Women at liberty

15. Juli 2011 § Hinterlasse einen Kommentar

It’s probably no coincidence that, within 24 hours, I meet and talk to four women who are travelling on their own. They’re all in their early thirties and look more than just attractive. The threesome that sit down near me on the ferry from Mali Losinj to Zadar are secondary school teachers from Switzerland and tell me their men had to stay behind because they’re working, while they’re on holiday. It’s not clear how many men there are, but one of them, Luzia, has a fourteen-month old girl who seems to be the joy of the trio or at least easy to handle.

They got on board at Olib, a small island, where they’d stayed for three days, impromptu, and seem to have enjoyed themselves tremendously. One of them, Sandra, is second generation Croat, and they will all be visiting her relatives in Slavonia. All this in a dazzling black Mercedes camper bus which made them quickly known around Olib (where you can’t really drive on roads).

Tamara has a Sicilian background and I realize once again what it means to have grown up ‘seconda’ as she speaks of the joys of visiting the family every summer, and the nostalgia as the ferry was leaving and putting water between her and her other world.

Now they’re exploring the Balkan terrains and they wouldn’t have needed to tell me that many of their students have a background on this ‘subcontinent’. These teachers may be on holiday, but they’re certainly travelling with open eyes and ears. One of them, who will take up a new job in a remote village in Switzerland, almost seems to regret that on the class list, there are no foreign-sounding names this time.

In any case, this threesome plus toddler are certainly making some jaws drop. I’m not sure if the explanation about the men who need to work fully persuades the crew member who’d gone into heavy flirting mode before.

Today, I’m on another detour to avoid the too-busy coast road (called Jadranska magistrala). There’s an ill wind blowing from the south, whipping the heat into my face. It’s called the ‘yugo’, I’m told by a man who generously plies me with iced water somewhere along the inland road. It must be the fourth or so litre I’m imbibing. Before that I bought a bottle at the only ‘market’ that was open in the early afternoon.

Sitting in front of the little shop is Nada from Ljubljana having a picnic with Petar, her (I’d guess) five-year old. The day before yesterday, she was set to travel to Estonia for a few weeks, clothes and GPS routes all prepared. But then, she tells me, her PhD committee told her to hand in some work soonish, and she decided to cut the holiday short and head southward. She firmly believes that, once she’s found a room to rent, she will get down to some writing. I doubt if the 36 degrees will let her. But I was always the self-motivating doctoral student too and only took 6 years to complete that thing.

We talk about our trips, and the war-damaged buildings in the vicinity. I ask her what Croats think of Slovenes, who come down here in droves to spend their euros. It’s just that: the Slovenes did the clever thing, kept out of the war and benefitted with quick accession to the EU and new riches. That still causes resentment on this side of the EU border. But, Nada frowns, times have gotten worse, and the general raggedy state of financial affairs in this colossus is threatening Slovenia’s economy and general well-being too.

One thing she doesn’t mention but which strikes me as being similar to the Swiss ladies of last night: She just went off, gave herself a holiday without a worry about what others might think, a woman on her own with a young child, in the potentially treacherous Balkans.

But that fear may be a simple figment of my imagination. After all, nothing untoward has happened to me. All that threatens us, at least for the moment, is not drinking enough water against the dehydrating ‘yugo’. It’s such a good thing to witness this sort of progress, rather than only economic advances (the two being connected, of course, see above, the Mercedes van with dark-tinted windows).

It's a lyrical voyage to Zadar

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