• The Internet is an extraordinary resource for seekers of unusual information. We found a site on the World Wide Web the other day that offers incredibly detailed maps of regions throughout the world, including Macedonia. It actually featured the Vlach village of Avdhella in Greece, so small that it rarely makes it onto maps. Visit the site (http://www.mapquest.com) and look for your own favorite small village.
• Metsovo now has its own site on the Web. Though it is has a strong pro-Hellenic slant, it is worth visiting, especially if you are contemplating a trip to this Vlach town. Check out http://daphne.cc.uoi.gr/metsovo/.
• An article in the New York Times on September 23rd told of the decline of family reunions in Appalachia. Speaking of the way children of area residents have scattered throughout the U.S., one person said, "The reality is that the youngsters aren’t Appalachians. They are Chicagoans or Detroiters or Cincinnatians." Another countered with, "You can take us out of the mountains, but you can’t take the mountains out of us." Amen -- to both views...
• The opposite process is taking place in Mongolia, according to an October 9th article in the same paper. As work in the cities and towns disappears as a result of the collapse of communism, people are returning to the countryside to take up the nomadic lifestyle of their ancestors. "Mongolia is one of the few developing countries where more people are moving from city to country than in the other direction."
• An article in the Wall Street Journal on April 26th illustrated the absurdities to which nationalism so easily lends itself. Newly independent Slovakia is hunting around for "national heroes." Once upon a time, when it was united with what is now the Czech Republic to form Czechoslovakia, it had many such heroes, from tennis star Martina Navratilova to composer Antonin Dvorak. But now the pickings are slim: "Although there are some seven million Slovaks world-wide," writes reporter Greg Steinmetz, "they have been lumped in with other groups for most of their history." Andy Warhol is a candidate, but he wasn’t Slovak; according to his brother, John Warhola, "We just said we were Slovak because no one had ever heard of Carpatho-Rusyns."
• Hebrew was essentially unspoken for 1,700 years, until it was revived as the official language of Israel. But how does one bring such an antique language into the modern world of toaster ovens and VCRs? The Israeli Parliament has given the Academy of the Hebrew Language the job of keeping the language up-to-date. The Academy consists of 45 distinguished writers and linguists who meet a half-dozen times a year to discuss linguistic issues and create new words as needed.
• On January 8th of this year, Red Thunder Cloud -- a singer, dancer, and storyteller -- passed away in Worcester, Mass. He was the last known speaker of the language of the Catawba Indians. "It’s always sad when the last living speaker of a language dies," said Prof. Carl Teeter of Harvard University.
• Serbs, Croatians, and Bosnian Muslims once spoke a common language, Serbo-Croatian. The key difference was that the Serbs wrote it using the Cyrillic alphabet, and the Croatians and Bosnians wrote in a Latin alphabet. But now that the three ethnic groups have separated their countries so violently, they are intent on going their own separate ways linguistically as well. The Bosnians are introducing Arabic words, while the Croats are dusting off words used in medieval Croatia -- all to differentiate themselves from the Serbs, who once dominated the other two groups.
On the way to Samarina, 1989 (Photo ©1995, James Prineas)
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