Friday, July 07, 2006

When in doubt, "gelato"

Words you live by in Slovenia:

Prosim (please)
Hvala (thank you)
Pivo (beer)
Union (best brand of beer)
Smile (other brand of beer if they don't have Union)
Bela kava (cafe au lait...even though I don't drink coffee, I've had some)
Gelato (gelato..."the best outside of Italy")

We really take for granted the fact that English is such a universal language. Is it just the ignorance or isolation of living in such a large country as the United States of Canada (joke...) that makes most people unappreciative of the fact that everyone seems to speak English? One of the most interesting things on this trip has been seeing various people of different cultures conversing in a common tongue--of course, I've been alluding to English. When we arrived, I felt really bad that I couldn't even remember the word for hello (Dober dahn--not sure if that's spelled correctly, and I'm not sure how to pronounce it), but I quickly came to realize that no matter what you do, everyone knows you at least speak English. It's simultaneously been a source of relief a cause of a wee bit of guilt; I don't know why. I could get by on French, and I'll always try my hand at key phrases when I travel. It just makes you appreciate everyone else's attempts...and successes! I wish I could be so accomodating when they visited my country.

Lots to blog about...let's see.

Conference highlights:

1) I'm not saxophoned out yet...although I came close today. There was an afternoon of sax and various multimedia. There's only so much anyone can take of that, including saxophonists and multimedia enthusiasts. There was one piece for sax, electronics and dancer. The dancer was tethered to the sax player...I'll post a picture when we get home. There was also a piece played by Canadian saxophonist Julia Nolan (UBC) for sax and audio-visual presentation. The visual: wet naked male bodies. It wasn't graphic, it was very artistic. I personally didn't get it.

2) Funniest "serious" piece: solo saxophone and actor. The actor was in some sort of white plastic sack, straining and struggling to get out. Very creepy, especially with the plastic pulled over the face like a person being suffocated. Other than that, it was very hard not to laugh out loud during the performance.

3) Biggest stress (besides getting lost at 3am on the night of our arrival): checking in to the conference and finding out that the tech guys did not have Dave's updated tech info sheet. They said they were under no obligation to provide tech guys for the performance, as they didn't have the sheet. It all worked out in the end, but Dave was pretty worried for a while. The performance went extremely well. It's weird to think we flew to Europe for an 8 minute piece!

Before the conference started, we had a couple of days to get over jetlag and get our bearings. We went for a walking tour of the city on Tuesday morning and took a little train (a la Disney--think "It's a Small World After All") up to the Ljubljana Castle that afternoon. We could have walked up the "mountain". As the train climbed up the hill, little old ladies with walkers were passing us on the path. Nearly.

We saw both semi-final matches of the World Cup in cafes in town. It's too bad we won't be in Italy when the final takes place. That would be an exciting experience! It was crazy enough with the hard-core fans around here. We're very close to Italy, so of course most people were cheering for them vs. Germany. The France game was on during the evening concert two nights ago, and of course they had a tv on in the lobby where everyone congregated. We caught the end of the game at a cafe aftwerwards.

We've seen some amazing concerts. My hands-down favourite has been "Sax Assault" (risky name, eh?) who were joined by Bob Mintzer and then followed by the Yellow Jackets. Even if you're not a fan of the sax, Sax Assault is a group to check out. They sounded like a big band and played different kinds of music, mostly funk or Pat Metheny-ish jazz. Very very cool.

The absolute best part of this trip so far has been the ambiance of the city. There are about 20 cafes on every street, so you just take your pick and settle down for a bela kava or pivo. Our routine has been to go to one place for lunch, another for coffee, pick up a gelato on the way to the conference hall, and go out for pivo at a fourth place after any event. You don't have to go to the same place twice, but we have our favourites. We love the cafes by the river (again, dozens), where you can take part in the best people-watching available. The women are Euro-chic, and I feel terribly unfashionable at all times. I finally broke down and wore my heels last night (20 min. walk to the centre from our hotel, cobble streets, bad idea), after which I promised my feet I wouldn't put them through that again. At least I looked good for one night.

Off to another concert this evening. We've been going out for meals and gelato with various colleagues, new and old. Had a nice meal and bottle of Slovenian merlot with Roger Greenberg (followed by...gelato) the other night, and we'll try to rope in Jeremy and Mary Brown before we go our separate ways.

I can't wait for Venice, but Ljubljana has been fantastic!!!

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