Tuesday, May 31, 2011

the lost art of gazing into the distance


rediscovered and faithfully practiced for hours on end, day after day, by me.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

the view from my balcony in pakoštane croatia this morning

my teeny camera does not do the spectacular colors justice.

at all.

Friday, May 27, 2011

who's the luckiest girl in the world?

just as i was considering lamenting the fact that we had run out of prosciutto for our nightly sit-and-gaze-at-the-sea-and-marvel-at-our-good-fortune ritual, our landlord shouted up the stairs that there were some fresh mussels on the way up.  a couple of minutes later, delivered to our door, delivered to our door, no less!, was a liter of homemade wine, a platter of homemade prosciutto and cheese, and a steaming bowl of fresh mussels in garlic infused olive oil. 

so who's the luckiest girl in the world?   that would be me, i think.

domaći vino, prsut and sir, and dagnje od mora / homemade wine, prosciutto and cheese, and mussels from the sea
on my balcony at dusk overlooking the adriatic sea in pakostane crotia

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

when my serotonin let's me...

i have the best life in the world.

the sea, the view, the dusk, the domaće vino and pršut, bread, olive oil, balsamic, pecorino, z, and the music... 

no words.  just happy.

Morning Teleportation Expanding Anyway

Big Star I'm in Love With a Girl

Joan Armatrading Down to Zero

Paolo Nutini Growing Up Beside You

Paolo Nutini cover of MGMT's Time to Pretend

US3 Cantaloop

Monday, May 23, 2011

bye shirley

you were my inspiration to get the hell outta dodge years before i ever had the balls to actually do it.  the original get-rid-of-everything-you-own-and-leave-the-country woman.  i'll miss you.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

did i mention that i have a new favorite food in the world?

pršut. prosciutto. yummy yum yum yum.

for quite some time now, dinnertime (and i mean every dinnertime) at my place has consisted of pršut, istrian sheep milk cheese, domaće vino, bread, olives, and occasionally apples or dried figs, slowly savored over the course of an hour or three while sitting on my balcony overlooking the adriatic sea at dusk.

ok, yes, i know that dusk does not last an hour or three but i'm too lazy to restructure that sentence, so anyhoo...

i have yet to tire of it.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Friday, May 20, 2011

3 things i love here in pakoštane croatia

this building and this painted sign pointing to the konoba pakoštanac

stone walls, olive trees (except maybe a tiny bit less love for the allergy part of olive trees) and purple flowers, the name of which i do not know.

this view of the 20-shades-of-amazing-clear-blue adriatic sea and a smattering of its over 1,000 islands from my secret beach with just enough sand for 2 hidden along the rocky shoreline.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

sleep, obey, watch television, conform, reproduce, and ....

croatia's biggest supermarket makes no attempt to sugarcoat it.


check out john carpenter's "they live" sometime. yeah, you gotta overlook the cheese and fight the urge to turn it off after the first 10 minutes. but it's worth it.

Friday, May 13, 2011

it's not an "event", it's just life
a little slice of it at nono's konoba in pirovac, croatia

too busy enjoying the moment to capture video, but i did catch a photo and
a little bit of song and threw in a couple photos of pirovac and surrounds to boot
before we head back to pakoštane from our day trip to pirovac, we stop for a little pršut and vino at the nono konoba.

z is telling me about the chairs. simple unfinished handmade wooden chairs just like the ones from his youth when he used to visit the local konoba with his grandfather. konobas are - or were then - similar to wine cellars housed in the basements of stone buildings. legs of pršut (prosciutto, but in a distinctly dalmatian style) hung from the ceilings and the locals would sit around, drink domaće vino (homemade wine), have a little local sir (cheese, most often goat), and occasionally reach up to slice off another piece of pršut. and sing.

we order pršut and domaće vino. a couple of men are eating, drinking quietly at a table near us. another man sits nearby eating risotto, sipping vino and one by one, seven men arrive and sit together at the big wine barrel table we passed over because it was so big for just the two of us.

the pršut arrives and it is ever so thinly sliced, soft, salty and perfect. and the olives! they're from the owner's orchard and they are almost like candy, maybe a trace of carmel or malted milk. incredible.  a carafe of wine, a carafe of water and some bread.

the men at the wine barrel table are speaking, says z, of their day. "by 10 this morning, i finished cutting the hay and i harvested the olives from 3 or 4 trees." they speak of life over their pršut and vino, of mundane things. and then someone begins to hum a tune.  the conversation trails off and the most incredible harmony begins. they are singing (klapa), and their singing is like the olives.  like candy.  so sweet. the voices rise and i am lost.  how can these men, speaking of hay and harvests, sing like this?   z translates a line, "i can move the ocean but i cannot open the shutters of your heart."

a little more pršut. some kruh/hleb (bread). 

and another song. and another.

a glass of domaće vino cut, as is the custom, with a little bit of water.

      no! you didn't!

      yes!  yes i did! 

living now on the dalmatian coast, i get it.  i understand why it's done. tasting wine, drinking wine isn't an event (think california).  it's just life.  and dalmatian domaće wine is made for life.  a little pršut, some masline (olives) from the orchid out back. and song. it's all just life.  like z always says "just easy."  no need to manufacture events, to chase life. "just easy."  like the spontaneous klapa serenade that unfolded in front us, life happens all around you if you just make some space and let it.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

a visit to vrgada island, croatia

today we took the ferry over to vrgada.

vrgada is a small island (an area of just over 2 miles) off the dalmation croatian coast. it's been inhabited for 5,000 years, and like the rest of the dalmation coast, it was once under the rule of the roman empire. at the moment, it's inhabited by about 250 people.

vrgada has a small semi-intact village center of stone buildings and narrow stone paved winding streets. too small for cars, there are none on vrgada, though you'll definately find mopeds.

like pakoštane, the stone buildings are crumbling and newer characterless buildings are popping up all over; however, many of the original buildings are still intact and some have been restored.

poor little stone guy forced to live in the shadow of the big pink monstrosity behind it!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

a little backstory on pakoštane
or what happened to pakoštane: part 2

so what happened to pakoštane?

war and greed. and good old fashioned "progress".

it seems that after the war, croatian citizens whose homes had been destroyed elsewhere (not to mention the croatians displaced from their ancestral homes in bosnia) came here seeking property as restitution from the government. trading up in a way.

of course, many of those homes just happened to be built with a few (or more than a few) extra rooms that could be rented out to tourists. now, i don’t have a problem with people trying to make a living, but add to that the influx of domestic and foreign investors scoping out a little cheap post-war seafront property and…

thus began the accelerated building of new, blocky houses and small hotels everywhere.

and so, on and around the ruins of the original pakoštane village center, a newer - distinctly less charming - pakoštane has, is and continues to be built.

the ubiquitous apartman/sobe/zimmer sign (rooms, folks. rooms to rent.)

get a load of this monstrosity!

the name of this little boutique hotel is the "titanic".  shaped like a boat. nice, eh?


poor little stone house flanked by giant orange apartmani

a little backstory on pakoštane
or what happened to pakoštane: part 1

we decided on pakoštane, because z used to spend his summers painting on the coast before the war and he remembered it as a little fishing village with beautiful old stone houses.

it’s a bit different now.

in less than 20 years the beautiful old buildings that once gave this town, like most other towns dotting the croatian coast, such incredible character have fallen into disrepair. given that that the charm and character of these stone houses is what originally drew western european tourists and their money to the croatian coast, why, we asked our hosts, have they been so tragically neglected?

 and the answer is: greed. of course.
the buildings, the beautiful historical charming buildings are crumbling because of greed. yeah, so what’s new…  in many cases, the ownership of these properties has become diluted between the many descendants of the descendants of the original owners – none of whom can agree with each other on whether the buildings should be kept or sold, and if sold, for how much. most of the buildings are not on the market since one or more of the joint owners will not consent to sell, and those buildings that do finally end up on the market are offered for such ridiculously high prices that they sit unsold year after year.

so amidst the continuing disagreement and greed, the buildings, the charm and the history of pakoštane is crumbling.

(and if it ain't crumbling it's a kladionica (betting joint) or disco bar. sigh.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

and then came pakoštane (not a pakistani, pakoštane!)

z and I hot-footed (hot-bused?) it out of drvar, bosnia to the seaside town of pakoštane, pack-o-shtan-ee), croatia today.

suddenly everything is right in the world again.

there is sun, glorious sun. thank you, sun, for your distinct lack of all things musty and damp. and adriatic sea, thank you for expressing your wetness in the form of sea and not rain. and thank you croatian coast for your dry air that defies mold despite the fact that you’re next to a giant body of water.

equilibrium has returned and my mind is blissfully devoid of thought.

my place in the scheme of things at this moment
a lovely old stone house (stone sort of hidden by layers of
plaster) - the view on the right of my balcony...
the view to the left of my balcony. a tiny church on a tiny island.

a smidgeon of what's left of stari grad (the orginal pakostane)
and another smidgeon

Friday, May 6, 2011

or the st. george slava that broke the camel's back

st. george slaying ye ole' dragon.
z painted this copy of an an old orthodox icon.
it started with the relentless gray. and the cold. and the rain that wouldn't stop.

then the incredibly loud droning of some kind of motor (where? in the walls? how? from where? it's everywhere!) that infliltrated the drvar apartment for a day and a night and most of the next day.

and the return of the owners (with kid) of said apartment for what i think is only going to be a weekend but is not just a weekend.

and the resulting unanticipated early return to banja luka (just after taking care of five months worth of unpaid cable tv bills in drvar so i could get internet there), and the couch that can break even the toughest back and insure an almost complete lack of sleep. and with that return, the constant badgering of z's mom to eat more, more of everything. meso(meat)? supa(soup)? sarma? keks(cookies)? kolac(dessert)? ok, so i happen to actually like sarma, but it invariably leaves me sick for hours. and despite their questionable contents noblice keks are especially yummy.

and continuing relentless gray. and cold. and rain.

so, when the time came for my first serbian orthodox slava, let's just say that my state of physical and mental well-being was, uh... compromised.

the slava begins at noon-ish. we arrive early. i want to be there and really enjoy it but my mind keeps ending up in anticipation of the onslaught of massive amounts of food (yeah the meat and fat and oil and cheese and bread are good - they just make me sick), drink (and yeah, i know rakija is traditional, but just the smell can make my stomach contents begin to rise), cigarette smoke (i'm a trooper in the presence of small amounts, but a closed room with with 20 smokers? yeah, i'm immediately sick.), loud traditional music that (sorry, really i'm sorry...) i can't take for long, and the singing and dancing - all of which i will feel like a real a-hole if i don't happily join in, and all of which i will be immersed in for the next, oh, 10 or so hours.

i can't shake my funk. my pre-existing funk compounded by my anticipatory funk have got ahold of me. i'm cold, tired, my hips and back hurt and i haven't have any alone time for more than a week (i really need my alone time.) and now i'm heading directly into to a festival of sensory overload that might just get the best of me even when i'm in top form. everybody loves a slava. i don't want to be a party-pooper. but i already am and it hasn't even begun! and that puts me into even more of a funk.

and it begins.

there's a lovely ritual involving candles and rakija and bread. and then the the food fest. supa then sarma. piles of bread. plates of paprika (the actual vegetable, not the spice) and tomato and homemade cheese and fatty pork to pick at. not pork like flat little slices of ham. pork, like you can see it used to belong to pig, pork. these are joined by plates of desserts.

the plates of food are replenished all evening as more and more guests drop by. i make the mistake once of clearing my plate from the table and it is immediately replaced. ooops, bad manners. it's like telling the host that the food is no good.

i pace myself on the food despite the fact the sarma was ever so delicious and despite the encouragement to keep eating. and i manage to decline the rakija without coming off as completely rude, ungrateful, and unappreciative of the traditions. and i pace myself on the homemade red wine that i accept in the place of rakija.

but i still begin to feel sick and it's pretty early in the game. the room is small, hot and choking with cigarette smoke. i sit by the balcony door and open it, but it keeps getting closed. i'm dizzy and i'm overheating.

the volume of the music is going up and up and one of the guests, a lifelong friend of z's, won't leave me alone. she likes me and she tells z that she can tell that i am the perfect woman for him. "tereza, this is balkan man", she says referring to z, "do you understand?" i nod yes. "tereza, i can speak english but i don't. you speak serbian to me."

i am flattered that she approves of me but my hip is killing me and the pain is beginning to encompass my entire sacrum and shoot up my back. i'm shifting from side to side in an attempt to find some position, any position on the wood bench that is slightly less painful, while simultaneously trying to focus on looking poised and graceful and as if i'm enjoying myself and not about to puke. i can barely hear over the music. i can barely breathe. "tereza, you must dance."

i am an american at a serbian orthodox slava in bosnia in which i speak very little useful serbian (i can swear up a storm, though) and the hosts and most of the guests do not speak english. i am determined not to come off as an ugly american party-pooping a-hole despite the fact that i'm now pretty sure that i am indeed actually going to puke.

so i dance. she grabs my hands and pulls me behind her in the chain of the people dancing around the two giant tables filling the teeny space. i try to follow the foot action as best as i can. two steps forward, one a bit back. i look for z trying to catch his eye. save me! but i don't catch his eye. i am on my own.

the song ends and i dash out to the balcony. the sick and dizzy and hot and verge-of-puking thing is just getting tedious now. how long can this state of sick actually last? the puzzle of just how it could have lasted this long and how long it could go on is intriguing to me and takes my mind off the actual sick.

i play with a toddler. you heard me. i play with a toddler. it is my defense against interaction with those would who want to tell me to eat more, drink more, and dance more. but it doesn't work for long. "tereza. why are you on balcony? you must be with željko. you must dance!" "vruće", i tell her, "ja sam vruće. molim, pet minuta. i am hot, please five minutes."

i escape downstairs to the front yard and my first breath of fresh air in nine hours. nine hours. "tereza, sta je bilo? what happened? are you okay?" say the people who find me enjoying the cool air and quiet alone in the yard. they giggle. the american must have had too much rakija! this is slava. this is normal. this is a good thing.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

bosnia is kicking the cr*p out of my endless summer

it has been cold and gray and rainy for what seems like, i'm pretty sure, forever, and i am coming down hard off the high of more than one year – winter in india and southeast asia, followed by the nearly perennial summer in california – of warm and sunny days.

with my return to bosnia, the return of cold. freaking cold and never-ending gray. and rain.

let me say here that i am not good at gray. not at all.  if you doubt that
seasonal affective disorder (sad) exists, a quick jaunt in my foggy-headed (i'm pretty sure it’s a brain cloud), can’t-wake-up-no-matter-hard-hard-i-try, woe-is-me-the-end-is-nigh bones – were that possible – would, i’m sure, convince you otherwise.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

a little pre-wwii drvar, bosnia

the old downtown (downvillage?) drvar has been left to slowly tumble down, and a new downtown built. sad that such beautiful buildings are being lost. and let’s not even talk about the new “architecture” with which they’ve been replaced.

the old bus station

the old hospital

the old school