Friday, March 20, 2009

Good Fences Don't Always Make Good Neighbors

So we're walking to the police station to update Husband's ID card. About a block away from the police station, we notice that all of the spindles from this guy's stainless steel perimeter fencing have been cut.

We asked a friend of ours who knows this guy, what happened? Aparently, during the night - someone came and cut all of the spindles and stole them. The fence had been there a week or two.

I guess that whoever stole them felt that they deserved the pieces more than the ONE WHO PAID FOR THEM!

The thinking might have been along these lines:

Neighbor A can afford a stainless steel fence;

I can't afford/don't want to pay for a stainless steel fence;

Since neighbor A bought a stainless steel fence once and if I take some of the pieces....he probably has enough money to replace them

Ergo...everybody wins.

On the issue of crime in Croatia...I would say that it is relatively low. I had a much higher chance of being wacked on the head by a lead pipe while we lived in Washington DC than I do here - where it is almost nil.

When crime happens in Croatia - it's almost always of the white collar variety (read: ripping people off for 1 kuna or 1 million kuna). The logic: You have a lot....and I have little (but somehow manage to have properties all over the county), therefore, you should give me what you have.

I'll give you another recent example.

In February, Croatia hosted the World European Handball Championship and Zadar was among the list of cities which held the games. While one would think that this would be a big deal for a small town....thousands of foreigners descending in the fact, most restaurants remained closed (because it's the off season, silly). So, thousands of tourists were roaming around...had nowhere to go....nothing to see. That's the backdrop.

A little restaurant/bar that we frequent discussed their plans with us for capitalizing on the event. The Plan: Charge the tourists 10 euros for what costs the locals half. The rationale that they gave us....˝well, Germans are used to spending that on lunch...˝

Meaning, you have more....therefore you should pay more. I have less....therefore I should pay less....

Welcome to peasant economics.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I Heart Croatia

I am asked 70 times a day ˝how do you like living in Croatia˝ and you bet your ass, the answer is ALWAYS an emphatic ˝it's super to live here.˝ Anything less enthusiastic would be taken as an insult and frankly, people don't really care about my true answer, anyway. Just like people don't really want to know your life story when they ask, ˝how are you today?˝

Nevertheless, I am asked this question all the time - no matter how inappropriate the when I'm at the hospital and bleeding... ˝....uh, yeah...Croatia's great...just great˝ as paint is chipping off the walls and the nurse is trying to insert an IV while WEARING NO GLOVES and I've just seen her work on two other people in the room in the same way...

I definately went through a period where it wasn't a total lie .... and everything WAS super, to me. But that time is behind me. Now, I see everything - warts and all - and the place is slightly less charming to me than it was initially but ....BUT ...I still miss it when I go away.

But the truth is, I have a love-hate relationship with Croatia-as do most people who actually live here. My husband, a Croatian, calls it death by a thousand papercuts. Basically what he means is that there is so much absurdity that you either grow a sense of humor or you go nuts.

Like everyplace, Croatia has good aspects and bad aspects. From my perspective,

the good aspects are...

  • It has a mediterranean climate and culture very similar to the images that North Americans have with regard to Italy....good genes, hot-blooded (n'er I say, tempermental?), love to eat and sing and drink ...all of that.
  • You can let your kids run around without fearing that some pervert is going to molest or kill them.
  • The environment is beautiful and the sea is unpolluted. In fact, the tourism bureau's tagline is The Mediterranean As It Once Was - and that's true, for the time being, anyway
and the bad aspects are....

  • oh, well there's a pretty substantial problem with corruption perpetrated by the likes of little old ladies up to high government officials.
  • Culturally, it's an incomprehensible mix of communist mentality which tells them that everybody owns everything and nothing at the same time - so nobody takes any responsibility for anything. At the same time, they have a dose of capitalist greed that would make Ivan Boesky blush. It's like the wild west on the sea.
  • We live in Zadar, which has had two significant waves of peasant migrations from the surrounding villages to the city. OMG...painfully.raw.people. Some of them, anyway. That's not to say that there are no intelligent, decent people in Zadar. Quite the contrary, they are here but harder to find. Now, one of you Zagrepčani will ask me - what did you expect...I'll tell you, if you think that Zagreb is like 100 times better than Zadar...think again. I would say that it's 20% better. Sorry, Zagreb. I know that you think you're so great and sophisticated but as far as world cities go, you're pretty lame. Someone asked me why we didn't move to Zagreb. My response to them was ˝if I wanted to live in a serious city, I would have stayed in Washington...˝ meaning, Zagreb.ain't.all.that. I'll take the peasant rawness over the Zagreb's unwarrented attitude problem any day of the week.
You see my point.

In the end, it doesn't matter what I think...I'll be buried here.

How's that for Slavic thinking!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sidewalk Repair

So, the crack engineers at the city are repairing the sidewalks in preparation for the season (why else would they repair anything in this town but for the tourists). It took 4 grown men a full workday to patch a 1-square meter crack in the sidewalk. Instead of erecting normal barriers to prevent idiots from stepping all over the wet cement, they have arrived at a different creative solution which is to suspend a piece of old wood, balanced on two stones at each end - like a balance beam that's 4 inches off the ground. Of course, this acts like a magnet for the Zadar youth who waste no time to dance in, write their names on & carve inappropriate pictures into the wet cement for all to see for eternity.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Thumbs Up, Dalmacija!

It's on days like today that I love living in Dalmacija. Pefect human temperature and sunny skies. Frankly, I could do without the urban peasants caterwauling outside, but one can't have everything in life. And since today is a weekday, the cafes will all be full of hard-working Zadrani. At moments like that, it's hard not to remember the Jutarnnji List article which cited a study whose punchline was that the average Croatian works all of 3.8 hours per day (if you are able to read Croatian, see,2,20,,153080.jl). And I believe it. And before you attribute my observation to my own North American puritanism, I'll note that even the Argentinian transplant who works at Rustica mentioned in conversation that she's noticed that Croatians don't really like to work too much. Baš tako.

Shame On Me

Holy cow, have I been a terrible blogger...

I'll do better. BUT, in my defense - 2008 was the WORST YEAR OF MY LIFE...pretty much top to bottom. So there.