P.S. I love it!

P.S. I love it!

It’s still love at first sight

I got a message from one of my local friends last night (he is one of my best friends here, except when he is my trainer at the gym). He said: “do you like being here or not, I can’t figure it out from your (last) post?”

I apologize for any ambiguity. I love it here. I have since I first landed in the summer of 2009. It was, love at first sight, and that has not changed.

There is something magical in the air, that makes you yearn for it when you are away and fills you with joy when you step foot on the tarmac and walk back into the airport across the airfield.

I am glad that it is not Canada or Switzerland, the places where I grew up. Yes, there are things that still frustrate me: the rather aggressive drivers; the billboards everywhere (even though I use them in my work now too); the lack of protection for animals; the challenges facing special needs people or people of diversity; the lack of recycling… all things that are evidence of a land in transition.

“There is something magical in the air, that makes you yearn for it when you are away and fills you with joy when you step foot on the tarmac”

Yes, there are things that I miss from Vancouver or Zurich. Friends obviously; diversity in dining options; all the conveniences of a modern city. I miss trivial things like being able to phone for home delivery of almost any type of international food you can imagine. But then you think of the cost of living in Vancouver or Lugano and compare it to how much further your Euro goes here, and you forget all those cravings!

So Milos, to answer your question: I love this place; the friends I have made; their welcoming nature; the incredible Wild Beauty from seaside to mountain ranges that I never get used to; the amazing summers at the beach or on the water; the simple, yet wholesome real food and my favorite locales; the simple, slower, life. The incredibly tall people (thanks for reminding me Zaga). It is less stressful here, but we work very hard – building, marketing and selling new communities in this emerging market that is still remote, with its storied past, is no easy endeavor. That challenge is an invigorating and exciting one!

The Office Stray (well loved and fed) Dog

Photograph by Colin Kingsmill

A Dukley Billboard

Photograph by Colin Kingsmill

Summer fun with friends at Almara Beach

Photograph by Colin Kingsmill

Mountain Fun with the Girls in Kolasin

Photograph by Colin Kingsmill

Working with Jovan

Photograph by Colin Kingsmill

I hope this post has cleared things up!

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Check Please!

Check Please!

Life in Montenegro can be, for someone arriving from the West, full of quirkiness. Your day can sometimes be full of little things that make you slightly crazy . . .

. . .  things that, even many years later, you never really get used to; lingering leftovers from a bygone era (remember carbon copy paper?), or new inventions of a bureaucrat who has too much time on his or her hands. If you come for a visit, here is one example of local quirky you will like to know in advance:

Getting your bill at a restaurant

Each time you order something from the menu, a fiscal receipt has to be printed. This means, that over the course of a long dinner or drinks with friends, the server has to bring a bill for what you just ordered and leave it on the table… and this happens every time you ask for something. There is no such thing as getting a nice clean check at the end. As drinks or your meal evolves, all of these little receipts, typically get stuffed into a small shot glass on the table or under an ashtray (yes, you can still smoke inside in many locales).

I’ll take the check  . . . I mean the handful of receipts

Photograph by Colin Kingsmill

At the end of your bar or restaurant experience, your server has to manually add up all the little receipts to give you your total due. It is especially fun when you have to save these for office expenses! It may be a great way to ensure that fiscal crime is being fought, but if any receipts fall on the floor (or someone takes a few and puts them in their pocket), the server has to make up for the difference.

Recently, while brunching at one of my favorite spots, Restaurant ONE, I was sitting beside a couple of Americans where were having their first “fighting fiscal crime, one chit at a time” moment. The, polite and thorough, explanation by the server did not go very far in helping them understand why the corner of their table was full of little paper chit receipts for each of the vodka martinis they had ordered over the past couple hours. There was confusion on both sides (and it was not just because they were drunk) and they left their first Montenegrin hospitality experience scratching their heads.

I am still getting used to “quirky”, one day at a time…

 

TRAVEL

The Essential Montenegro

LIVING HERE

The Ultimate Guide to Living in Montenegro

DOING BUSINESS

Business Development in Montenegro

More Transformation: Coming Out in Montenegro

More Transformation: Coming Out in Montenegro

It has been a few months since my last post. As you might know by now I just need a little inspiration to get me going. The other day I got it…

A couple of years ago my partner and I met a Montenegrin man who was in his mid twenties and gay. At the time, that combination seemed like a death sentence to him. He had not come out of the closet to anyone and was suffering for it in so many ways. He was even scared to come to our house for a visit; worried that the receptionist or someone would see him arriving and immediately label him as gay by association (something that happened a lot in the first few years; much less now as the local community has gotten used to us – the “only out gay men in the village”).

In the months that ensued our friendship grew and grew. Many of our conversations with our friend were about trying to empower him.  We had to let him know that there was a different world beyond these borders; a world where he could be open about his orientation and not be living a life in secret.

Jump ahead 24 months.

Just over a year ago our friend moved to Switzerland; met the man of his dreams and is getting married this summer. Last weekend he came home to Montenegro and came out. Firstly to his sister and her husband. She was thrilled for him and only sad that he had suffered for so many years by not being able to tell anyone. Her husband was also very happy for him and extremely loving. He did not expect this as his brother-in-law comes from Niksić, a town which is not known for being open minded. On the contrary; it is a Northern mountain town where the men are known for being very tough. Not the place you can easily walk around it as an open gay man.

When our friend told us about this experience he was in shock. So happy and yet so surprised at the first reactions. He would have been happy with “OK, that’s your life, I don’t want to know anything about it”, but what he got was much greater.

His next meeting was going to be with his best friend. That went extremely well too.

He said that Pieter and I had been incredibly helpful in the process. Once he met us back in 2011, he realized that you could be gay, out and partnered and have a fulfilled life. It is nice to know that we served as role models in a country where he had none.

Since we moved here in 2009 there has been much positive transformation around us. This blog has attempted to document that. We have watched LGBT rights also slowly become more accepted. There is still much to be done. There are countless men and women who are still stuck, just as our friend was two years ago. I hope his story; his wedding and his coming out will be a catalyst for a more open and tolerant society in this little magical kingdom.

 

 

No Logo, No Ceasar…

No Logo, No Ceasar…

Ceasar Salad

One of the most refreshing aspects of living and working in Montenegro is that the country has not been overrun by international corporations and brands. There are no Starbucks Coffee shops ensuring you get the same latte here that you find back at home; there are no fast food chains that guarantee you will get the same super sized meal here that you would find back at home in anywhere USA or Canada; retail chains like Walmart, Costco, Home Depot, The Body Shop, Tim Hortons, Boots Drug Stores and so on are non-existent here.

Organic, local, family retailers and national brands are more the vibe here. Finding things you need often becomes a bit of a hunt, but that is half the fun.

Sometimes though, I get a ping for something familiar, so when I saw Ceasar Salad on a restaurant menu a while back, I had to have it, but I was left disappointed as it was not at all what I was expecting, or I should say, craving. Unfortunately for me, as I subsequently explored this menu item around the country, I realized that only the name was familiar. All of the ingredients you think you are going to find in a traditional Ceasar Salad are, here, open to very wide interpretation… from basic (yet fresh and lovely) vegetable platters to chopped up green leaf lettuce with a soupy mayonnaise dressing topped with a couple large pieces of bacon.

Boiled or Roasted Kid?

Today I had a quick, but lovely, lunch outside by the water here in the Bay of Kotor. With the exception of “spaghetti bolognese” and a couple of other items, the Montenegrin menu was difficult to decipher. Yes, I know. I should be farther ahead than I am today. The kind and attentive server, aware of the selection challenge I was having, brought me the English menu. I ordered a dish which I knew had chicken in it, but I was not sure what else was coming. It ended up being a delicious spicy pasta dish with chicken and vegitables. Perfectly wonderful. I am just glad that I did not select from the Appetyre section of the menu… chewy and bitter come to mind!

I thought you might enjoy a couple of the other menu items I came across recently. How about Roast or Boiled Kid?

Ever been puzzled about what do to on your next holiday?

 Each day in this amazing life experience I am reminded of how quickly this little nation on the Balkan peninsula has been launched into 21st century Europe and the Anglo-Saxon dominated world. I greatly respect how they are catching up so quickly. Little signs like these are great, and slightly comic, reminders of the great diversity of the world we live in and how important it is to respect that diversity.