I Am Where I Was Meant to Be

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.

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Tesco does not sponsor this post

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‚ÄĒyou 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‚ÄĒand 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.

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My Translating Trick (Which Doesn’t Work)

When I’m translating and come across a specific term not listed in a general dictionary, I use Wikipedia. The same Wikipedia that I would tell my students never to use (or should they still feel the compulsion, to limit this activity to the privacy of their home, much like masturbation). I input the term in the English Wikipedia and then look for a Czech mutation of the page. Sometimes I get lucky and get a hit.¬†More often I don’t get lucky, which is where mutations of the page in other languages come in.

First I check other Slavic languages, when available. Slovak is supposed to be the closest language to Czech, but it’s a lie. It has letter accents I don’t recognise and spellings which would be so wrong in Czech. The Slovak equivalent of the term I’m looking for is usually just a bunch of nonsense letters which don’t mean anything to me. Time for Polish, which is supposed to be pretty similar to Czech. Not really. Polish sounds like someone was poking fun at Czech.

Gibberish

In the depths of utmost despair, I turn to Russian. I learned Russian for a few years but what remains from my Russian is a few random words and a limited ability to read the Cyrillic alphabet. It looks like this: I read it out aloud, letter by letter, so that I could hear the result. I also tilt my head like a dog or an idiot because looking at print from an unnatural angle apparently facilitates reading. Typically I end up nodding my head, fascinated but not enlightened.

For the sake of practice, I sometimes skim what other languages are available and click randomly for possible inspiration. Sometimes there’s a version in Latin. What the heck. Are these the Middle Ages? There are also African languages, which I’m sure are thrilling, but not particularly helpful. What’s missing is Klingon. That might have been useful. If you have a more intelligent and effective method for tackling terms in translation, do tell me please.

What a Slavic Girl Wants

The Slavic girl in the title of the post is me (Heyou!). I have no clue what I want, so you’d be silly to take the following seriously. On top of it, it’s all plagiarised. How so? I came across a new blog the other day with a wonderful click-bait of a page entitled My Girlfriend. Being a creep who’s curious about other people’s girlfriends, I naturally headed there first. Oops though. It threw Error 404! I mean, it literally threw Girlfriend Not Found.¬†Being a person with a perverted sense of humour, I collapsed in convulsions of laughter. I thought this was so brilliant I had to steal the idea. Therewith I declare an advertisement for a boyfriend.

Here’s a (long) list of my demands. You won’t like them. You don’t have to like them though because it’s all hypothetical! However, I’m hypothetically holding your kitten hostage, so your protocol had better comply. Interested candidates may apply in the comments below and must enclose their CV, cover letter and recent photo (preferably fully dressed). No kidding. This is a serious long-term job interview! As to what’s in it for you, besides the kick out of it, this is not the subject of the current post (ha!). So keep your pants on (also literally).

Gutter to go with my gutter post

The ideal acceptable candidate includes but is not limited to the following features:

  • You gotta be fierce. This is Eastern Europe, and all they say is true (remind me to blog about the cute quirks of local organised crime). No need to wield the sword (so analog), but an ability to use the knife (or a shank) is essential. Your duties will involve, knife-wise, killing, gutting and cooking a carp with your own hands each year at Christmas Eve (that’s what we do here for Christmas, perfectly normal).
  • You gotta know your shit (not to be confused with¬†You gotta know you’re shit). I’ve spent enough time teaching to know that instructing people is a loss of time because they’ll go and do the opposite of what you advise. (People are weird, no? Bonus points if you agree.) Clairvoyance and mind reading skills are not required (because duh, let’s keep it real). Ability to Google is presumed in the successful candidate.
  • Your cat must not hate my cat (my cat hates everyone, so she’s no issue). It is not necessary to own a cat of your own (or be owned by a cat), however, high cat tolerance is crucial. Be advised (which you won’t be because see above for People are weird), anyway, be aware that I’ll probably like my cat better than you (but I like nothing really, so I’m no issue). However, as a gesture of goodwill, I am ready to negotiate and possibly surrender the half of the bed currently used by the cat for the sole use of the successful candidate (the cat must not be harmed in the process).

Okay, I think the above terms and conditions already disqualify about 99% of people (50% of which are already disqualified by virtue of their gender), so let’s call it a day for the first round. Also, as is fashionable to state in a footnote, I’m an equal opportunity employer (I don’t even know what that means, besides declaring not to discriminate openly but shadily instead. Also, are you even allowed to be discriminate in picking a partner these days? I’m concerned it’s not politically correct! Of course, I’m always concerned, so I don’t count).

The main and most important point being: a huge thanks to¬†Shibin for the post inspiration! With hopes you’ll soon get that error fixed, man.

What I Hated the Least Today 266/365: Freeedooom!!!

I put the¬†nation in procrastination. (That’s smart, no? Did you even notice there was a nation in procrastination? Now you know! You’re welcome.) I hate YouTube. (Wait for it, the link between procrastination and YouTube will shortly manifest itself, if it’s not already clear.)

So I go to YouTube to play some super focus brain food study music and‚ÄĒhalf an hour later I find myself watching cat videos. That’s where the procrastination comes in. It’s a guest that overstays its welcome, lives on your wi-fi, eats up your energy (if you had any to start with) and leaves you brain dead (if you had a brain to start with). Another half an hour later, I find myself watching:

  • Cultural differences between Korea and Japan. (Why the fuck would I watch that? What do I know about Korea or Japan? What do I get out of learning about their differences when I hardly tell them apart? I’m so dumb.)
  • Make-up tutorials for hooded eyelids. (What on earth are hooded eyelids? Is that a rare genetic disease? Do I have it? Why do I watch make-up tutorials when I’m intent on doing make-up my way anyway? [I just slash around with a black eye pencil and call it make-up.])
  • Weird things about the Czech Republic. (Seriously, though, what can I possibly be up to? I am a bloody native and I know the good stuff and the weird stuff already. Am I letting someone who’s clearly not a native educate me about my country? Phew.)

Where the nation in YouTube procrastination comes in is that two thirds of my time-wasting videos are about nations. I’m not sure how the YouTube algorithm came to believe that I’m keen on geography, but now I’m inclined to believe it myself. And since you’re now deep in the dark loop of the Mara algorithm (insert evil synthetic laughter), I suggest that you watch the following video purportedly about my country (it’s pretty accurate, actually). But don’t dare go away after you watch! I have more shit to say after that.

Hey, you’re still there? You’d better. I’ll cut this ridiculously branched-out post short already. By virtue (or vice) of free association (and YouTube suggestions), I ended up watching (several times) a video I’ve seen a while ago and still adore. I’ll post it below so you could partake at my pleasure (don’t think anything nasty, in all decency, of course). It’s about my favourite nation, which are the Scottish (duh).

When you think Scotland, you should think Freeedooom because stereotypes. Stereotypes are fine with me, they help us make sense of this fuckup (pardon me please, plus, credit me with this neologism) which is the world. And when I was thinking freedom, I thought, Wait, I’m still doing this self-imposed What I Hated (the Least) Today blogging challenge, what the heck, why do I even?

Well, I know well why I even, it’s because I’m unreasonably obstinate. I don’t know when to abandon the sinking ship because I’m no rat. I should learn from the rats. I hear they’re smart. Smarter than my dumb ass, clearly. The point of my rambling about freedom and rats is that I’m thinking the unthinkable: abandoning the challenge and getting myself some Freeedooom!!! You know, the challenge of blogging whatever I want whenever I wantever (that’s not a typo, that’s a feature, I mean, neologism).

So what do you think?¬†Yeah, you probably can’t think right now because you’ve read so many words. Sorry about that. Please do soothe your nerves with the following hilarious (I promise!) video while allowing me one last love declaration: I absolutely adore the Scottish accent. Can you imagine the awkward moments I’ve had at numerous conferences when a fellow Scottish academic (especially when male) asked me a question and I wasn’t listening because I was just melting away in the beauty of the accent? Don’t even get me started.

Watch the video until the end so you don’t cheat yourself of the best!

 

Finding Everyday Inspiration: So, You Think Your President Is the Worst?

Part of WordPress’s writing course Finding Everyday Inspiration.

Yes, I’ve noticed I’ve completed the challenge already! But I can’t see how it should stop me from getting challenged even more?

One of the writing tasks that I’ve done as part of the challenge was to respond to a prompt by your readers. Since I got multiple prompts, I think it appropriate to tackle all‚ÄĒwhen you bothered to waste a minute of your life suggesting something, how could I not bother taking up the suggestion?

Next is that little voice in my head. Wait, I mean, That Little Voice, which is not in my head this time but it’s actually Margo with this idea:

Write about something you like least, whatever it is. A hobby you don‚Äôt have, cats vs. dogs, the crazy president…

Thanks for playing with me, I specialise in writing about what I like least! I like pretty much everything the least. I’m hard to impress. What caught my attention though was the crazy president part. So, you guys think your president is crazy, huh? Don’t get me even started about ours.

I’m such a humanitarian, so I present below one past and one present Czech president, for education and entertainment, and so you could feel better about yours, wherever you’re from. Our past president got famous for petty theft, while our present one for being permanently drunk. It’s not that I blame him.

The Thieving President

The Drinking President

Feeling better now? You’re welcome.

Finding Everyday Inspiration: An Aha Moment

Part of WordPress’s writing course Finding Everyday Inspiration.

Remember my yesterday’s post when I was wrapping up this writing challenge? It turns out I was a day early. I did think it curious that the twenty-day challenge lasted nineteen days, but I deemed it safe to assume that either I or WordPress couldn’t count.¬†I was somewhat surprised to receive the final prompt after I’d called it a day. Appropriately, the last prompt is about aha moments. Obviously, my most recent aha moment is being prompted to write something for the twentieth time, literally.

The exciting thing about being a clueless idiot is the number of aha moments you have every single day. For example, the word¬†aha. My aha moment when the aha prompt arrived in my mailbox was, besides the sheer fact of its existence, that the word¬†aha¬†is even used in English. Since I’m Slavic-centred, I believed it was a Slavic thing. In my language, when you want to say you’ve had an aha moment, you literally say Aha, whereas in English, I understand you say¬†I see. You see? Aha!

Slavic, specifically Czech interjections, like¬†aha, are otherwise completely different from English ones. You ejaculate differently in different languages. (Or you¬†interject? Whichever. Get your mind out of the gutter if it’s ejaculating there.) For example, when you’re in pain, you don’t scream¬†ouch but au¬†(a shout-out to AUstralians). When you’re in the opposite of pain, you don’t scream¬†Oh my god¬†but just¬†√°√°√°¬†(individual variations may occur). And when you see a kitten, you don’t go aww but j√©√©. So when I comment¬†j√©√©¬†on your kitten photo, don’t go Google Translate.

See the hugging kittens top right? Aww! (or, Jéé!)

Finding Everyday Inspiration: My Place on the Map

Part of WordPress’s writing course Finding Everyday Inspiration.

Today’s writing prompt is a shameless advertising of Google Maps, which we are supposed to use as a starting point for our story. I’m not doing product placement. I don’t even like Google Maps. They’ve led me to unspeakable places where I didn’t want to go in the first place. They always get me lost. I wonder whether it’s the product’s¬†feature (mind you, not a¬†bug) or whether I’m just so clueless. (I don’t wonder, I know I’m clueless.)

There’s no place but where you are.

What I seriously wonder about now is where I got this quote. I couldn’t have invented it. Come on, you can’t invent anything original anymore. But since I can’t find the author of the quote, let’s attribute it to myself. You’re welcome. Thinking of the place where I am and how it happened that I am here‚ÄĒapart from the unfortunate coincidence that I happened to be born here‚ÄĒI recalled my nation’s foundational story. In the light of the story, no wonder I’m clueless. I took after my forefathers.

Cloudy: just like the vision of my ancestors

If Google Maps did their job, they would place me correctly in the Czech Republic. Lazy people call it Czechia nowadays, which leads to a common confusion with Chechnya. Well, close enough, one Soviet satellite state or another, whatever. We used to be Czechoslovakia. That’s when we were pals with Slovakia (not to be confused with Slovenia), but we had a little domestic and split states. Shrug. Here is how Czechia came to be according to a legend.

Once upon a time, there was this guy called (wait for it) Czech (surprise!). Today known as Forefather Czech (I dub him the Lazy Sod, you’ll soon see why). This First Czech and his tribe resided in what is now Croatia. (Which is where our foundational story really should end: so we are descended from Croatians and that’s it.) However, the mythological First Czech felt frisky, gathered his people and led them towards the setting sun. (People with sense would follow the sunrise but not the Clueless Czech.)

Our Frisky Forefather didn’t anticipate that the hike would be such a bugger. He and his tribe were soon totally wiped, so, probably in imitation of Moses on Mount Sinai, Forefather Czech climbed the nearest mountain. There, he didn’t receive any instructions, but he was hallucinating the vision of a rich and fertile land. He rolled down the mountain and, the Lazy Sod that he was, he told his people they could just as well stay where they were because it wasn’t getting any better.

He was so wrong. I wish he had the sense to move a bit further west, and I could have been born in Canada. Also, please bear in mind that this is a creative retelling which utilises a degree of poetic licence.

What I Hated the Least Today 265/365: My Mother Tongue

Her mother-tongue clung to her mouth’s roof
in terror, dumbing her and he came with a name
that was none of her making.
‚ÄĒLiz Lochhead, “Dreaming Frankenstein”

Yesterday I wrote about the priceless confusions of English, today I’ll do the same for my mother tongue: Czech. It also has a huge potential for comic situations and so many things about it are just plain weird. Looking at it from a foreigner’s perspective as I imagine it, it must come across as staggeringly confusing. It’s a complex language on all levels, including the bloated grammar and devilish pronunciation.

A Czech-Czech dictionary (of loan words)

To start with, how many letters in the alphabet does your language have? English has 26, Czech has 42. Yep. We think that the more, the better. We have twice the number of vowels because each vowel comes also in a variant with an accent (and the u vowel comes with two versions of accents, √ļ and ŇĮ). Cool, isn’t it? But wait, that’s not all! Some consonants come with accents too, when it comes to it. (My least favourite are ńŹ,¬†Ňą and¬†Ň•¬†¬†because the poor things don’t have a keyboard key of their own and you have to press two keys to create them.) Oh, and also, ch is a letter of its own.

To make it more fun, we have decided that each noun will be either a he, a she or an it. I’m talking about grammatical gender. If you wish to use a noun, you need to know its gender so you could pick the correct ending. Have I mentioned yet that all nouns and verbs and some other words are assigned a plethora of different endings, based on how they’re used in a sentence? Czech is an excessively inflected language. (Inflected, not¬†infected, but maybe¬†infected with inflection?)

For example, the neutral word for¬†cat¬†in Czech is końćka. It refers to cats of any sex. The word itself, however, is feminine‚ÄĒfor grammar purposes, this word is a girl. There’s another word for the tom cat (kocour), however, there is no special word for a pussy cat. We just use the basic neutral form. So when I want to say,¬†My cat is a pussy cat, I’d say,¬†Moje końćka je końćka, which sounds obviously like a tautology.

Here comes the real twist though. You know personal pronouns? It’s¬†he,¬†she, they and others. So, when talking about the female cat, we use the pronoun she (ona). Pretty straightforward. When talking about the male cat, we use the pronoun he¬†(on). However, when talking about¬†kittens¬†(koŇ•ata), do you think that we use the pronoun they¬†(oni)? Nope. We use the exact same word that we use to refer to females (ona). So, in Czech, when you have a bunch of kittens, they’re all female to our grammar.

Did it blow your mind?