19 June 2009

Rant: Public Transportation

For a city of it's size, Prešov has an amazing public transportation system.  Usually, we get along really well.  Not today.

I got on a bus I swear was a 38 -- usually a bus I avoid taking, but for once I had to go somewhere that the bus stops right in front of -- the statue of Alexander Duchnovyč.  Turns out, the bus was an 8 -- I don't know how this happened, that I got on the wrong bus, except that my mind is more often than not elsewhere.  I was late to my appointment because I had to walk from the center to the river, it was only 9:30am but already hot and sticky.

I went home, and on my way back to the center in the afternoon, I grabbed a 32A, which didn't stop at my stop, which I wasn't expecting because one almost never has to request stops here, but this bus didn't even have buttons -- until I saw the button on the roof of the bus!  Not the first place I'd look.

Finally, on my way home, I thought I'd take a chance and skip on the ticket, because I didn't have a chance to buy one since my bus came right away, and it was after 8pm and and and... I got caught without a ticket.  This is hugely annoying.

[Screams and exeunt.]

Link: Roma Music Festival

I've been wanting to post this for a while, it's an article about a Roma music festival in Prague, and there is a nice video and sound bytes: click here.

13 June 2009


So, ages and ages ago, I blogged about how excellent a visit to Gorlice was -- and now, here's some video to prove it, even though it's analagous to comparing an ice cube to an iceberg:

12 June 2009

I know my human rights, thanks to Mickey D's!

In the school in Kocur, we saw this poster, which was a bit surreal.  In Serbian, it teaches basic human rights, for example:
  • I have a right to my identity!
  • I have a right to my privacy!
  • I have a right to my language, culture and religion!
All of which are totally legitimate, except that there's a McDonald's logo on there, which raises some interesting issues... discuss?

10. ročník Duchnovičovho Prešova

So I still have tons more to share from Serbia, but I'm going to interrupt that for a bit to post some stuff from something that happened today which is arguably even more important: the 10. ročník Duchnovičovho Prešova.  This is a contest for elementary school children in Slovakia who study the Rusyn language and who, at the end of the school year, meet for this recitation contest in the Rusyn language.
I have over an hour of video of school kids declaiming and acting in Rusyn, but I'll have to post it using Vimeo because it's too long for YouTube.  One of those things for when I get around to it...  but it's so important in terms of the continuing, critical discussion regardling living language.

4th World Forum of Rusyn Youth, Ruski Kerestur

I wish the whole experience of the World Forum of Rusyn Youth this year could be communicated in a complete way all at once – like how vomiting happens and is experienced except without the hassle or mess.  Because that’s how excited I still am about how I finally got to Ruski Kerestur and Kucur – and Novi Sad!  For many years, the Vojvodinian Rusyn crew has been the crew we young American Rusyns have had the most positive relationship with, and they were always inviting us to Serbia – finally, after long years of hearing mythically epic stories of how excellent it is there, I’ve seen it for myself and I can’t wait to go back!

I can’t decide how I want to start, but I think I will go in chronological order with this post and then continue with some thematic ones a bit later.  As I get more photos, I’ll add them, so look for updates to this post.  And to be sufficiently vague before I get into it, some details are left out to protect the innocent.

We left Wednesday (3 June) afternoon and got across the Serbian border before we stopped for the night in Palić, a cute lakeside resort.  We stayed in an amazing place – the sign out front said two stars, but it most certainly wasn’t.  It was brand new, and we had excellent accommodations and an excellent breakfast.  So if you’re ever in Palić, Serbia, I’d totally and unequivocally suggest the Villa Lago pension.  After breakfast, we walked a bit around the lake (a significant tourist destination, it would seem) and then hit the road for Ruski Kerestur on Thursday morning.  The most significant thing about the drive was the rather obvious observation that the Pannonian plain is FLAT.  Really flat.  Absolutely no hills.  You can see for miles and miles and miles.

I was having a BLAST enjoying all the Yugos and Zastavas – classic cars, well-preserved Fiat technology.

When we got to Ruski Kerestur, we knew we had arrived when in the middle of the town we saw a huge Rusyn flag, along with the flags of the EU, Serbia and the autonomous region of Vojvodina.

We registered, sampled the local brandy (amazing), had lunch and went to the pension where we were staying in Kula, about 10km away from Ruski Kerestur.  We went back, and went to the Gymnasium Petro Kuzmiak to see the Gallery of Famous Rusyns, which is a project of the World Congress of Rusyns, and then while there was a play being performed by the local Rusyn theatre group, I went with a friend and colleague to the meeting of the World Council of Rusyns as representatives of the World Forum of Rusyn Youth, because we would have no president until the next day – long story, long meeting. Finally we ate dinner, I had some more brandy, and we got back on the bus to go back to Kula. 

It was really excellent that we, the youth, were all staying in one place together and we were moving together at the same times, so we were always able to sing, drink, and dance together:

Friday, after the official opening of the Congress, we got ourselves together for the actual proceedings of the World Forum of Rusyn Youth in the afternoon.  Overall, not bad, and I think we hashed out most of the issues we needed to in order to reorganize a bit and move forward.
 The view from where I was sitting at the Forum.

Stork nest on Rusinska ulica in Ruski Kerestur.

Right around the time of the Forum, my good friend Brian (check out some of his side projects) showed up with two non-Rusyn friends.  We were all wondering if/when he was going to show up, and he did and it was great to have a drink with him and catch up.  It’s also wonderful to witness non-Rusyns being introduced to the warm craziness of Rusyn activities, because we really make a strong impression, it would seem.

In the early evening on Friday there was a cultural program, which is always one of the highlights of the WCR.  The folklore groups in Vojvodina are all really professional and a true pleasure to watch:

After the cultural program, some dinner (with a beer called Jelen Pivo, which means deer beer, which rhymes so nicely in English), discussion, and dancing, we headed back to Kula where the party was a bit less intense than the night before, though included some more drinking and dancing.  I talked with a young Romanian Rusyn ethnomusicologist – and was totally impressed by her positive energy and great enthusiasm.

Saturday morning we were up and out around 9 (it goes without saying I didn’t sleep too much the whole weekend) – and our first stop was Kocur.  We visited the school, where there was an amazing photographic exhibit, then visited with the mayor, then an ethnographic exhibit in an old house – with a great horse-drawn hearse in the back – and finally we skipped out on visiting the church in favor of an all too-short visit to the (infamous?) MC Pegasus, where a rally was just getting started.  It was too cool, and an honor to visit there with the reigning beer-drinking champion of the club.

From Kocur, we went for lunch in Vrbas (the town formerly known as Titov Vrbas, which I was to revisit again in the wee hours of the morning) and then headed to Novi Sad.  Our hosts insisted over and over again that Novi Sad is way better than Belgrade, and I’ll believe them.  It’s definitely a city I’d like to return to – hell, I can’t wait to go back to all of these places, really. 

 Panorama of Novi Sad from Petrovaradin Fortress. Yes, that's the Danube.
We also went to the University and Novi Sad Ruska Matka headquarters, where we met even more young Rusyns and it was all totally cool.  As a member of the World Council of Rusyn Youth, I got to visit the Parliament of Vojvodina with the other members of the Council -- Parliament there has 6 official languages!!
Leaving out a few details, we got back to Prešov safely on Sunday night.

03 June 2009

Gulaš Party

So Monday was International Children's Day, which the kids had off from school because our principal rocks, and the faculty and staff celebrated by going to a chata outside of the city and having a gulaš party, which is the most Slovak thing that we could have done.  The gulaš vat, as you can see, is a rather ingenious, self-contained and free standing piece, with a firebox at the bottom, and then a vat that sits inside and over the fire like a double boiler, plus it's own little chimney.  We had enough gulaš so that all of us (around 30 people) had 2 servings of it, plus then 20 sisters at dinner that night, and then as a snack Tuesday at school.  Excellent.

Today's Vintage Rusyn Photograph

Photo from Svidnik/Bardejov, 1930. HT: RC.