This could be anywhere. Or could it? It’s not anywhere anyway. It’s Eastern Europe. Not eastern Europe with a lower-case e as a geographical region, but Eastern Europe capitalised as a former political unit (aka Eastern Bloc), which still retains its sociocultural characteristics today. Why should you care? Oh, you shouldn’t! Unless you’re into places in the middle of nowhere. That’s where my place is. Nowhere. I’m saying, not complaining.
I have the dubious (dis)advantage of living betwixt the first and the second worlds. My ass is sitting on a second-world chair, but the first world is at my fingertips, literally, through the internet. If you haven’t heard yet, what I define as second world are primarily post-communist countries in eastern Europe, which are, just like me, sitting uneasily between world one and world three, thus logically constituting world two. Makes sense, right?
Living in the second world entails having mostly second-world problems, which are pretty down-to-earth and typically revolve around the overarching question of how the fuck do I pay the bills. Assorted first-world problems do creep in, such as, what the fuck do I do with myself when the wifi is down, but mostly, first-world problems remain the source of endless hilariousness for me. You know, most first-world problems are not a thing here. Yep, they’re virtually nonexistent. Don’t everyone move in here.
In the unlikely scenario, though, that you’re a first-worlder looking to live in the second world (whatever crimes you committed to deserve that), here’s a helpful list of how to go about it. Among other things, your strategy must cover procuring alternatives for first-world products, which are here either entirely unavailable or are no way affordable. My insider advice is based specifically on Czechia, but should be applicable elsewhere too. Here you go. Take notes.
Item to substitute: iPhone, iPad and other iStuff
Get instead: normal stuff, huh
I suspect it’s not common knowledge in the first world, but when you want a smartphone, you don’t have to buy an iPhone. (Shocking, I know, but indulge me for a bit.) Just Google cheap smartphone in the local language and you shall be surprised to see that there are plentiful non-i-items in terms of phones, tablets, computers and laptops.
Be advised, however, that a tablet is not allowed. I can spare you the waste of money and tell you right away that a tablet doesn’t do anything that a phone or a laptop wouldn’t do. See, you’re already spending less!
Item to substitute: coffee machine
Get instead: kettle
Let’s make it clear straight away. You’re not drinking fancy coffee, and even if you wanted to, too bad, there are no more than two or three cities in this country where there’s a Starbucks. Take-away coffee, obviously, isn’t admissible anyway, so get used to making your own sooner rather than later.
What you do drink is called Turkish Coffee and has nothing to do with real Turkish coffee. For a recipe, see my earlier post. It’s pretty simple, wholesome, and all you need is a tin mug (if you want to go authentic), generic brand coffee and a means to boil water. If you really want to cut spending, you don’t even need a kettle, an oven will do; and if you don’t have an oven, use the fireplace in the middle of your room.
Item to substitute: car
Get instead: bus ticket
This is another outrageous concept, but sorry not sorry, that’s what it is: you don’t need a car. Here, I said it. It’s good news really because you can’t afford a car, obviously. You used the money you saved up to pay for your driving licence already, which is good, you might need it in case you ever need to drive a get-away car.
Look around. It might be that there are buses, trams and trains around. See them? Good. You just got yourself a means of transport. Can’t see anything? Too bad. It looks like you live in the middle of nowhere, where there is no public transport. Never mind though, you can still walk. So put those silly stilettos away in the closet, you won’t be using them here.
Item to substitute: TV and/or Netflix subscription
Get instead: nothing
I’ll let you in to a secret: if you have a computer or laptop, you have zero need for a TV. Actually, TV ownership is here associated with the lower-class (euphemism for dumb people in this case), so if you’re keen on making it (i.e., making it until the next rent is due), you won’t bee needing this crap.
As to Netflix, don’t worry about it too much, it’s probably not available in your new region anyway. Despite globalism, don’t think that you could subscribe to an US version of Netflix or anything really. You can’t, you’re now in the wrong place. The main point is, however: you don’t pay for watching anything. If you find yourself doing it, you’re doing it wrong.
There is obviously so much more, so much more that you couldn’t wrap your mind around it, which is the reason why I’ll leave you to it for now. I might bring more advice later. Or not. In case I do, watch this space. (Instead of Netflix.)
In response to WP Weekly Photo Challenge: Weathered.
As per request, here’s another weathered snap from my hometown. I guess now is the place where I provide you with details about the image, what’s in the picture and what the heck it’s all about, alas, I have no idea.
I’m not very home in my hometown. All I know is that this is a detail on the facade of some building or another. Maybe a musician lived there in the Middle Ages, but now it’s a pawn shop. An appropriate downward spiral. Here you go.
In response to WP Weekly Photo Challenge: Weathered.
I’m fascinated with the American fascination with historical architecture. Where I live, everything is by default ancient, or at least old and weathered. Even the perfectly insignificant and uninteresting small town where I’m currently residing dates back to the twelfth century.
It has all the obligatory medieval props: remains of the city wall, cobblestones everywhere and the plague column. The poor clueless people built it to ward off the plague, rather than building a proper sewer system. Duh.
I don’t even know what the title of the post means (but I can’t be bothered figuring out a more meaningful one). What is it, to be where you’re meant to be? Who does the meaning? I don’t know. I know who doesn’t do the meaning though: me. (Also, god, because I’m godless and faithless.)
I’m a self-declared Buddhist. Dalai Lama’s Cat advises to turn our prison into a monastery. The idea is that while you’re still confined, you bring into play an element of deliberate consent. I’m also Freudian. Freud advises that when you can’t have what you want, you must want what you have. These two are basically the same idea.
If it were entirely up to me, I wouldn’t choose to be where I am, physically and mentally. On the other hand, why not? There are sure worse places, literally and figuratively. I believe in determinism in the sense that where and when you are born predetermines your options. Don’t tell me that my life would be the same if I were born in a dirt hut in the heart of darkness (that’s literary speak for Congo, Africa).
Having been born in the second world has its amazing perks. Awareness, for example. We’re here an advanced society enough not only to know in theory that there are more advanced societies but also to practically know how exactly they live. I don’t think people in the dirt huts of the third world are quite clear on what life in the first world looks like. I have the benefits of internet, formal education and international friends, so I dare say I am quite aware of what it is to live elsewhere.
The second world awareness to me means that I know that I could have been better and also that I could have been worse. I can visualise both variants rather well. Knowing this, I’m also appreciative that I haven’t ended up worse. Sure, I’m a struggling overworked freelancer in a cold flat in a shabby small town, but hey, it’s not like I have to walk ten miles to get water from the well and there are rapists and robbers on the way.
I argue that second world people are the toughest. When you don’t know what you could have had, if only you were born differently, you don’t desire it—you have no idea. When you do know, however, that you could, but most likely won’t (don’t give me the nonsense that I can be anything I want to be), you have to get your shit together and deal with it. That requires both mental and physical toughness.
I mean, I’m not dependent on UNICEF food packets, I get my groceries from Tesco, but I still have to walk a mile to get there and carry the shopping on my back because I have neither a car nor someone to help me. It’s this undemonstrative everyday heroism that I value the most in others—and myself. I wouldn’t choose it, but since that’s what I got, I might just as well do it properly and with whatever grace and dignity I can put together.
I’m apolitical. Nay. I’m anti-political. I suspected that my country was holding a parliamentary election one of these days, and my fears were confirmed when I retrieved a set of ballots from my postbox. It was a bulky envelope bulging with two or three dozen ballots, one for each party running. I was unsure what to do with that shit. Should I build a bonfire? Should I start making origami? Should I just crumple it into a ball for the cat to play with?
I shared my decision paralysis on Facebook and asked for advice. Yes, this wasn’t the smartest idea, especially when you seek to avoid arguing about politics. I did receive a lot of advice though, some from people I don’t even know. I also got plenty of contradicting unsolicited suggestions on whom to vote for. This actually did ease my decision process because anytime I’m advised something, I go and do the opposite. I prefer to make my wrong choices myself so I’d have solely myself to blame.
One of the Facebook armchair advisers was a supporter of the Green Party. Well, nature is nice and all that, but I fear the Greens might give chickens more rights than I have and ban nuclear power plants, which would be a shame because I’m sentimentally attached to them. (Anytime a nuclear energy hater raises the argument, How would you like it to have a nuclear plant at your backyard?, I say, I literally grew up with a nuclear plant at my backyard and I fucking loved it!)
While thus occupied on Facebook, I found there a test Which Party You Should Vote. Well, everyone knows that Facebook tests are serious and solid, so I took it. It wasn’t that sketchy after all. Your opinions on public issues were compared against the political programmes of the parties running in the election and the result was a percentual match of your opinions with the opinions of each party. Something like Tinder for politics. I matched from 90% with the Pirates. Why, yes, we do have a party called the Pirates here.
So I went and voted for the Pirates. The above-described procedure for choosing my preferred political representative makes it clear that I’m absolutely unfit to vote. I am convinced that most people are unfit to vote, either because they are not informed, like me, or they are not intelligent enough to process the information. That’s probably one of the reasons why democracy doesn’t work. Democracy is like equality, it’s a nice idea, but it’s just an idea. And no, I don’t have an alternative solution. I’m the dumb voter who went voting against her better judgement and so performed an act of visionary optimism.
The prompt for today’s shooting venture is really just big but I added badass for extra effect. Another extra of my response is the fact that I actually shot this with a real camera. Sure, on auto, because I suck, but I dragged the DSLR thing out of the depths of the closet and took it for an outing. My first in a year or so. Even more, I shot it in portrait mode, which I otherwise never use for reasons I forgot (but they must have been good). Here’s big and badass on several levels then.
Prompt two of this photo challenge discriminates against challenged people who can’t or won’t go out. I can but I won’t. I did though. Especially to fulfil this task, I left the flat and shot the nearest random street, which is the subject keyword for today.
I’m still finding everyday inspiration. Or rather, looking for it and not finding it. Here’s where my readers’ suggestions come in (cheers to you, guys!). I asked what to write about and I’m still shocked that anyone bothered to advise. Actually, it looks like everyone bothered to advise! I have shit to blog about for the rest of the year. I mean, I have suggestions to blog about, which I’ll turn into shitty posts (like this one, you’re welcome).
Trent from Trent’s World came up with a challenge for me to “do something that is completely different”. I love the idea (wait, I don’t love anything). Anyway, what I’ll pull off is something I’ve never done before and shall never repeat again. I will blog a recipe. Yes, you heard right. I don’t blog recipes because a) I have none, b) my concept of cooking is so barbarous that my recipes would probably get me banned from WordPress.
I give you a recipe for a Czech Turkish coffee. I don’t mean Czech-Turkish with a hyphen. It has nothing to do with Turkey. Therefore we call it Turkish (because logic). I have no clue how the misnomer happened. And I make the most terrible coffee (ever, forever). You absolutely shouldn’t try it at home, even if you manage to get hold of the rare ingredients required for this abomination.
the cheapest generic brand of coffee you can buy (or steal)
tap water, preferably hard (so it gives your kettle limescale)
optional sugar, absolutely no milk (this isn’t baby formula)
booze (preferably slivovitz, but rum will also do, as will anything really)
Fill the kettle with water and switch it on (use only as much water as you need to save electricity).
Grab a large mug (half a liter is about right). Throw in two or three spoonfuls of ground coffee.
Pour boiling water in the mug.
Add slivovitz to taste.
It’s perfectly normal for the coffee grounds to float on the surface.
The coffee tends to be strong, so have your heart medication ready.
The grounds are not consumed but left at the bottom of the mug.
Some people stir the coffee to make the grounds settle, I just blow on it—less dishes!
If you can’t wait for your coffee to cool, just throw in an ice cube or two.
If you’re wondering, all of the above is true and that’s how I take my coffee. It’s a thing.