Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Old Wives Survive

Mostar has had just one sunny day in my recent memory, and since my fifth umbrella was snatched the rain has become increasingly oppressive. Now, I really shouldn't complain since I live about 5 minutes from school, but when a middle-aged woman began yelling in local on my way home from an English exam earlier this week, I was reminded that exposing oneself to the elements has its consequences in this culture.

For one thing, I don't own the high boots and stylish long coat which are an essential part of any Mostar girl's wardrobe, so I've already got one strike against me. Secondly, walking without an umbrella is associated with deadly wet-hair syndrome which inspires so much fear here in BiH. For those not familiar with Bosnian culture, let me explain. It is taken to be absolute fact even by the most intellectual of people that going outside with wet hair can lead to paralysis of the face and even death. Apparently, being exposed to warm water opens up the pores on your head, allowing cold air and wind to wreak havoc on your body. Now I understand that heat is lost through the head and feet, which is why I wear warm socks and hats in the winter. But I don't understand what medical facts support my housemum screaming at me in terror when I go to the canteen without slippers, the canteen ladies making us promise never to come to breakfast with wet hair again, or the most hopelessly rationale of my friends stand up for the lady on the street. My apologies to Bosnian friends who take offense, but I'm not convinced your doctor was correct when he told you the static from underwire bras causes breast cancer, and I'm not too tempted to add massive amounts of meat, salt, and oil to my diet even though you insist it's the healthiest diet and I have seen some impressive longevity within the culture.

My Dutch rommate tells me that I myself am a bit remiss in thinking that being out in the rain is likely to lead to a cold. Apparently, it's common practice in the Netherlands to send children out in the rain to make them stronger and healthier! And I must say, she gets the award for most wet hair and fewest sick days out of anyone I know.

I wanted to end this post by saying that when it comes to these wives' tales turned fact we'll have to agree to disagree, but since Isa and I are both home sick'll have to draw your own conclusions.

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