Category Archives: English language posts

Like Snopes but for Slovenia? I don’t have a title yet

I get asked many questions about Slovenia, often of the “this must be fakenews, right?” variety. Let’s get a few of the safe-for-work ones out of the way before we move on to transgender doctors shagging man-killer dogs* and worse**.

*Yes you read that right.

**It does get worse.

Is the Prime Minister of Slovenia a former comedian and the President of Slovenia a former model?

Yes. Our Prime Minister, Mr. Marjan Šarec, used to be an actor, an impersonator and a comedian, and according to some he still is, (he’s alright, as far as politicians go). And our President, Mr. Borut Pahor used to be a model, and he’s never shy to flaunt his model credentials. Feel free to check out his Instagram @borutpahor. Look for beach selfies while you’re there because the dude keeps fit.

Did Slovenians recycle their failed Prime Minister and make him their President?

Yes. The abovementioned Borut Pahor used to be our PM and, fairly or not, he was widely perceived as a complete failure, as confirmed by a lost confidence vote that saw him through the door. Almost immediately*** after, he ran for president and won easily, which left some people fuming but most of us thought his new job was a much better fit. In all seriousness, Mr. Pahor comes across as a genuinely nice fellow who adores the spotlight and honestly tries to be the president of all Slovenians. And that’s a challenging job. No matter where you’re from, you probably think that your country is dangerously divided with no reconciliation in sight – welcome to the Slovenian experience! We’ve been living in this highly-polarised political reality for… well forever, actually, if you discount a few decades of Socialism when people hated each other more quietly. Anyway, all I can do is wish the best of luck to anyone who tries to preside over such a hot mess. As for the rest of us: relax, it’s going to be okay. Maybe.

***People winning all kinds of elections after a three-week campaign has become a regular occurrence in Slovenia.

Why doesn’t the Slovenian president look over a hundred years old?

Because he’s not. You’re thinking Boris Pahor the writer, who is a different fella altogether. Boris (not Borut) Pahor is one truly extraordinary individual. He fought the Nazis (who sent him to Dachau not once but twice), condemned the Commies and survived them both. He’s currently giving a hard time to Italian neo-fascists. If you need to be reminded of what war, Nazism and Fascism look like up close, do read his autobiographical novel Necropolis about his WWII interment. The guy has just turned 106 (that is: one-hundred-and-six years old). Sharp as a knife, he is well-informed on the current goings-ons, and maintains a keen interest in politics for reasons that don’t need to be explained (in case they do: the man has scars to prove what can happen when politics goes awry). As the result of his international recognition, undisputed courage and miraculously intact faculties, he gets to say whatever he likes, and people listen. And you thought you were special.

Is Melania Trump really Slovenian?

Apparently this gets asked. Yes, she most certainly is Slovenian, from Slovenia. She was born when Slovenia was still a part of the former Yugoslavia (that’s the Balkan country that imploded in a series of genocides, mass rapes and general butchery known as the Yugoslav Wars in the 90s, and proceeded to shatter into a number of smaller countries, among them Slovenia we know today). I remember Melania well from when she was embarking on her modelling career – I used to watch modelling contests and beauty pageants religiously as a kid – and yes, she is real, she is Slovenian, and she is from the town of Sevnica in Slovenia. She was born Melanija Knavs and later switched to a more internationally-friendly Melania Knauss, so maybe that’s where the confusion comes from. Oddly enough, her fellow Sevnica-born Tanja Pečar is the life-partner of our President Borut Pahor (the model dude from above). That’s right, at least two different countries have first ladies from the same small Slovenian town. And there may be others because the fact you were born in Sevnica is not necessarily one you care to advertise.

Continue reading Like Snopes but for Slovenia? I don’t have a title yet

I’m loving it

Slovenia doesn’t have a government and it’s been an absolute delight. Our last government stepped down in a huff; the boiling point being us voters having one good laugh too many at the prime minister’s expense. This prompted early elections, the results of which created such a hot mess that there’s a strong hope that nobody will be able to come up with a viable coalition. The most votes were scooped up by the party all the other parties swore they didn’t want anything to do with because its platform is “based on division and hate” (I suspect the irony is lost on them). The election losers’ general attitude to the results is that the voters got it wrong, but they’re not entirely oblivious to the fact that the voters might get it even more wrong next time. So, if the relative winner is shunned by all the potential coalition partners who in turn patch together a motley crew of a coalition by themselves, there’s a strong hope that we won’t end up with a functioning government because there will be too many pigs fighting at the trough. Even if new elections are called it’s quite possible the same jumble will happen all over again, which is great. Because if you’re Slovenian and know what’s good for you, a functioning government is about the last thing you want. Continue reading I’m loving it

The blonde who had more of everything

I desperately wanted a swing when I was little. But it was not to be. I was too polite to nag my parents into building me one, which is why I considered kids who had such a contraption on their lawn to be lucky little buggers whose parents truly loved them. Well, scratch that about excess politeness: if you’re the youngest of a rapacious brood nothing short of outright vandalism can get your parents’ attention, simple as that.

I suppose I was lucky in other respects; I was allowed to venture out on my own for hours on end without anybody raising an eyebrow (though I sometimes think my parents hadn’t quite realised just how far away my daily bicycle trips took me). Of course I considered my unrestricted freedom to be perfectly normal and only years later grasped how confined many other childhoods were in comparison to mine. One of my particularly prolonged explorations took me to a place that must have been the suburbs of a small town, miles from my home. And that’s where I saw my little blonde. Continue reading The blonde who had more of everything

Don’t be surprised if you hear I’m turning tricks for a living

I ran into one of my favourite high-school professors the other day and when I told him that I was a translator it knocked his jolly mood right out of him. Cuddling his beer, he wistfully reminisced about the high hopes he used to have for me. He went on to inform me that one of his former students was now working for a celebrity fashion designer and another was god-knows-where but filthy rich.

In an atypical moment of mercy, he offered me a chance to redeem myself and asked if at least I was translating movies. In retrospect, I should have said yes. But, having completely misjudged how the world perceived the merits of my chosen career, I didn’t. When I told him that most of my work involved scientific and technical translation, which meant he wasn’t likely to see my name on TV unless I messed up spectacularly, he aimed an accusatory look at my man and demanded to know if he was the one who killed my spark. (Yes, really.) My guy laughed it off while I was silently beating myself up for not having said I was a company manager; it’s technically true because I’m incorporated but it was too late for that now. I tried to regain some value as a human being in my beloved professor’s eyes by mumbling something about how I had great clients and my work was actually interesting and rewarding but he wasn’t buying it.

Then, with a pained expression he recalled how some even smarter girl he used to teach disappointed him even more bitterly. I learned that the poor thing had unwittingly knocked on his door with a copy of The Watchtower in her hand. You need to know that my professor is a vocal atheist – basically he’s a hate preacher but for atheism – and Jehovah’s Witnesses have always been his second-favourite target of ridicule, right after Mormons. So yeah, I’m not the biggest failure he could think of but I came pretty, pretty close. That look of sadness and disappointment in his eyes haunts me to this day. Okay, our awkward encounter took place only this Thursday but still. I’m struggling hard not to wonder if my friends and family are ashamed of me too.

Well, now that I have been informed what an utter waste of space people think I am, I’ve arrived at two resolutions. First, I’ll start charging more for my services because I desperately need to buy myself a large dose of self-respect. Second, the next time someone asks me what I do for a living I’ll tell them I’m a prostitute. In contrast to us translators, these professionals seem to command some respect, probably because they have the sense to charge for what the rest of us do for free. And I refuse to be seen as a loser again! I am deeply passionate about my real work but as it turns out, some passions are best kept secret.

What happens when my man finds another man in his bed

WARNING, GRAPHIC CONTENT: Guy gets Fawked

“Who is this!?” he demanded. “Well what do you think, Guy Fawkes,” I replied.

Man-found-Guy-in-his-bed

 

Not sure why but that’s when things took an ugly turn. The Guy was bundled into the trunk and whisked away to a secretive gathering of Brit expats and other good folks who like to reminisce about the times when the judicial system still had teeth. The Guy was made to sit in the corner and ordered to reflect upon the error of his ways. That didn’t seem to help much as he carried on looking as smug as ever.

Guy-sat-in-the-corner

Continue reading What happens when my man finds another man in his bed

Brunhilda and the hand that feeds her

Just so that we’re clear, I came equipped with the usual set of pre-programmed physiological responses and they’re all here and accounted for; I assure you that I am just as fazed by the sudden sight of anything potentially dangerous as the next person. My fight, flight or freeze reaction is alive and well and easily triggered by creepy crawlies, the fact I am willing to extend my hospitality to an occasional charismatic arthropod notwithstanding. It’s just that I don’t continue panicking after having judged a stimulus mostly harmless and as far as I know, all central-European arachnids including my flatmate Brunhilda the diadem spider are harmless to the point of being helpless against humans, save for their potential to send us running by the sheer power of their presence. I am not fearful of Brunchy but if she catches me by surprise… Well here’s a video of what transpired when her delicate claw-foot made contact with my fingertip as I was attaching a snack to her web:

As demonstrated here, the FFF response of this particular human is accompanied by an alarm call. The volume of the distress signal may range from a loud gasp if the room acoustics are deemed adequate to a blood-curdling screech reserved for open spaces, but invariably there is some degree of vocalisation. (Yes I’m a shrieker and unabashedly proud of it. As luck would have it, one of my neighbours wails like a banshee when startled and hilarity ensues each time we unexpectedly bump into each other in the basement. Since the birth of humanity, it was people like us who had kept their fellow humans safe by instantly alerting them to threats real and imagined. These same individuals also excelled at obliterating the element of surprise from hunting expeditions whenever a scary bug moved into sight, which just might have been the driving force behind humans largely giving up on hunting for their meals and settling down to take up agriculture instead. So yeah, we shriekers have shaped history in ways you can’t begin to imagine.) Continue reading Brunhilda and the hand that feeds her

Brunhilda and her Anthropophobia

I love it when Mother Nature steps forward to solve my problems. Until quite recently, a prominent grievance of mine were germ-taxies (houseflies). I’m locally famous for my knack at capturing them, which I suppose is fine. The thing is I’m keen on recycling and I felt bad for having little choice other than flush perfectly edible insects down the drain as I had no pet I could feed my prey to. That was, until Brunhilda came to my rescue.

The first time I saw her was when my darling lured me over to the bedroom by announcing he had something to show me and directed my gaze to the window above my side of the headboard. I was thrilled to see that while I was out, a newly-arrived friend had fitted it with a pure-silk, certified-organic flytrap that cut right through the airspace so cherished by insects. Brunhilda was sitting at the centre of her creation, looking a bit tense. I stood up on the headboard, inspected her up close, looked at my man and said, “Her butt looks flat, we need to fatten her up.” From then on, each captured fly has been presented to our new pal and she seemed to approve of this arrangement because Brunhilda, also known as Brunchy amongst her flatmates, is a diadem spider. And fatten her up we sure did.

Continue reading Brunhilda and her Anthropophobia

The old man’s daughter and the son of The Buck

It’s official, animals have lost their last remnant of respect for us. We people have changed and shed some of our feistier habits that used to keep them in check. In the old days, people went vegetarian only after they’ve run out of animals to hunt and any beast foolhardy enough to wander into a human settlement was facing two possible outcomes. In the highly improbable case it was judged too ugly to eat, the creature was greeted with a hailstorm of sticks and stones and sent from whence it came, its self-esteem curbed somewhat. Given that people weren’t such fussy eaters in days of yore, it was massively more likely the intruder was interpreted as a surprise food delivery and treated accordingly. After the humans were done picking its bones clean and rhythmically banging them together thanking the God of Foolishness for the feast, they tanned its hide and made it into warm slippers and a new handbag for the village First Lady, and if the creature had antlers or fangs of any consequence, they were repurposed as spear tips to welcome the next rambler of its kind with added efficiency.

Continue reading The old man’s daughter and the son of The Buck

The old man and the deer

My grandfather always knew right from wrong. It seemed that his inborn sense of justice was so strong it rubbed off on even the most hardened crooks and made them realise the error of their ways. What was especially amazing about it was that this effect wasn’t limited to people; well at least we, his family, are at a loss of how else to explain how gramps succeeded in making a deer repay what it had stolen, and quite dramatically at that. There’s a well-travelled saying of ‘Treat others like you want to be treated’, also known as the Golden Rule (which happens to be the reason I’m hoping that the few masochists I’m bound to run into sooner or later are as little ethically-enlightened as possible). There’s a substantial volume of theoretical substantiation of why the reciprocal approach works but I’m probably not the only one who’s felt that it would be nice to have some actual proof too from time to time. And sure enough, my grandfather stepped up and provided the factual corroboration I had hoped for.

Inside, grandpa was a gentle soul but it didn’t stop him from being as tough as a coffin nail. Born a son of humble charcoal makers, his childhood was rife with hardship and he used to say that his family was so poor they couldn’t afford to feel sorry for themselves. He grew up to become a steel worker long before occupational safety was a thing but not before he was taken prisoner during WW2 and made it back on foot, so suffice it to say his adult life wasn’t much gentler to him than his youth. Not that it held him back much; against all odds and despite all the rust he had eaten at the steel plant and the frostbite he had to remind him of the horrors endured in the POW camp, he lived to a ripe old age – way too old for his liking – and he regularly complained about having to wait so long to join my grandmother. Reckoning you can’t know for sure if there’s an afterlife until you’ve found out by yourself, he worried that there was one and, knowing his wife, he feared she was up to who knows what.

Continue reading The old man and the deer

The slow-trotting tom a.k.a. One cat to rule them all

Okay, so maybe I’ve been guilty of not taking people too seriously when I heard them talking about how their cat was the coolest one ever. We might as well set this straight once and for all: your cat may be cute, adorably silly, feisty or whatever but, with all due respect, it is NOT the coolest cat ever. This distinction is reserved for Bon, a majestic tom that had once reigned over our neighbourhood. He was the rudest, toughest, meanest and the most inconsiderate cat imaginable with a commanding presence and some serious swag to boot. He didn’t take crap from anyone, didn’t care what anybody thought and never ran from an adversary. Well actually he never ran at all but merely accelerated to a leisurely trot if he deemed it appropriate, and if that’s not a super cool cat then show me one that is.

We came under Bon’s rule when my father, oblivious to what he was getting us all into, accepted a weighty pet carrier from a frail old recluse who claimed she was getting too old to continue taking care of her cat for much longer. In retrospect, she most likely feared for her dear life and thought it would be best to unload her rowdy beast on a family of able-bodied individuals. My mother and I had no knowledge of dad’s noble dealings and we arrived home to find a puzzling note on the boiler room door, a blood-stained piece of paper with the words “DON’T OPEN SIAMESE INSIDE!’ scribbled on it. Intrigued, we pried the door open and were promptly greeted by, well, not so much a growl than a proper roar. Clueless as to what but a royally-indignant lion could produce a sound like that, we deemed a hasty retreat a fitting response. An emergency congregation later we embarked upon investigating the source of the petrifying noise and cautiously peeked under the central heating unit to be met by an icy glare from a pair of piercingly-blue eyes. Incensed at our failure to keep a respectful distance, the owner of the frosty peepers hissed and spat at us, which prompted my mum and me to decide that her sillier half should be committed to a special institution for whatever it was that he had brought to our house this time.

Continue reading The slow-trotting tom a.k.a. One cat to rule them all