The Tracks of My Tears

Recently I started crying.  That may not seem like a big deal, but for almost three years I've just wanted to cry, but I was too numb to do so.  Now I'm triggered by anything that is remotely emotional.  So I remembered this song from my childhood (no, I didn't grow up in the time of Motown, but that's what I listened to as a kid).  I've selected parts of the lyrics that explain how I feel, and it's a good song.

"People say I'm the life of the party
Because I tell a joke or two
Although I might be laughing loud and hearty
Deep inside I'm blue

So take a good look at my face
You'll see my smile looks out of place
If you look a little bit closer, it's easy to trace
The tracks of my tears

Outside I'm masquerading
Inside my hope is fading
Just a clown oh yeah
Since you put me down
My smile is my make up"

Maja Dezulovic

Discovering Little Paris - Importing Zulus to Croatia, and exporting Croatian public officers to South Africa

Labour in Croatia is expensive, whereas it is cheap in South Africa. That is why some things simply don't get done in Croatia. If there was a cheap labour force, things like maintenance would get done more routinely. That is why I jokingly suggest that a team of hard-working Zulus would come in handy for some of our projects.

Paperwork in South Africa is a nightmare. When you have to get your ID or something done, you know you'll lose at least a day waiting in line at your local Home Affairs office or license department. Conversely, paperwork moves more swiftly in Croatia. Public officers are efficient and things just get done correctly if you cooperate. The lines are shorter because of it, and because there is a much smaller population in Croatia.

So we can take our two nations and create a better country by taking the Zulus from one and the public officers from the other.

Maja Dezulovic

Discovering Little Paris - Land of Bureaucracy

Croatians love paperwork.  Whatever you want to do, there are surely a number of papers you have to go through first.  This is true for when you want to live in the country, get employed, or start a business.  There are always hula hoops of red tape that you have to jump through first.  Eventually, you just get used to it.

The question of bureaucracy is, however, a controversial one.  An argument for it is that it helps regulate state affairs, making the lives of citizens organised and more secure.  An argument against it is that it hinders progress by making regular affairs more difficult.

In South Africa, for instance, to get employed you just need to provide your ID and bank account number to the employer.  In Croatia, you need to provide that, proof of your education, a tax clearance certificate and a pension fund statement.  This requires visits to several offices and officiators before you can be registered with an employer.  And that is just to get a job.  Don't get me started on the complex process of getting citizenship.  A stamp being in the wrong place can invalidate a document and lead to needless issues.  But at least after you've jumped through the hoops, you can then take a dive into the Adriatic Sea.

So does the scenery make it worth it?  Not just that, but there's family, heritage and culture too.

Maja Dezulovic

Discovering Little Paris - Bara

If you're from Johannesburg, then you know about Bara.  If you're from South Africa, you know about Bara.  And possibly those of you from Africa also know about Bara.  This is because Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital is the biggest hospital in Africa and the Southern Hemisphere.  It is also one of the largest hospitals in the world.

The name Bara tells of the hospital I was born in.  The hospital is situated in Soweto, so you think of the township it caters to.

In Janjina we also have a Bara, which is the name of the lower village.  We walk through Bara almost daily.  It is like a small preview of the world we left behind in Africa.  There are old cars in the middle of open fields and the buildings look like they were haphazardly put together and extended, with some looking in dire need of maintenance.  Okay, I'm under exaggerating, some of the buildings are ruins.  The quiet chaos looks like a “location” to us so we refer to it as “lokshin”.

We pass lokshin on our way to the beach.   It marks the first downhill on a long way down to sea level.  Going through Bara makes us smile as it is a reminder of another faraway Bara that is also our home.

Maja Dezulovic

Discovering Little Paris - I, Afrikanac

My husband is an Afrikanac.  That's what they call him at work – the African.  It's funny because he has green eyes and fair-skin.  In fact, he looks “whiter” than most people around here.  He looks like a European, but his nickname echoes what it says in his passport – he is a South African.  I too am an African, and clearly so, but my ability to speak the language here and dual citizenship has awarded me privileges that others may not have.  But, we'll get to the matter of privilege in another post...

Many times I've tried to step into my husband's shoes  - he's in a foreign country, with a strange language that only now is he beginning to understand.  Things that I take for granted are needlessly difficult for him.  Things like shopping for groceries are a challenge as most items are labelled only in Croatian.  For a country that relies so heavily on tourism, it's one of those things that they'll have to catch up on.

Being an Afrikanac also means he doesn't have the right to state health insurance and other government  services.  Instead he is treated like an outsider by the state.  I guess we could accept it if it stopped there, but the problem also extends into a our social life.  For some reason, Croats are not accommodating when in the company of foreigners.  In social situations, usually people will speak to me in the expectation that I will convey the message to my husband.  This is true even if the other person speaks English as a second language.  This puts me in the position of translator every time we go out.

But, my husband is learning.  And aside from the few grievances, we have a good life here in what I do believe is a small paradise on this Earth.

Maja Dezulovic