Monday, October 31, 2011

" sure as clocks are bleeding time..."

A little colder each day.
Slightly darker, a bit earlier each day.
I am loving Autumn.
Zok just rolls his eyes as I kick my way through any pile of leaves I see.

"...The night is still, and the frost it bites my face..."

I think I did more socializing in a week than I would normally do (in Tasmania) in a couple of months.
Zok and went out with an American friend- the day before my birthday and I believe I fell in love when she stated "What do you want to drink? I only drink champagne".
On my birthday I got up and went to my Swedish language lessons, which continue on- less about language and much more about being indoctrinated to 'being' Swedish. We had another week about why taking a 'Svart jobb' aka 'black job' aka 'under the table work' is very wrong for the fabric of society.
The subject matter does not bother me- much, but the fact that the teacher is there for maybe ten percent of the time, and then we are left to study on our own or chatter as we can in broken English or shattered, limited Swedish.

My birthday improved greatly after class. We went out to dinner with Tove and Andreas at my favorite french crepe place right up the road. The next day was the rather large Halloween party.

I've had so much skating/coaching/playing that three days off together was really strange.
But there is four days of practice coming up and a fundraiser for Team Sweden so normality will be restored.

Monday, October 17, 2011

"...What you're missin' missing, round those brick walls..."

The countryside of Wales and the walls of Chester are one of my favorite places to be. I always feel calm and I always feel a sense of home.
Whatever that is.

Here are some of my favorite points. The weather has been perfect Autumn weather, moody with bright hours of sun, warm but not too warm for a scarf, hat, and gloves. I feel as if it has been a long time since I was in the Northern Hemisphere to feel the familiar sense of the season turning.

My aspiration is to do a walking tour of the Northwest area of Wales. I love the mountains of slate, and narrow stone villages that are still populated and in use. I love the tones of color here.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Peppers and Tobacco

I suppose my focus of thinking is currently constrained by my University classes. I find studying one area while seeing a much wider world a bit hard to assimilate into a coherent world view.
I have a class (a not very good class) focused on gaming, robots, and technology. I am pretty sure the people I saw in Macedonia harvesting tobacco or drying the tobacco on their porches are not thinking about Robotics much.
Then my war and media class had me thinking about the break down of Yugoslavia, which is of course still a topic in Macedonia but it is 'the past'.
The country still has larger current concerns. Zok and I went to the 'new' museum, which turned out to be a very strange history lesson.
The building had a strict no photos policy so I'll have to try and describe.
There were wax figures of historic persons, juxtaposed next to huge paintings. These were brand new paintings, but they were meant to look like paintings a bit like the famous 'Washington crossing the Delaware'.
Then the ceiling had small led lights that twinkled like stars. There were also very modern aspects. Basically you walk through with a guide who explains the oppression of Macedonia since the Ottoman empire.
There are several maps showing Macedonia before it had been occupied and taken over bit by bit to become the small landlocked country that it is now.
They skipped talking about Alexander (King of Macedonia, aka Alexander the Great), or about the symbol on their flag, these are two of the main reasons Greece is fighting against Macedonia being let into the EU among other things. They also sort of ended right before the war that broke up Yugoslavia. They did talk quite a bit about the oppression from Bulgaria because this was the start of the idea that Macedonia was never its own culture or community, and that their language doesn't 'count'.

My non-fiction writing class makes me think about all the opportunities so many of us have. There are many, many people with limited options.
I also have a hard time understanding governments. There is so much trash and litter. That and the empty buildings and graffiti.
When there have been countries that have successfully cleaned up their environments why do many countries seem not to care?

In Macedonia there are still horse and carts on the roads with the cars.
There are signs for them. I missed getting a good photo. The iphone for photos is convention but not good for action shots.
Most are a sort of 'tinker' trade. In Prilip they take any unwanted electronic equipment. They fix them up and re-sell them.
At least someone is recycling.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Buda and Pest divided by the Danube

Zok and I had to fly through Budapest and then change planes to get to Skopje, Macedonia.

When I first met 'Speed' of the STRD roller derby league, she had just come back from staying in Budapest and talked about how much she liked the city.
So Zok and I were inspired by her recommendation and we decided to stay over a couple of days and re-acclimatize ourselves.
We stayed in the same hotel because they have thermal pools that can be accessed from the hotel side, making the whole, bathing suit, robe, towel process easier. We could not take much with us, as we knew we would be loaded down with gifts from Zok's family.

The hotel was really interesting.

I was a bit disorientated during our whole time there. Zok pointed out that this was the very first stop we had ever made where I didn't research the city beforehand. Normally I have a small notebook filled with places of interest, cafes and bars to try and dozens of places to try and overwhelm Zok into at least one cultural event.

Zok knew of a really, really good Italian eatery that he went to when he was in Budapest with The Hives. If you have not gotten the impression from me about how expensive the food and alcohol in Sweden is, then I am not typing loud enough. We went for Italian twice. The entire dinner (and we were splashing out) with a bottle of wine, a dessert and Zok's appetizer and main were less than the price of just the bottle of wine here in Stockholm.

I also found a funny place for lunch, and a lovely little chocolate and wine bar.
Budapest although definitely inclined towards tourists, was still quite foreign.
The city is not trying to really change itself in any way to appeal to a tourist.
Also I suppose due to the amount of languages, most staff people simply ignored you. There was a definite theme of people sort of looking around in a confused manner, in the entry of some place and being completely ignored by the staff. Or, there were hawkers trying to reel you in to places with there "Sir, Madam, very good, very hungry, Good day" a chatter of broken English.
Somehow this depressed me, as I know I sound about the same when trying to speak Swedish.
I lucked into a copy of 'Time Out' in English at our lunch bar which is how I found the chocolates and wine (Vin and Wonka). I also found some markets, and we tried one, I really wanted to get onto public transport and see another neighborhood. Turned out I shouldn't have bothered. Haggling is conducted of course via a small calculator, even Zok had a hard time since we were dealing with about 200 ft to the AU dollar, and had just been dealing with Macedonian denar. I never get used to 'Oh, 20,000 ft for that jacket? What a good price'. I thought we would find quaint second-hand shops filled with communist era treasure, but what we found was warehouse and warehouses of dollar store items. Later we found out that the market was across the street, but this was just vaguely better quality. Knock off items and second shift items from China mostly.
By the fourth immense warehouse of repeated, fake flowers, odd linens, bizarre jeans and endless stretch pant leggings I felt as if recycling my whole life has been ridiculous and futile.

I would have liked to go further out, there is a summer palace, which can be gotten to by the suburban train line.
The countryside of Hungary has a reputation of being really beautiful.
Zok says 'There is always next time.' but of course Zok's favorite place to go is to a place he has never been before.