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aries1988 : east-europe   6

Being There - The Atlantic
Let me bore you with the old days: In the early 1980s, nobody had advance notice of my arrival anywhere. I’d fly to Addis Ababa to cover a famine, or to Sarajevo to cover the preparations for the Winter Olympics, armed with only about eight names and telephone numbers. Because I did not have to waste time sending e-mails back and forth for days to set up appointments, I had that much more time to read about the history and geography of the country to which I was headed. And you know what? When I arrived and dialed those numbers, about half the people on the list answered and were pleased to meet with me: after all, I had come all this way, completely dependent on their hospitality. And so hospitality was offered. And those people introduced me to other people. It was all so much more efficient then. Now, after corresponding for days with someone just to arrange a meeting, when you arrive at his office thousands of miles away, he answers some of your questions by referring you to a Web site.
1980s  journalist  anecdote  voyage  east-europe  self  now  experience  local  opinion 
october 2018 by aries1988
Jeremy Paxman on Europe’s last wilderness - FT.com
https://www.instapaper.com/read/722133131
Romania may not be the envy of the European Union for many things, but in one it should be: the mountains of Carpathia house the last great wilderness of this prosperous, crowded continent.

Walk through the arboreal gloaming — where the air is pungent, the ground is strewn with fallen branches or thick with dried needles and leaves, and feldspar pebbles glitter silver in the streams — and you feel reconnected with some primeval sense of how the continent was before the Habsburgs and Napoleon, before even Greece and Rome.

While forests are embedded deep in the Romanians’ sense of themselves, the Carpathian Mountains marked the boundary between Transylvania and Wallachia, which held very different concepts of ownership in the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires. It took years but, by the early 21st century, restitution was under way.

The history of the European continent is one of relentless exploitation of the land: civilisations have risen and fallen, leaving their mark in how they tamed the world. In the elegant explanation of the historian Sir Keith Thomas, uncultivated land meant uncultivated men.

what struck a chord with almost everyone was his talk of the tonic of wildness. In 1864, President Lincoln signed the first order creating a protected wilderness, in Yosemite, California. The patron saint of the American conservation movement, the Scots-American John Muir, wrote: Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilised people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.

This is the last place in Europe where all wildlife and forest components are present, says Promberger. Walking through these forests makes you understand your place in nature and it has become my purpose in life to safeguard them from the greedy timber mafia.

The Fundatia Conservation Carpathia, founded by Barbara and Christoph, hopes for more philanthropists, nursing an ambition to create in Romania a Yellowstone or Serengeti for Europe, in the words of a British supporter, Paul Lister. One day, they dream, the country might become the Costa Rica of Europe.
forest  nature  europe  communism  business  east-europe  timeless  instapaper_favs 
may 2016 by aries1988
The Strange Persistence of First Languages - Issue 30: Identity - Nautilus
I was mortally offended when my first-grade teacher asked me on the first day of school if I knew a little English—I don’t know a little English, was my indignant and heavily accented retort. I know a lot of English. In the schoolyard, I quickly learned that my Czech was seen as having little value by my friends, aside from the possibility of swearing in another language—a value I was unable to deliver, given that my parents were cursing teetotalers.

I watched as my father grew more and more frustrated at his powerlessness to pass on to his children the legacy he most longed to leave: a burning religious piety, the nurturing of family ties, pleasure in the music and traditions of his region, and an abiding respect for ancestors. All of these became diluted by the steady flow of new memories narrated in English, laced with Anglophone aspiration and individualism. As we entered adulthood and dispersed all over North America into our self-reliant lives, my father gave up. He moved back home.

Losing your native tongue unmoors you not only from your own early life but from the entire culture that shaped you. You lose access to the books, films, stories, and songs that articulate the values and norms that you’ve absorbed. You lose the embrace of an entire community or nation for whom your family’s odd quirks are not quirks all. You lose your context.

Why is a heritage language so conducive to well-being? Michael Chandler, one of the authors of the suicide study, emphasizes that a sense of cultural continuity makes people resilient by providing them with a cohesive self-concept.

The complicated inflections of Czech, described as character-building by an acquaintance who’d learned the language in college, began to assemble into somewhat orderly rows in my mind, and I quickly ventured onto more and more adventurous grammatical terrain. Just a few weeks into my visit, I briefly passed as a real Czech speaker in a conversation with a stranger. Relearning Czech so quickly felt like having linguistic superpowers.

When Mandarin speakers hear nonsense syllables that are identical except for their tones, they show heightened activity in the left hemisphere of the brain, where people normally process sounds that signal differences in meaning—like the difference between the syllables pa and ba. But speakers of non-tonal languages like English have more activity in the right hemisphere, showing that the brain doesn’t treat tone as relevant for distinguishing words. A recent study found that Chinese-born babies adopted into French homes showed brain activity that matched Chinese speakers and was clearly distinct from monolingual French speakers—even after being separated from their birth language for more than 12 years.

For me, the English phrase pork with cabbage and dumplings refers to a concept, the national dish of the Czechs. But hearing the Czech phrase vepřo-knedlo-zelo evokes the fragrance of roasting meat, pillowy dumpling loaves being pulled steaming out of a tall pot and sliced with sewing thread, and the clink of the nice china as the table is dressed for Sunday dinner, the fulcrum of every week.

English was the language in which I forged my independence, the language of my individuation—but it was in Czech that I was nurtured, comforted, and sung to.
language  story  motherland  east-europe  czech  parents 
november 2015 by aries1988
Migrant crisis adds to Europe’s anxiety about Islam - FT.com
The Nazis had annihilated the region’s Jews in the second world war, and the western Allies and Moscow had countenanced the flight and expulsion of millions of ethnic Germans after the war. After communism collapsed in 1989, the reborn states of central Europe tended to view the lack of large ethnic minorities as a healthy factor that favoured political stability and civic loyalty to the post-communist order.
explained  east-europe  immigration  history  opinion 
september 2015 by aries1988

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