Tuesday, November 13, 2007

David in Croatia

Yeah, pretty much looks the same as David in SC. But, I think he is having fun, so that is good. We are going to decorate for Christmas tomorrow. It is early, but with chicken pox keeping us at home, it should brighten the day.

UPDATE, email from David:
(notice in the photos everyone is wearing coats INSIDE. I would not do well there, as I wear wool socks when it goes below 70 here)
It is Wednesday night and we fly back tomorrow. The last couple days have been very crazy and I have not been on line much. My computer was at the building where we were working last night so I could not even use it. We did rack wiring yesterday and the day before and re-worked the whole sound system with the new speakers that we brought. Branko is really nice and wants to be a good host and wants us to see things so he has us scheduled for lunch at this place up north with people that wedge knows and one night with Branko’s parents, etc. Wedge lived here for a month once and has visited several times as well. It is kind of like we are fighting for the time to get the work done that we need to get done.

Well we finally finished the wiring tonight, after the concert. We were pretty much done but went and set up the concert with two wires bypassed and on rack not neatened up yet. The concert went really well. This is their model for local concerts in these little towns and it works really well. The find a children’s hospital or children’s home or something and ask them if they can do a benefit concert for them. They then find a local musician or two to open up the concert. Tonight they raised about $600 for a children’s daycare center that we visited earlier today. About 300 people were there and the children from the center sang a song first, followed by a local musician backed up by the band. The band is Branko on guitar and lead vocal, his son on keys, another son on drums, an electric guitar, and two backing vocals. They are all really good. They just jumped in with this guy doing country music without any rehearsal. The son who plays keys (he has a total of 4 sons and 1 daughter-Sarah) is really good. He played along with these kids singing on songs that he had never heard. He let them start and would just throw in a chord after he heard it but by the second verse he was just playing along. He is a music major in college and plays a lot—pretty much all Jazz/Fusion kind of stuff.

The sound guy they have is really nice. He does not have much experience and they don’t give him as much respect as he deserves but he is really sharp. He is not very good at the art of mixing yet (which is what bugs them) but he has the signal flow and technical ends down. I think he can learn the art of mixing with some time.

The place we went today was right beside the Slovenia border. Yesterday we were somewhere where they said “that hill right there is Hungary”. Unfortunately we did not get to cross the border either time. Some of the things up there reminded me more of Romania—but not as poor. It was more like the Black Church area of Romania.

I have done a really poor job of taking pictures. I think I have about 3. I will get a copy of Leon’s pics. He has been taking more.

Well it is 12:30 and I better pack up and get to bed. We have a couple things we “have to see” in the morning. I also would like to get some paper money. I have not even spent a dime since I got here. The first day Leon paid for lunch at a restaurant and Branko was visibly offended. I have not exchanged a cent or spent anything. They just cart us around and feed us. I said I wanted to get some souvenir money and two different people came back with baggies of change. I am not going to ask or they will just give me bills. I will try to get some after they drop me off at the airport.

It is not like I have had a chance either. We have always been with someone or just been at the shop where we worked. I have not even had a chance to buy anything. Tonight they gave us a gift bag of chocolate, a shirt, a mug, some other snacks, etc. I feel bad that they are spending so much on us.

Diary from the Amsterdam Airport

Copied from my notebook:

Usually I sit facing the windows, but today I face the Christmas decorations and I can’t stop looking at them – all the overused phrases are right, “marveling at their beauty” “drinking them in” “my small piece of heaven.” The contrast to the ineptly strung, millennium flag colored lights draped across the Addis airport, and my “oh how pretty!” exclamation when we drove up shows how far I’ve traveled since immersing myself in Soddo.

Last night, I chose to interview my interpreter in the tiny room that is Kidist and Ayayu’s home. I didn’t want the Westernized background of book and fireplace in the guesthouse, nor the green of the fluorescents. Rather a plain white wall and the light of an uncovered 60-watt bulb, my camera perched on a worn Bible. I realized as he answered my questions that my ear has adapted to his speech – both accent and style, and that much of what he says will be unusable in “sound bite” form.

Now I drink a small cappuccino that cost $5 exactly, and watch young Dutch men in cargo pants build a 20-foot evergreen beside the cascading lights that still grab my eyes after every four words.

It’s not yet Thanksgiving at home.

I’m touching Ruth’s other world – her Netherlands, and thinking how distant Christmas seemed in Ethiopia. They celebrate on January 7th, and people enjoy injera with doro wat together. It is the day after the celebration in most Latin countries. Christmas presents include traditional Ethiopian clothing and playing cards for children. Some give gold.

My Ethiopian friend, who works at the embassy talked about her Christmas traditions. She bought a tree from a person leaving their tour (embassy workers from abroad work two year tours) with some ornaments. Her girls do the decorating, and add hand made cards and string beads each year. This year she thinks they are old enough to go out and purchase the roughly made nickel crosses to use as decorations. She will explain to them the history of the designs. All the crosses that have wings are from the Lalibela region, while those with geometric, symmetrical angles hail from Gondor or Axum.

I wanted to buy a book on the crosses at the Addis airport. My choices were the one I could afford, boasting yellow photos, cut and paste type and devil-may-care, off the top of the page layout. Or, an incredible book far above my price and size/weight for travel range.

I wish I had visited a bookstore in Addis.

At the Orthodox Church in Soddo that blasts prayers in the middle of the night – in Geez, a language no one speaks, I bought a gold colored cross for 30 birr ($3.34). My nursing student translator called it a “germ spreader” since the priest holds it out to people so they can kiss it. Also for 30 birr, I bought a thing that jangles. I don’t know the English word for it, but it intrigued me because the handle was made from a giant bullet shell. All the metal is the color of the shell, verifying my belief in the link between war and religion.

I wish I had bought more of them because it is hard to find good gifts for men, and I think these would be appreciated; at least by my strange friends.

The guys building the tree are using a genie lift now, and I realize I got full fat milk in my drink and will likely have a stomachache if I finish it. But, it cost FIVE DOLLARS!

Maybe Ruth will buy some clanger-janglers for me.