Of course, I can't begin to tell you how apprehensive I was about 10am this morning. I had started working through the course book, which they use here just to get an idea of the standard. This is when I really started to appreciate Svetlana at Westminster University, and I'm guessing it won't be the last time. When we did the grammar recap this morning I was able to recall precisely how she had explained things which added a different and helpful dimension. Anyway, this is getting a little bit ahead of myself as I don't want to go in to too much detail about the language classes here.
I'm actually more interested in conveying some of the cultural highlights from the past couple of days. First of all, it turns out that the 1978 cookery book that \I obtained before I came out here is pretty much as offensive as you can get. So much so that I think it may appear on the bibliography of my new friend's political PhD thesis - he was absolutely horrified to read the introduction and see the map. The map 'Croatia' is disgraceful for a 1978 edition; Zagreb is the capital, and its borders include parts of Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina. After quizzing me about my own political views and how I got hold of it, he enlightened me thoroughly.
Basically a number of people who had left Croatia - either after the war, or, like these authors, possibly children of these people - were unhappy with Yugoslavia. They believed in an independent Croatia because they saw themselves as a superior race, displaying precisely the views of what these authors describe. They see their neighbours as 'crude, primitive' Eastern 'Balkan tribes'. These Croats appropriated Roman/Italian classical antecedents as proof as their civilised and modern European culture, so looking north and west to reassure and gain acceptance by certain mentalist political types. Hard material to swallow because it is so utterly ridiculous.
The first Croatian Culture and Civilisation class I attended today emphasised why this view is pure fantasy. The mix and number of cultural influences is incredible and to dismiss them is to wilfully ignore a fascinating heritage; Illyrian, Celtic, Greek, Romans (with their associated enforced mixture), then Slavs and Ottomans. Like anywhere in the world it has seen tumultuous population changes and a large diaspora, which needs to be seen against a background of local, national and international events and developments. As Elena - my new Svetlana - said, everything is interconnected. I like her already.
Our class today was used to establish what we already knew about the country, and where our general interest lies. Given the class is thoroughly international; from South Korea to Bolivia, via Italy, Germany, Czech Rep, Latvia, Argentina and Canada, and given the range of specialisms - social sciences, languages, biology, physics - the level will necessarily have to be broad based. The focus is on the 7th century to the mid 1900s, which suits me fine. We will be covering literature, art, movies, and history, so a variety of media to look forward to. I should probably have signed up for modern history too, but to be honest, I have tonnes of language homework, as well as exams for this. I'd also like time to do some other important stuff.
Like going out. For instance.
Oh I mean writing librarianship material for various patient people in London. At the moment it's just wonderful to feel fully immersed in a country where I can come out of the classroom and hear the language being spoken. The frightening thing is feeling the intensity from today, which left me in need of a nap, and is going to happen three days a week for the next three months! My goal is to have a conversation with the lady in the local bakery by the end of this time...and not offend anyone else with my cookery books.