Stories about the Lazar Islands
Many tourists to the Lazar Islands will tell you that it feels very much like Zegora in the tropics. Zaposlav colonial architecture dominates the centre of downtown Lazarograd - the pint-sized capital on the largest island. Large botanical gardens, much like those in Kralvicevo, are a popular weekend spot for young families playing football on the well-maintained glass. If you are hungry, you might stop to pick up a pljeskavica burger from a small bearded man on a street corner.
However although the former colonial master has undoubtedly shaped these pristine Ingenic islands, they are not Zegora. Only when you look closer do you see the undeniable, subtle differences. Colonial homes are shabby, with peeling paint and verdant wide-leaved plants climbing up their stucco columns. The botanical gardens are surrounded by luscious palm trees, where tiny birds coated in electric blue, green or red feathers flit between flowering orchids. The pljeskavica is cooked in peanut oil, and infused with firey red chilli peppers that mainlanders find far too spicy for daily consumption.
All Lazaris like to pretend they are full blooded Zegorans, whilst at the same time remaining proudly independent. Look at this, they will say as you enter a supermarket, this watermelon would cost four times as much in Zegora, while neglecting that average salaries here are roughly 20% of those in Wallasea and imported goods (everything that isn't fruit, or fish, or nuts) is priced at least double to anything you would find even in Veridis.
Other times you will hear a Lazari tell you that he is not at all Zegoran, and he is a native Islander whose family has for decades fought the colonial yoke. Nonetheless he will spend King's Day, Oswinalia and other Wallasean holidays drinking rakija and eating pork fat smeared onto bread, because these are important matters of national pride.
One way you can tell if a Lazari is Wallasean or Veridian is by observing him out of work. A Wallasean will come home late, after working overtime in one of the few international corporations making up Lazarograd's central business district. He will usually have a Wallasean wife, and perhaps one or two children named Luka or Aleksandra who go to the international or "Zegoran Program" school. He spends his weekends on the beach or swimming in his villa's pool and watching football or netball on the TV.
A Veridian will come home at least an hour early, shutting up his shop whenever he senses that the day's trade is over. He returns to his modest but clean and orderly home down in the bottom of a Lazarograd valley, where his five or six or seven children run around the garden bothering the snakes and lizards and crickets that call it home. His free time is spent with friends in the commune, six or seven families sat around picnic tables drinking beer or rakija and eating huge feasts of fried plantains, chicken and rice.
The Zegoro-Veridians have no such tidy niche to fit into. Their families reach and withdraw from both other circles, like waves in the tide. Some have their roots here, some came from the Rubber Coast, some came from Puerto Blanco. They are the last living proof of a Zegoran colonial empire, and like the empire itself their role in current society is confused and uncertain.
These many cultures and lifestyles come together to form one nation across the many islands of the Lazars. Much like the Zegoro-Veridians this small nation is not truly Wallasean or Veridian. It is a place of overlapping circles - continents, cultures and ethnicities - but for two million people, it is indisputably home.
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