Saturday, June 28, 2008

In Theory.

At times, life feels like the stage it is misconceptually shown as. It seems as though even not narrating daily life in my head in a British accent in third person (etcetera) changes the fact that we write and speak as if for an audience somewhere. Maybe we're not aware, or not even being watched, but we still strive to do what we should do to be viewed as the character we would like to be. What brings upon our decision to become who we are? Our environment, whether mental, physical, or something in between is the greatest factor in how we develop in both senses as well. This is how being back in Yugoslavia (fine, former Yugoslavia) is changing me for the better, or so the refined judges of character my conscience and mother are saying.

A factor of change to any individual is the ocean. As vast as it is, and as many of them as we have, none are the same. Salt levels, location, marine life, the list goes on. As humans, we are earth creatures, legs walk on land and not on water. Yet there is still hope for us in the form of swimming and div‌ing with limited underwater breathing and venture. Physically, it promotes good excercise, breathing, and muscle toning and weight loss. Mentally it relaxes, harmonizes, and is the main reason people come to view the living wonder of the shoreline. Fascination of the unknown and curiosity are gut feelings, traits of instinct that many of us lose after childhood or after being exposed to something so often that we take it for granted.

What compels us to search for this is just who we are, and we are born and made to be. The ocean has other health effects thanks to the mineral and salt content the water contains. It restores the moisture balance and shine of your hair, skin, and nails. Medical conditions are cured or greatly aided by contact with the water. Amazing what nature has and gives us, and we ignore for special creams and chemicals and pollute later on one day. We will never realize what we have until we lose it. Maybe now I sound convincing enough of a salesman, but the point of my pondering is more along the lines of telling myself to wake up and listen to what so many people are missing, and I could be missing as well.

And so, dearest journal, I have betrayed you. It's not like it seems, you were enough for me, but then I realized how much I was missing. Words are wonderful, and so are photos, but the creative part of me couldn't stand watching the same format being typed into and altered. There's another journal. A sunshine yellow hardcover lined notebook that will be filled eventually with love. But it won't ever replace you, of course not. You are for written expression, and it will be filled with quotes randomly and cutouts from magaziness, newspapers, and anything 2D and gluable or attachable. It'll work out in the end, I promise; there's enough for two of you, or maybe you will both merge in the end to create something even more wholesome and beautiful.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Seashide Shop Stalls & Such.

If you're going to the beach, in any imaginable country, you have to be prepared. Since Montenegro is one of the hottest places in Europe, there are certain times to avoid the seashore and any broad direct sunlight, unless you want a life destined for sun caused cancer and a cracked paint palette for your skin. After all, I've been to the beach seven times, and I have a noticeable tan after short visits. The best times to go are early in the morning from 6 am to 9 am, or later on in the day from 5 pm to 8pm. Or both, if you have enough time and energy.

Like the standards for living are different, so are the standards for shopping. What ever's trendy and high in demand is sold along the shoreline in shops, boutiques, stalls, on people's car hoods, over ledges, and even on top of boxes when a table seems to be missing. Tourism is the main factor in Montenegro's economy, and with scenery and cultural history naturally abundant everywhere, who could blame foreigners for their interest? I walked by rows of Dolce and Gabbana, Chanel, and Rinno Rossi sunglasses and wondered if counterfeit items would make their way to the stands in a year, or maybe two.

People do what they can to make a living, whether it's jewellery, painting, knitting, or carving stone. Pearls, hematite, shells, coral, wood, metal, hemp and twine, various stones, the list goes on of what is fashioned into accessories and sold for what seems cheap for us. If a pearl necklace (naturally cultivated, but oddly shaped) is 25 dollars, we'd think it was a bargain with the prices we're used to in Canada. But for someone here, it would be a large sum of their monthly earnings, enough to be thought of as a luxury.

As with any shopping trip, however, you have to be constantly on the lookout for good deals and sales. For example, I saw the same bag in two different boutiques; one was 4 euro and the other was 16! That's four times the price in one spot and just goes to show inflation. The shopkeepers on the beachside and market expect you to haggle, in moderation, of course. You can easily get a discount or alter a price with the right attitude and approach.

There is a subtle art to it, and you need to know exactly how to read a shop keeper. I'd say there are only a few simplistic types, and then the complicated mixes that vary and you're better off just paying quietly before you get bitten by something and start a bitter grudge. Whether your vendor can be swayed by the following, you'll only benefit and prosper.

' Two euro? Hmm, I saw it up at so-and-so's flat for 1.5 '
' Oh, there's a rip. Goodness. '
' Tsk, I'm 20 cents short. '
' Since I'm buying a few, is there a discount? '
' How much is this? 7 euro? '

So, dear friends, this summer I'll be furthering my psychological practices for later on in life. Now that's an essential life skill.

- Mirela is still pondering what to buy, where to buy it, and when...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words.

So, when you have a cute little digital camera and millions of opportunities, you're bound to snap a few photos. Today's picks are the small things in life, or things that look small depending on how you look at them. Perspectives that we see in photos and perhaps elsewhere if we try hard enough. Now then, here's four of my little escapades.

This house is so old, it's protected as part of our history by UNESCO.

A cactus flower in bloom. They only last one sunrise and sunset.

Somebody's playing hide and go seek, but not very well.

Life through those eyes would be quite an adventure.

The beaches and scenery everywhere are so beautiful, and yet unvalued because of their everyday occurrences in people's lives here. So, I'll be getting up early soon when the sun is at it's best to capture the exotic snapshots that exist no where else but Montenegro.

- Shutterbug Mirela.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

You Meet Different People in Different Places.

I've been preoccupied these last few days, being a babysitter and maid at the same time. Laundry and squirming siblings nearly choking me, there has been virtually no extra time to get on the computer. It's sunny as ever, but recently it was extremely windy and there was even some thunder, so the electronics were powered down and forgotten until the almost-storm passed.

Luckily, deprivation of internet has led me to have more time to do work. Fun, fun, fun. I met some neighbours of ours the other day. An elderly lady that lets me and my sister and such pass through her huge yard as a shortcut to the beach, a man who has a beautiful garden, and a woman with two kids, both younger than me. I've recently become friends with Barbara, her daughter, through written messages and hand signs. Wait. Hand signs?

You guessed right, Barbara is deaf. She is really clever for her age, about 10, and she can be quite serious and motherly around my little brother, who she plays with but saves from trouble constantly. She can read and write Serbian, and can read lips if you speak slowly. Her mother and her communicate mostly over text messages on their cellphones when not in the vicinity and facing each other to sign, it's quite interesting.

Barbara does have a lot of challenges in her every day life. She goes to school, but there is no special equipment or support for her at all. She struggles with anything besides written or drawn lessons, because of her disability. Just as the technology is behind here, she also lacks any funding from the government, or any chance to receive funding due to ever shifting boundaries and unwilling members of rule.

I can't help but feel sorry for her, she's such a smart kid that could really be something amazing one day if offered the right help. Even so, she braves it with a smile, and is grateful for what she has. Now, off to put the siblings to bed, and tomorrow off to the beach for some recreation!

- Mirela's tired from visiting family all day and yesterday.

Monday, June 16, 2008

It's a Rich Man's World.

The days have whizzed by in flurries of drawings, chores, and work. I guess the ethics around here have rubbed off on me, or maybe they were in my blood, lurking the whole time. And the lifestyle is hardening on your comfort, but makes you really treasure what good you have in the world.

We take things like iPods and computers for granted, when a lot of people don't have bread to eat or even a simple blanket to keep out the cold. Even those with houses and income still work to keep up with taxes, bills, and a thousand expenses every which way.

In Canada, we tend to whine about gas prices, don't we? Everywhere in the world, everything is rising in prices and money is dropping, as economy is bound to turn. I found out something today when walking back from the store that made me shocked.

A euro is about two dollars, give or take a few cents. And gas is measured in litres, here and there.

1.25 EURO for a litre of gas.

That's double the Canadian amount (1.25 dollars or so for a litre), and we're complaining?

Plus, the average working person's salary here is 300 euro per month. Pensions go from 50-100 or so, nothing over. Looking at the lifestyle and prices, it's scary how much people have to pay, and will because they have no other choice. Willful slavery, as my grandmother calls it. Amazing.

- A Mirela getting up early to pick radishes and lettuce from the garden before sunrise tomorrow morning.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Ah, the Airport. How Relaxing.

So here I am, facing the dread of every writer. A diary, or e-blog, as I have unearthed in our little tech-savvy world. Amazing how nearly all great things start with something you wanted to avoid in the first place.

Once I left school, managed to pry myself from the people who clung and cried ((and made me a wonderful surprise party, I love them all to pieces and WILL miss them dearly)), it was back to packing away. In the midst of folding the last bit of randomness for my airplane bag, it struck me just how much everything would be different.

Vancouver has what we call liquid sunshine. In Montenegro, you're lucky to find a liquid in the grocery store, maybe even the public market ((piaza)). Nevertheless, I'd miss my friends far more than I would the weather conditions.

Back to my dilemma of planning; the flight we originally had in mind finished the half circumnavigation of the world in about... a day. Due to new regulations and customs and airplane times, our travel time was now doubled. Two days. Vancouver to Amsterdam to Belgrade (Beograd) to Podgorica.

Well, do you know just how many people in the world are ready for a 48 hour long rendezvous with airports and planes and customs?... I'll get back to you on that. Their birth date isn't for the next hundred years or so, and I'd hate to assume.

Excitement kept me fueled like the sleep I needed so desperately. Coffee just didn't look that appetizing, even with half shut eyelids and slurred speech. The running and jumping after siblings and stray luggage was completely worth it, in the end, as I would soon find out.

Vancouver to Amsterdam ((the Schiphol airport. Pronounced Ship-hell.)) was the longest flight, 9 and a half hours of fun and games on a cramped plane. Once we arrived, dead tired and completely stressed, we had 6 or 7 hours to wait for our next flight. And our plan decided to be late. Sighing and grumbling, the last two planes of an hour or two each, were nothing compared to it.

History wise, this was completely normal and usual for the Skrijelj clan. Every two years, my family goes on a summer visit to Yugosla- former... Yugoslavia to visit relatives and to remind ourselves of our heritage and it's crumbling foundations, and this second year was to be no different. Even with a 9 hour time difference between Vancouver, and myself.

Food and siblings await me, and people who can properly pronounce my last name.

- A moody, sleep-deprived Mirela who dearly misses you all. :)