VEGAN VIGNETTES: YOUR LIFE

I was talking with my husband earlier tonight and upon touching the inevitable topic of vegan meals during holidays with one’s family, I finally articulated something that has been swimming in my thoughts for some time now. A thought that is both of spiritual and compassionate nature.

When you have children, it’s sort of usual to expect that you will be there for them until an old age, so we feel that our physical fitness for longevity is pretty much given (even though it, of course, isn’t). But, when it comes to grandparents, we don’t have the same expectation because we have been inclined to think, and it has been culturally imprinted on us, that their health is something that we can’t really negotiate, and that whatever years they have with their grandkids, our offspring, are just like a gift. High blood pressure creeps in. First heart attacks start to appear (I’ve put it in plural if one is lucky enough to live through the very first one); a stroke might be mild but still impairs you. Obesity, high cholesterol levels, diabetes type 2, arthritis, back pain, cancer. A plethora of things that are caused by food and stress. Genetics don’t play that big of a role as society would like us to think – it only accounts for about 5 to 10% of your overall health inclinations. But when you give up your ability to decide and just shrug thinking „I can’t fight with issues I inherited“, you basically just continue living the way you got used to, placing your fate below your taste buds and habits – turning you into a perfect victim for, well, mainstream consumerism. A voluntary victim. In addition to that, aren’t bad genetics, even if it actually had possessed a major influence on your life, precisely the reason why you should take your health into your own hands? Fight the DNA and let the bad genes starve? For example, women who inherit the BRCA gene for breast cancer should be especially mindful of what they put into their bodies, right? Sort of like putting that new-age proverb about the wolf you feed in the food and health context.

But, that’s not even what I wanted to say here. The crux of the matter is this: when you continue to eat animals, sentient individuals who are capable of a variety of emotions just like us, and who never want to be violently slaughtered, you deny yourself the opportunity to not only truly marvel at the longevity that our bodies can give us, but you also deny your loved ones of the thousands of hours you could have spent together. Enjoying a wonderful plant-based meal on a Sunday with your kids, grandkids and their kids, friends, neighbors, a kind stranger. A house full of love for decades which lights up magnificently on holidays. Teaching your granddaughter how to be harness her woman power in life. Giving your grandson a first lesson in cooking. Being there on their graduation days, basking in pride and love for your line continuing well beyond what you can imagine. The impact that they will have in the world, and you actually being there to see it, fully capable and vital in your body. Their first award speech when they mention you. Dancing on their wedding day. Feeling the affection, attention and care from them when your life starts to become slower and more contemplative. Entering your ninth or tenth decade with a smile and a birthday cake that your grand-grandkid just put his little hand on and snatched that candle from the top. You deny yourself your immortality.

For what is living if not leaving something of yourself vividly in the memories and life your loved ones create with you? You could go on and on as that wise grandparent who took the advice, went vegan, and lived to see the family for generations ahead. The one who stopped being a bystander and did everything you could to be there to support those who matter to you the most. For those who need you in their life. That is your responsibility. Isn’t it utterly absurd and downright immoral of you to deny them your experiences, your wisdom, care and love? Do you really want to die before you even set eyes on your first grandkid? Hell, for some, even your own kid? Or your sister’s kid? Your best friend’s child with those big soft eyes just begging you to tell them you love them the most? Doesn’t it hurt when your disease puts you in a hospital bed and, instead of love and joy, you give your loved ones grief and suffering? Simply by ingesting the grief and suffering of animals? Doesn’t that cycle have to end?

Your deny yourself your immortality. For the trees you plant, the leaves you give sunrays to, the flowers that bloom only in your presence are more important than what you eat now. You live forever through them. Your essence is never lost when you leave your family, your art, all your creations on this Earth after doing all that your spirit was intended to do, in its totality.
I urge you to give your life true meaning, and give yourself the gift of spiritual immortality. There are plenty of things we cannot control, but this is the one thing where we have all the power to improve the quality and quantity of our existence. Your spirit will thank you well into Beyond. As well as the thousands of animals on your plate now.

Your vegan friend always,
Ilhana

ATTENTION: NEW BLOG!

Hi, everyone! I felt inspired to write my thoughts on veganism in a new blog called „Vegan Vignettes“! I hope you will go on this journey with me and share my thoughts on the spiritual, mental and physical aspect of this ethical stance – the most important one for me and many people around the world. Four elements and guidelines will determine the theme of the posts: animals, planet/environment, health and humanitarian rights. So, in the future, the blog will be distinguished from other writing by the title, and you can also find it with relevant hashtags. The first post is already up. Happy reading!

An Expat in France… Chapter 3: Absence Makes The Heart…

We’re in the Holy Month of Ramadan, and what better time is there to express gratitude for what you have? Therefore, I am finally going to write the promised chapter about things that make me happy in France!
Five months in, and this is what makes my every day brighter:

1) No stray dogs and cats on the street, struggling, suffering, dying – For my entire life, my family and I have rescued poor animals from the street. Sometimes we managed to save them from hurt, cold, heat, cruel people, illnesses and hunger, but sometimes it was all just too much and a wonderful being had to die just because laws and common ethics were not enforced and followed.That’s why I feel relief when walking the streets of Lyon and every other city in France. The neighborhood where we live is peaceful and pets live their life in the comfort of their humans’ home. Almost every house has a cat door, and the nearby park is filled with dogs being walked on sunny afternoons of this spring. Just last year, France adopted tougher laws that target animal cruelty and ban wild animal entertainment. Bosnia and Herzegovina has yet to strive to finally fulfill the provisions of the existing Animal Protection and Welfare Law that was passed in 2009. Anything less than that and we’re still stuck in the 15th century, inflicting cruelty and suffering onto beings that have the same right to this planet as we do (even more, actually, because they don’t destroy nature). Take note, you in charge!


2) Vegan food in abundance – Connected with the topic of animal rights, another exhilarating thing is the total explosion in yummy vegan products across the French aisles. It’s still not on the level of, say, Germany, but literally every time we go to a certain supermarket, there’s another new food to try. So far my faves are soy chunks from Garden Gourmet and pretty much every type of cheese we found so far, but especially the ones from Les Nouveaux Affineurs. Go, France!

3) Concerts in the actual city I live in (!) – For the past 25 years, whenever I wanted to see some of my favourite bands and musicians, I would have to travel for hours minimum (not to mention going to Finland to see The 69 Eyes!). Now I just need to see if the band is playing in Lyon, and in most cases, it’s true – such as The Rolling Stones on their upcoming STONES SIXTY tour. This will be a very exciting experience and our first Stones concert together! Before that, we have Simple Minds – and all it takes is a metro ride to the venue.

4) Overall art & culture scene – A tattoo convention here, a cinema retrospective of Francis Ford Coppola there – not only are concerts a dime a dozen here, but you also get plenty of cultural variety, especially during summer. That’s when Lyon transforms into a veritable treasure trove of aesthetic cultural experiences to everyone’s taste, and you only have to choose what to attend. Since this is the City of Film, Cinémas Lumière are here, and they regularly offer special screenings and retrospectives. Unfortunately, we missed the Night of Horror (with It Follows!), because we were spending that weekend in Annecy, but that’s a good reason to miss it, I think!


5) Sharing my husband’s language, culture, people – Never have I thought that I would fall in love with a Frenchman and start learning his language, but you know that saying about mysterious ways! I will soon attend an intense language course to improve my French, and since this is not my first foray into Romance languages, I intend to continue with Spanish and Italian. French culture certainly has an inspiring and formidable history, and many items in its iconography are also parts of what my eyes are fond of. My husband’s friends have all welcomed me warmly, and I found that I really like to discover France’s beautiful cities, their architecture, decor… I am thoroughly enjoying it all!

6) Growing fonder of my homeland – Bosnia and Herzegovina will always be my land. The soil I grew up from, where the sun casts its most familiar and beautiful rays. There is no other feeling quite like walking through my town on a bright, sunny day, checking to see if there are new Dylan Dog episodes in the comics section of a newsstand. But when you’re only there, life gets dour. It’s not easy living in Bosnia because of all the opstructions to our thousand-year long existence, which have continued well after the most recent aggression and genocide. War is being led in peace. That takes up much of one’s energy and motivation to contribute to one’s country. For some time before my departure, I have felt like I gave all I could give to the cultural and professional life in B&H. However, now being part of the Bosnian-Herzegovinian diaspora, I feel an envigorated urge to help in any way that I can, carrying the Bosnian voice to France and making it loud and clear. I already made some contacts (more on that soon) and I love it!

7) Being relatively close to Bosnia and Herzegovina – France is not as close to us as, for example, Slovenia or Austria, but there are one thousand kilometers between my hometown and Lyon, and we can cross it in 13-14 hours. Taking an airplane is even faster, and in a space of less than half a day, I am back to my home No. 1. That knowledge alone is enough to make me fell spiritually close to my (two-legged and four-legged) loved ones, and whenever I get a chance, I can always hop on to a trusty Air France flight and see them again. Pretty good if you ask me!

8) Finally being with my husband – Those of you more familiar with our story know how long we were apart during the heyday of the pandemic. As if the regular distance wasn’t enough! So, my husband and our life together are the ultimate positive aspect of my life in France.

So, these are my top 8 things I love about France. I hope there will be much more soon, but I am very grateful for my happiness here. Now it’s time to think of a great vegan iftar for tonight! To all of you, have a blessed Ramadan or other holidays you might celebrate these days!

An Expat in France… Chapter 2: It’s Showtime!

Even though I had planned to relish in all the goods France has to offer (and has offered since I came to live here) in chapter 2, life’s turn of events made me take a slight detour… into the world of TV! Last week I was contacted by Sanela Dujković, a Bosnian-Herzegovinian TV host and journalist, for an appearance in „Večernji studio“ („Evening Studio“), on a special show about meeting online. It seems that our story made its way to her Google search – and just two days later, we greeted the viewers of N1 television in Bosnia and Herzegovina from our home in Lyon. The wonders of technology, she exclaimed as a true millenial!
The show can be viewed below (in Bosnian, though):

Good time was had by all, and we were simply happy to bring our story to people out there and perhaps, give them hope in true love. Thanks, Sanela and everyone involved!
We’re in the middle of a minor renovation of our home, so my writing is sporadic at best – but I promise to deliver a new, „real“ chapter soon! In the meantime, get yourself a nice vegan cookie and watch your favourite romantic movie… it’s never too late for Valentine’s Day in your heart!

An Expat in France… Chapter 1: A thin, secret thread

As I’ve already hinted at in the first, that is, chapter zero of a series of pages I named „An Expat in France“ (echoing Sting’s famous song, I guess), the explanation of my writing and the storm of emotions from that chapter will now follow.

So, for those unfamiliar with the state of things, late last year I moved from Bosnia and Herzegovina, where I spent all my life, to France. The reason? Of the highest and purest nature: love. After a two and a half years relationship which survived not only the distance, but also the additional separation due to the pandemic, we managed to get married last summer and start our life together only a few months after our simple but joyous ceremony.

While the change for him was of a singular quality (the wedding), in my case three important changes happened that literally change the course of a life: marriage, leaving the home country, and leaving the job I had for more than a decade. A few points or truths that became apparent follow:
– On the one hand, after such changes, rest is necessary. On the other hand, taking into account my personality type, such rest is deemed as stalling and procrastinating (in short: unacceptable). These two truths managed to coexist one next to the other, and still exist simultaneously in my mind (which is why I wrote chapter zero).
– Life changes of this kind inevitably affect your identity. While I used to think of myself as an atypical representative of „ljuti Krajišnici“ (freely translated as „Angry Border people“ – the description of the people living in my region of Bosnia and Herzegovina), in a foreign environment latent characteristics tend to swim more easily to the surface. They take the helm especially in situations where you meet people who try to mock your name, origin, or accomplisments, in order to feel superior just because they are from some country or whatever. I made a promise to myself that, in the future, any intentional mispronunciation of my name alone, let alone something else, will result in such an intense verbal burial the person in question did not yet experience in their life. In other words: they will know who “ljuti Krajišnik” is.
– It’s easier to be a Bosnian outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina. While you’re in your Bosnia, everything is weighing on you: from political and economic uncertainty, to poverty, to a dead cultural life, outside the primacy is overtaken by prettier characteristics, reminscing about the good things (for example, drinking coffee and tea indefinitely, while the world goes by, fast-paced), natural scenery that take your breath away, the humour of Bosnians and Herzegovinians, and that strange love of our spite that sometimes brings more harm than good to us, but we still hold on to it for dear life – in spite of it all.
– The pandemic further exacerbated the adjustment to a new environment. The contact with persons of importance (administrative tasks) is long and more difficult. You need to have patience, and that isn’t exactly a trait I have in my repertoire, or, to put it more precisely, I don’t find it easily.
For the end of this first „official“ chapter, I will give voice to my artistic side, and end with a poetic observation (if such a thing does exist). I write about this in detail in a book about us, but in a couple of lines: just as an invisible, red thread, untouched by weather or anything wordly, connected me to him before, spread from my town to his city, from his home to mine, from one heart to another, now another thread has been spread in the same way. This time, from me to my first home and my loved ones. This is how it will be from now on and all I can do is visit them as much as I can. Actually, I write this first chapter „from my house“, while I enjoy the endless tea time with friends and time spent with family. With a refreshed perspective and a constant feeling of great devotion to my husband (whom I miss increasingly more each day), I think the next chapter will be dedicated to all the positive things that greeted me in France. Stay on the line!