Wednesday, March 2

lack of color?

Zagreb, Croatia:
A daily market for all of your veggie needs
Grayer than Amsterdam in weather and demeanor, this place appears to be downright somber. The city is so…for lack of a better word, silent. Inanimate. People amble down the street, stone-faced. No one seems to be chatting to each other or on their cell phones. No music plays. Smiles aren't returned. At the street corners and crosswalks, it feels like even daring to speak is going to elicit a glare from your fellow jaywalker. I swear I got hexed by this disgruntled woman on the tram, but all limbs are here and I haven’t sprouted any boils, so that’s cool. There’s just — so many furrowed brows and puckered lips. Kathleen got told off by a man with no legs who was shouting what a terrible place this is to live.  In an anecdote: we headed in to the city center a few hours before our lecture to plod around, maybe warm a bit and grab a cappuccino. We came upon some tented tables off of the main square — “Flowers!” Finally, we found some color and cheer. Then we realized… they were all funeral arrangements. A whole. market. of funeral. arrangements. You can almost feel a lingering, palpable sadness hanging over this place. (Which reminds me: a must read)

But during our class sessions, learning about the societal shifts in the post-war era has been intriguing. For being one of the most Catholic countries in the world — little old ladies selling rosaries on the street corners and all — it seems to be pretty progressive at points. I was surprised to learn that the national queer organization faced no opposition from the government when advertising it’s yearly festival all over the city (one of the largest in Europe). We’ve had a series of lecturers, among them a member of the Parliament, a woman who worked as a counselor with victims of war rape and the president of this super-conservative sex “ed.” organization that is taught in the school systems (tangent: among other things, we learned that premarital sex will cause low-self esteem/guilt complexes in adolescent girls; will lead to the inability to love; will lead to drug abuse… Said educator was all about the procreation and not the recreation. He was armed and dangerous with untranslatable analogies involving pants, pasta and tennis rackets ready to prove his point).

Our floppy spinich/garlic/onion cheesy ravs
We've been cooking up family din for the past few nights in order to hoard our kunas for more important things, i.e pop rock chocolate (!!). There's been SO much chocolate to the face this week (and fun fact: our hostel is next door to a chocolate factory) and there's no sign of slowing. Carbs have also been a central theme of our lives, rounding out this week’s dinner selection with homemade spinach raviolis that, though they may have had the consistency of wet napkins, had bomb filling. And nothing burned, nothing went up in flames and there was no smoke to be seen… so we’ll chalk that up to a small success. Speaking of small successes...  thumbs up for the Rolling Stones on the speakers at this hidden underground club and hearing new REM single coming on at this quaint, smoke-filled cafĂ©. Loves it.

As for our current status — it’s been snowing which nbd, but our plans of leaving tomorrow have been put on hold. A nasty storm is coming and the one road we need to hop on to get out of here will be closed. Kevin, our academic director, is pretty tense. We are supposed to head a bit north of here until our flight to Casablanca on Saturday, so we’ve got a bit of time. You can't bitch about the weather, right? It's like being in New York — throw on an extra layer or six, roll out, and worry when the time comes. But, truth be told, as dandy as my current concrete jungle is I'm definitely looking forward to Morocco and being a biiittt warmer. And maybe petting a camel. And getting scrubbed in a hamam (have mercy on the soul who touches these feet). Etc. Etc. Etc.

On the new itinerary for tomorrow: a visit to the Museum of Broken Relationships (really, REALLY Zagreb?). Should be a real pick-me-up, eh? I look forward more rambling around here before our time is through though. In the past I've very much enjoyed eastern Europe — I've found that really do tend to run into interesting characters along the way... And if you can get past that icy exterior, those interactions can be really incredible...

But, if all else fails... more chocolate can't hurt.

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