Summer has arrived. Most days now are around 30 degrees. So we decided to put some large pots with plants outside our front door, as the door quite literally opens on to the narrow street that separates our house from the sea. Those extra 30 centimetres somehow add a modicum of assurance that the little cars and bigger trucks whizzing by won’t run you down as you step out for the day. We also placed some planters in the driveway and filled them with fresh summer herbs.
Nobody expected that a truck would smash into one of the pots within a day of having placed them outside our door for “protection” from just that kind of (fast and distracted) driver.
The pleasant surprise was that the young driver came back to the scene to claim responsibility. In such a tight knit community, there is virtually no crime, and this was not going to be a random act of negligence. All the neighbours got involved in cleaning, fixing and solving. Within no time he had gone back to the garden supply store and replaced the large concrete pot which we thought was so invincible.
The second pleasant surprise was that we found some geraniums anonymously planted in the driveway planters the next day. Another reminder of the kind and modest nature of our neighbours.
Last night my colleague Beckett said that there are stories to tell every day in this new land. Stories of small and large differences, funny and odd experiences that we, as foreigners, are all having here. I think that was a sign to keep this blog window open all the time and take note of the all the things along the way that are worth documenting as we learn to live and work alongside this emerging country’s journey.
His remark brought me right back to my first blog posting about ink-jet printers and the speed of things here. Yesterday, on a mundane trip to the local market, I was reminded that not everything is moving a the break neck speed of the construction on our site.
The speed of things and, for some reason cats, seem to be recurring themes here. Yesterday when purchasing cat food for ours, and not for Mamma Fudge’s dumpster gang, I had a relapse into my habit of impatience. We bought about forty cans of the same brand and exactly the same flavour and brought them to the cashier. She promptly scanned each and every single can; one at a time. About 15 scans into it, I tried to explain that scanning one can and keying in a multiple of 40 would get you to the same amount in about a 10th of the time. My (lack of) language skills and her devotion to getting it right, prohibited that from happening.
The lesson here I guess is balance. On the one hand we are finishing 29 homes, building the next 45 apartments, constructing jetties for 100 new yacht berths, opening a 50m over-water pool and doing all of the ancillary sales and marketing work around these efforts. All of this is happening by this July, so the pace is intense to say the least. The trick is to leave the office and be able adjust to, and appreciate, the calmer environment that surrounds me.
This collection of thoughts on “paper” is intended to record my experiences as a foreigner living and working here in Montenegro, one of the newest countries in the world. Emerging or developing is something I have never experienced; camping on a Gulf Island did not count I guess!
After being cut from the world by the conflict in the Balkans for so many years and being under the rule of Tito’s Communism before that, this tiny newly independent nation (as of 2006) is full of fascinating contradictions!
On the one hand you have, as my dear friend Jeff coined it, the “slow food” of bureaucracy which can drive you mental, and on the other you can see change barrelling towards you. One example is the arrival of new found wealth. In a country where the average national income is less than 800 Canadian dollars a month, shiny new luxury cars are beginning to pop up; overshadowing the pre-independence monopolies of Lada, Skoda and the populist Fiat 600.
The duality and contradictions can be found everywhere. In less than a moment you can find yourself in absolute awe as you walk through the UN protected World Heritage Sites of Kotor and Perast and then cringe as you drive past an abandoned factory right next door. You can be sitting in your 300 year old stone house cherishing its history, and then whinge when you have to take out the garbage because they have not adopted recycling yet (that will come with closer integration to the European Union). Old and new are also vividly contrasted during the outdoor markets on Saturdays where you have simple farmer women in their black dresses selling you their fruit and vegetables and home made goods and only a few minutes walk away you can go the new Panto market and find every kind of packaged food you can imagine. Nestle and Kraft have already got their grasp on this emerging marketing. Unfortunately, convenience foods have made it here, but somebody forgot to bring in the health food section. Whole Foods, Capers and the like are completely absent from the equation.
Very Old and New, Newly Rich and Happily Poor, Beauty and Ugly, Fast and Slow, Easy and Hard… this is an experience of great contrasts!