Monday, 17 September 2007

Love from Ljubljana

I find myself surrounded by dead animals.

I am writing to you from Pension Zaplata in Slovenia.

Pension Zaplata must be the place that vegetarians and animals rights activists who have led unwholesome lives go to when they die. Just about every animal from Slovenia can be found here, stuffed, mounted and proudly displayed, welcoming visitors with cold, dead eyes.

From the birds and deer in the hallway to the imposing Croatian bear that greets you as you enter, this place is a Republican's dream.

At first I thought I didn't mind it too much, but waking up this morning to be confronted by the bare white skull of a deer, antlers still attached, is more than a little nauseating. (Eat them, sure, but don't decorate your house with them).

Still - and I feel a touch of hypocrisy coming on - I did tuck into a hearty meal of deer medallions in cherry sauce earlier, followed later by tender young boar. Perhaps that's why a bull charged me today.

That Bulls Got Balls

Slovenia truly is a beautiful country.

A few hours ago I rented a bicycle and took a ride to a nearby village called Kranj, travelling down little used roads and past green meadows, fast flowing rivers and towering, cloud covered mountains.

After visiting Kranj, I hid my bicycle and made my way into the hills on foot to explore this beautiful landscape further. After a short walk, I came to a wire fence and, mindful of the fact that I was entering private land, I hopped over and began making my way across a field.

I soon ran into a couple of cows, who started giving me the daggers, so I stared back, being sure to give them a wide berth. Don't bother them and they won't bother you Andrew, I thought to myself. With that thought barely finished, there was suddenly a great crashing noise and moments later a huge bull appeared from nowhere and came charging towards me.

I turned and ran, jumping the wire fence, and began making my way down a steep slope, going as fast as my legs would carry me. Inevitably, I slipped and started sliding down the slope, ass first.

With the bull now completely forgotten, my only concern was to stop myself falling. I was grabbing at branches and small trees but I was moving too quickly to get a grip. After sliding about 30 feet, I went - quite literally - crotch first into a small branch.

Looking back, and at the time, it was quite comical. I was sliding so quickly, there was no time to be afraid. The fall wouldn't have killed me, but that little branch saved me from a few cuts and bruises.

Surprisingly, I experienced no pain at all and my crotch came out completely unscathed. I suspect, however, that Emily may now need to wait a little longer for the child that she so desperately wants.

Smiles and Sadness in Semic

Being in Slovenia, and writing this email, brings my life full circle.

This is my second visit to Slovenia; I was here two years ago today, in a small town called Semic, working with paraplegics.

Tomorrow I head to Kranj again, leaving the stuffed animals and my friend the bull behind. I will catch a train to Ljubljana and then head to Semic where I will spend time with the same Slovenian people I first met in 2005.

Being in Semic two years ago was very intense. There was me, a dozen Slovenian paraplegics and a few other international volunteers. We spent nearly all of our time in a house not unlike the Big Brother house. There was no TV, no Internet, just us in the house, talking, eating, playing chess and other games.

On the one hand, it was a great experience. The Slovenians were great people and nice to be with. But I had problems with the other volunteers. There was a man in his late seventies called Howard who was fine. My problems were with a Swiss girl, an Irish girl, an American girl and a French-Polish girl. They were nasty, small minded people, who should have been appearing in an episode of Big Brother rather than volunteering to work in Slovenia.

They spent most of their time gossipping (about me, unfortunately) and were all obsessed with sex.

At one point - and it's embarrassing for me to relate this but I will anyway - I walked into the room to find them engaged in a conversation about how they would refrain from eating a day before having anal sex so they don't open their bowels before doing the deed. This is the type of girl we are talking about here. They said some very nasty and hurtful things about me and ruined my time in Slovenia.

That is part of the reason I am going back, to banish the memory of those awful people.

But more than that, I am going to spend time with the Slovenian people again. Wonderful people like Rok, Stefan, Damjan and Joe Rabbit. Tomorrow I will return to that small village and history will repeat itself as my life comes full circle.

More Smiles and Sadness in Semic

Thursday 20 September 2007

I am writing to you from Semic. Its a little after eleven in the evening on Thursday 20 September 2007. Two years ago, to the very day, to the very minute, I was here, in this house, almost certainly in this room, with the people who are sitting across the table from me right now.

Rok is here, and Joe Rabbit, and Stefan and Damjan and many of the people I met two years ago. Very often, when I visit a place and then go back in an attempt to recapture the past, I am met with disappointment because things always change.

In the time that has passed since I visited Semic in 2005, nothing has changed.

The house is the same. The kitchen, the decor, the beds, the crappy TV, the trolley we used to wheel the food around on. Even the neighbours dog that barked all night long and kept us awake two years ago is still here, still barking.

The church bells still rings. The same clock still ticks. Sitting here, writing this, it is like those two years never passed at all.

I arrived in Semic from Kranj on Tuesday and the past two days have again been filled with smiles and sadness. There have been visits to the pub, games of chess, meals, conversations, laughter and moments of reflection.

Tomorrow the camp ends and I will leave Semic once again. But for now, for this moment, I am back in the place of a thousand memories.

My life truly has come full circle.

From the memory box of a Professional Englishman.

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London, ENGLAND, United Kingdom
This is me. Read a few entries and they will tell you more about me than I can fit into these few paragraphs. Many of these entries started their lives as mass emails. That was before I discovered blogs. Thanks for stopping by and thanks for visiting my blog and reading about my life. Both a work in progress.