Research is moving along, language is coming along a bit bumpy-I feel like I am at plateau. My brain can't take in any more language rules let alone use them productively. I am mildly frustrated because I am taking an intensive course where we meet for 2 1/2 hours everyday which sounds great, right? Except we learn heaps of new things everyday and I feel like I never get to let everything we learn soak in, marinate a bit. I went and played poker last night with some gents I have been interviewing and hanging out with. They taught me all sorts of useful Croatian things, like "Give me all your poker chips" and the lyrics to Croatian music which they simply adore. It was a blast, although I learned I suck at poker and I'm not even so good at dealing. Note, this is after watching Arnold Schwarzenegger clips and listening to heaps of Croatian music :).
I am reading a bit on research methods and I came across a term I found endearing and accurate: Advanced hanging out. Its funny because that is what I feel like I am constantly doing, advanced hanging out. You wouldn't think going to a club counts as doing work, but how else am I supposed to learn about social groups I'm not typically a part of? I went out last night to a club called ROKO, surprisingly I've never been. When I arrived in Zagreb I somehow instantly fell into the "alternative" Zagreb crowd--all my own friends hang out at the bars and cafes that play alternative music, where you can see hipsters, people being openly out, artists, and the sorts. The stereotypical Balkan macho dude evaded me- is it just a facade? I thought. What is all that literature I read talking about?! Have they ever even been to Zagreb?! Maybe it has to do with the ways we label ourselves, or probably has a lot to do with the people I knew coming here, but I think we all seek out places we feel most comfortable, which incidentally are places were people not all too different from ourselves also feel comfortable. Again it is an intersection of place and person. So the challenge I face is putting myself in places were I will meet people who are unlike myself-who don't walk into a room and say "I study gender, I don't know anything about sports, and I read more books than watch movies..." Every time I have done this I am surprised by the results.
As the gents were getting ready for the club, gelling their hair, changing shirts, checking the mirror, I sat on Sasha's bed joking about how I felt like I should gel my hair or put on some lipstick or something. "I didn't dress for the club, guys..." I protested. “Who cares!" they replied. I couldn't tell if their indifference to my jeans and t-shirt (vs. all the ladies in the club in short skirts, straight hair, form fitting outfits...) came from a place of genuine acceptance or of more self-absurdness. Either way we headed out from the house to commute across town to a club by the student dorms. On the tram they quickly made friends and some enemies. Playing with ladies' hats and scarves, joking about a women's fur coat, getting the older women on the tram to let them try on her glasses, to becoming buddies with another group of guys heading to the same club. "Did you know those guys before?" I asked, "no, no, but we always make friends..."