Social theorist Pierre Bourdieu famously defined the sum of acquired tastes and various dispositions as habitus – not exactly an over-structure where individuals merely participate, but neither an individual portfolio of competences, crafted upon a free choice among components. Although this theory is about everything and anything, I find it very useful both academically and in my own observations about societies.
On April 20th a friend and I went to see a free concert in Valletta – a part of the Malta International Music Festival. The concert hall, hidden somewhere inside the Mediterranean Conference Centre, looked long and small, and we wondered where we could enjoy the best acoustics. The crowd looked cheerful, and there were several dressed-up children with excited parents, suggesting that the Russia-based duo, Karen Shakhgaldyan (violin) and Natalia Sokolovskaya (piano) are not the only stars of the evening for some.
Last night I went to Bal Populaire, hosted by the French Institute in Budapest. There was a French band Stabar (swing and humorous performances), Cabaret Medrano (one of the tons of Hungarian bands that play Balkan music), and the famous Dj Palotai.
It was fun to observe how people were dancing. Mostly French people showed up – turns out that there was another festival at the Balaton lake.
I wonder if any street festival can ever take place without a character like this appearing from somewhere and dancing away.
One of my favorite places to hang out in Vilnius is the green space around the White Bridge.
There is a lot of space, so people fly kites and various strange flying objects, and sometimes there are festivals and concerts (like on the 1st of May). A part of this area was redeveloped according to a controversial plan, which included building a beach volley court. Beach volley in Vilnius, which is notoriously far from the sea comparing to the other Baltic capitals, sounded ridiculous. And yet people really come there and play, so I guess it’s good. Another area is equipped with platforms for skating and showing tricks with bikes. Continue reading →
Many Lithuanians will tell you that it is not customary to celebrate the International Workers’ Day here, because it brings back bad memories to many. Several important holidays that celebrate emancipation were twisted in the USSR. Women were officially liberated, so the authorities decided that there is no point to demonstrate for women’s rights on the International Women’s Day, it is enough to congratulate women with their liberation (nevermind that they still suffered from gender pay gap, double burden and glass ceiling). Since workers were also officially liberated, the International Workers’ Day was a big compulsory parade. But during the past years people have increasingly started seeing themselves as less post-soviet and more European. The International Workers’ Day was reintroduced as a public holiday by the earlier Social Democratic government, as by a coincidence this was also the day when Lithuania joined the EU in 2004, so this day can also be celebrated as the day when we officially joined ‘the family’. So Lithuanian workers can now demonstrate for their rights back in Lithuania, or they can pack up and move to Sweden. The International Workers’ Day is important, because being a public holiday (there are seven religious and five secular days-off a year in Lithuania, of the secular ones, three are connected to the Lithuanian statehood) it gives people time to think about their situation and join a demonstration for making it better. Yet it is far from a spontaneous and bottom-up demonstration – during the past years it is mostly an opportunity for unions and the Social Democratic Party to gain some visibility. Anyway, we are getting there.
Last year around this time I spent a month in Seoul. For no logical reason I did not find much time to blog, but, needless to say, there were many colourful experiences worth describing. I found a draft post today, so I think it will be the best to start with completing it and write about the nightlife in Seoul.
Seoul is a huge and lively city, which feels as if it is very much still in the making. Most of the time it looked to me as if people there suddenly woke up and realised: hey look, we are rich and urbanised, so it’s time to start developing the kind of lifestyle that other megapolises have! Big city habits of not disturbing one another as much as possible are still not there (people would stand in the doorways of subway trains, playing with their cellphones, and they never apologised for bumping into others or anything else), but the quantity of people allows increasing diversity of cultural and leisure activities, and thus Seoul feels very urban and youthful. I would guess that the number of universities per capita is higher than in any other city I have visited. Most of South Korea’s universities are concentrated in Seoul. This makes the Hongdae area, where the main universities are, the most lively nightlife spot. One of the universities is the Ewha Womans (sic) University – the world’s largest female-only higher education institution (see explanation on unconventional English). I heard young Koreans joke that Ewha students are very fashion-conscious and popular with men, but the undeniable reality is that this is the university that produces women leaders in every field. Apparently, they are good at juggling multiple identities.
Dozens of drummers showing what they can without any coordination, sharing the joy of music and togetherness until the sun sets and Shabbat descends – this is what the Drum Beach in Tel Aviv is about. The beach is on the southern part of the city’s coastline, and it’s proud to be the capital of musical, dance and acrobatic improvisation every Friday, as long as it’s warm.
It’s best to go there a little before the sunset in order to find a place to sit and enjoy the performance. Eventually sitting won’t matter, when everyone sinks into the tornado of dance. Dozens of drummers improvise and are joined by people playing other instruments, acrobats and dancers. There are always about 10 photographers jumping around. Let me tell you something, ever since I took a Visual Anthropology class, my usual habits have been transformed. Taking close-ups of people even in the most public of all public spaces feels like stealing their soul. However, when I. told me that taking photos on the Drum Beach is not only allowed, but even encouraged, I rejoiced at finally having the opportunity to show my readers some beautiful faces of the locals. Continue reading →
My acquaintance with Kiev starts much before we all start trying to delineate its limits through the window of our plane. It starts from the stewardesses with ‘Slavic’ style makeup – they won’t give us immigration cards until we ask them, since they don’t consider us foreigners. It also starts from pieces of hot chicken and lots of potatoes, which we receive in our lunchboxes on the plane. It starts from half-understandable (for us) signs in Ukrainian language.
The team that meets us do their best to ensure us that the next days will be interesting, purposeful and orderly – some Western European colleagues clearly doubt the latter point. A Swedish-speaking Finn jokes that the Ukrainians cannot tell a bus from a sauna. He will later have to pay (literally) for his impatience. Not willing to wait for instructions from our hosts, who will warn us about unreliable ATMs at the hotel lobby, he will later rage when one of these machines simply would not give him his cash. Continue reading →