expat blogger

living in Serbia

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Doves, saints, and the green house.

At our condo in  Serbia...
This is a forgotten blog... I wrote it and then forgot to post it. Better late than never.
End of February 2011
The Doves

Every evening, when looking out from the terrace you can see two doves sleeping on the birch tree branch.  Even when we got about a foot of snow and all the branches were covered, there were the two birds on the only bare spot of the tree. They are a cute couple.  Wonder if they will make a nest in the spring for some eggs?
 Tonight I saw them come back to the tree from the day of foraging in the snow for food. One dove got back before the other, he or she went to it's spot and waited for it's mate. Dove number two followed shortly after. It hopped around the trees branches a bit before taking it's place right beside the other, making that unsheltered branch look cozy with their companionship.
I wanted to get a photo of them, but it is too dark for a good shot. 

The natural but not so romantic part, the branch below is covered in bird droppings.

The Saints
Saturday, February 26 was the second all saints day I have been here for this trip. This time, I was unable to make the hike up to the graveyard. My ankle is too weak to walk up the treacherous dirt road that is now covered in snow. I am a little bummed. Seeing the village neighbors up there is always fun. Going up to such a out of the way place is one of the times I enjoy being a foreigner. I feel like a strange but shiny new toy. People are happy to see me, and I genuinely feel like like I belong in a strange way.

In our town it is a different story. People stare and often I feel more uncomfortable around strangers even when I am just out for coffee. This never happens in the village. I have way to much family and a few friends in my little village, I am always being called over to say hello to someone when on walkabout there.

The village is really the place for me. Even when everyone has their stoves going in the winter months, the skies are not filled with so much smoke that the stars hide behind it. That same lack of smoke, leaves your lungs feeling good. In town I may as well smoke with all the smog given off by the stoves and coal burning furnaces.

The small community of the village just feels friendlier and warm, even in winter.

Return to the island

Yesterday was my first trip back to my favorite island, Assateague.
I bought my season pass today. Same price as last year $30 bucks. Not bad, but in comparison to prices in Serbia it is a fortune. Never thought of that until now as I an writing. I always seem to compare here with there. I guess that is inevitable.

I took a long walk on the beach, collected some shells, took some blurry bird and wave pictures with my camera phone, and enjoyed being home.
One thing I miss about Serbia is the lack of ocean. I love me some big water! I was born on lake Erie and used to go there all the time,and now I have the Atlantic.

Along the way I collected some trash,
This year, one of the improvements at Assateague is a large recycling container. I disposed of the refuse I found on the beach in this large container.
I will be making many more pilgrimages to this neighboring island. I am so excited to be able to go back and visit the ponies, the red winged blackbirds, the crabs, and hopefully spot some dolphins in the rolling surf! Volim moj conj ostrovo!
These are some pretty crappy pictures, next time I will take the good camera.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My other home

I am back in the US for a while. We have to come back to work to make our time in Serbia possible.  The saying from the old Dunk'in donuts commercial comes to mind. "Time to make the donuts!" Back to work and back to my native homeland is bitter sweet this time. I am so happy to be home with my friends and family, but now I have stronger family ties in Serbia. I have the most wonderful friends and love it there now. It is my second home with an equally wonderful family. I am blessed to have such loving Mothers and Fathers on both continents.

Coming home has been such a whirlwind. My Grandmother died exactly one week after returning to the States and I scrambled to buy tickets for the flight to Florida. The family reunions was wonderful, and very sad.

The hardest part for me was holding hands while praying for the meals. Grandma would always lovingly caress my hand with her thumb or fingers while our hands were clasped. It hurt to know she would never be there to do that again.

Family Rabbit Trail...
I did learn something more about our heritage.  While Grandpa was reminiscing. He made a statement about his temper, and that Grandma would scold him saying, "John, Your Scotch is rising." I had never heard reference to the Scottish part of our family, though I knew it existed. I love these inklings of the past that come up in family conversations. 
Most of the family references on the Jones side of the family are English, and on the Shields/ Ward side are Irish. I guess the Scottish comes from the Garlic's and the Thomas'. I love family history. Here and in Serbia. I am getting quite an education.

I am enjoying being back on the water... I have my choice of bay or ocean or river all less than 3 miles away.
Spring is like a warm welcome upon our return. The pollen is a bit of a nuisance. It is covering our cars so fast that I am praying for a rain shower to clean them off so I don't have to wash my car...
only to have it covered again in yellow dust tomorrow.

Home is bitter sweet this time. I am missing my Serbian family, and now my Grandma. Such is life. I was blessed to have been in the the US and to be able to attend the funeral. The family union was really a joy. There was fun to be had even in such a difficult time.
My Grandpa got out his Japanese Sword from his trip during the Korean war and my Uncle Bruce purchased a Civil war sword... My dad was in a spot of trouble. lol

I am also blessed to be able to experience such diverse worlds. 
God Bless both my homes...

I am off to explore Assateague and get my season pass. I love this island of wild ponies... Pics to come!

Sunday, April 24, 2011


March 27 was the first Vasar, pronounced vasher of the season in Knjazevac. It was just before I was going home to see my family back in the States, and I was intent on finding cool gifts to take home.
This little guys was cute, but to big to fit in my suit case. 

The Vasher is like a big fair with so many stalls filled with goods for purchase, livestock arrives early and is sold quickly.

Rides are open all day for the children to enjoy.

The Vasher is like Walmart,  an Amish market, and a fair all wrapped up in one. You can find everything there!  and I do mean everything. Just to name a few...live stock, rakija stills, seeds and seedlings, all your farming needs can be met here. Clothes, and food, Serbian souvenirs, linoleum, curtains, and well, I am sure you get the picture. They have everything. The is the place that all the villages are said to meet. And they do. People come from all around to find good deals and a good day of fun.
There is even a makeshift cafana and rostile!

It seems like it is only men sitting around them. Hubby says that while the women are out shopping, the guys sit down and wait for them and enjoy a coffee or a beer.

Some of my favorite finds...
These are nicely decorated hearts that look like cookies, but they are just decorations.
 the 500 Euro belt buckle. Should have gotten one for meself!
And then there is always the Serbian army gear. I got a few hats and gave them to some of the family back home...
I think the hats were a good buy. My Grandpa liked his too. I love it when I find cool gifts. Sometimes it just takes some effort to find them.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Vasher meets American Gothic

My next blog will be about the Vasher that descended on my little town on March 27. But first I must share with you this sight.

When I first entered the throngs of people that attended the street fair, I saw this couple who's striking resemblance to a classic American painting was undeniable. Well, at least to me. The American Gothic is a painting came to life with an older Serbian couple. The husband carrying, the traditional, Serbian, wooden  pitchfork.

 The pitch fork is better pictured  here...

Can you see the resemblance?

Grant Wood/Associated Press/Art Institute of Chicago

I think it is the look of  hardworking folks who know what a hard days labor in the field means.  Tired and unsmiling, going about with things that must be done.

 Farm life of the 1930's in he US is not unlike the modern day life of Serbian villagers. When I show my Grandpa Jones pictures of my Serbian village, he sees things he hasn't seen since childhood.  Surely it brings back memories of yesteryear. I don't think the good old days were as good as remembered. Work on the the farm is backbraking labor. Life without microwaves, washers and dryers is not as cool as we may believe. Serbia does have these things available. But, many people don't have them like we do in the US.

I find that I am torn between the antiquities of South Eastern Serbia and the modernity of the US.  There are so many pros and cons to both worlds.
But the things I love about Serbia are below.

The shepherds tending their sheep,

the line dried, home made socks,
The wonderful home made bread and other goodies,
and shared meals,
And pitchforks in use, creating the kind of haystack any "little boy blue"  could fall asleep under.

These are the things I love about Serbia. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pruning the Cherries

A few weeks ago maybe even a month ago now my family and I went to our village to prune the Cherries.
We tried to get to two of our fields, and they were covered in snow, and melting snow. The melting snow made streams into rivers and puddles the size of Texas. We were defeated and had to turn back and wait to spring to reach the village. As we descended  to our town that sits in a lower elevation we were welcomed with green grass a warmer temps.

The trip back is literally down hill. My husband loves to just put the car in neutral and coast all the way home.

We ventured back to the village a week or so later. This time it was a success.
The pruning was "on"!  We were checking our trees for diseases and trimming the wayward sprouting branches.

This journey was not without it's stops and starts, at first our tractor was giving us fits, and Milan, Cicin and Deda gave it some love a and few new parts and we were on our way.
Once we arrived at our field we unloaded and the fun began. I say that with complete sarcasm. This is hard labor. The ground gives and makes footing unsteady. While reaching for high branches, short little me has a hard time ducking other branches and keeping balance. At the end of these long days of pruning, we were all exhausted. I was happy when the work was finished. But it was not without fun.

The beginning of each day we started out at Baba a Deda's house. I got some time to love on Mikailo the kitty in the picture above.

And once we got onto the fields, it wasn't all about the cherries. Just up the hill from one of our fields there is a pavilion that covers an old Cross. We made a pilgrimage up the hill to see the ancient symbol.
These crosses are found all over Serbia and often have coins placed on them.
Walking down to the field we saw a corn stalk shelter. It was made to create a cool resting place for field workers on hot sunny days. I am always impressed with the ingenuity of the Serbs in creating something splendid out of the ordinary.
Walking further down to the field we found a weed that makes a splendid soup and adds a nice touch to Mama's corn bread. We began to gather as we pruned and soon had a basketful!
The soup was delicious, and so was the bread Mama made.

I also found out that there are yellow and black Lady Bugs! The Muz calls them Kineski buba Mara, or Chinese lady bugs. Cool stuff, huh?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Millie, A great woman

Yesterday I got the call she had succumbed to a number of torments, failing kidneys, pneumonia, heart issues... I knew it was coming and cried myself out of emotion the night before. When I got the call, I was just quiet and mechanical. "What needs to be done now", was my thought. I have momentary lapses here and there. I feel most heartbroken for my Grandfathers loss. They were together for 70 years, day in and out, annoying one another and loving at that same time.

I think of how sweet they were together, a few times I saw him pat her bum, and she in her seventies would be a shy and embarrassed as a school, say to him "Oh John".

Millie Jones was a great role model, and a wonderful Grandmother or Baba. She worked hard for her family making dinners and deserts that always included some peanut butter for her husband John. Her strawberry jam was my favorite. I loved to watch her cut of the strawberries and and boil the ingredients with so much sugar.

I remember one time we were camping and I was swinging on swings after the typical Edinboro camp monsoons. I leaned back to far while gliding upward on the swing only to drag my hair through the mud puddle below. My hair was covered in mud and I was a bit scared to go back to our camper. Grandpa  and Grandma were so careful about keeping everything so neat and clean, and I might make a mess with my mud strewn hair. But when I arrived at the door Grandma just took me to the sink and washed out my hair. I was the only thing that mattered. Not the mess.

I called to try to talk to her just to hear her voice one last time and she had already fallen into the coma. Her last words were to my Grandpa. He told her he loved her, and she said, "I love you too." Then she closed her eyes and went to sleep. She died after 1 AM the next day. I am glad she will no longer suffer, and be hurt by the dementia that had become such a nuisance.

I was blessed to have her for so long. I am her oldest grandchild. I cherish the days I got to spend with her, and so glad I am home to be with family now.