Thursday 30 June 2016

Istria abecedary: N is for Nono

Above: My great-grandfather

Nono is the name for grandfather in Istrian dialect, from the Italian word nonno. Likewise, nona is the name for grandmother. This is what I used to call my grandparents.

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Tuesday 28 June 2016

Istria abecedary: M is for Maneštra

At the Maneštra Festival in Gračišće

Maneštra is a typical Istrian dish: this is a thick soup, similar to Italian minestrone. Here in the village, there's an annual festival dedicated to this local specialty.

M is also for Mirna

This is the name of Istria's longest river. It has its source at a spring near Buzet, and joins the Adriatic Sea near the city of Novigrad, 53 km away.

The Mirna River (Photo credit: Istria Tourist Board)

M is also for Marenda, a light meal eaten between breakfast and lunch. 

M is also for Motovun, Istria's most photographed hilltop town, and the venue of one of Croatia's best-known film festivals.

Monday 27 June 2016

Istria abecedary: Lj is for Ljestvica

A note on the Croatian letter 'Lj'. This is considered to be one letter in the Croatian alphabet, and is pronounced like the double L sound in 'million'. (Remember: the J is pronounced like a Y.)

Ljestvica means 'musical scale', and Istarska ljestvica refers to the musical scale unique to Istria. It's characterized by two-part singing which involves two singers singing together, but an octave apart, and using a technique of 'partial' nasal singing, ending with the two singers singing in unison. The second voice can be replaced by an instrument like sopele (a traditional woodwind instrument) or bagpipes.

This is difficult to describe in words, but this short video provides a useful demonstration:

This unique tradition of two-part singing and playing in the Istrian scale is recognized by UNESCO and was inscribed on its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009.

Friday 10 June 2016

The pomalo way of life

Come to Istria, and you're bound to hear the word 'pomalo' sooner or later. Pomalo literally means 'slowly' but it seems to mean a lot more. 

It's a standard reply to many questions here. Ask someone how they are. The answer will be pomalo. How's work going? Pomalo. How's your mother? Pomalo. What's for dinner? Pomalo. Would you like a coffee? Pomalo.

Pomalo is practically a way of life. Italy has la dolce vita. We have pomalo

Indeed life has its own rhythm here, and you can only give in to it. Things can take time. Locals often ask me how I can put up with things here. Tedious things like the administration, paperwork, waiting for repairmen, expecting a letter (the post is so slow!)... All of these things go very pomalo

But what locals don't understand is what I went through while living in India for 6.5 years. Those long years taught me patience. I learned there's no point getting upset about things you can't control. You just have to give in and things just somehow work out in the end. So the small daily challenges here are nothing compared to daily power cuts, water problems, impossible traffic... I learned how to 'adjust' in India and it was a valuable life skill. So I can deal with all these pomalo issues.

An example of a current pomalo issue is our electric oven. Months ago, the thermostat stopped working, so the oven overheats and then turns off. We bought it at Ikea in Trieste along with the rest of our kitchen two years ago. Ikea Italy was quick to reply to our email inquiry with the helpful information that the warranty is valid across the EU and that we can contact Ikea in Zagreb to get it repaired. In true pomalo fashion, it took a few calls to Ikea in Zagreb until they finally got back to us with the phone number for the Whirlpool service centre. 

I've lost count how many calls we made to Whirlpool, but after four months and still no phone call from them as promised with details of the nearest certified Whirlpool serviceman, I called them again and used a tactic I had learned in India... No use getting angry, just tell them how difficult your life is without a functioning oven and make it sound much, much worse that it really is. 

We haven't been able to use our oven in months! It's been broken since before Christmas! There were no Christmas cakes or cookies for us! It's a really dire situation after all these months and still no call from your service centre. We've been living on only boiled vegetables all this time! How much longer do you think it will take??

The man at the Whirlpool service centre promised to get back to me that very day. I hung up with low expectations – but lo and behold, the sob story tactic seemed to have worked! He actually called back an hour later with the name and number of a qualified Whirlpool serviceman in Pazin, just a few kilometres away, and the news that he would come check out our oven on Monday. 

The repairman really did show up on Monday (after a call from me to make sure he was coming). He chatted away while poking the thermostat dial with his multimeter. He asked me how I enjoyed living in Istria, and told me that life is different here, that everything goes pomalo. I told him that I knew all about pomalo... that I had been waiting for months to hear back from Whirlpool so we could get the oven repaired. “You should have called me first,” he proffered, “I would have come immediately.” He then announced that the thermostat was kaput, and that it would take seven to ten days to get a new one from Germany. 

This was promising news. What's seven to ten days after waiting four months? Surely if the thermostat is coming from Germany, it'll be here in no time at all? 

It's now been seven weeks since Mr Whirlpool came by. In the meantime I've called him twice. No new thermostat from Germany. He promised to look into it and get back to me. He's getting another call from me next week...

My neighbour joked that they're just waiting for our warranty to run out! There are three years left...  I'll surely have a functioning oven again soon?

In the meantime, I will adjust.

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