Monday, March 30

My Zagreb life of leisure.

So my life has been pretty busy in a crazy sort of way these last few weeks. There was the festival in Ljubljana, followed immediately by my trip to Oslo, and then since then, it seems that Zagreb is waking up for spring, and there has been so much to do.

I've started yoga classes again - Zen yoga, this time, randomly (it was the cheapest most convenient class I could find) and I have the sore muscles to prove it.

To counter the healthiness of that, there has also been a tent in one of the squares in town selling wine and a few different rakijas (like schnapps) at extremely reasonable prices. Especially when you get a couple of friends together and buy by the bottle! I seem to have partaken in quite a few bottles, mostly of Orahovac (walnut liqueur).

Last Thursday was Queer Zagreb's monthly film screening night, and I saw the french film "Juste une Question d'amour", which was good, but, at nearly 10 years old, felt a little dated in terms of attitudes to homosexuality. About right for this part of the world, though!
We followed this (after a decent interim spent in the wine tent) by heading to the women's night at Funk that happens twice a month here. It was crowded, but, as always, a lot of fun, and I'm glad it exists!

I've also had couchsurfers staying - Napoleon (my colleague from Sarajevo) came for a night last weekend, as the Madman (my erstwhile boss) has finally fired him as well (continuing his record of never having a native speaker finish a contract) so it was N's last chance to see the fair city of ZG before leaving the Balkans.
I also just hosted two lovely germans for a few days, showing them my side of Zagreb, which they seemed to appreciate, even if we did end up in the wine tent a little more than seemed sensible. They probably got the impression I'm a complete alcoholic!

Friday night there was a circus performance at Medika, the squat where I stayed my first nights in Zagreb back in October. I hadn't been back since, strangely enough, although now they have an agreement with the city for at least part of the building, making them all legal and secure, although no longer able to host overnight guests.
The performance was sold out, so some friends and I spent some time drinking yet more Orahavac (I was avoiding the wine-tent, but it came to me, instead!) outside, and then somehow ended up getting in to see the end of the show anyway. And then stayed the rest of the night at the after party, dancing to a very eclectic music selection, which was great.

And then last night (Saturday) I went to an 'unplugged' outdoor concert in celebration of Earth-Hour. Now, they seemed to have some idea of what Earth Hour is about, and the bands were mostly doing acoustic sets (apart from the electric bass and pianos) and the gig was all lit by garden torches, which was quite effective, but the amplification was so loud you could hear the music a block or two away, which seemed to me to negate the energy savings of the lack of lighting!
But it was good anyway. I finally saw Lollobrigida perform, and Lidia who directs my choir here was performing with one of her bands, Afion, as well. 

The other remarkable thing about the last week or so, is that I seem to be running into people I know every time I leave the house. And not just at the events, but randomly on the street as well. Friday, in particular, I saw pretty much everyone I know in Zagreb, most of them at Medika, but earlier in the day as well. Maybe it's just spring, and there are more people out and about, but it's kinda nice to live somewhere where I can run into people I know (and like!) on a regular basis. I can imagine it wearing thin, if I were to stay here any length of time, but for someone who is still new in town, like me, it's rather nice, and gives me a good feeling of community!

Sunday, March 29

Pun Fest

Store Wars.

Wednesday, March 25

At home everywhere, but nowhere.

The curse of the traveller is to be at home everywhere, and yet nowhere.

I'm not sure if this is actually a (mis)quote, or something my brain invented by mis-remembering the meaning of another quote, but it seems more and more true lately. And it's a blessing as well as a curse. I can be at home everywhere. Many of my couchsurfing hosts have remarked on my skill at making myself quietly part of the household, and I am able to quickly familiarise myself with a new city, and learn the landmarks and interesting places. Friends in Zagreb have remarked that after a month or two I seem to know where everything is, and know lots of people.
But at the same time, I'm not really at home anywhere anymore. People ask me about Australia or Brisbane, and I have to admit that I don't know much anymore - it's nearly 2 years since I was last there, and I stopped reading australian news a long time ago (though I still listen to Triple J's Hack podcast).

Still, for now I'm happy as a wanderer, and the plan to make Montreal my base (because that's one place I did feel at home) will give me a home, and make explaining where I live, or where I'm 'from' a whole lot less confusing for people I meet!

Monday, March 23

Things that have made me think

I just read this in the bood I read on my way back from Oslo.

"...the sense of endless possibility that every ex-patriate experiences, the feeling that your life has somehow opened up, that you're finally free to become exactly who you want to be" (Tony Parsons in One for my Baby)

I've been thinking lately about why I live the way I do, and I'm beginning to think that a lot of it is just attention-seeking. Or maybe thrill-seeking!

You see, during the first month in a new city, everything is new and interesting, including me. I'm a strange exotic stranger who has enough interest in the city to want to live there for a while.
After a month or so, the novelty wears off, I become just another resident of the city, my social life gets a little less hectic, and I settle into a 'normal' sort of routine.

So it's entirely possible that I rely too much on my exotic-novelty factor to power my social life. But hey, why not? Didn't someone famous say that you should always be a little foreign wherever you are? This is exactly my strategy, it seems!

There's also the 'be who you want to be' factor. In the years I've been travelling, I've taken a little something from everywhere I've been: a little culture, a little fashion sense, a little language, a few ideas about what is 'normal'. I'm definitely a long way from where I was 7 years ago before I started this lifestyle.

So now my accent and vocabulary is a bizarre mix, my dress sense is increasingly idiosyncratic and I am always a little foreign wherever I am.

Of course, this also gives me the freedom to not conform with whatever 'normal' means wherever I am. Anything that is considered unusual or weird can be explained by my foreign-ness. Even if the percieved weirdness wouldn't be 'normal' anywhere I've been, I have the excuse to be exactly who I want to be. The 'coolness' factor I gain from being an exotic nomad also means that whatever strange thing I wear/say/do/etc, is exotically interesting, and not uncool.

Yay for non-conformist individuality, hey?!

So the conclusion that can be drawn from all this, I guess, is that if I'm doing it, or wearing it, or whatever, it is automatically cool, and screw what anyone else thinks.

I just need to remember that more often!

Thursday, March 19

Recovering from my week in Oslo

I've just had a fantastic week in Oslo. I had a lot of fun, caught a glimpse of some of the interesting stuff that's going on there, and discovered that it would be very easy to learn Norwegian, which is such a cute and entertaining sing-song language. I was even vaguely offered a rather excellent-sounding job.

So naturally, my thoughts turn to whether or not it would be feasible to actually live there for a while. This seems to happen just about every time I spend an interesting week in a city lately - particularly if I meet up with the queer and activist-y people, and find things I could get involved in enthusiastically. That's pretty much how I ended up in both Sarajevo and Zagreb. And even though I'm still enjoying getting to know Zagreb, my nomadic attention span (similar to that of a goldfish, it seems) has been distracted by the idea of a new country, a new language, and a sweet little capital city with the beginnings of a decent queer & alternative community and quite a few amazing people.

Of course, the 8 months of winter and one of the highest living costs in the world are slight drawbacks, but whatever... The winter is not unlike Montreal (though warmer) and the cost of living is matched by the salaries, so as long as I was working I would be fine.

And also, of course, I don't know when I would fit in living in Norway. I already have several different possible plans for after the summer. I guess now I have a Plan D, as well!

Thursday, March 12


Originally uploaded by Ptraci
I'm in Oslo to give a workshop on making harnesses and things from bike inner tubes, which is really a quite radical concept here, it seems. I was even on the radio today to explain the concept!
This pic of the national parliament screwed up and got overexposed, and I have no idea why, but it's quite an interesting effect, in the end. It was snowing at the time (it has been snowing steadily all day, just to make up for the beautiful sunny day we had yesterday) but it wasn't actually a blizzard!
Off to some burlesque show now! If I can stay awake! I think I should probably work on getting some sleep tomorrow - two festivals in a row with only one day of travelling in between has been rather exhausting, and the workshop itself is tomorrow evening, followed by a party and performance evening!

Friday, March 6

Reasons i feel like i'm in berlin right now:

I spent yesterday evening hanging out in the squatted entertainment area metelkova, which would not be in the slightest bit out of place in berlin.
I just ate felafel, which is, of course, one of my favourite things about berlin. I even sat on a river bank to eat it, which is one of my berlin traditions.
It's warm and sunny, while still being jumper weather which is how i mostly remember berlin, as i've almost always been there in spring early summer.
While wandering around today i occasionally smelt coal burning, which i first learnt to identify in berlin.
The sharehouse flat i'm staying in reminds me of any number of places i have stayed in germany, both in architecture and atmosphere.
The currency is the euro.
There are interesting people wandering about interesting funky areas of town.
I can reasonable expect anyone i encounter to speak english- even those over 30.
Overall, Ljubljana is a cool and funky little town, and i have a feeling i will be back again before long!

Thursday, March 5

0.15 seconds of fame

I realise that when I posted the link to my choir's television appearance in my last post, I forgot to tell you where in the 50 minute program we are. So here's the link again, but this time I can tell you that the story starts at about 12:55, and goes for around 6 minutes. Stay tuned for the last few seconds for my closeup!

The story is that there was this girl who came out to her parents, who were so impressed that they locked her in a mental institution for a few years. She has recently been released, and the concert we performed at on Saturday night (which is also plugged in the tv appearance) was a benefit concert for her.
I gather the story focusses both on her and on the emergence of queer choirs in Zagreb - the guys they talk to are from the newly-formed queer male choir Qklapa.

Monday, March 2

Good Things

They just keep happening!

  • Going to Varazdin last week with Dora, and dressing up for carnivale
  • Discovering getting back to Canada might be easier than I thought
  • Hosting Eli the hitchhiking Couchsurfer on Wednesday night
  • Le Zbor (the choir) getting filmed for tv! It screened on Saturday night, and is now online!
  • Hosting Kristen the Couchsurfer from Montreal from Friday (until today!)
  • Choir practice on Friday night, in which we sang our way through the entire repertoire, including a whole lot of pieces I didn't know we sang.
  • Going out Friday night with friends.
  • Beginning to sort things out in my room here and Get Things Done from my huge long to-do list.
  • Hosting Stephanie, another solo traveller fom Canada, on Saturday night!
  • The amazing benefit concert on Saturday night, at which Le Zbor sang beautifully, and were definitely the highlight of the concert!
  • Getting to finally see my friends' band Z/buka play at the saturday night concert, even if the sound system wasn't so great.
  • Acquiring a great new t-shirt from the saturday performance (we wore them to perform), plus 5 new great badges to add to my collection (thanks Goga!)
  • Spending most of Sunday at a hot springs spa with a bunch of Couchsurfers.
  • Seeing my friend Anne from Sarajevo, who came to visit Sunday and Monday.
  • Finding a couch for this weekend's festival in Ljubljana - I sent one request, and found exactly the right people to stay with!
  • Settling into my wonderful flat here.
  • Beans. Beans are good things. Especially when made into chilli.
  • Possibly maybe perhaps getting invited to Oslo to give a workshop there.
  • Learning about silicone stuff from my wonderful flatmate, who just happens to be studying it as part of her masters in fine arts (sculpture).
  • Being given all my favourite sorts of chocolate by my house guests (dark chocolate! Lindor Chocolate! Pink Pepper chocolate, which I didn't even know I liked!) AND a jar of Thai Red Curry Paste!
  • I'm listening to TripleJ as I write this post!