Michael J. Jordan

MASERU, Lesotho – Last week was one filled with nostalgia and melancholy.

Michael J. Jordan

Behind the banner of The Slovak Brotherhood: "For God and Nation!" (Photo: mjj)

BRATISLAVAOn the first sunny Saturday of spring, we stroll across downtown Bratislava to a friend’s afternoon party.

Suddenly, the chanting of men echoes off the buildings. Several Slovak cops come into view, with arms crossed, keeping an eye on things. The din grows louder, headed our way.

“Must be football fans,” I think. “Is there a World Cup qualifier?”

Ed Hancox

Six of The Mantle's bloggers tackle the question: what is the one story you are most interested in following in 2011? The answers, like the blogroll, vary in interest, region, and subject matter. Chinese environmentalism, Sudanese independence, and Arundhati Roy's political activism are just three of the topics that have our bloggers excited. Read on to learn more about what's on their radars for 2011.

Michael J. Jordan

BRATISLAVA – Sometimes, even a Slovak pissoir inspires me.

The old, no-frills Tesco building downtown was recently renovated into a hip shopping mall, with bright lights, sleek displays and basement supermarket with a hu-u-u-uge liquor section. (Not that I'm implying anything about my Slovak neighbors.)

Michael J. Jordan

BRATISLAVA – I didn’t want to blog today. I need to write more of the Double-Secret Probationary Project I started this month. Oops, I’ve already said too much.

But then I witness a great act of stranger-to-stranger kindness, the sort of thing that is so rare in post-Communist, every-man-for-himself Central Europe, I notice when it happens.

Michael J. Jordan

BRATISLAVA – I’ve been meaning to write. Really, I have.

Maybe my sluggishness is because it’s so tough to re-acclimate to colder, wetter weather.

Or perhaps it’s the re-immersion in parenting. Three times a week, I ferry my boys to football training – or what we Yanks call soccer practice. Not only do I don the chauffer’s cap, but haul their gear and scramble for snacks. When they demand a masseuse, that’s where I’ll draw the line.

Michael J. Jordan

BRATISLAVA – That’s what the Slovak commentator screamed from the TV.

Goodbye, Italy!

How about ‘dem Slovaks?! Our scrappy Central European friends today sent the reigning champion – mighty Italy – tumbling out of the World Cup, 3-2. Even I cheered in the pub today.

“After you, France … Want to share a taxi to the airport?”

Michael J. Jordan

[Read Part 1 here]      Slovaks are understandably sensitive to jabs from across the river: for centuries they lived under the Hungarian csizma, or boot. Most castles here are lined with portraits of Hungarian nobility, while churches are engraved with Hungarian bishops and priests. Aside from its short stint as a Nazi quisling, Slovakia earned its first real independence in 1993, when it peacefully split with the Czech Republic.

Michael J. Jordan

BRATISLAVA – There’s nothing that nationalists in Central Europe relish more than to commemorate an historic injustice, harping on their victimization. If it falls during an election campaign, even better.