Martenisa: Grandmother March has a Spring in her Step (Folklore)

Cover Photo Source: Adventure Flair

Happy Monday!

A few weeks ago one of my flatmates gifted me a red and white bracelet with a purple butterfly charm on it.  I asked her why and she went to explain to me that it was a Bulgarian Spring ritual.  “It is just what we do.”

bulgarian spring twist

The martenitsi is usually made of red and white yarn. The red to ward off the gaze of evil spirits and the white represents long life.

Naturally I was curious for more and went digging around.  What I learned was that Martenisa is a spring celebration starting on March 1st when Martenitsi are tied around children’s wrists and necklaces of the same colours are hung around young women’s necks.  Martenitsi are always given as gifts, never bought for one self, and are given to loved ones, friends, and people they feel close to (aww thank you Tsveta!) with  the wish of good health and luck.

The Martenitsi is meant to be worn until the wearer first sees a stork, swallow, or blossoming tree (all signs of spring). What is supposed to be done with it at which point varies however I was told to tie it around a blossoming tree branch to pass on the good health and luck I have been gifted over the last month to the tree.  I like this a lot, trees are okay people.

The idea of wearing the Martenitsi is to protect the wearer from Baba Marta (Grandmother March) who is subject to mood swings bringing more cold weather.  By wearing a Martenitsi it’s a sign of welcoming Baba Marta and asking for a short and less bitter end to winter.

With that being said, I’m still wearing my Martenitsi but I’m hoping that soon (seeing as today is the first official day of spring) that I’ll see a blossoming tree so I can pass on the love.

If you want to read more, check out this wonderful post on Adventure Flair “What is Martenisa?”

Happy Spring!

 

Durak (card game)

Happy Monday folks!

As  I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I’ve decided to make my Monday posts “Mystery Monday” partly because I haven’t read anything I’ve wanted to write about that I haven’t already written extensively about for class(1) and partly because my life is just not exciting enough to write a memoir piece every week.  So I wanted to leave a day where I could surprise you my reader, because who doesn’t love a good surprise?

In line with the spirit of mystery I decided to write about a card game one of my flatmates taught me before leaving for winter holiday called: Durak(2).

Durak(3) is Russian for “idiot” or “fool”.  When I asked my flatmate why it was named this, he told me “It’s because this is a game where there are no winners, only a looser and only a fool would play such a game.” It’s a game of some skill and some luck however of the 5 rounds we played, I was overwhelming the durak.

Objective: Do not have any cards left in your hand at the end of the deck.

regular_durak

1. Deck; 2. first attacker; 3. defender; 4. next attacker (this game has a learning curve)

Number of Players: 2 – 7

 

Rules of Play:

  1. Each player is dealt 7 cards. Each player will keep a minimum of 7 cards in their hand until all cards from the deck and the power card (the face up card under the deck, this is simply the top card of the deck after the deck is shuffled and cards are dealt) are drawn.
  2. The first player initiates an attack to the left (player 2 attacks player 3). To attack player 2 lays down a card from their hand. The defending player (player 3) defends with a card of higher value and same suit or can deflect the attack to their left (player 4) with a card of the same value (obviously this card cannot be of the same suit). Any power suit card can defend against a non-power suit card. (Example: if player 2 attacks player 3 with a 6 of clubs, and the power suit [as determined by the power card] is hearts, player 3 can defend with a 2 of hearts)
  3. If player 3 cannot defend, then em takes the card and puts in their hand. If player 3 can defend then player 2 and/or player 4 can attack with more cards of the same value as any card in battle. If player 3 deflects the attack then the attacking card and the card used to deflect attack to the left, player 4. (Example: if player 2 attacks player 3 with a 6 of clubs and player 3 deflects the attack with a 6 of spades, now player 4 is defending against two 6s).
  4. If player 3 successfully defends, then all cards in battle go to the discard pile (a pile off to the side, these cards are now out of play for the rest of the game). If player 3 cannot defend or deflect, then em takes all cards in battle and puts them in em’s hand.  Everyone draws cards until they have 7 or more cards in hand starting with the attacker then clockwise.
  5. Now player 3 is the attacker and attacks player 4, to the left. Repeat.
  6. Players play and draw until the deck and the power card are drawn.  Once there is only one player left with cards in hand, they are declared the durak.

The game is a lot easier to understand once you play a hand or two and is a lot of fun.  It’s a really interesting game that utilizes game mechanics similar to trading card games except with the dynamic of using a regular 52 card deck, the playing field is relatively even.

I’ve picked up quite a few games and some card tricks but only a few are games are really unusual like this one.  If you have any unusual card games, feel free to leave a comment below.

 

Footnotes:

  1. I just finished a 3000 word literary analysis essay about the critical effectiveness of Darko Suvin‘s definition of Science Fiction (for the specific quote the prompt was taken, see 2.2) as a literary genre in his brilliant essay “Estrangement and Cognition” with regard to Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and Wells’s War of the Worlds (which if you haven’t read it and aren’t already familiar with The Gutenberg Project you can read it for free along with literally hundreds, maybe thousands, of other classics; it’s brilliant and you now have no excuse but wait until after reading my post to go drool over the quantity of free reading over there, please) and as much as I enjoyed both texts I just cannot be asked to look at them again much less write about them for a while.
  2. I’m going to show you how the game was taught to me, as there are many variations this is the one I learned and will share with you.
  3. Here’s how I’m going to describe pronouncing it even though I was told many times that I’m saying it wrong but I think I finally got it.  It’s two syllables, the first “dur” sounds like “door” if you replace the two “oo” with a long “u”.  The second syllable borrows the “r” sound but just barely and sounds like “rack”.

For New Friends and Old Alike

Happy Friday!

NOTE: I am using [sic] to indicate that these people said these specific words to demonstrate that I’m not exaggerating the incredible rudeness I encountered.

As many of my regular readers probably know, I left my mother city of St Louis (Follow link for more information, however TL;DC [Too Lazy; Didn’t Click] St Louis is a Beer City with a Baseball problem [among other problems] that’s about 300 miles south on the mighty Mississippi River) 1st October 2016 at 4.20pm (tee-hee) central time on my first ever journey out of the United States for the University of Lancaster in the UK and the experience has been absolutely beautiful, depraved, loving, dysphoric, and already significantly life changing.

I believe in the some-what superstitious idea of synchronicity(1) and this being said, as much as I will always love St Louis as my Mother City, I believe she was giving me her blessing by fire to leave in three little flares:

Flare #1:  The Thursday before I left, I was trying run around town and finish the things I didn’t do yet because procrastination which when you’re errands depend on the public transit system in St Louis, it can take up to 4 hours round trip for less than a 20 mi/32.187km trip.  This being the case, I’m pretty used to eating on the go and being so close to leaving I was eating lots of glorious trash gas (petrol) station foods to avoid having groceries that I wouldn’t be able to eat before leaving.  I have some pretty wicked hair(2) and hair this wild was never made to play well with hats.  However I haven’t yet found a proper alternative to the skull cap for winter weather which leads to results that look kinda like this:

fin-hat-hair

So be me, sweaty from dressing for the cold morning weather that turned up to mild summer weather in the span of my transit travels and no longer wanting to be in a hot hat.  Taking it off when I arrive at the gas station and feeling self conscious but mostly hungry I made a bee-line for the junk food section and load up some slightly-burnt hot dogs and hot-dog-shaped chicken things and mildly-satisfying-for-the-price taquitos and jump in line(3) and the over middle aged cashier checks me out and says to his coworkers (as a complete non-sequitur) “…speaking of I need to get in touch with my lazy-ass [sic] barber because my hair is starting to look like absolute shit [sic].” To wit I thought “So it makes you feel good to insult boys half your age about their hair passively you fucking limp dick? Not only you insult your barber who earns an honest living unlike you’re dead end gas station attendant job?” However I’ve been trying to remember Louie’s advice “Let it go, Fin. You’ll be happier for it.” and resisted spitting sulpher and walked away letting the miserable prick marinate in his own negativity.

Flare #2: Saturday morning rolls around and I’m ready to leave this city.  I’ve had people who I considered friends ignore me completely in any respects to hang out one last time before leaving, we had been having miserable weather, and I was still a little pissed off about the hat hair comment (I mean the guy works in the HOSPITALITY industry, what kind of mum teaches their child to behave in such a manour much less at work?) however the bus stop to take me to the airport was literally less than a block from the front door of my motel room which made me pretty happy.  I packed (almost) everything I own in the world in a big roller bag that I had received as present for the first time I went off to university(4) however it was the very cheap Prestige brand of bag(5).  Before I even got to the bus stop (less than one block), the wheels broke off and the bottom of the bag was getting a friction hole exposing a structural wire. I’m convinced that Prestige brand bags are the type of bags you gift your traveler friend you’re trying to sabotage because they will not last more than one trip, if that.

Flare 3: I bought my tickets of this app I discovered via reddit (/r/budget if I remember correctly, however probably not) called Skip Lagged

Skiplagged is a pro-consumer travel website that aims to make it easier to experience the world. We expose secrets of the industry by finding airfares not found anywhere else that can easily save you up to 80%. FAQ

Regardless of how infomercial the pitch sounds, I literally got my flight here for 500$, the next cheapest being 1000$.  The itinerary I had purchased didn’t use American Airlines (instead using the appropriate “Finnair”) to get me from St Louis to Chicago and on presenting this to the boarding pass counter, the lady looks at my itinerary and says “What the fuck [sic] is this?”
Me: My itinerary?

To which she gives me a dirty look (another prime example of St Louis Hospitality) and told me to wait and went off to talk to her equally vapid and rude coworker to figure out my business.

Finally after over 30 minutes of waiting she comes back and mumbles “I guess I’ll try this again.” and when she finds my boarding pass she says to her computer screen “This was a fucking stupid [sic] way to buy a plane ticket.”   Be me (again), wheels have fallen off my 70lb/31.752kg and I’m tired from manually carrying the thing around to keep it from breaking further and for the second time in 3 days I’m being insulted passively to my face from an individual in the hospitality industry. “Let it go, Fin.”

I’ll be the first to admit, I was deeply unhappy being in St Louis long before deciding on this trip however I found it deeply bothersome to be treated with such blatant hostility from people who have jobs in an industry that is supposed to be focused on good manours.  And maybe this rubs me especially hard because I’m a food industry veteran of 13 years and I’ve fired people for less.  This sort of behaviour is absolutely unacceptable particularly when not provoked, however what bothers me the most is that both of the people from #1 and #3 I guarantee have higher wages than I’ve had at my peak regardless of my practice of loving compassionate kindness. Even now, just writing this is making me grind my teeth. “Let it go, Fin.”

Fear not, my dear reader, after 1300+ words there is a happy ending: Since touching down in the UK every single person (inc hospitality workers, flat mates, university workers, strangers, literally EVERYONE) has been radically kind, polite, and frequently even nice to the point of “sweetheart” levels.  Never have I ever encountered any place where everyone says “please, thank you, excuse me, sorry” so frequently which among other things (that I plan to cover in a future piece “Cultural Dysphoria: An American Abroad” [working title]) has made it easy to fall head over heels in love with the people of the United Kingdom.  For the first time in my life, I feel safe and accepted.

american-born-british-at-heart

 

Footnotes:

  1. I also believe in: ghosts, astrology, lucky pennies, that I can communicate with non-human living beings via deep empathy (inc trees, insects, birds, dogs, plants; in fact I had a basil plant named Bob once, he was a good plant but when he died because my thumbs are flesh coloured rather than the prerequisite green I had a funeral for em and I felt really bad which is why I don’t aspire to have pets, plants, or children in the near future; R.I.P. Bob, the basil lemon chicken I made with you was wonderful and I won’t forget it anytime soon), and that I can in fact identify as a cartoon stick-figure in real life as a legitimate claim.  This should give you a nice flavour for the sort of coconut I have on top of my stick-ish torso.
  2. fin-head
  3. Or a queue, which I’m learning is the Official British National past time, as someone in London told me “If ever in doubt, just form a queue and people will follow suit”, however I honestly wouldn’t call it a queue in the states because we’re more likely just to make an amorphis blob especially at gas stations.
  4. Straight out of high school (or college, being the English equivalent) I went off to the University of Missouri – Columbia aka Mizzou however after crushing the fuck out of my first term at 18 credit hours and a 4.0, over winter break I discovered the wonders of marijuana which lead to term two crushing the fuck out of me and leading me into what I’ve termed “7 Years of Summer Break”.
  5. Wal-mart’s “exclusive” travel bag line.  You get like a full 8 bag set for like 30$.  Avoid at all costs.