The Slovenia Times

Painted Hives: "Being a leader on environmental initiatives makes sense for Slovenia"


Book Synopsis:

At 19 years old, Wilber Jansen had never been on a plane, let alone left the country, and he had certainly never been interested in bees. When he decides to enroll in a beekeeping class, in Slovenia, he knows it will be a shock for his family and friends. Of course, he can't tell them that the real reason he's going because they would think he was crazy. He had been dreaming about a Slovenian vineyard since he was 13 and there was always a certain beautiful girl at the vineyard. To think that he may actually find the vineyard and the girl if he went to Slovenia... well, that would be a bit out there. Or would it?


What is the main message of the book?

"The main message of the book is that a dream doesn't need to come true for it to be worth pursuing. In fact, sometimes it is better when things don't go as desired."

Why bees in Slovenia?

"In 2011, I moved to Ljubljana on a Fulbright scholarship with my wife and our three kids, and five months of living in Slovenia changed our lives! We discovered an extraordinarily beautiful country, rich with culture and we were welcomed by some of the most wonderful people we have ever met. What we learned about ourselves and the world in those five months was simply magical and I wrote Painted Hives to try to share some of that magic with others. In fact, several of Wilber's adventures in the book are based on experiences we had during our stay.

Slovenia is also where I was introduced to beekeeping. In the spring, we joined SILA (Slovenian International Ladies Association) on a trip to Šempas where Frank Šivič gave us a personal tour of his bee farm. I immediately became fascinated with bees and the Slovenian beekeeping culture and wanted to include this as a main part of my book."

How do you perceive Slovenia and what do you see as the main potential for the country?

"Even more than the natural beauty of the country and the charm of Ljubljana, what endeared us to Slovenia was that people are so grounded in community and relationships. We have been fortunate enough to have been back to Slovenia five of the past six summers (I teach a summer entrepreneurship course that is sponsored by AmCham and the U.S. Embassy), and we have made many lifelong friends over this period. We have also made good friends in the U.S. as a result of our time in Slovenia, including Miro Medved, the Slovenian Consul to Minnesota.
I am not sure that I am enough of an expert to say where the main potential for Slovenia lies, but I can tell you what I have observed over the past six years. First, the entrepreneurial infrastructure has developed significantly and the tech community has had a few significant success stories. This, along with what I have observed in the university students I teach each summer (they are intelligent and thoughtful and motivated to make Slovenia a stronger country), makes me optimistic for the future of Slovenia's economy.

Second, my wife and I have observed that Slovenia is quite progressive with regard to the environment, from recycling/compost programs to public transportation to the preservation of natural attractions. In my opinion, being a leader on environmental initiatives makes sense for Slovenia, not just because it's "the right thing to do", but because it can be a differentiator in building the emerging tourism sector."


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