expat blogger

living in Serbia

Friday, June 25, 2010

Chronicles of Serbia III Christmas

Hello Friends and family,

I am continuing on with my little memoirs. I realize many of you will be too busy to read this now. But I felt like writing so here goes...

Christmas and New Years
I thought it would be interesting for you to know a little about Christmas and new years traditions here in Serbia. I found out that Santa has a house in Northern Finland near the north pole and here he is called Deda Mraz. That literally translated means Grandpa Frost. Deda Mraz gives gifts to little children and he is well loved by all.

Christmas is very different than that of the US and it is celbrated on January 7 not Dec 25.
I would like to mention, That I am happier with the way I perceive Christmas being celebrated here in Serbia. It is much more about family and Christ's birth, rather than Santa Clause and Gifts. The people here spend a lot more time on each other. Christmas is a relaxed time to love each other.
I really like that.)

Christmas here is celebrated at home with family or in Church. The Church usually has scheduled prayers and is a busy place for Christmas Eve and Christmas. Many people fast for Christmas eve, and celebrate on Christmas day with a feast not unlike the slavas I have written about in my previous letters.

New Years Eve is celebrated out with many people lots of food and drinks... The celebration may last for a few days to a couple of weeks. I believe that is because there is a lot of unemployment and lots of free time as a result.

There is usually lots of Music. There are lots of concerts all over Serbia for New Years.
And, if families here are affluent enough to give gifts, they are presented on New Years to children and possibly adults.

Serbia has it's own Christmas or New Years Tree. It is an oak. Oak branches are hung out side people's apartments and many are burned for good luck, Love, health, etc. There are still some hanging outside of some apartment in my building from last year. (I prefer Christmas lights!)

There are Christmas lights strung all over town, just like in the States, but they are really New Years Lights. There are snow flakes, Christmas trees, and all sorts of things in some nontraditional colors.

It doesn't feel like Christmas here. I haven't put up a tree, although I could get one. Milan's sister and I put up some decorations, but it's not really like Christmas. I just can not get into the spirit. I think I would be more homesick if I did and therefore I just don't want to. I will be home in a few months and that is what I am looking forward to. (Pardon the preposition at the end of the sentence.)

For Christmas Milan and I are going out to dinner and relaxing. I am hoping it will be nice.

What I am really looking forward to is a visit from our friends Marie-Noelle, Jenia, and Nicole from Ocean City. They will be my Christmas this year. I am so happy to have that to look forward to in January. Plus possibly going to Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria and seeing some other friends from OC.

Things I am beginning to understand
In the past I have read about paralyzing homesickness or culture shock. I have days when I am paralyzed by homesickness and depression. It may last a day or two and then I am back to myself. I think I get so overtired from everything and listening to this foreign language. You just want quiet rest. A friend of mine who was working in Cambodia told me about this and I couldn't understand. It is because your mentality different when you go on vacation and when you go for an extended time.

The good part of this is I get rested up and refueled for adventure. Then I go and take more pictures and have more exciting experiences to write about. I am glad to be experiencing this, the good and the bad. Now I can better understand the foreign students who come to live in OC for the summer and will have a more mature perspective of living abroad.

A mental Picture
It's not easy coping with a move from one town to the next in the U.S. If you have any idea how difficult it is... finding the best grocery store, a church, schools, doctors, and how to get around. Then try to imagine doing it without your first language. That not only do you have to find the grocery store and where everything is inside, but they don't carry the things you are accustomed to, because they never use those things. They have no idea what you are looking for even if you could explain to them, which you cannot because the language is a problem... These are the things that plague those of us who are living abroad and laugh about later, because it is such an interesting dilima.

Confusing question in Serbia (Comedy)
When someone asks you: do you suck, they mean... Do you smoke... that was a shocking question my first week here in Serbia. I just remembered today and thought you might find it amusing. I did after I recovered from shock and realized what they meant. :)

Something that is really perplexing is the mail here... I have received 2 Christmas cards in good time. But when I send mail out it takes a month or two. Can anyone explain??? I'm in the Twilight Zone!

Things I miss
Before Milan and I arrived, Milan assured me that when we came here we could relax and go to the movies. I was rally looking forward to this. When we arrive, we found that the movie theater in town had closed. The town cultural center shows movies on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, when it is not occupied by school children. That happens often. They have to sell 4 or 5 tickets to show the film. Often not enough people show up. The movies are a few months late. The ones they are showing now are the ones that were playing in the states this summer, Kung Fu Panda, Chronicles of Narnia, Prince Kaspian, and the dated list goes on... This week there are no movies listed and I am afraid that since attendance has been so poor movies may not be available anymore.

Christmas Cards
Today I went to send out a few Christmas cards to family. The Christmas cards are actually mostly New years cards and will probably arrive in the States in a month or two..maybe even July. I only sent a few because of the lateness of their arrival here and because of how long it will take them to arrive in the States. Anyway...

Well first I thought I was in line and two ladies jumped in front of me at the counter. Apparantly I was not standing correctly. Then I got in line the right way. As the people lined up behind me they began pressing closer and closer. Like sardines... that may have had something to do with no one getting done at the front of the line. I don't know what was going on, what they were sending, but they were there for 20 minutes.

(The guy behind the counter looked "Interesting" He had eyes that kind of bugged out and were facing either side of his head. His peripheral vision must be awesome, but I am not sure of his frontal vision. ??
He was bald on top and had an oblong raised spot right above his fore head. I am sure he is smart and adequate for his job, but he looks like a character in a comedy about how the post office is deffective. )

When the people in the front of the line finally moved on, the line progressed rapidly. After standing so long so close together, I had to move slightly out of line to take a breath, I looked behind me and the guy was sweating from the body heat of so many bodies pressed so closely. I think he thought he could bump me out of line but I kept my foot in and became aggressive. He stepped back.. no words needed..Good thing, I would have had to be aggressive with Serbian baby talk! LOL I can just imaging how that would have gone.

I finally gave my letters to the post master who looked at the letters and asked "Sve Ameriku" (all in America). I said yes and he looked bothered that he had to get up to get more stamps. The guy behind me said something and I have no idea what. I just smiled and looked back to the post man.

I find that it is either annoyance or jubilee that people respond with when they find out that I am American. The guy at the card shop was eager to talk to me, but he only new Serbian and Russian. He spoke to me in Serbian and told me his son was working in Washington, DC. He also went to the back and was eager to show me a picture of himself and the American ambassador to Serbia, who I of course do not know. But I have to say, I prefer this kindness to annoyance to my being American. I mean, it's not like I can help it.
And the more I am here the more I appreciate the US!

I can tell you here I have been shocked at the things we take for granted that people haven't seen before here. Ziplock bags I brought from home make people stare. I looked all over for just straight bleach. I Finally found it in a big REAL grocery store in Nis. When I got home I found it is really watered down.

I guess that will be all for now, I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas. Whether you are with your families, or away from Home you can always find something to dislike about it, I recommend trying to enjoy it and learn from it. Make the best of it! That is what I am trying to do here. It's a new adventure and just the beginning!

Srecan Bozic i Nova Godina
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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