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oh those Europeans

Went for a midnight run last night, and the city was alive. People all around the squares and up and down the main streets. Ljubljana is a city all right, but its night life is not quite New York's, so I was kind of surprised to see all the late-night activity.

Surpised, and yet not surprised. This is Europe, I thought. People are different here. They take their civil problems seriously, and are not afraid to show their unhappiness with the authorities. In North America we write letters to the editor. In Europe they throw Molotov cocktails and tear up cobblestones. North Americans march around for a bit and then drive home. Europeans erect guillotines.

I kept running. I don't move quickly, so I get a chance to see a lot as I jog along. The crowds were young, energetic, and focussed. I looked for banners, slogans, angry gestures ... but there were none. There was some bottles, but I didn't see any matches or gasoline. As I passed one knot of youths they called for me to join them, but I declined. I didn't think my meagre vocabulary (the only Slovenian words I know are Hello, My Name Is, Thank You, and Best Wishes) could help the cause.

On my way home I passed two youths lying on the grass. I was concerned -- were they the victims of police brutality? I slowed down to a near walk. The first youth groaned, heaved himself to his knees and vomited into a nearby bush. I approached with an expression of concern. Hello, I said. He climbed to his feet and staggered off, seemingly uninjured. The second youth sat up and opened the bottle in his hand. There wasn't much left. He finished the bottle, threw it away, and stood up, swaying gently. The expression on his face was not friendly. He said something in a low guttural voice, and staggered towards me.

Best wishes, I said brightly, and ran back to the hotel.

This morning I gave a lecture at the university. The professor apologized in advance for her students. Term began this week, she said. And many of them were up celebrating. How do you call the opening time for first year students?

I smiled.

Frosh week, I said.

Yah, that's it.

In some ways, Europeans are the same as we are.


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