Yes, it's been ages.
So it's been just over 6 months since I left America. The moment passed without ceremony.
I've called this post snapshots becuase so many things have happened I've become overwhelmed. Like a wave tumbling over itself, life in Slovenia has a way of overtaking my reporting. So to make sense of it all, I'll just post a bunch of flashing images (using words, so epileptics need not worry).
Easter came and went with flowers blooming and bells ringing. The church bells rang out the Easter message with such gusto that it broke into a crazy synchopated rhythm, like an eclesiastical Scott Joplin piece. The priest has been known to go about on rollerskates. Once he was seen on a unicycle.
While snow still sits subborn on the mountains, the meadows are so typically Alpine that I feel they must be kidding. The cows and sheep are out, Sabina and Igor walking their herd past Frank's house in the evening and it is truly a sight to behold. All the farmers collect their cows at the same time, so the streets are full of them, splitting off into their own homes en route.
I took the bus to Radovlica to begin the process of getting my Slovenian ID. It's a bureaucratic monster, involving proof of everything, but it went fairly well. The only thing I was missing was proof of medical insurance. "I tried but couldn't get any as a tourist," said I. "You can't get an ID without it," said she. I was going to say Chicken and Egg, but bringing poultry into this wasn't going to help.
She made a phone call and said that the company down the road would sell me some, so off I went. I bought 2 months for 100 euros, so now the world can inflict 40,000 euros of damage to me and it'll bounce right off, insured, as I am, for the first time in 14 years. I feel invincible.
Armed with a bullet-proof insurance policy, she stamped things and filed things and said it's done. All I do now is wait to see if the government wants someone like me. "Do I have to go live in Austria if they say no? I asked. No, she said, you can stay. It's Europe.
The ID is useful if you want to do anything more than smell the flowers and marvel at the cows, so fingers crossed.
Sabina gave me a patch of ground to grow things, so I have crops! Untill they came up, all I had done was bury someone's lunch. I planted some potatoes and onions. A week ago they emerged, and it was cigars all round. Crops. I'm ridiculously excited by my few veggies, partly because I am growing food in the shadow of snow-capped mountains, and partly because they are mine, and they are growing. A new life in Slovenian soil, done by me. Apposite or what.
Tourists are here and the chicken van has arrived near the house. The van sells cooked chicken, salad, chips (fries) and all sorts of convenient things. More important than nearby cooked food, Ali and Melita who run the van have befriended Tyson and come out to give him dog biscuits whenever we wander past. They are typical of Slovenians: Good people who love Tyson's quiet warmth. He's made so many friends here. He's put on some weight too, which is no bad thing. He's always been streamlined and a very fussy eater. He's happy.
I sit on my balcony and look out on the church, the farm, the emerging alpine spring, and I'm happy too. Deep down happy. This is a good place, a slightly surreal place that at times is like Willoughby. If you are unfamilliar with Willoughby, goto Youtube and look for "A Stop at Willoughby," and you'll get what I mean. The place where you want to get off the train and just stay.
A Slovenian lady has been waving at me through the window of her house for months. In another place you would think that she knows me, or that she has mistaken me for someone else. Last week she was in her garden and we finally spoke. "Ah, you are English!" she said. She has grandchildren and looks younger than me. She is a member of a mountaineering club. She embodies the Slovenian traits of extreme friendliness and extraordinary physical fitness. Like Shangri-La, some day I will discover that all these people are over 1000 years old.
I went into the fishing-tackle shop across the road. He has signs outside for tandem paragliding flights for tourists. So here's the thing -- when I knew I was coming here, I had a 4-point plan. Could I get here with Tyson? Could I find a place to live? Could I earn enough to support myself? And lastly, could I realise a life-long dream to become a qualified paraglider pilot? The last time I tried was in New Hampshire, 2010. I went there for 7 days and only got in 2 days of lessons. It's a difficult sport to learn becuase you need to be there for a month to get the right conditions to learn.
So I took my terror in hand and asked if he knew of a school, rather than a place for tourists. He got on the phone. I spoke to a school who will be teaching next month and can pick me up. Gulp. "We start on small hills," she said. When I told this to Frank he said..."yeah...a small hill by Slovenian standards..." True. These people walk up mountains as an after-dinner stroll. That's why they are all magically 1000 years old and look 20.
I am terrified of heights and it's getting worse but a life-long dream is a curse. I tried it first 20 years ago, and in 20 years' time it will be far too late. Watch this space.
Snapshots of life. I moved here to be near my brother and be near mountains, but the picture that has developed is one of the Slovenian people. I don't know what they are saying, but kindness is universal. Zlato in the fishing shop laughed so hard when I complimented his English, he phoned his wife and gave me the phone. "Tell her!" he said, and she started laughing too. I have no idea who I was talking to (Mrs Zlato, obviously) but every single interaction is an experience which lifts the day.
The events of my life have overtaken my ability to report them. The International Space Station went over last night -- I watched it sail silently past at 11:20. I'm sure the astronauts didn't notice me on my balcony, but if they did, they might have wondered why I was smiling.
[ps...Have you tried the Armchair Detective Challenge yet?]
Slovenia, writing, other things