I am standing in the hotel lobby, trying to decipher the poster that is written in Croatian, and all the guide materials on the rack are in every language (including Arabic) but not English, and that’s actually okay with me. Couldn’t read the signs in Bratislava, and Albanian was completely nonsensical to me with “q” and “j” in almost every word. Many times we have had to find someone to translate a menu. This is all okay- I enjoy experiencing different languages. But, in the middle of looking at the poster, I can hear Leslie Gore, piped in on the speaker overhead , singing “You Don’t Own Me”. I feel like I am in a weird dream, where I am in the U.S., but I’m not.
It’s a little strange to be shopping in the grocery store, and not know the language. I am trying desperately to figure out what I am buying because the packaging is not helpful- I am hoping it is butter, but afraid I might be buying lard. But, I like the challenge- kind of like a scavenger hunt with limited clues. Then I hear The Beach Boys (California Girls in case you were wondering) in the background. And that just feels wrong.
In the old city of Bratislava, we were trying to decide what are stomachs felt like eating. There were charming cafes everywhere, coffee shops, and gelato stands. Around the corner was a memorial to the Jewish community of Bratislava, decimated in the Holocaust. Mixed in with the Austrian-style buildings, communistic-looking structures stand as reminders of what this country endured up through the 1980s. Then we see it- Burger King! I just want to scream.
Almost everywhere we look, in every country, younger people are wearing t-shirts that sport English adages- maybe they speak some English, but I think most of the time, it’s a fashion statement. “Look at me, I have an American-style shirt”. The fact that I can see the same t-shirt in the U.S. makes me want to rant against globalization.
One thing that has not been evident are mega-stores. Perhaps they exist in larger cities on the outskirts, but we haven’t seen anything like a Target or Wal-Mart, ..so far. Smaller shops and artisan stores still seem to abound. Ordering from Amazon has not been possible from Europe for me- and I think that is a good thing. I really enjoy the uniqueness of a place- isn’t that why we all drive to places out of the way, that are still quaint, and different than what we see in suburbia?
I know I can’t stop progress- but I really enjoy stepping back in time, and enjoying history, without a McDonald’s restaurant across the street.