyebrows with his thoughts. I suppose its been a week now, hard to believe it went by so fast, but it feels good to be sitting at this desk, it feels like work, smells like productivity. We walked through the hallways together, young adults chattering in the narrow hallway, "it hasnt changed from when i went to school here," he brings his hands up to his nose and inhales deeply, "smells like socialism."

So far my research here has consisted of a collecting a long list of names and emails. People to be contacted, to keep track of, to write down in my calendar. For each contact and meeting is a cup a coffee, more names, more emails, its similar to traveling down the rabbit hole as more and more doors begin to open.

Ive also been looking at apartments, some re-done with minimalist furniture, others damp from the rain with blankets draped over sofas and only a pot for making turkish coffee sitting on an old yugoslav stove. I always go with someone is fluent and i try to follow the conversation, but its hard and more then ever I wish I would have stuck my nose in a Croatian language book in the last year, so I could at least pretend better. Hopefully it will come soon. My two soon-to-be roomates are also on fulbrights here but were both born somewhere in the former yugoslavia, meaning, theyre both relatively fluent. I start croatian classes on Oct. 4th, November 4th were instating a no-english rule...a, lets talk to emily like she is 5 rule. Well see.

Last night i went to the best of showing for the experimental film festival. It was great and filled me with excitement about the creative things happening here and also reminded me of all of my fabulous friends at home, making, and thinking, and i dunno where this thought is going...

anyway, i must be off to enroll in croatian classes... dun dun dun,

cujemo se,