expat blogger

living in Serbia

Friday, June 25, 2010

Chronicles of Serbia II

December 8, 2008

Hello Friends, Here is another long letter about life here. Get a cup of tea or coffee and settle in for a long one.

Deda means Grandpa
Today I went for a walk to take pictures in Knjayevac. There are still many places I haven't seen here yet and it still feels like an adventure just to take a walk around town. It wasn’t a long walk, because as I walked I realized I was close to Deda Tole’s house. I really like him and wanted to stop by but wasn’t sure if it was a good idea. I was afraid hey may be busy with something. Deda is know for his hard working character. He is always busy working on something and his super large hands filled with muscles are a witness to that hard work. Seriously, one of his hands can cover his entire face. Small sweet man with very large hands. He is definitely the kind of man you want for a grandpa!

As I was walking to his house I saw an old lady dressed in Serbian granny clothes. A sweater, thick stockings, plastic “Maryjane” type shoes (good for anytime of work outside and are used by male and females),and a kerchief tied around her head like in All the old nursery rhyme books. She was adorable!

She had mail in her hand and was looking toward Deda’s house. I asked he in my very limited Serbian if Tole was home and she didn’t think so and was probably going to turn back. I rang his door bell that is actually located on the fence outside of his house. It’s different and cool. When he came outside he looked really happy to see me. He said a few words to the little lady and she gave me his mail and we, Deda and I, go inside his cozy little home.

Words cannot express how warm and loved I feel from Milan’s family. Family is so important here, and I am a novelty family member being from the U.S. Deda Tole loves to tell his friends about his American grand daughter. I can see it in his eyes. Adorable! America is like a mythical place to some of the people here. There are may misconceptions about how wonderful the U.S. is, kinda like a Disney world for life… Brought on by the happy ending movies and television shows.

Deda made me coffee and gave me apple and grapes to munch on, as well as a loaf of bread, unsliced old world style, and hard boiled eggs not yet peeled. There is really nice homey feeling there. So casual and friendly. It makes me relax…until I have to struggle to speak in Serbia. Then I get a little frazzled and have to tell myself, slow down and think. I know a lot of words, I just have a hard time remembering them when I need them. And, there are so may basic words used in sentences that I am lacking, I am sure I sound like a toddler when I speak.

He and I talk as much as we can and then needs to do some farm work. I tell him I want to help and he tries to deter me but I insist. I help him mix the pigs food, which consists of small whole apples, grain, hot water, scraps, hot water and then we take it out to the shed for the finishing touch. He chops up dry ears of corn into small inch wide pieces. He chops them with an ax and the skill of a chef. when he is finished and much of the corn kernels have flown all over the room he ads the chopped Cob to the. hot pig slop stew.
The rain has come!
It has been raining outside for the past few days and there is mud everywhere so he insists I put on a pair of boots that he takes out of a bag. I believe they are his new winter boots and fear I will ruin them before he even gets to wear them. They only get dirty on the bottom while we are tramping around the “farm”.

His house is in the town of Knjazevac. It is not unusual to see houses that have the makings of what we would see only in the country. At his house there are only pigs, chickens, a dog and a cat that I saw. But there is also a large building across the street (4 Stories!) that works as a large storehouse like a barn. On the bottom level Milan told me there is a garage for fixing cars, there is storage for dried corn cobs, Barrels of wheat, grapes layed out to dry, tools, and all kinds of odds and ends. There is also a large clothes line hung up in one of the large rooms for drying clothes, as there are very few clothes driers.

It is amazing. I had such an education today. I really had a good day. I am so simple. It takes little to make my day good… or bad. Being in A FOREIGNER seems to intensify my experiences. Good or Bad.

I have been studying the language a lot more lately, Yesterday, Milan and I went to the library and got some children’s books for me to read, the library is practically right outside the front door. How convenient! I am trying to learn more words so I can talk and read the children’s books… so I am trying to be ingenuitive in my studies… right now our bathroom door covered in words in English and in Serbian. I figure, if I’m gonna sit down I might as well learn!

Tomorrow We are going to the Village of Vina to have a feast after a pig is butchered. Sounds like more fun down on the farm! LOL I will continue writing this new Serbian Chronicle after I return from this new adventure…

About the Pig Roast!!
I was leery of going to this, but Milan insisted. It was actually nice, accept there was little for me to do, but watch. And I was grateful the pig was already dead when we got there. Milan worked away all day, as did most of the men on the farm, cutting and preparing the very large hog for roasting. And we had a lovely dinner. Just one snag at dinner... The customs here are much different than those of the US. I am accustomed to clearing the plates to get ready for dessert. I did this and found it was a big mistake. Everyone keeps their plates and continues to pick even after eating several large courses. It is overwhelming to me. I assumed I was helping and kinda screwed things up. Oh well, not the worst mistake I could make, I suppose. When we first arrived I watched the bread while it baked in the wood burning oven. Baba went to take a nap and left me in charge. She makes great bread!
After the bread was done, I abandoned the families home to explore the village. This is my favorite part of being in Serbia. I love exploring. I am seeing things I have seen in books and Nationally geographic magazines. Really COOL! I took a bunch of pictures of the barns and old houses in the village. After I had taken a picture of a cat in a window, A lady came out to see what I was doing. May I remind you at this point that, most villages don't see strangers, and especially strangers with cameras. This Kindly lady started speaking to me and I had to tell her I only speak a little Serbian, I am American. She was so excited, and so nice. She started showing me around and telling me how beautiful Vina used to be and a bunch of stuff I couldn't understand. LOL She walked me around a bit and then introduced me to her neighbor. Their names were Dobrilla and Ljiljiana, respectively. I told them who my family was and apparently, Ljiljiana is a a relative of mine. When I got back and showed the pictures I took to Milan, He told me lots of the houses I took pictures of were our families. Our Thanksgiving...I had planned to make an American Thanksgiving for the friends and family here,but it turns out you can't find most of the ingredients for Thanksgiving dinners in Europe. I looked it up online after getting frustrated at the grocery store.... and Thanksgiving in the new world was traditionally foods only found in the new world. Even a friend of mine in London couldn't find some of the ingredients he was looking for. So, there was no hope for me in my little town of Knjazevac. There are no Pecans or corn syrup here so there is no way I can make a pecan pie either. :( We did have a good dinner for Thanksgiving. It ended up only being Milan, his parents, and myfriend and Serbian Language teacher, Miriana. I roasted a Chicken, (No turkeys here) and made potatoes, some other random things. For dessert I made American pancakes. Some were plain. some I added apples to and some with apples and cinnamon. They were a hit. Everyone here loves them and the apple pies, and chocolate chip cookies. I also make some little tea cookies with the pie dough I make. Milan's friends and family really like them too. There is a big holiday for Milan's family coming up on the 17th of Dec. We will go to Baba's house and have a big dinner. not sure what else. I will let y'all know all about that when we get back. (sorry, Kimmie, took this bit from my letter to you.) Christmas is not the same here at all. It is celebrated on January 7, after new year. THey use the Jullian calendar instead of the Gregorian that we use. So, I will get to celebrate Christmas twice. I think for our Christmas on December 25 we will just relax and Have a lovely Dinner. That is what we did last year, and I liked better than giving and receiving gifts. It was really more enjoyable than all the hustle and bustle of all teh expected comercial holidays. Just about enjoying the family. Serbians Celebrate a lot of things differently and I am enjoying combining things I like about our culture in the US and His culture to make out life a mess of both cultures.
I wil let you knwo how both of our Christmases go as well as out St. Nikola holiday on December 17. Not quite the same as St. Nikolas... But Almost. It's a long story and at this point my fingers are tired of typing. Things that are different in Serbia.... FUNNYThe adds on my Yahoo site here in Serbia often include advertisements for working in America & or Green card lotteries for the US! They play old Disney Cartoons, The classics on TV. They are wonderful and funny... Sometimes even funnier because the words are in Serbian, but in Mickey's, Goofy's, Minnie's, or whoever's voice. I realy enjoy watching them. When I speak in English in public, everyone stares. We are in a small town and I am deffinetly different. Not many people speak English here and It's kinda cool. Milan and I don't have to whisper in public... almost no one understands us. We have our private language. Computer keyboards, Some have a lot of different letters and symbols on them. Everything is in a different place. That can be a bit challenging at times.
Cool things...I am starting to understand a lot more. I can have very small converstations. And I am really enjoying that. Most yards, in town or in the village have flower gardens and decks outside that have grape vines overhead that provide shade on hot summer days. They are lovey to sit under for any meal of the day. Just Friday here, we had a pig roast and used the vinecovered deck for grilling and eating! It was an unseasonably warm day here. (60 degrees) I can be in a different country in about 15 minutes, or just a few hours for several others. Haven't gone anywhere. Have seen two ancient roman cites ruins and lots of turkish architecture. They controlled Serbia for hundreds of years. The good and bad... Sunday's are still a day of rest and things are simpler here like it was in the States 30 or 40 years ago or earlier... and yes I remember some of that. It's nice there is a slower pace, but one has to give up some of the modern convieniences with that slower pace. The bad part is the social probelms we have overcome in the last 30 or 40 years have not yet been over come. I am praying it doesn't take as long here as it did in the US. There are no Christmas cards that I have seen here yet... That may be because the Christmas Season is different than ours or more likely it is not part of their traditions. I am sure if I were in a bigger city I may find some but not here in Knjazevac yet. Not so good things... I still can not understand a whole lot and that is frustrating... Especially when I want to go to the butchers or post office. I am fortunate to have Milan and his family! (this does come in handy when I don't want to pay attention or I don't want to understand, but that isn't very often.) I cannot find any English speaking churches. I hear there is one about 45 Minutes away. But that is far when we usually have to work in the village on Saturday and Sunday. A friend of mine is checking on a bptist church for me, and I am really excited to hear back from him. There is no Cold cycle on the washer here. I didn't know that until I had done a few loads and had a little color bleeding. :( I am learning more and more everyday, I think of things to write all the time, but I often forget them before I get a chance to write them down. I have been trying to carry my notebook everywhere with me so I don't forget the good stuff. I make funny mistakes all the time in my pronounciation and Milan and his family get a kick out of it laughing and correcting me. This will go on for years I am sure because I am still enjoying the funny mistakes he makes. Just this past week he told me he was "holding onto his bridges" instead of britches... I laughed almost as much as when he told me to "knock myself up" instead of "knock myself out". Learning the language and about each other never ends. I am learning we all have a lot more in common and fun things to learn from each other. It is an adventure and I am enjoying the good times and working through the bad. I hope I am not boring you with my tails...
I would love to hear from you and hear how things are in your part of the world! My love and wonderful Christmas wishes to you and your families!XO from Serbia,Tina
Snow man in the play ground
Snowy Timok River
Hunting society, where you get a hunting license. But only if you have already served in the army. you cannot have a gun unless you have served your time in the army.
A 1995 painting of Knjazevac
the horse and buggy sign
in the park
Christmas day!
The River Timok
Sveti Nikola
Papa and Milan Carrying on traditions

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