Showing posts from 2009

Tuzna Izabela (Sad Isabella) - a song

Ko je ta stara, tuzna zena?
(Who is that old, sad woman?)
Koga ceka pored reke?
(For whom does she wait by the river?)
Ceka momka da dodje po nju
(She waits for her lover to come for her)
Ona je tuzna, tuzna Izabela
(She is sad, sad Isabella)

Bijo je letnji dan kada su se upoznali
(It was a summer's day when they first met)
Izabela mlada dama, a Marko roda ciganskog
(Isabella a young lady, and Marko from a gypsy family)
Kaze: "Marko ti si mi mnogo zgodan"
(She says: "Marko I find you very handsome")
Kaze: "Bela moja ti si san"
(He says: "Bella my love, you're like a dream")
"Ajde da se sad vencamo"
("Come let us get married")
"Moram ocu reci plan"
("I must tell Father of our plan")

Kada otac sazna, on kaze: "Bre!"
(When father finds out he says: "Hey!")
"Bas takvu uniju pristacu ne!"
("This kind of union I will never allow!")
"Molim te oce, daj mi blagoslov"

Descartes at the bar

It was late and I was tired, standing behind the bar polishing glasses, watching the baggy-eyed patrons leaning on the counter, plumes spiraling up from their glowing cigarette ends, the smell of stale, end-of-the week beer wafting with the smoke like rising damp.

I was going to call for last drinks when this customer walks in; a dark-looking fella, angular, chiseled features partly hidden by his overcoat drawn up at the lapels, a fedora tilted to one side over hooded eyes.

He sidles over to the bar where he pulls up a stool, sits himself down and glances sideways before he looks up at me and speaks in a clipped European accent, a mere hiss above the background hum of the voices: "The name's Descartes."

"Can I get you a drink Mr Descartes?" I ask, but he snorts, leans back on his stool and shakes his head, a sad smile creasing one corner of his mouth.

"I think not," he says.

I reach up to hang one of the wine glasses on the overhead rack and hear myself as…

Limping to the moon (a poem for Maureen)

You don't care
if I am limping to the moon
with you.
I might have known
that you'd be finding things to do
when we got there.

Through your lens
our hopes and dreams
come sharply into view,
even when they have
long since
retreated from my

You bear the weight
of all my burdens
so they disappear,
check my baggage in
so I can have it out of sight
and mind.

I don't care
that we might never make it
to the moon.
I'm happy
limping next to you.

Copyright © 2009 Dejan Djurdjevic

Writing challenge: Catheter in the rye

Here is a challenge I undertook; 6 sentences, 4 famous authors. Sans the characters, it describes a personal experience:

“I get up to go to the bathroom, not because I have to go, but because I want to throw up, except the drip and catheter and all that stuff is in the way and I’m tripping, as you would say Salinger, I’m tripping like a bastard, and it’s from that goddamn ketamine they gave me.”

“I know the feeling.”

“Bet you do Thompson. Then I stand on the tube which pulls on the needle plastered into my elbow, so I fall on my ass just before I reach the toilet — and I see that there's nowhere for me to puke anyway because there's this goddamn giant yellow flower coming out from the middle of the bowl!”

“This is typical of the whole character of the treatment that was being foisted on you Mr Kerouac.”

“Yeah right Kafka, this would be right up your alley because you’re already one of the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything …

Memories of Taiwan: Lost in Translation

I was walking with my teacher, Chen Yun Ching, through the cluttered, stony streets of Qishan in southern Taiwan, blood-red paper and tinsel jostling with with the pushy crowds and endless market stalls.

"How do you you say 'Happy New Year'?" I asked him, and he paused, mid-stream, while people flowed around him, a rock in the rapids.

I carefully repeated his words again and again, watching his eyebrows raise higher and his eyes go wider in increasing exasperation at my mangled tones, until he finally waved his hand saying "hao" (good) - whether in satisfaction or in resignation, I wasn't sure.

With some optimism I shouted out my newly-acquired greeting to the first people I saw: a group of young men and women walking past, chatting amiably in the spirt of New Year's Eve revelry.

Almost at once they fell about laughing (literally, for one young man actually sank to the ground, hugging his belly), stamping their feet, vainly trying to stifle guffaws and …

Decadal Gashuku Part 4: The Aftermath

So what was the Decadal Gashuku all about? In 10 days we had run more than 150 km, performed close to 10 000 kicks and an equal number of punches, strikes and blocks. We had trained for 10 hours per day, sweated buckets of water, used up litres of sunscreen and eaten gallons of maltabela porridge. We had lifted chi shis, pressed the kongo ken, done thousands of knuckle push-ups, sit-ups, squat kicks and fireman lifts up steep hills.

Certainly the gashuku was, to a large extent, an exercise in spirit training. But there was much more to it than that, and it would be unfair to ignore these other aspects in the face of "more exciting" events like fractured vertebra, dislocated shoulders and dehydration-induced delirium.

The Decadal Gashuku is where I learned (and inculcated) some very useful (and in fact fundamental) martial material that in the pre-internet era was particularly hard to come by.

In weapons alone I learned Hamahiga no tonfa, Tsukenshitahaku sai kata (a trident …

Decadal Gashuku Part 3: Running on Empty

It was mid-afternoon half way through the second week of the Decadal gashuku. Tim Hull and I were shuffling along a dusty track somewhere in the African savannah. The group with which we’d started running had long since dispersed; the front pack having disappeared into the far distance while behind us about 20 or so stragglers were spread out over several kilometres.

We were about 16 km into what was a half marathon. As trudged along, each step sent sharp spasms up my spine (due to what I later discovered was a fractured vertebra). I reflected on how we had come to be in this position...

The morning had started out promisingly enough; we had a very short run – only 5 or so kilometres – followed by some chi sau (sticky hands drills from wing chun) and then some taiji. So far so good. We had breakfast and rested as the sun came out and the sky cleared away from the previous night’s storm. We were in for a hot, dry day.

Our mid-morning lesson was about to begin and I reluctantly pick…

Decadal Gashuku Part 2: Ten Blind Masseuses

My favourite passage in the Hagakure1 is the one about the 10 blind2 masseuses. I have copied it below:“Once a group of ten blind masseuses were traveling together in the mountains, and when they began to pass along the top of a precipice, they all became very cautious, their legs shook, and they were in general struck with terror. Just then the leading man stumbled and fell off the cliff. Those that were left all wailed, ‘Ahh, Ahh! How piteous!’ But the masseuse who had fallen yelled up from below, ‘Don’t be afraid. Although I fell, it was nothing. I am now rather at ease. Before falling I kept thinking “What will I do if I fall” and there was no end to my anxiety. But now I’ve settled down. If the rest of you want to be at ease, fall quickly!’” – Hagakure (Book of the Samurai), Yamamoto TsunetomoI first read that in 1985. It's a shame it hadn't sunken in by the time of the Decadal Gashuku (training camp) held in the first 2 weeks of 1990. All the fretting I did leading up…

Decadal Gashuku Part 1: The Foreboding

It's hard to believe we are rapidly approaching the 20th anniversary of the Decadal Gashuku, a martial arts training camp held by Lao Shi Bob Davies at Midmar Dam in Kwazulu Natal from 3 to 13 January 1990. It was an international event comprising 2 separate 5 day courses. Some of us (the "decadal participants") were there for both.

For those unfamiliar with the gashuku (training camp) concept, it typically features 8 hours of training/instruction per day. The decadal participants were in for a treat; we would have 10 hours instead. It was the theme - 10 lots of everything.

To better fill you in on the picture I should rewind a little.

My wife Maureen and I were newlyweds and I had freshly graduated from law. We wanted to go overseas for an adventure but we didn't have 2 pennies to scratch together. I had a job lined up, but wouldn't start till February. So we decided to take out a loan. Given my degree and my upcoming job, the banks fell over each other to …

Running with Bob

In 1991 I had a visit from one of my former karate classmates in South Africa, Peter Banks. Peter started training shortly after I did, but where I was a fresh-faced teenager, Peter was already in his late 30s. And where I was pencil thin, Peter was not. To be blunt, he had a sizable middle-aged spread.

Imagine my surprise when, almost a decade later, Peter turned up at our dojo looking like an iron man. The paunch was no more. In its place was the proverbial "six pack". It was something I never imagined possible with Peter. "How did you do it?" I asked.
     He replied: "Running with Bob".

He was, of course, referring to our teacher Lao shi Bob Davies. I immediately understood how Peter had achieved his remarkable transformation. If you could keep up with our teacher you couldn't have a paunch. The 2 concepts were mutually exclusive.

I cast my mind back to my visit to Lao shi Bob the year before. My wife and I had arrived at his house in Durb…