I could go on and on about what is missing here in this developing country, but I think I have hammered that point home enough. As you have witnessed the absence of familiar things periodically induces cravings for everything from sushi to Home Depot and even Starbucks coffee. However, this “absence” does present some other interesting side effects.
Silence, Slow & Community…
At night there are no sirens; no speeding cars; no noise from bars as they close their doors. In fact, the silence is almost eerie. You can hear a dog barking on the other side of the bay a kilometre away, you can hear the boats splashing in the waves on the roadside docks below, you can hear seagulls talking amongst themselves as they circle the Bay of Kotor. Recently, the only thing that has woken me up at night has been the winter wind storms that rattle the wooden shutters and pound the stone walls of the house. Occasionally a car will race by our door within a couple of feet (watch out when you leave the house), but other than a few of these louder exceptions, this is a very quiet land. I imagine summertime will be a different story as boaters and tourists return to a warm version of this beautiful place.
As much as slow bureaucracy, service and response times could make you crazy, it can also make you slow down in a good way. Coming from a place of instant gratification, this takes a little getting used to. Nothing is particularly quick or easy, but perhaps there lays something to be learned. Being forced to slow down lets you appreciate other things you may have missed while rushing around and finishing a to do list. Learning to slow down takes away the stress of every day life. Once you know that the pot-holed roads will make your trip longer (metaphorically and literally), you slow down and poke your head around corners that you would have otherwise missed.
Here there are no fast food restaurants, no drive throughs, no express check outs, no pay-by-phone parking meters, no delivery services, no express lanes on the (one) highway. It is the perfect venue to practice the teachings in Carl Honore’s book “In Praise of Slow”.
There is also an absence of shiny glass condo towers (gritty grey low rises and stone homes are more the norm), but that brings something else to the equation: community. I had forgotten what it was like to have a real dialogue with your neighbours; to borrow tools and share a glass of home brewed schnapps. I had completely forgotten what it was like for friends to ring your door bell to say “hello” because they saw the lights on. The first time it happens you run to the phone to “buzz” them in… but then you realize that they are not 28 floors down waiting to pass through all the layers of security and anonymity that condo dwelling provides.
So, as we collectively embark on 2010, a respectful celebration of the New Year and all the good things that turning back time brin