17 June 2010

I love my yarn!

I know I am a yarn-a-holic. I can't get enough of the stuff. Everywhere I go, I haunt all the little knitting/sewing/yarn shops looking for gems to take home and make into something special. Back in Canada, finding fantastic yarn is a breeze. There are incredible shops everywhere selling the most magnificent knitting goods imaginable. I used to buy yarn with such abandon!

The yarn situation in Croatia is, how shall I say this: elusive (can a situation be elusive?) Thick and hearty wool (real wool) is pretty simple to find. But where to find those gossamer beauties that make knitting such a joy? I don't know. Haven't been able to track down a source. Yet. But I'll keep looking.

Mind you, knitting isn't exactly a big hobby here. I still haven't found ANYBODY to start a little chicks with sticks group. NOBODY. So it is just little old me. I hide my yarn and crochet hook in my purse, and drink a lonely espresso at a local cafe while crocheting my (gorgeous) granny squares on my lap. One square=one coffee. Then I leave.

I'm thinking that maybe I'll take my crochet projects outside to the main square. There I can sit on the sidewalk next to the guy who plays the extra long flute, and the mime guy, and the music box guy and his dog. I'll just knit and crochet, and listen to the music, and watch the people go by. And feel like an artist. Hmmmm, doesn't sound like a bad idea.

16 June 2010

More language learning tools

In my quest to learn the Croatian language, I've slowly collected just about every workbook, text book, CD, dictionary, phrase guide, and grammar guide on the planet. Why do I need so many different books? Well, only one or two are written in English. All the other books are written in Croatian....which presented a problem for me, since I couldn't read the directions, and the waiters at the cafe quickly tired of my pesky requests to "please tell me what this says" while pointing to some phrases in my book.

Everyone I talk to who is trying to learn this language is pretty much in the same boat, and often we compare language learning tools. I thought I'd provide a quick list of the books that also come with CDs which aid immensely when trying to figure out pronunciation. There are particular sounds that are hard for an English-speaker to handle gracefully. Here are some city and town names to illustrate: Hvar (um, let's see, it would sound sort of like hhhh-var), Cricvenica (t-s-rick-ven-itz-ah...and roll the rrrr), Oprtalj (oh, never mind ;-)

I got all these books through a bookstore in Zagreb called Algoritam. You can find them at: www.algoritam.hr. See if there's a location near you, or call the main bookstore and see if they can order any of these for you.

This first one is written in English, and comes with 6 audio CDs, plus a good coursebook. It is called: Spoken World Croatian, A complete course for beginners. By Living Language. Cost was around 290 kunas.

The second one is also in English. Called Beginner's Croatian , Hippocrene Beginner's Series, by Aida Vidan & Robert Niebuhr. It is a workbook with 2 audio CDs. Cost, around 240 kunas.

The third one is a workbook that is written in Croatian....but it has a CD that goes along with it. It is called: Ucimo hrvatski, skolska knjiga, by Vesna Kosovac & Vida Lukic. Can't remember the cost...and it might only be available through www.skolskaknjiga.hr

This last one is kind of special and I highly recommend grabbing a copy. It doesn't have a CD and deals with grammar....but it is a book written in English meant to explain Croatian grammar for English speakers. Now that might sound weird...but trust me, if you are an English speaker trying to learn Croatian grammar, you'll know what I mean. The book is called Croatian Grammar, by Vinko Grubisic. It is supposed to be available at Algoritam. They couldn't get me a copy, so I wrote to the author, who directed me to the The Croatian University Press. You can e-mail them to request a copy of this book at: hrvatska-sveucilisna-naklada@zg.t-com.hr

If anyone knows of any other books/CDs/DVDs...available anywhere on the planet, please let me know..

10 June 2010

Where are all the English-Croatian blogs?

I'm always interested in reading about English speaking people in Croatia and their over-all experiences on a day-to-day basis. So I've been combing through the internet looking for blogs that fit this description. Strangely, there are a tiny handful of blogs, and most of them are either outdated (as in: the people went back to their home country), or they are not updated very often.

This is sort of weird. I mean, do a search for blogs by English-speakers in any other country on the planet: Italy, France, Germany, Argentina, Portugal, Greece....you name it, there will be dozens and dozens of active blogs. But try searching for blogs in Croatia, and very few pop up. Why??? I can't figure it out. Is it because English speakers coming to Croatia don't like to blog. Or maybe they are not very tech-savvy. Or maybe they are too busy eating cevapi and kremsnite and drinking espresso out on a cafe terrace? Or maybe instead of blogging they are planted on Facebook where mostly friends and family only know about them. I just don't know what the answer is. But I'll keep on searching and see what comes up.

07 June 2010

The cherries are here!

The cherries have finally arrived. They are about 6 weeks late, and not as sweet as they were last year due to the not-very-sunny and not-very-warm spring we've had here. So the cherries are a bit more tangy, firm, and lovely.

Here's the evolution of the cherries on the tree in our backyard:

The first little cherries look like small green olives.

Then just about 10 days later, they start looking like not-quite-ripe cherry tomatoes.

Until another 10 days goes by, and then they are big, juicy and this gorgeous burgundy colour. At this point, they are ready to be eaten right off the tree!

04 June 2010

Need a language miracle...

It seems to me that Croatians are generally in a hurry. They walk fast, talk fast and drive fast (really fast.) In fact, they are so much in a hurry that they don't have time for VOWELS. Seriously.

Here are some typical Croatian vowel-less words: vrt, trg, krv, s (that's right, 's' is a word!) and crv. Then there are words with hardly any vowels: mrkva, trznica, brdska, etc.

Also, the letters 'z' and 'h' and 'j' seem to be extremely popular. In English, you've pretty much got zoo, zebra and zero. That's it. So seldom is 'z' used in English, that when you do get to say a 'z' word, it feels like a special occasion like Christmas or your birthday. 'You're at the zoo? And you've seen a zebra? How special!"

But in Croatian, there's at least one 'z' in every third or fourth word. So you get to say 'z' all day long. No vowels plus all those 'z' words is the easy part of learning the language. Everything else is quite complicated. Not crossing-a-busy-street-at-rush-hour-complicated, but more of a got-caught-with-a-provolone-and-entire-prosciutto-in-your-carry-on-luggage-at-Pearson International-complicated.

I've tried a few lessons at a few different places, and I self-study at home with my CDs and DVDs and language books. But the going is s-l-o-w; like trying to open a can of tuna with a safety pin. I had hoped to be conversationally functional within 12 months. . As it stands, I can sort of get by with my basic vocabulary + waving my hands + sometimes drawing pictures.

I'm actively seeking out a language miracle that involves some sort of language angel popping into my world to gently whisk me through the 7 declensions and beyond.

Until that day (which I hope is soon), it is malo-pa-malo. Mic-po-mic.