Onward to Somewhere (known?)!

I always live with one eye on the future. This has its ups and downs, one of which being that even though I’m sitting around in some sort of psydo-Alpine Central European Wonderland, I can’t help but worry about the future. What will I do after? Yes, life is treating me good for the movement, but I have no illusions that this a temporary circumstance. As much as I might like to let go and just live in the moment, I can’t. You see, the reason why I’m sitting around here to begin with is that I had the foresight to set all this up to begin with. I like planning. It takes me places. It’s how I operate.

But like or not, I can’t quite plan on my future as much as I would like to, geographically speaking. I would love to stay in Europe. Or maybe go to Asia. Latin America? I’ve actually been thinking about brushing up my Spanish… Unfortunately, the opportunities for finding work as a foreigner is challenging. The only thing I’m remotely qualified for is teaching English, and even then, my only qualification is that I speak English. Moreover, this would be a nightmerish situation- my total inability to spell would alone be enough to cross this option off for me, not to mention my almost complete lack of interest in teaching English.

So, what then? International NGO work? UN? State Department? Easy enough to say, but actually getting an interesting job at any of these organizations is tough, and there are serious downsides to always being on the move. Is this the life I want for myself, always on the go, never putting down roots deeper then a potted plant? Hmmmm.

I have the option of going home. Portland, my homeland. Land of rain and really good food. The most “European” city in the whole country, as weird as anywhere. I am bracing myself for a return. You see, there’s a lot of great things about Portland, so much so that tons of people move there without work, and I could even move there and have a very cool job. (Yay, nepotism! http://executivefunctioningsuccess.com/blog/) Even if I don’t end up back in Portland, Its most likely that I will be either in San Francisco or Washington DC, all great options, albeit a little more tame than I’d like given that I am a native countrywoman.

In preparation for The Inevitable, (i.e. returning stateside,) I am trying to hone my detail enjoyment skills. I think that one of the best thing by far about traveling and living in another country, and what makes it so addictive, is that I appreciate life more. Everyday is full of the unknown and little surprises. Its like Christmas morning, every morning. All the little things my mind skims over, like the size of a coffee cup or apple varieties, become special details. Every new vocabulary word I integrate into my basic conversation is one more puzzle piece in place. Even walking to get milk at the grocery store is a mini-adventure. If I end up back home in Portland, I will strive to approach it with the same level of heightened awareness and eagerness that I do now with Ljubljana. WIsh me luck!

Some little details of Ljubljana for you, which I am stashing away for myself as well:

-Everybody rides bicycles here. I know I’ve mentioned fact this before, but have I also mentioned that people ride their bicycles with umbrellas when it rains? I am not making this up. One hand will be on the handle bars, and one will be holding onto an open umbrella. Furthermore, I have lost track of the amount of times I have witnessed women cycling in high heels. Not kitten heels, either, but proper high heels. Loads of them, all over. They make Portlanders with our fancy hardcore spandex waterproof whatnot look like fools- evidently you don’t need fancy clothes or shoes to ride a bike, just an umbrella in case of rain.

-If you want to buy whole wheat bread here, the default loaf you’ll find is buckwheat. So delicious! I wish I could find buckwheat bread in the states. I’m totally addicted.

-The style here is rather chic. By that, I mean lots of black and nice shoes. So on one hand, I like to think of them all as incredibly stylish, but on the other, rather conformist. I cannot overstate the usage of black clothing here. Wearing my dark aubergine coat I feel like a rebel. (Unlike when I wore my robins egg blue sweater, when I just felt like a foreigner. Much too bright, you see.)

-I suspect dog ownership is a requirement for citizenship.

-Every time I eat burek, I swear it will be the last. This happens about once every week and a half. Burek is this delicious, um, definitely-not-a-healthfood savory pastry, which has enough complexity to warrant its own wikipedia page: Scroll down to “Former Yugoslavia.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Börek. I always get the cheese one, which is filled with this feta-cheese like stuff. It comes in ridiculously huge portions and is ridiculously cheap. If i die an early death, chances are it will be because of burek.

-Lots of people smoke. I don’t get it. They climb mountains on a regular basis, bike everywhere, and yet they still smoke. Huh.

-I love learning Slovenian. My new favorite phrase is “srednja žalost,” which literally means, “middle sorrow,” but is used more as “ok,” or “not good, not bad. Fine.” You can describe things as srednja žalost, which is quite funny if you think about the literal translation. “How was the party?” “Oh, middle sorrow.” Another good word for you: “Brz!” (“quickly!”) But this one is fairly useless, since it hasn’t been used colloquially since the 1950’s. My roommates I and I want to bring it back. “Brz!”

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3 thoughts on “Onward to Somewhere (known?)!

  1. Detail enjoyment is where it is at! I love my little red house finch (Flying Pig) sitting on the bird feeder that is silhouetted against the bright green hedge and a stunningly blue November sky. I’ve seen a lot of the world and well, Portland… so blessed to live here.

    Loved this post as I love you -Mum

  2. Dober dan Kai,
    About your reflections on the future…
    Hmmmm…..as one looking from the other end of the telescope at careers and the “where” within which life is lived and “career” pursued, I would encourage you not to give up too Brz! on Europe/South America, etc. Planning is a wonderful thing, but it assumes the future is mostly predictable and the courses of the world’s/individual’s histories are linear–an assumption deep in the tradition of post-scientific revolution, western societies, but certainly a delusion. Now, science tells us that even the paths of electrons around the nucleus of atoms are random within given parameters. Not a bad metaphor for life which has a basic attraction to some secure center, but an impetus to explore and interact spontaneously with other spaces and their unexpected contents/phenomena–you as a little girl and the baby Rhesus monkey both explored the near-world by making frequent trips back to nucleus Mum!

    From my admittedly srednja žalost perspective, your Eastern European classmates probably are closer to the truth about social animals’ advancements through life than is “The American Dream.” It’s not just who you know, but where they (and their cohort) are in the troup’s dominant-submission hierarchy. The USA has had brief periods (e.g., the westward expansion, post-WWII, and the Civil Rights Movement) when opportunity was subject to principles of “merit” and not just social power and influence, but those periods have been few and short-lived. Some of us have been fortunate enough to ride those waves of fairness, but better to also be aware of their rarity. Less rare, are the unplanned collisions we have with like-minded or like-souled individuals or groups who unpredictably lead us to be standing in front of a door labeled “OPPORTUNITY.” It is not only up to us to knock and risk the door’s not opening, it’s also up to us to know ourselves (beliefs, values, preferences, vulnerabilities, abilities, etc.) well enough to resist going through those doors that do open to our knock, that but will lead us away from who we are/want to be–away from our nucleus, you might say.

    To bring this down to a pragmatic level, the more formal education you pursue in a particular place, the more likely it is that you collide with with others who might help you be what/where/doing you are inclined toward in that next moment/phase of your life (“phase” is how it looks from your end of the telescope, “moment” is how it looks from mine). If formal education (and its institutional support of diverse but specialized encounters with others) ceases to be a possibility, then there are always more internships, entry-level jobs in areas for which you are not qualified (but will provide a good learner/worker/planner opportunities to become more and more competent), and volunteer positions (does the Peace Corps still exist?). Go to/stay in the places you think you most want to live and explore and continue to collect relationships with people that may open more career/education/experience/life-partner/deep love doors. Much more of our brains are devoted to being social animals than to being rational animals (how else to explain all those health-oriented, Slovenian smokers and the ubiquity of “social media?). Live and approach life with this understanding, however seductive a “good plan” or a “rational course to follow” might be, it is who we live with and around that determines the quality of our lives.

    Forever wishing I could live in all eleven dimensions the string theorists tell us are there,

    Ken

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