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That ain't sweet... and it sure as hell ain't bread!

Bosnians, Croatians and Serbs, despite all their political differences, speak virtually the same language, separated more as dialect than as entirely different languages, per se. However, the languages in each country are called "Bosnian", "Croatian" and "Serbian", respectively. The language and the politics can not be entirely separated, it seems.

One notable feature of all these languages is what I call "Translational Matriarchy". In what is still very much a male dominated part of the world, the words for people of the XY gender come across as distinctly feminist. "Man" is "Mus" (pronounced "mush"), "Son" is "Sin" and, perhaps most appropriately, "Brother" is "Brat". At least my brother claims it to be particularly appropriate. And he doesn't even speak Bosnian. Odd.

Ruminations on language came as I spent the bus ride to Dubrovnik, on the Croatian coast, conversing with a 60-year old Croatian woman who was speaking broken English, as opposed to me, who was absolutely shattering her language. She flipped open her English phrase book and concentrated hard:

"Do you understand from what I am talking?" she asked earnestly.

I peered into her book. Sure enough, there in the English phrases, word for word, was "Do you understand from what I am talking?", which makes me wonder if she hadn't actually been completely fluent in broken English. Regardless, we gabbed on until a Serbian girl was kicked off our bus at the Croatian border. This happened despite the fact that she was traveling to Bosnia and we would only be in Croatia for 10 kilometres, with no stops whatsoever, before re-entering Bosnia, where she would get off. No dice. It seemed tantamount to kicking someone off an airplane for being over the wrong airspace but still, politics are very prominent here, not only in language, and seem a long way from letting up.

Three hours later, Dubrovnik. The city is gorgeous with picturesque rocky beaches leading out into the warm Adriatic sea in every direction. The climate is hot and Mediterranean, the wine is cheap, the people are beautiful and the world is a wonderful place. Besides the beaches, Dubrovnik has a six-century old Old Town that houses pretty white buildings with red clay roofs, all surrounded by a two mile long, twenty-five foot high rock wall that allows for staggering views of the sea. The interior of the town is a fun maze of narrow alleyways and quaint restaurants, pleasant people and pristine churches aged half a millennium. Friday afternoon was used to explore a bit before lying on the beach, eating Italian and drinking a local wine that, on the label, claimed to be: "...made in the hills of Croatia, where the soil stingy and rocky."

With some friends, I polished off the wine and, feeling a little stingy and rocky ourselves, decided to make our way to a local nightclub. The further we wandered the more we realized that we had neither an idea in which direction to go nor the name of the club. We rationalized our meandering once we concluded that we also had no idea where we lived, nor any on how to get back. At least we had a complete absence of language with which to guide us by. After an hour-long saunter containing numerous wrong turns we finally arrived at the club just in the nick of time to witness the entire city suffer a massive blackout. With choruses of "The Croatians know how to ROCK!" ringing from our salubrious mouths, we managed to find our way home.

Saturday featured more beach and, at sunset, sitting with Chad at a bar that jutted out over the sea, the bartender serving fresh wine from a re-sealed bottle of tonic water and playing over the stereo, like a choir of angels, was "The Gambler" by Kenny Rogers. I began to wonder what I could be doing that could possibly be more indulgent. And then I met an American sex columnist who was in Dubrovnik for a conference on sex. Humbled in my hedonism, I got a little more stingy and rocky and went to bed. The next night we splurged and went out for a nice dinner at a local restuarant. I usually try to order something I haven't had before, which often leaves the name of the dish more butchered than the meat on the plate. Last night was no different:

"Telece brizle," I ordered from the waiter, who wandered back to the kitchen. "What is that?" Chad wanted to know. "Sweetbreads," I replied. A pause. Chad stared at me. "Do you know what sweetbreads are?" he asked, incredulous. "Yeah," I said, "it's, like, pancreas or something." He laughed. "Uh no, in Eastern Europe it means it is testicles." A pause. I stared at Chad.

Sure enough, when the plate came not-nearly-enough moments later, it was a platter filled with exceptionally large testicles, lightly fried. I hid my pride and my fact and polished off the dish. How did they taste? Very fatty and exceptionally humbling.