Stara Maslina

Okay, I must update you after yesterday’s enthusiasm. I had been led to believe that everyone here speaks English (and also that they were statuesque water polo champions, each finer than the last). While everyone is beautiful, certainly these things are not true. What I thought was panache and some sort of blood memory for the language was, in fact, just a foreigner with a ten word vocabulary confronted with many, many people just going about their day in their own way.

I have many reflections on this, none tied together by any sort of storyline.

I told the border guard “see you later,” when I’d intended to say hello in the polite form. I suspect his response was something along the lines of “you’re not going anywhere yet, bud! ” but I’ll never know.

I’ve never once lived in a place where I heard the muzzein call to prayer in the streets and sat at restaurants that don’t serve alcohol. Given that there’s also a fabulous mosque down the street from where I’m staying and the concierge is named Semir, I take it Stara Maslina is also the Muslim part of town (post on the pluralistic dream of Jugoslavije forthcoming, once I learn more about it). It may also be on the wrong side of the tracks (literally – post on my train journey forthcoming). Driving in I saw a bunch of graffiti in Cyrillic I didn’t much understand (ten word vocabulary!), but for an unmistakable “Kosovo je Srbije.” This may surprise you given I am in neither Serbia nor Kosovo, but I’m guessing a couple of young punks went to the Muslim / Albanian part of town to say some stuff about whose land belongs to whom. But that’s 100% guessing and I’ve decided I’m not going to spend a ton of time dissecting a history that is rich and complex and beyond a ten word vocabulary.

I have seen some woggy shit on the edge of town (thank you Rylie Padjen for explaining that self deprecating slur ten years ago), and I love it. It totally reminds me of all my old relations in Nanaimo and Ladysmith and Lake Cowichan. Perhaps it’s less that I’m reminded of home, and more that I now understand how the way they did things reminded them of home. Yes, that is the reconciliation lesson I’m supposed to be learning here. The fruit trees, the fastidious yards, the shack in the back with chopped wood and a bench and a couple drinks – my grandparents were trying to feel at home in their new home.

Every man looks like me. OK, that’s an overstatement, but I’ve never been surrounded by so many swarthy, hirsute, just-under-six-foot men in my life. Makes me feel much better about my body really, in an “oh, that’s just how I’m born to look” way.

This beach tho. it’d make ANYBODY feel better about their body. It’s 32 in the shade and Europeans have crazy bikini confidence. 100% recommend.

Finally, it’s amazing what you can do with ten words. I started with five, and my vocabulary is doubling each day! The joy of stumbling through a new place is enhanced by the fun challenge of trying to make yourself understood, and making do with what you have. This is a beautiful place, and the silence imposed by my lack of language makes me contemplate it all with great enthusiasm. Hvala, Crna Gora!

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