No, I am not going to write about the local elections or politics in any form, as my mother-in-law always says “leave politics alone” so I am heeding her advice. And to be quite honest you’re all probably sick of reading about politics anyway, and I can’t blame you.
So let’s take another path, one that I have taken quite a few times before. “Was it difficult for you to learn the language? How did you get on at the very beginning?” came the question from the jovial journalist in Zagreb as I sat in a studio in Dubrovnik. This question of course opened the door to tell my favourite “learning Croatian” story, which, to cut a long story short highlighted the fact that I indeed learned the local Dubrovnik dialect and not Croatian. Yes, I was a guest on HRT’s flagship morning show, “Good Morning Croatia” (again) basically telling my life story in a condensed version.
I am not particularly nervous or even phased about being on live TV, it could be from experience, and to be honest I’ve had lot of experience, it seems like I’ve arrived in Croatia a million times. Or from the fact that I don’t really have a fear of public speaking, quite the contrary I feel more at home with a microphone in my hand than sitting in the audience. I guess a psychiatrist would say it’s a question of controlling the situation, that I’m a control freak.
And as I wandered down memory lane on live TV I was smiling to myself remembering the times I’d had and the life path I’d taken. My mother would be in shock that her “shy little boy” was now chatting away in a language that he’d never had a lesson in. But one life lesson I have learned is if you put yourself in uncomfortable situations you’ll quickly conquer your fears. “The English tend to move around a lot and live all over the world, this isn’t unusual. Are you thinking of moving somewhere, away from Dubrovnik?” came the next question. I felt like saying if it wasn’t good for me here then I wouldn’t be actually here. But with a broad smile I replied something like “The world has become smaller and smaller and moving around is easier than ever before, but for now I can’t think of a better base than Dubrovnik.”
The questions kept flowing thick and fast. “What would you change about the system in Croatia? How difficult is it to work here?” came the next one. Again I thought where do I start, but let’s keep this light-hearted as the problems are as obvious as spots on a cheetah. “An English friend who has just arrived here said that she was surprised at the number of stamps required and that she always seems to be missing that one vital stamp. So, maybe in hindsight I should have opened a stamp store when I first arrived here,” was the diplomatic answer.
I continued answering, throwing in my love for pršut and cheese, Mljet as my favourite place, the arrival of Brits as tourists and how I miss going to football every weekend.
Now, I had a plan not to tell anyone that I was going on TV, basically thinking that who would be watching TV at nine in the morning when they should be working or are watching Netflix instead. The plan clearly wasn’t a good one as the messages started flowing in.
It appears that not so many people as I thought were actually working. From Rijeka, Zagreb and all along the coast I was bombarded with mostly humorous messages. “Brilliant!! Absolutely brilliant!! I am not one of those folks that is keen on migration (and I grew up in the Toronto area, so I understand multi-culturalism as well as anyone), but when I see you on HTV speaking in Croatian and showing an affinity for the country – and especially Dubrovnik – I am glad to have you with us! I hope that you always have enough “prsut I sir” on the table at home,” read one of them.
“How have the citizens in Dubrovnik accepted you? They still call you “Englez” to this day,” was one the final question. Yes, I think for as long as I live I will always carry the nametag of Englez. I guess there are worse nicknames to carry with you. “Goodbye from Zagreb and enjoy the rest of your morning,” waved the reporter as I threw in a quick “adio” and the latest TV adventure was behind me. See, mother-in-law, no politics from me (well, not yet anyway!)