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18 Nov 10

Is it me, or is it really them?!

Dusica Cook

I wanted to write a blog about culture and what we (the people in small towns) are faced with when it comes to culture. After initially wanting to blame authorities and those close to them, I shifted my thinking into blaming myself. I would not worry about these thoughts too much; they are just a reaction-coming-late to the poor election results.

A couple of years ago I started being really loud in criticising the authorities in this little Bosnian town, situated in the northeast of the country, famous for salt and fountains (not really, but I like to joke about it).

So, I live in Tuzla and I always think how it was full of cultural events and rich and interesting before, and that it isn't like that any more. Obviously, it cannot be compared to any of the larger cities in the former country, like Belgrade, Zagreb, my favourite Skopje or even Sarajevo, but it used to have its moments and there were things going on. I often think that it might be me getting old and not really “getting” the new art forms, but I'm not so sure.

One of the examples that supports my idea of a culturally dead town is a weekend a few months ago when we woke up on a rainy Sunday and did not know where to go and what to do with ourselves.

We don’t often look for entertainment in Tuzla, for we know that disappointment is likely, but that particular Sunday I thought we'd give it a try.

The idea was to go for a walk and then hit a museum or a gallery or something of the sort, then go for a light lunch, something from a salad bar, and then for a kids’ show and to round it all up with a coffee and a piece of cake.

The only problem with the idea was that there is no theatre for youth, no museum, no gallery and no salad bar in Tuzla. We walked a bit and then went to one of many kebab places which offer more than just kebabs; various meat dishes with French fries. OK, the day was a bit of a failure in terms of how it veered of the original plan.

There is one gallery in Tuzla that I know of and I am not sure when it is open to the public. Their web presentation has not been updated since July 2008 (the date on the most recent information on the site).

It surely does not open its doors for visitors on Sundays. As for museums, Tuzla does not really have any; the one that apparently has a number of artefacts is under reconstruction (and has been for a while), and a few which are sometimes mentioned, such as the Museum of Salt at the local salt processing factory, cannot be easily accessed.

There used to be a biological collection where we used to go as kids and spend days amused before the exhibits. It is no longer there and I have no idea where it went (actually, I do but don’t really want to write it down because my friends will then say that I am biased and against some of them).

In any case, there are no galleries and museums to visit on a Sunday (or any other day, to be honest).

As for theatre… Adults might find some shows that are interesting and worth going to, but kids…. There is nothing for them. It is sad. Very sad! It makes me think of when my daughter and I moved to Skopje, Macedonia.

As we drove along one of the main streets through the centre, she asked (in the middle of August): “Mommy, do they celebrate Christmas in summer?” I first thought my kid was a bit nuts, but then I realised she had seen the Youth and Children’s Theatre and the posters for the ongoing shows (some five performances).

Drawing a parallel with what she knew from home (Tuzla), she thought that plays for children are performed only during the winter holiday season. Poor child! It took me a while to convince her that I could really take her to the theatre almost every day.

So, Tuzla does not have these things. It has some restaurants, but none are particularly family-friendly. OK, I don’t really consider a kebab joint to be a restaurant, and not even if they serve the finest beefsteak.

The only salad bar (to my knowledge) is in the Mercarot shopping centre. Isn’t that sick!? I really crave for family restaurant… Somewhere where you can get a child’s meal and not get a damning look because your kid is not being quiet as a mouse. (But also a restaurant where you can go and not expect to see a kid sitting there with his parents and screaming!)

What is it with the culture in a small town such as Tuzla?! I recently wrote on Facebook about an event I went to and I tagged one of the people active in the culture sphere (he has a club and often hosts house, techno and rock parties).

He thought my tagging was very inappropriate and offensive. He told me that I am the one to blame for feeling deprived of culture. His argument was that I do not come to the parties.

It took me a moment to think that he might have been right… I really do not go to those events. Could it really be my fault? I did think it was… for a while. I made an effort to try and attend some of these goings-on. I really wanted to go to concerts, parties, exhibitions.

I started following what the local media was announcing and then, I realised, it was me. I don’t fit into this! I don’t fit into the idea of culture as it is presented now.

I don’t feel comfortable jumping to the sounds of house or techno around kids who are 15+ years younger than me (regardless of the fact that my boyfriend is almost as young as those partygoers). I don’t compromise. I don’t hear about the events on time and I don’t find the events interesting enough.

Most of all, I don’t I don’t like the fact that I have to “chase after” the events because they don't happen on regular basis, but just every now and again. There is only one (to my knowledge) institution in this town that organises events that fall into the category of events I like and go to. But the point is that there is no choice.

I cannot decide to go some place for a cultural event whenever I feel like it. I cannot visit a museum, or an exhibition, or a play whenever I want to. I can visit one event at a time, at the time when it is on, and I have no alternatives.

This is what I find disturbing in the cultural scene of this little town in the northeast of Bosnia. It is the town I love and the people in it (those few that have not left) I love. And I love its streets and its smog and the smell of the brewery I live close to, and the kebab places and everything else.

But the thought of not being able to decide on, let’s say, Wednesday night, to go listen to live music at a club, or to the cinema (and pick one of five offered movies), or to see one of three different plays, or to have dinner in a fancy restaurant… This is what kills the joy.

So, is it me? Or, is it them? I don’t know… they go out, enjoy the “turbo-folk” music on one night and techno on the next. They don’t ask to choose an event; they just go to all of them… Is it me who is doing things, or asking for them, in the wrong way?

Talk about it!

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