Friday, April 17, 2015

Travel bug

Have you heard of the wanderlust gene? This gene supposedly explains someone's 'curiosity and restlessness' and it manifests itself in the form of a 'passion for travel'. It is more common with people who have migrated further from where we first originated in Africa. Judging from my family's surname, we belonged to a segment of the Balkan peoples that migrated north due to the Turkish incursions in the 14th century and on.

France
Despite that, I'm not sure I believe in the existence of such a gene. But it sure does explain nicely my own curiosity and restlessness and the passion for travel. Whether it is a particular gene or a combination of genetics and upbringing or something else entirely, it's been driving me crazy for the past four years when I didn't travel anywhere further than a few hours drive by car.

I'm not in the process of organizing this year's vacation and hopefully, if everything goes according to plan, we'll actually fly to a European capital. The past week, while I was surfing the internet for hotels and plane tickets, I caught myself thinking: "I just need to see this city and then I'll die happy. I won't need to go anywhere else, ever again. I'll be content staying at home and going on vacation to nearby places. Just this one last trip. I swear."

I'm reluctant to believe this sensation because, guess what? I'd had it in 2009 when I visited Australia, too. I thought I'd seen everything I wanted to see. My travel days are over now that I saw Australia, I thought. That lasted for about a year. Then I started getting restless to the point of slowly slipping into a very morose, hopeless state that I've been in for the past few months. And now, just the thought of planning a trip has gotten me into a better mood.

Tuscany
Three months ago I had to fly to the UK for a short business trip - there and back in three days. So I didn't get to enjoy much of UK, but just the smell of the airport air (admittedly, artificial and dry) caused my blood to pump more vigorously through my veins. It was like a sugar rush that lasted for the three days I spent away. Now you'll think that the return home was disappointing and sad, but no. I loved coming home and I 'saw' home with far friendlier eyes afterwards.
Croatia

I've lived in the countryside for most of my life. But in my heart, I'm a city girl. One would think this an odd combination, but it's not. I live in a gorgeous spot, with the most amazing nature and landscapes. From my hometown, you can reach the Alps, the flatlands of the eastern part of the country or the seaside with a two-hour drive maximum. It's the best place to live. Almost all my food is homegrown, organic, eco, what have you. That is why my rational side knows to appreciate the place where I live. I'm not sure I'd want to move somewhere else. But there's a part of my heart that needs a regular fix of the city life. The anonymity of it, the smell of airports, the abundance of cafes and having everything at the tip of one's fingers.

Returning home after a trip like that is nice. Not melancholic at all, because I want to return home. But I also want to travel because I want to see and feel places, and incidentally that also makes me appreciate home that much more.

Slovenia

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

March is coming to a close

Quite by chance, I brought Alice in Wonderland from the library last week to read to my son. But  it wasn't until today that I saw Alice is celebrating its 150th anniversary. How marvelous that a book is still popular, entertaining and topical 150 years after its publication!

You can see just how popular it is in this wonderful project where artists and illustrators from around the world have each created a different illustration of the iconic character. The different interpretations are inspiring.

Australian photographer Tom Blachford undertook a different project when he decided to photograph Palm Springs. The series of photos is called Midnight Modern and they have a decidedly retro feel; they could easily have been taken decades ago. The photos were taken in the dark, using a long exposure.

Mikko Lagerstedt, however, has been revealing the beauty of Finnland and its nature through his photographs for a long time. Huffington Post featured some of his work, and you can follow him on Instagram.


March has been a busy month, with plenty of birthdays, appointments, a lot of work, a manuscript revision and some notes from my supervisor on another manuscript. I feel tired, but the slow emergence of spring has given me fresh energy to invest into my projects and even plan some new ones.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Simple by Marie-Aude Murail

I decided to give the 7 Continents Reading Challenge another try. I didn't finish it two years ago because study literature took up too much of my reading time. I hope this time around I'll manage.

If you're interested, you can read the details about the challenge here.

For my first country/book, I chose France as one of the countries with the most immigrants. Simple (Marie-Aude Murail) is a young adult book about a seventeen-year-old who takes care of his mentally challenged older brother.

There's unrequited love, lust (lots of it), bad romantic poetry, too many essays, and plenty of crisps. But the seventeen-year-old boy in this story has something extra to contend with. His older brother has learning difficulties and is languishing in a care home. Listening to his heart rather than his head, the boy knows he must get his brother, nicknamed Simple, out. But as their father is entirely preoccupied with his new wife, it's up to the boy to liberate Simple, and that means finding somewhere for them to live in the city. Funny, thought-provoking and clever, this French bestseller won the Prix SNCF du Livre de Jeunesse and was dramatised for French television; in Germany it won the prestigious Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis.


I wouldn't say Simple has the potential to cross over into the adult sphere and attract older readers, but I think it has the potential to teach us a lot about 'foreigness' or being 'alien'. I think in this respect, it was the perfect book to read under the immigrant topic. Because in the end, as the story unfolded, it became quite obvious that the weirdest things or people are not necessarily the least 'normal'. Simple, as simple as he was, taught each and everyone of the roommates a lesson or two. And the tale was a lovely mixture of bitter and sweet moments that gave a great insight into Simple's brother, his caretaker, and the conflicts raging in his teenage mind. This was a very fulfilling read.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Dream dinner destination


Choosing a dream destination is very difficult. There are so many wonderful places I’ve visited and so many more that I haven’t seen yet. But ultimately, I chose Australia.

Australia has always been my dream destination. So obviously I was thrilled when my dreams came true and I spent a month Down Under a few years back. But there’s so much to see in Australia that a month is much too short a time to visit everything worth seeing. Besides, I don't have a favourite city in Australia, the whole continent is my favourite.

Sydney from a ferry


I didn’t want to over-schedule so that I’d have to run from one place to another without having the time to enjoy myself and relax. I’m a total foodie and my favourite way to enjoy vacation time is eating and having a drink with friends. So obviously, my time in Australia was spent at many a dinner and party, including sharing a meal with some Aussie friends.

Sydney

 I’ve been working as a translator from English for about a decade now. My English is pretty decent, if I say so myself (my mother tongue is Slovenian). Travelling to Australia, I didn’t think I’d encounter many language barriers or have trouble understanding Australians. I realized their English has some peculiarities that I was not familiar with because I mostly translate from American English, but I didn’t expect any major problems.

Melbourne by night

While visiting with friends in Melbourne, we put together a dinner of fish and a bottle (or two) of amazing Australian white wine. I realized during that visit that languages have a way of surprising you. I was suddenly invited to help prepare the tucker, and was told that in the arvo, I’d have to take a smoko without a cuppa because the coffee machine was cactus and is going into the garbo ... Say, what?!? I guess you can crash against a language barrier even when you speak the language. Regional dialects can be confusing but they’re also what makes languages so beautiful and unique.

Australia has great seafood ...

... and terrific wines. (Yering winery)

 So rather than being scared off by Aussie slang, I grabbed the chance to learn a few new phrases. Mostly, I asked the locals to explain the meanings of some words. Language is a living thing, so it’s always best to have an expression explained by a native speaker, and slang expressions are far more reliably explained by people than by translation apps.

It’s different when travelling to countries where the official language is not English. Planning a trip is much easier when the websites are translated into English. Sometimes it happens that a website is not translated in its entirety or at all. In such cases, software to translate websites can be very useful and it makes planning more enjoyable and quicker.

I'm more of a city girl ...

...but Australian landscape is breathtaking.
Translation tools are especially important when you're dealing with a language that is very different from the language you speak. Learning a few polite phrases is always a plus when travelling, but having a reliable app that gets you through the rest of the trip is a must.

Friday, November 7, 2014

November Rain

Well, hello there November. Where did you come from?

Here's an overdue update with the (short) list of my latest publications.

Becoming in Touch: The Journal of Healing
Autumn Garden in Bukker Tillibul
Don't Mocha Me in Litro Magazine

I hope you'll find something enjoyable amongst the pieces.

I've been working on longer works lately, hence the lack of shorts and poems. I'm also procrastinating watching YouTube and Pinterest. Oh, the hardships of being a writer. ;-)

Friday, June 20, 2014

Blue by Lisa Glass

Blue by Lisa Glass
Quercus Books, May 2014
Surfing is sixteen-year-old Iris’s world, and when the ultra-talented Zeke walks into her life, it soon becomes her passion.

Over one amazing summer, as she is drawn into his sphere, she experiences love, new friendships, but also loss, with an intensity she never dreamed of.

But is Zeke all he seems? What hides beneath his glamorous and mysterious past? When Iris decides to try for her own surfing success, just as her ex-boyfriend comes back into her life, she will test her talent, and her feelings for Zeke, to the limit…

I wanted to read this book the moment I saw the cover, then I read the blurb and I pre-ordered it right away. The sun, the sea and talented surfers - who could want more? The best thing is that with Blue you also get a wonderful story about growing up, love, commitment and the art of surfing.

Iris is still shattered because of how things ended with her ex boyfriend and she's so sad and confused about that and other life problems that she doesn't realize that she is far from being as damaged as she feels; in truth, she's immensely talented, and once she gets in touch with her inner strength, she rocks those waves. The way Iris grew and developped through the story made this a compelling read, because she felt as real as the girl next door.

Now Zeke, well, let's just say there's no boy like him next door to me. Sadly. Zeke is a force of nature. His strength, his connection with the ocean and nature as such was so well-written that I had no problems imagining him. I could feel how he influenced Iris and her way of seeing herself, the world, him. His characterization made him a believable surfing champion, he felt almost too real for fiction. That is another great thing about Blue: Lisa Glass knows what she's taking about. Her knowledge of the surfing world could be seen on every single page of the novel.

This is an inspiring read that will show you not just what competitive surfing looks like and the risks surfers are willing to take in order to win, but also what it feels like to find something so true and good in a relationship that it turns your world upside down.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Soldier

I haven't written any poetry in a very long time. So here's a memory of a time when I was still feeling inspired. 'Soldier', nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2010.


Soldier
    
Staring at the darkened sky
I can almost keep up the pretense
of being home, but the stray dogs
and the men’s snores keep me awake
in my rocky grave, thinking
of the many times I kissed women
I shouldn’t have but never feeling
as unfaithful to you as when I hug
my heavy gun close to my chest.

The shadow of death trails behind us
even on overcast days, it dims
the image of home until I can barely
recall the memory of you. I’m not alone,
just lonely as a sky without birds.

Explosions outshine the stars
night after night, the thunder
brings bloody rain. Amid the hot fumes
of oil and tire I dream — sometimes awake —
of new-mown grass, cicadas and homemade cakes.
Is it springtime back home? I forget.

Staring at the clouds, I begin to see
camels and minarets, rarely any
familiar shapes. There may be something
to Rorschach, after all. It feels like I inhabit
the life of a stranger, like my breath
powers a force that isn’t entirely me.

Days old, sun-dried sweat begins
to sting on the parched skin,
the shamal whips up the sand
lashing us with vicious shower until
my mouth becomes a desert too.

I’m not afraid, just doubtful sometimes.
They say this is for real, the generals,
and that we are going to win,
but when I feel that rush I never
expected to feel, it’s all less real,
like a game on my home console
where the enemy is just a machine,
a faceless algorithm that can only
lose or win. Out here, it feels
like there’s so much more in between.