Hi from Kali. A vibrantly blue bodied-and-faced Hindu goddess; a Gaelic term for place to moor, or; something in Greek meaning ‘good’ (as in good day). Such were the notions for the name origins of this island village by a man, surname Kolega1, who has spent more of his life in Australia than on this, the island of his birth.
Like the island, he invited me to his home and we spoke.
This small fishing village sits on the island of Ugljan2 which rests across from Zadar. I’d seen it from Zadar over the years and a bit like the Australia-to-New Zealand phenomenon3, finally made the <20 minute ferry ride to the annual 3-day fish festival and was glad for it. I went partly for the fish, partly for the solitude an island supplies, but mostly for my groupie-at-heart desire to see a favored singer take the stage again, this time as part of the festival celebrations. He’s a hare krishna by spiritual trade, and the last time I saw him in Sydney years ago— he spoke my Life Motto from just looking at me. Really, how can a man know such things? (It was Great Expectations in case you’re wondering). It’s since changed.
Back to Kali. If you’re familiar with the notion of Ley Lines (think it’s the term, and spelling) certain places hold certain energies, and things just happen there. Think Silicon Valley. Think War Zones. Think it’s Robert Kaplan who theorizes this for the region if you want to read more. In the case of Kali, these Ley Lines know how to reel in fish.
The fishermen from these parts are world travelers, well-read, multi-lingual and well mannered (something you don’t always encounter when you meet men in Croatia). And, many live in Port Lincoln, South Australia — a millionaire’s club of fishing magnates. The reason this interests me is not for gold digging intentions, rather, I had researched a similar “wave” of migration from Croatia to South America in the 20th century, of men who left as boys from island towns to amass fortunes in foreign lands and dream of home— but never fully able to return. In Zagreb today, you’ll find Chilean, Peruvian, Argentine Croatians with ancestral links to the place, having great grandfathers who sailed out from Hvar, Brač, Dubrovnik and the etc. (NB if you are such a person, there are scholarships to reconnect just the same. If you’re not, there’s a 3-week volunteer program held in Croatia every summer through matis.hr. It’s open to anyone and free. Just bring a sturdy liver).
Mr Kolega migrated to Australia 40+ years ago. And I have a thing about migration.
My honors thesis topic focused on the duality of cultural identity; living somewhere in body, but being somewhere else in mind/heart/soul (or all of the above). When I meet these kindred Real Life cases, my anthropological antennae tunes on in. It’s like speaking a language with someone after you’ve only been listening to something you half understand.
It’s native; it’s flow.
We sat. We waved to his cousins, neighbors, passers by I now also knew by first name. It’s easy to befriend the Main Players in a place, within the first 24 hours, and my knack for memorizing names and key life events from small talk always serves me well in this regard. I had walked by Mr Kolega’s balcony several times, which is near Kolega street, with a nod and remark how nice it seemed up there, only to be invited up— but through another connection, at a cafe where I was denied the chance to read my book, and instead converse with the returnee-natives who discovered I also lived in Australia.
They were clutching onto a bit of their other familiarity. And some kind of spirit.
Mr Kolega was relaxed. Alone. A bit of an albatross. He offered me his place to stay whenever I needed (this happens quite often to me when I travel). And thankfully, he didn’t have a son he was trying to set me up with (this also happens a lot).
Kali is a place I revisit when meditation calls for it. Another fishing village which strengthens my peculiar theory I must have been a ship captain in a past life, with grey beard and sporting a pipe. I can’t think of a better way of being. Or having been.