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Archive for the ‘People’ Category

Today the veteran and outspoken American politician Dennis Kucinich (most probably originally spelt Kučinič) formally declared his intent to run for USA President in 2008, his second attempt at the highest office and being the 44th President of the United States of America.

Kucinich has roots in the XYZone, the son of a Croatian father (truck driver) and Irish/American mother(housewife) came from a poor childhood to became the mayor of the ethnically mixed U.S. city of Cincinnati in 1976 (at age 31) and currently is a five-term U.S House of Representatives for Ohio State’s 10th district.

Not that it really matters, as he is a political long-shot and he did not get more then just a few percentage points (between 0-2) in polls last election in 2004 but it is interesting to me how diversified people end up that are originally (or have roots) from this part of the world. If there was a U.S. President (or world leader) with roots to this part of the world it would be an interesting (yet symbolic) note that one of theirs is so high profile on the world stage.

I remember watching Toni Kukoč playing alongside Micheal Jordan for the Chicago Bulls in the 1990’s, I had no idea where Croatia was on a globe but I knew he was the “Croatian Sensation” and “the spider from Split”, everyone who followed basketball knew he was Croat.

Then when no one expected it in 1998 an unknown football (soccer) team on their first trip as a nation in a FIFA World Cup with unusual looking checkered shirts and amazing skill took the pitch and world stage by storm taking on and beating some of the best teams in the world to help Croatia get 3rd place in the tournament, behind only football superstars Brazil and event winners and host nation France. If that were not good enough the Golden boot (for most goals scored by a player in the World Cup) also went to Davor Šuker of the Croatian team.

I would have to wait three years till I watched Goran Ivaniševič play Pat Rafter in the 2001 Wimbledon finals to see XYZone in the sports limelight again. I’d already found Croatia by then and saw the game in on local Croatian TV. It was a historic event and seemed like it was one man against the world, and in a way it was. Was Goran (and his Eastern European roots) going to just be second best yet again or be the victor of one of the biggest individual sport events in the world. He won and put Croatia on the world map, not so much as a nation, (the 1998 World Cup team had already done that) but a showcase of the resilience of one of their own people. Before playing this event he was not considered at his peak performance (ranked 125 in the world) and only scraped into the event with a wild-card and after many ups and downs of his colorful career here he was on center court of that final game once again.

Many times in the game he was down, but he kept going and would not give up till the last point of the last set was played out, with perseverance and a little luck he won the grueling match and will be forever remembered in sports history as the only man ever to win Wimbledon (to date) on a wild-card, as well as the first Croat ever to win that event.

Be it a prominent President, sportsman, inventor or maybe even one day a Pope, look out because there is a good chance that they will be from the XYZone, they have a lot to give and the motivation to see it through.

I always tell others not familiar with the region when they ask me “what is there in former Yugoslavia to offer the world?”, without hesitation I say, it’s people! That is the single greatest resource I have found here. It is not the tourism, industry, or nature, those are all good, but the people is what makes this area what it is and will be even more in the near future.

Inventions, science, arts, architecture and sport have all thrived here before and I am sure will again once they dust off the socialist conformity mindset and gain back their self confidence, they have no lack of talent when they put their mind to it, I’ve seen it in small and large ways these few years and it will only snowball.

You might wonder where all this ‘talent’ is then? Well look around you. Half of Bosnia is keeping most of Western European and Scandinavian cities, offices and parks, clean, safe and cared for.

They may not be running the show, but in a way they are.

They are using the best equipment, chauffeuring the best cars, teaching the most elite kids, and cooking the finest meals. They are learning, watching and saving up money and knowledge that will eventually be brought back to their country in one form or another. Their kids are in the worlds best collages and getting the best educations and will become some of the future leaders and industrialists of our time.

The same is the case with other XYZone nations but on a little smaller scale then the example of Bosnia and on different social levels but the knock-on effect will be just the same. One country’s cook is another nations land owner, I know that to be a fact.

The meek shall inherit the earth.

Right now what we are seeing is what I’d call the “sacrifice generation” those that fought for freedom, work in foreign lands and do humble jobs to build their dreams and a future for their children. America went through a similar time after the great depression of 1929, as did Germany and Japan after World War two, they made the sacrifices that the “baby-boom” generation and now “X” generation enjoy today, Dennis Kucinich and his father Frank are just one example of that.

I am fortunate to be young enough to hopefully witness and document this same ‘fruition’ come about here in the XYZone in the next few decades as this new “benefactor generation” enjoy the results of the sacrifices currently being made by the older generation. Sure there are already some who have their cake and are eating it too, but the best is yet to come.

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ravebar-edit.jpgI’m just fascinated reading an article in the Slovenia Times (an English language local newspaper). Really, I do not think a last page mention did it justice, but it is really a great story of two Slovenes who thought out-of-the-box and drove across the world in their SUV over two years. This is Uroš and Kristina Ravbar, they just quit their jobs, (after a lot of preparation) told their families good-bye and drove off . Not only did they see the world but they got a first-hand feel of world cultures that no text book experience or foreign relations committee can match.

I was especially amazed at their discoveries of people in the middle-east and Muslim cultures as there is so much bad media these days on that it is very easy to get a tainted perception if you do not know better, and the only way to do that is to meet them and see that they for the most part are really just like the rest of us.

A few months ago I was going for a hike in the countryside near Žiri and talking with some locals and mentioned that one of my brothers lives in Turkey with his family. Their reaction was “oh, but their like another religion, it’s dark and dangerous here” etc. I understand their reservations as compared to Slovenia nearly every country in the world seems more dangerous, but that should not stop people from looking or even stepping out and experiencing different experiences. Slovenia is way too small (only 20,273 square kilometers of land, 153 in size in the world) for people to get tunnel-vision; there is a whole big world out there that does not know the warmth and friendship of a Slovene.

I know there are many Slovenians who do when they can either for holiday or work but it is more the mentality then anything that Slovenes should be more flexible, go and eat a different food, get a book at the store about some other land, get more of a global vision. I’ve heard there are about 300 Slovenes (out of 2M) registered in Japan but only 100 Japanese (out of 12+ million) here in Slovenia, so Slovenes not the only ones.

I think these lectures and book the Ravbars are doing now is a fantastic example to their generation that dreams can be done, as well as a great impromptu showcase on Geo-politics. I’m living my dream, it’s not as adventurous as driving the world in a 4×4 with fantastic camera gear but I’m doing my part and trying to get this part of the world more known and that to someone else in their condo or grass hut looks just as “dangerous and exotic” to them.

We all have got something to give and experience from others, may we never stop learning and experiencing.

Check out their website (only found it in Slovenian language), but there is plenty of color photographs on the site that are just amazing, and a monster book they printed of the whole experiance.

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