Categories Menu

Letters from Slovenia

Letter from Slovenia: 1. Special K and Politics

Posted by on 9:41 pm in Letters from Slovenia | Comments Off

October 26, 2007 This all started when I decided to shed by American induced shudders and buy a blemished granny smith apple here. I have not seen one in years. It was wonderful, much better than the perfect looking mealy balls of green cardboard I have been sampling in the good old U.S. of A. In this, my first foray into a small market, I wanted also to get some cereal. Choices were limited to about 30 options. This is not a complaint: I find this a good contrast to the 300 plus cereal boxes on display in a typical U.S. super market. The...

read more

Letter from Slovenia: 2. Politics and Perfect Presidents

Posted by on 9:42 pm in Letters from Slovenia | Comments Off

November 2, 2007 Slovenia is in the middle of its presidential elections. Voting finished for the first round. A run-off election will occur soon. I am fully aware that, to the political operatives inside the D.C. belt, it’s the United States that has the best democratic system in the world, one so great they would export it – by force, even. They might even believe that Americans have the wondrous opportunity to select the perfect – or maybe just the perfectly groomed – candidate given our much vaunted democratic polity. To them...

read more

Letter from Slovenia: 3. Cultural Universals

Posted by on 9:42 pm in Letters from Slovenia | Comments Off

November 9, 2007 I had given up on social scientists – or anyone for that matter – establishing cultural universals. But my recent bus riding and walking around town prompts me to start a list. Offered also are fledgling theories about these universals and fragments of evidence selected to fit those theories perfectly. Lacking ambition, I have started small: only transportation related phenomena are considered. 1. In the modern era, since paved roads were invented, all road building societies have roads in which puddles form. This may...

read more

Letter from Slovenia: 4. Learning In Another Culture

Posted by on 9:43 pm in Letters from Slovenia | Comments Off

November 16, 2007 Honestly, the title is misleading: it implies that I am learning. The wiggle room I have – to be not caught lying – is to declare that I have learned how little I know and that I am learning at a glacial pace, one so slow that the glaciers will be gone when I reach understanding. I was puzzled about how to dispose of bottles in a responsible fashion here. Trash is picked up at my apartment – daily! But not glass bottles. I punted after noticing, at a local store, a bin with empty glass bottles by a cash register....

read more

Letter from Slovenia: 5. My Promising Career As A Translator

Posted by on 9:43 pm in Letters from Slovenia | Comments Off

November 23, 2007 Observers watching my lessons in Slovene can be excused for thinking that I have the timing and style of a great comic. My teacher is often reduced to uncontrolled – even helpless – laughter on hearing what I say or reading what I write. Laughter helps the world go around and it is said that learning goes well when the learner has a good time. Alas, for me, the learner having a good time does not imply that the learning goes well. (But there are glimmers of hope.) After embarking on learning another language I have...

read more

Letter from Slovenia: 6. Why I Love Being In Slovenia

Posted by on 9:44 pm in Letters from Slovenia | Comments Off

November 30, 2007 People notice I love being here. There is curiosity about my reasons. Or, as one of you put it “What’s with you and this thing you have with Slovenia?” The metaphysical answer is this: If I believed in re-incarnation, then in a prior life I lived here and so feel very much at home. Granted, my current efforts to learn the language belie this notion but no-one has said that the karma driving all the forms of reincarnated beings implies everything from the prior life is carried forward. While it is easy for me to give reasons...

read more

Letter for Slovenia: 7. Learning, Causality And Politics

Posted by on 9:45 pm in Letters from Slovenia | Comments Off

December 7, 2007 While diligent in learning Slovene, I thought that, while slow, I was making progress. I can say “Rad bi dvojno kavo in kozarec vode, prosim” and be understood most of the time. (“I would like a double espresso and a glass of water, please.”) I can even say “Greva na kavo!” an invitation “Let’s go for a coffee!” which actually uses the subtle and clever duo mode (a state between the ‘one’ and the ‘many’). If I am feeling especially perky, as I was before my public lecture, I can say “Gremo naprej!” (Let’s move forward!)  But...

read more

Letter from Slovenia: 8. Thoughts On Fundamental Mistakes

Posted by on 9:45 pm in Letters from Slovenia | Comments Off

December 13, 2007 Living, albeit briefly, in another land brings surprises that change perspectives. This letter concerns some of them as they relate to fundamental mistakes. 1. Your first fundamental mistake might be your decision to read this letter. Certainly, I could be generous and excuse you for thinking this is the case – but stopping reading could be your next fundamental mistake. 2. Travel guides make a fundamental mistake by including, usually at the back, some sentences for travelers in lands where another language is spoken. I...

read more

Letter from Slovenia: 9. In Praise of Simple Things

Posted by on 9:46 pm in Letters from Slovenia | Comments Off

December 21, 2007 Sometimes in the frenetic pace of modern life, we are so locked into routines that we see little but those routines, routines that can become ‘life’ itself. But what if we could step out of them and take time to notice simple things, things so simple that they have ceased to be noteworthy? Here are some examples that I have had the good fortune to notice and appreciate while here. Yes, I admit that it seems that I have gone soft in the head. 1. The word, in Slovene, is ‘ivje’ which I translate into ‘frozen fog’. (The...

read more

Letter from Slovenia: 10. Thoughts on Gendered Nouns

Posted by on 9:46 pm in Letters from Slovenia | Comments Off

December 28, 2007 English nouns are simple. A house is a house, a car is a car, and a mouse is a mouse. (I will ignore the inconvenient fact that the plural of house is ‘houses’ while ‘mice’ is the plural of mouse. To quote the ‘decider’: “I never let facts get in my way.”) My struggles with Slovene have taken me into the realm of gendered nouns. I had encountered them in school studying French. So I knew (as far as I can recall, perhaps incorrectly,) ‘la chat’ means that ‘cat’ is female while ‘le chein’ means dogs are ‘male’. This never made...

read more

Letter from Slovenia: 11. Identity, Place and Two Homes

Posted by on 9:50 pm in Letters from Slovenia | Comments Off

January 3, 2008 Thinking about ‘Who am I?’ seems the ultimate form of narcissistic foolishness. Yet I am forced to venture here by two things: 1) I am having a wonderful time in Slovenia and 2) I will soon be returning ‘home’. For most people, the latter should matter more. Yet, I am, at best, ambivalent about leaving here to return to America. Hence the struggle to figure out what is going on in my mind and, perhaps more importantly, my heart. When I return to the United States – for which the term ‘Disunited States’ now looks more...

read more

Letter from Slovenia: 12. Items for a Final Exam

Posted by on 9:54 pm in Letters from Slovenia | Comments Off

January 7, 2008 Yes, it’s final exam time and there will be an exam. Still in great spirits after the New Year celebrations, I will answer the first for you, but for the rest, you are on your own. We were in a fancy restaurant where, to my amusement, I watched wait-people set silver-ware with a white glove on one of their hands. Question 1. Is this because: a) Their right hands are sweaty and using bare hands will lead to corrosion of the silver utensils? b) The work is so stressful that wait-people develop eczema on one hand? c) It is a left...

read more