Thursday, July 31, 2008

Fields of Green.

I've recently been writing mostly about differences. Differences because we see similarity every single day in our lives when we are situated in a country such as Canada. Writing about the similarities would show no cultural diversity, and seem useless of one to do.

And so, while Canada is a green country, Montenegro in many ways is much more green. Not just economically, but also in the fact that nearly everyone in a non-concrete jungle city has a huge garden or fields and tends to grow a lot of their own food and crops. Even those in apartment buildings have flowers and small potted plants creeping along their windowsills and balconies.

So, with a large house and an even bigger two level yard, we have crops, trees, plants, bushes, and roots galore. The entirety of the land is covered inch by inch of used soil and fertilizer. Olive trees, pomegranate trees, fig trees, palm trees, apricot trees, tangerine trees, orange trees, mandarin trees, peach trees, lemon trees, and cherry trees can be found in the vicinity of my two houses here. Grape vines, watermelons, tomatoes, onions, squash, peppers, string beans, radishes, potatoes, carrots, parsley, and various sorts of green leafy vegetables and cabbages.

The rule here is, if you want to eat it and you can grow it, you should. In fact, most people grow as much as possible of something and then sell large quantiteies of their fresh goods and produce at an outdoor or indoor market called a pijaca (a plaza of sorts, pronounced PEA-YAH-TSUH). Whatever doesn't grow in your garden, you buy from there and continue on with your life. Most grocery stores don't stock produce for this reason, unless they're a green produce store and specify in this field of work.

In fact, you can find anything home made/grown/cultivated at the pijaca. Anything from cheese, milk, milk products, breads and pastries, eggs, fish, ducklings, little chickens, and other meat. While there still is butcher's stores and bakeries, the majority of people's earnings here are from something material to sell that they have aided in the process of creating.

The people are also extremely friendly, and you can easily barter prices, get deals and bargains, buy bulk, sample, and make a lot of new aquaintances and connections. In a way, the experience is a lot more fulfilling than walking to your local Superstore or Save On Foods (or driving, even worse) and picking up a carton of eggs and a pack of carrots with little to no inter-action and no social time whatsoever. I wonder if there's anything like a pijaca in Canada...?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Snip Snip Snip.

Hopefully I haven't scared you off with my perfume ramblings, have I? Nonsense, you're a journal, you don't get scared. I still am delving deeper into the world of perfume, and enjoying every minute of it. It makes me glad to fit in with a world of wonderful choices and superb availability here in Europe. It's perfume paradise.

Anyways, times change. And while some of my tastes remain similar, some sadly like to be sly little foxes and deviate my idea of acceptable. In other words, I got tired of my haircut. So, me and my dear auntie went to the nearby city of Bar after arranging an appointment at a well known salon. Two buses later, we hopped into a quaint looking kitschy place that radiated and oozed warmth and friendy manners.

I wasn't let down in the least. I sat, listing through magazines, wondering what I would decide to chop off, smooth out, and spike. But, as far as I will experiment in the world of scent, my hairstyles are never extreme. So I explained nicely, take two or three inches off the bottom, trim the long bangs in the front just a little bit shorter, but keep the volume. With a concise nod, the hairdresser set to work.

With lavishly washed hair that smelled like peaches and apricots (I adore peaches and apricots), she trimmed with the steadiest and quickest hand I've ever known a person to able to do. She sculpted my wavy, poofy, and yarn like hair into sleek silky shine. It was amazing, watching her work, and I wanted to grovel at her feet and beg to learn her magic touch and techniques. Well, almost.

I left the salon 8 euros and what seemed like a kilogram lighter. I was also feeling radiant and extremely happy, having spritzed on Gucci Envy Me earlier on in the day. And that was true, I envied myself, and I'm sure some of the girls who looked over at my satin locks envied me too. The towns and cities here are much lighter in a way, less polluted from the outside world and yet pristinely informed of what they are in the middle of in.

I wandered around town, looking through boutiques and remembering the times with the satin dress and ridiculous prices of fashionable clothes. Was I ever glad my splurging days were over. I bought a cup of yoghurt and a portion of burek (amazing food that it is, phillo pastry or thinly rolled dough wrapped or layered around fillings, which can be anything from feta cheese, ground meat, mushrooms, spinach, grated potatoes, etc) and rejoiced in the moment.

After half an hour, the heat wave started to progress, and the temperature went from the usual 36 to higher, and my poor temples were starting to feel it. I ducked in the shade as me and my auntie got a ride home from my grandfather, and vowed to explore more of the town the next opportunity I got, to fully be able to write about everything that can be found in it.

So, maybe five back massages later and ten pretty pleases will I be able to saunter off with my aunt and continue my journey through the concrete forests of Bar.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Eau de... Toilet? Wait, that says Toilette. Phew.

Browsing the streets along the beach for bargains and deals is one of the most fun things a girl (or guy, not judging) can do to occupy themselves. Now while there are tons of designer ' inspired ' articles, handmade works of art, paintings, clothes and accessories, there is one market that drives everybody insane.

No, not the questionable films and music market. The fragrance market. In every corner of a reputable shop, you will find a nice and wide selection of fragrances for you to purchase. Perfume in ranges from famous designer label creations to sickly home concotions of lesser known chemists. There's a scent for everyone. Or two. Or three...

I was never a stranger to the world of smell. It has always been one of the deciding factors in whether or not I like or despise something. As a kid I always preferred the option that smelled better, and held my noise when I walked by trash cans. And even though I had terrible allergies, I sniffed every flower and blade of grass marginally possible, explaining my red cheeks and puffy eyes each day.

Back to the shops after a day of beach visits, you take in labels and pictures and shiny embellishments that catch your eye with the promise of appealing. ' Buy mee, you won't regret it, come on one whiff and you're gonna be hooked, I swear! ' And so, package by package called my name as I listed and breezed through boxes and glass vials.

Guerlain, Givenchy, Dior, Chanel, Escada, Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana, the list continued through ages of well known creators. I nodded back and forth, sampling Kenzo and Thierry Mugler and wrinkling my nose at Vera Wang and Nina Ricci. Sweet, sweet, too overpoweringly sticky and sugary. Oh no, don't get me wrong. I like my dose of girly... But not powderpuff cavities, thank you much. I prefer spicy and ambery orientals, bitter or cleaner gourmands, lighter and breezier florals, the odd chypre or subtle musk.

Perfume is a huge hit in trends and fashion, but it also has a huge psychological effect on people and animals. If someone smells bad, you're not going to hang around them for long, are you? Smell is the most primal attraction we have in association with places, people, things, everything around us. So a good fragrance can sometimes be all you need for a trip down memory lane, or a cause for later visits.

And that, dearest journal, is how I became a perfumista. There's people who like perfume, and there's people who absolutely love and adore it. I just so happen to fall into the latter category, and have recently started hunting for information about how fragrances are made and their effects (psychology is a wonderful obsession of mine). How the top, heart, and base notes will play off each other wonderfully in a symphonious depiction almost like music, or will clash like banging metal pans with wooden spoons means the world to people like me. The fun has just started.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Double Trouble.

Hello world! I woke up this morning with a new perspective on my life, probably influenced from last night's binge of herbal teas and late morning novels. As we all know, I'm a bibliophile who lives to flip through the pages of anything paperbound. I seem to have this in common with my grandmother and mother, who both adore literature to the ends of the Earth. And so, I went raiding, raiding the bookshelves.

I found a copy of Ann Frank's diary and a book called Us Kids From The Station Zoo by Christiane F in Serbian, and read them both. It was slightly strange not reading in English as usual, but the books were amazing none the less. While the first is known worldwide and read by everyone, the second is quite non marketed, and that makes me sad. The two girls are both around the same age, though Christiane's struggles are through a longer time period as well as her less fatal outcome, and they both have the same painfully honest and moody temperamental point of view.

In fact, the books themselves have so many similarities between themselves, and are written in such a way that I can agree with the feelings shown and sympathize with the girls, even though I am nowhere near the events happening and will thankfully never see them. Ann Frank's diary was a shocking look into the world of the reign of Hitler, even if she was in Holland. Her Jewish title gets her into a complicated mess, and a life that no one her age should ever deserve.

I was so glad that the hypocrisy of that war was over, and I lived enough of it in Ann's pages of grief, turmoil, and small joys in the cruel captive state she was in. I recommend it to anyone ages 7 to 107, who hasn't read it. Now, Christiane was in a different sort of battle. She was a young girl in Berlin around the time of 1978 who became a drug addict, and fell into the clutches of heroin. Christiane was dragged into it by her social groups, and stayed in it because of her want to be equal with a boy she adored.

Love sucks sometimes, huh Christiane? The book was a emotional rollercoaster through her self discovery and the disgusting truth behind drugs, what people do to get them, and what withdrawal from not just drugs, but everything you have ever known feels like. The two tales had the same underlying themes and made me wonder why some of us were so fortunate and abused our privileges while others had no choice but to suffer and to go through worse times than we will ever know.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Tide Is High.

Where there is an ocean, there is always somebody swimming in it, even in the Arctic. So in a place with such a hot climate and wonderful shoreline views, obviously the beaches here are crowded and full, at every twist and turn. Even around 6 am and 8 pm, there's always a multitude of people everywhere.

Armed with a beach bag full of towels, water bottles, sunblock, sunglasses and clothing, you start your venture down to the sandy waters. Depending on the wind, or lack of it, the ocean will either be full of waves and warm and probably full of seaweed or cold and still. The best swims are unbelievably in medium temperature and temperament waters, so you don't freeze or die of boredom.

Once down the stairs from the beachside road and stores, you can literally taste the ocean (probably some lady's obnoxious perfume too) and the sand will feel amazing on your skin, barefoot or not. Smart people wear functional easy to undo and put back on clothes and utilize this to their advantage. And then there's some people who decide not to take their clothes off and jump in fully dressed.

If you're anything like me, you don't care so much about what other people will see you as, and focus your time on having as much fun as possible. From running after siblings to swimming to the ferry boat dividend line, there is no time to stop and sunbathe until I'm out of the water for good and drying off. I mean, I tan in the shade with SPF 75, I don't need to concentrate time and effort on something that will happen naturally and shouldn't be forced.

Tired and washed out (no pun intended) I pack up the towels and slip on my clothes, only to trek up a flight of stairs, and either up a steep hill to the ancient car, or walk the 15 minutes back home depending on my disposition. The car, maybe I've informed you of, is a legendary work that my grandfather has had probably since before I was born. It's been through countries and moves and illegal illicit treks of all sorts (which I'm not supposed to know about, but do anyways).

I wish the beaches in Canada, or Vancouver rather, were as fulfilling as the ones here. I suppose I'll have to settle for what we have, but still enjoy fond memories of coastlines and painted skies back in my homeland on the side. After all, everyone is biased in thinking that where they are from is obviously better than somewhere else in the world, a little bit of nationalism and patriotic spirit in everybody. Especially if you're from a place with a gorgeous view and environment, like me. See, there's that silly little bias already. Speaking of beaches, I'm off to one right now. Toodles!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Sweet Life.

As most people would know, bed time for people my age and around there is 10 pm. While our life stops there, the life on the streets is just getting started. Going out for even a walk by the beach after those hours involves a buddy or a few buddies, top notch clothing, and a clear attitude. Whether you're headed to a nightclub or just a shore line cafe, the rules are the same.

Even individuals far past their teenage years will avoid going out alone, because company, while easily found, is as easily lost. So to ensure safety, comfort, and popularity, groups and flocks are a must. Fashionable clothing in Europe is high quality and high price, so what you wear is essential in your presentation.

After all, in a world where you are judged by one look (possibly more once found intriguing) your appearance is what will allow you to be remembered in a positive way, or leave an impression of disregard and such on other's minds. That leads into attitude, with what kind of air you carry yourself.

Confidence is a must-have accessory everywhere you go, especially during summer. Whether you act cutesy, sultry, charming, aloof, or even crazy, you have to be sure of yourself. My friend Marija, who I ventured outside with, lives in Britain (she comes here to visit her homeland and go on vacation, like I do) and has a lot of experience with how to act and persuade in the night scene.

So, my knack for psychology (it was not flirting, it was psycho-analysis and careful study of human character) and her knowledge of this disco light and cocktail filled universe got us through the hours and minutes where we felt like people weren't staring but instead boring holes into us with their eyes or the moments where we didnt't know what to talk about so instead sipped at our soda water with lemon and quietly nodded in silent agreement.

Maybe, dear journal, I'm writing myself a guide on how to lead and relive my life someday, not just a day to day and thought by thought write up and I don't even know it. Careful memories packed in scraps of paper and flitting thoughts, snatches of music that seem familiar but aren't recalled until something triggers them once again. While life progresses, the lights turn off outside and the ideas start to flow along with the drinks and shining lights.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Money Doesn't Grow On - Waiiit.

Montenegro happens to be a strange country in the terms of merchandise. On one hand, you have the cheap designer knock-off versions that line the streets and beaches, and on the other you have expensive actual designer fare imported from Italy, France, Britain, and other countries. You can often find the same thing, or similar, from 310 euros to 30, depending on where you look and how you look for it. So.. why pay so much for something so interchangeable?

For starters, fashion is huge almost anywhere in the world, especially in Europe. In this area, people are usually model skinny, so they have to keep up the rest of the model image by dressing and acting like models. After all, the more you're exposed to such a factor, the more you will start picking up from it. Soon it'll invade your thoughts and drive you to such madness about it that it's all you have on your mind and start living the lifestyle that is being pushed towards you.

The material world opened more of it's cruel petals to me earlier today, when I went shopping with a recent friend of mine my age from Britain. (Why yes, I did adopt her accent for the occasion!) With only so much allotted money and such high prices, we were wary where to drop our hard earned money and break down and buy things. Versace and Dolce tempted us, but we kept straight faces until it happened.

In seconds, my 50 euros were gone. Hello new shiny satin and silk dress with a white background, black flowers and trim and yellow decoration that fit like a charm, wore like a breeze, and was worth every penny of the hundred or so dollars it cost. Now, people stopped and agreed that wow, that dress was gorgeous, especially on me, and it made me feel like a million dollars, until I got the spending money critique from mother dearest (ouch). This would all be fine if it weren't for one thing.

Wait... dress? I wear dresses? Since when??? I confused myself with my new pick much more than the rest of my shorts, pants, capris wardrobe. It was almost an alien choice, like the eager look of the saleswoman and my friend's urges weren't the only thing telling my mind to say those fateful words and take the dress home. Oh no, I watched it in slow motion in my mind, handing the bills over and receiving a neat little card and bag and walking out the door feeling a changed woman. Strangely enough, I felt no regret or remorse, and accepted the criticism, slipping the dress on and exclaiming that I might as well wear it if it cost so much, after all it is summer and you wear such dresses during summer, right?

And now, as I pat down the outer layer and fix my wedges to get ready to go out with my friend again. Ah, seaside snack bars and such await us to pretty ourselves up, put on some feel good clothes, and step out into the swarm of other people enjoying themselves when you can. You only live once, and one splurge item won't break the bank. As I have no better choice, I will stay the careful consumer I am, and carefully tread on the path of indulgence. Sounds good, now about those sunglasses by the beach...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Its Hot-Hot-Hot.

Well, it's gotten to the point of how an average summer day here differs from an average summer day back home in Canada. For starters, the temperatures are miles apart. In BC, we think that 30 degrees is enough for us to immerse ourselves in ice and not come out. Here, the ocean temperature is easily 30 degrees and higher, and the regular temperature is around 40 to 50 degrees, higher in some cities like Podgorica, and regulated by the ocean in places like Sutomore where I live.

People have ingenius ways of avoiding the heat; and some methods which can be found questionable. Staying inside and finishing house work during the climax of the sun's rays, or sitting in the shade and enjoying a small breeze are the easiest. Some people go to work, or hop down to the beach and take a quick swim (too long and the UV rays will get you, even with glops of sunscreen). Fans, spray bottles, cotton cloths around shoulders, anything and everything.

You get used to the scorching hot heat after a while, and the tan that comes even with all avoidance of sunlight and warmth. In fact, many people embrace the warmth and use it to their advatage. No, I'm not talking about ice cream vendors or water slide operators, which are pretty well off in these kind of places.

Solar power.

As much as we'd like to consider ourselves environmentally sound, this is only the beginning of the restorative measures we need to take. Here, electricity is expensive, so is water and internet and cable, so people do what they can to avoid these costs. Positively using the resources given to them. Solar panels installed on roofs and solar powered lights, it's a new wave in power.

People pay less, use less, harness more, gain more, so why wouldn't they? It's an amazingly smart approach to bettering the world, and saving more money. Then, there's public transport. Your average person, any age or vitality, will walk almost anywhere. Tightly knit communities and safe streets, no drug addicts or homeless people littering the grounds. Also, buses and trains and bicycles are a cheaper and easier alternative to driving by yourself, and there's also carpooling.

With the cost of essentials here, especially petrol and electricity, you can't afford to waste anything you have, or spend money aimlessly. Sometimes I feel awkward knowing how little the people here have, and yet appreciate it so much more, and then what we have and take for granted in comparison. This nation is happy, amidst all the troubles and wars it has gone through.

It almost, dear journal, makes me jealous...

Monday, July 7, 2008

Confluence of Sound.

No matter how big the feud or dispute between two countries in Europe, they are brought together by a wonderful yearly event called Eurovision. In other words, it's a song competition where each registered nation in the continent sends in a person to sing a song and dance around and represent what their country thinks is music, and may or may not be just that. (No doubt that politics and money have a say in this, but shhh, I like to pretend all is well and fair in that which I can't change).

And so, it starts; the mad scramble to top the music charts is off, from years of experience, plaguerism and one point differences, the battle is on. Whether a country's song is in their native language, in English, or a mix, is completely up to what they think will earn them a place in the finals. Voting takes place first by SMS or text messages in each country to select a song, and then a panel of judges from each country will give a certain amount of points to the selected songs in the official Eurovision contest.

Last year, Serbia won, and I was extremely glad because Marija Serifovic, the singer, was one of my favourites. Since Eurovision was hosted in Serbia this year, Serbia couldn't win again, even though multiple countries and thousands of people worldwide adored Jelena Tomasevic's voice and song. Oh well, you win some and then you lose some.

A little friendly competition tends to bring people together, and in the midst of heated rivalry, voters and onlookers share wonderfully diverse views and strange opinions that cause debate or new aquaintances. As the contest progresses, rankings shift in the blink of an eye and leads are soon lost with a new turn of events.

And as soon as it's over, next year's contest is being prepared for and plotted for. It's a vicious circle, ladies and gentlemen, and all of Europe is hooked and tumbling along for the ride willingly. The best part is always searching up the winning songs, the songs that nearly made it, and gossiping about singers and their silly little ideas. Such is the spirit of Eurovision.

Friday, July 4, 2008

When Cleavage Comes To Mind...

...I think of quartz crystals. As a child, I was an avid rock collector. All shapes, sizes, textures, constitutions, origins, everything that appealed to me was scooped up and given a home in an ever growing box of my little treasures.

Even now, I still am influenced by my childhood games, and I constantly notice certain rocks that appeal to me. Luckily, in Yugoslavia, there isn't only oceans, there's rocks everywhere. On the mountains, nearby cities, and by the seashore. And not just your usual grey, round, found by the pound stones.

Instead, the most amazing colours and designs on structures of all sorts. It's a treasure mine sitting next to a azure landscape, and after a good swim it's back to sitting and searching. The tides wash away sand and bring them up to the surface, glimmering like jewels and lost conquests of the ages.

The results of my labor were worth the strolls along the shoreline, squinting and tossing back rock after rock of dejected fare. So, along with fragmented sea shells, I packaged them up in a towel and brought them home, only to face a dilemma.

After the water had dried, which in this heat is seconds, they looked bland and uninteresting. The richness of colour and texture had vanished with the moisture. Forlornly, I dumped the pile in a pan of water and sat there, staring at it. What was a girl to do?

I wanted them to stay in their pristine state of perfection for everyone to be able to see how wonderful they were. Oh well, nothing stays beautiful forever, as so says the most basic law of nature. But then again, there was always a way to cheat.

And so with a bright idea and free time on my hands, I grabbed a bottle of clear nail polish and set to work. The results were wonderful, and I congratulated myself on completing the task at hand. Oh bother, if only now there wasn't so many rocks I liked, and so little nail polish...

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Make Up Your Face, Make Up Your Mind.

My recent days of theory and mature thinking brought me to browsing through a environmentally friendly blog, and then to something that made me completely change my views in something that most live for, about the ugly side of being beautiful.

With any normal standard of living, we're all consumers. Since most women like to shop, and shop we do, we have to have something that no matter who we are we agree on. Not all women like dresses, tanktops, or jewellery. But almost every female being with money in her hands will go out and purchase cosmetics. Face washes, scrubs, moisturizers, lipstick, mascara, magical creams and treatments that enhance and cover up our flaws and assets. While we're smearing on our daily sun protection or spritzing citrus perfume into the air, what we don't realize is everything that we're adding to ourselves is slowly breaking us down and toxifying what we are and will be. There's probably more chemicals, harmful ones or not, in your average makeup bag in a North American's stash than in our school science lab! We wear gloves and masks and aprons to work with those, using metal tongs and glass beakers, and here we are dipping our fingers and covering our faces with the very vile essences. I was taught formaldehyde was used to preserve dead bodies, not to cover clothing for a soft and clean finish!!!

Now, where do I come into the picture? I'm a teenage girl with interest in dressing up sometimes, so naturally I'll go to a store, pick up a tube of mascara that looks appealing or promising and purchase it. And then use it. Over and over until it's gone. Seems simplistic. But, one day I started to wonder, what do they put in those products that I so eagerly befriend and rely on? I did some research, and I left the webpage disgusted, and contemplating to TRASH every single piece of cosmetic toiletry I owned. The only exceptions were the organic, cruelty free, and natural items my mother had bought. Picked out from rows of over-commercialized tubes and plastic cancer containers that lured with promises of volume, sex appeal, and fullness. They have us on a tight leash, the cosmetics industry, and we don't even know it.

And then, there's Europe. While in North America we're powdering ourselves to our demise, our friends and my relatives can buy the same product and have no worries about side effects or poisons in their system. It seems ridiculous and all I could utter was... why? It turns out that Europe has strict regulations for all cosmetics and products meant for human use. Anything considered a carcinogen or harmful is banned on the spot, and taken out of use immediately. A database of chemicals commonly found in cosmetics also had a very interesting fact in the point that it said in America, there is a grand total of 10 chemicals banned from use in personal care products. In Europe there is over 1,100! A real eye opener and shocker. Isn't the point of testing and making products to have them be SAFE and effective? Because no matter how ignorant they take us for being, someone will find out and make a change.

So I joined a few of these websites and campaigns and signed up for newsletters informing me of how things were going along. For now, their focus is personal care products, but the stretch of disgusting chemicals and toxins spreads to toys, accessories, clothing, even the air we breathe is contaminated. Mercury, nano particles, phtalates (guaranteed to turn your baby boys into baby girls), petrochemicals, lead acetate (completely safe, of couurse), hydroquinine, and wait... does that say... placenta? Ew. I'd rather have never found out and kept myself in the area of mindless brainwashing I was in earlier. I know where I'm doing my make up shopping from now on, good old heavy metal toxic waste free Europe. Because I can buy the same name brand make up for half the price, and less than 95% of the chemicals. A bargain in the consideration of your life.

Use daily shouldn't be dangerous advice. So next time, before you push the trigger on that bottle, think. It won't be a gunshot, but a slow and painful death of mutation and sickness. Still want to wear any given lipstick? I salute you, and hope one day, maybe, you'll learn, like I did.