Saturday, December 31, 2011

A more personal post

So it's New Year's Eve and like usual, I am reminiscing about the things I accomplished this year, the good, the bad and the ugly. Like always, I am looking for ways to make myself and my life better.  This year I have three resolutions for 2012 and they all begin with "P".  I am going to be more patient, more proactive, and more positive.  Now, for my readers who don't know me as well, you have no idea how much of a Debbie Downer I can be.  My good friends and family know that I can be extremely hateful and drown in negativity. To show you an example, I am including a video I made on one of those days...

This is the kind of stuff I get all worked up about.  And it needs to stop.  Now.

Besides the 3Ps I obviously have the same resolutions as everyone else in America (or in the world):  go to the gym, eat healthier, take better care of myself, blah, blah, blah.

I am excited about starting 2012 in Serbia with a new job and new friends.  I hope it's at least as great as 2011.  I want to take lots of trips; hopefully one to Africa and one to Jordan, and definitely one back home to see all my friends.  I am also looking forward to hosting DC friends here, especially in summer.  From what I have heard from everyone, Belgrade is AWESOME in summer with all the parks and outdoor seating and restaurants.  Also, Serbia is the number one producer of Raspberries in the world, which just happens to be mine and Phils' favorite fruit (unless you count Avocados-which I don't).  AND I got an ice cream maker and soon will be getting a juicer, so I will be having lots of fun with those two and the fresh produce at the markets.

So happy New Year everyone.  Thanks for reading!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Budapest with the 'rents

So last week my parents and I went to Budapest for 3 days.  We ended up flying because I have heard way too many horror stories about 8 hour train rides from hell in a freezing cold compartment.  Maybe I will try it sometime, becauset it's really a shame, since it's only a 3 hour drive from here.

Before I get on with the trip and city details, I have to share my airport experience.  First of all, the airport in Belgrade is really small and pretty boring.  Our flight was on one of those tiny little planes that only has one row with one seat and the other row with two..definitely propeller.  So after waiting FOREVER to board, (via a tiny bus that goes to the plane because apparently the don't have enough walkways), we boarded the plane.  There were only 7 of us in the flight, which was weird and a little scary.  Then there's this boy and girl in their twentys, who I assume were brother and sister, sitting right behind us and the boy starts making all this crazy engine noises and acting like a lunatic.  I was like, if this happened at home, he would have been restrained or at least reprimanded for sure.  About 10 minutes later, the flight attendant goes around asking if people want to visit the cockpit..I was like "I thought that was illegal now", but I didn't say anything.  So some lady went and loitered in there for what seemed forever and then the crazy kid got up to go and at that time, in my head, I was like "this is it. This crazy kid is going to go ballistic and crash this plane by pushing all the buttons at once or something".  Clearly, I lived to tell the story and nothing happened.  But aside from this little incident, flying in Europe is the best!  Whole bottles of shampoo, raw meats, and other massive amounts of liquids go in my carry on without a frown, we don't take off our shoes or get X rayed, there are real meals and snacks, even if the flight is only 45 minutes!  But the airports do kind of suck.  They are cold and not as commercialized.  No Chilli's To Go or other fun fried food places.

Of course, half the point of going into Budapest now was to hit up the Christmas Markets.  Unfortunately, they were not as big or plentiful as the ones in Vienna, but we still managed to go to the main one every night at Vörösmarty Tér  and have some of that mulled wine.  We also ate these doughnut-like things that were called Chimney Cakes in English.  This lady would wrap the dough on a stick, then cook it over a charcoal grill until it got golden and crispy.  Then you can get them to roll it over a topping like cocoa powder, sugar, cinammon or coconut (which is not very Hungarian in my opinion).  They were really good, you just pull and take a long strand, perfect for sharing.

It snowed our second day there and it really added to the beauty and magic of the place.  Even if the Christmas markets weren't as awesome as in Vienna, Budapest was so beautiful and incredible.  Almost too perfect.  All the castles and architecture were straight out of a fairy tale.  My mom was joking that we would see a Rapunzel or some other Damsel in Distress hanging from one of the towers.

In case you didn't know, Budapest consists of two sides: Buda and Pest and they are both equally amazing.  I don't want want to get too specific or become all travel-guidey, but if you do get to go, definitely spend at least 4 days, pay a visit to the Baths, and take the bus #16 from the second to last stop on the red line to go up the castles.  You will save yourself a good 1,000 stairs and possibly a heart attack.

This pic was taken at the top of the Royal Castle on the Buda side.  It looks like it came from the internet, but I swear I took it myself as soon as it started snowing.

This is the Parliament building.  Second largest in the world after London's.  Apparently, they do free guided tours, but I am not really into going inside fancy buildings; I hate gaudy and old school grandiose furniture from the old royalty.

Awesomely, even if there weren't actual Christmas markets everywhere, they did have the mulled wine or Forralt Bor wherevere you went.  Up on the hill? Little kiosk of forralt  bot.  Out and about near the Parliament?  Stop by for some forralt bor.  Nice dinner?  Guess what we serve-- forralt bor!  At the airport gate, Getting ready to board your flight back to Belgrade?--grab your last forralt bor of the trip and stumble to your seat, sir.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Some random observations and news updates

Here are a couple of cool things I have seen lately.

First of all, I HAVE found things that are much bigger in Serbia than at home.  For example, local, Serbian beer can be bought in 2 litter bottles and it's only about $2.50
and as you can see in the pic, YES, they do have Coke Zero in Serbia! As a matter of fact, they ONLY carry Coke Zero and not Diet Coke, which is fine by me.  I think CZ is far better tasting than Diet.

I was also able to find celery. The biggest stalk of celery I have seen in my life.  I am NOT a celery fan or even eat a lot of it, but Phil and I hosted a housewarming party and I was making a Buffalo, Blue Cheese, Chicken Dip and thought it would be a great "healthy" addition as a possible dipping utensil.  I had never really seen it at the farmer's markets or the grocery store.  This baby weighed over a kilo AND I paid about ten dollars for it.  Worth it?  Yes!  It made a great conversation piece at the party.  Although, I was disappointed because it was very leafy and I was left with just a tiny bunch of little stalks to use for my veggie platter.

The magazine is not necessarily larger than at home, but I do like that you have a choice of sizes.  Purse? or Bathroom?  It's exactly the same edition, page by page (trust me I looked!) and the smaller one is a little cheaper.

I have also noticed that there are a ton of shoe repair shops around Belgrade.  I first saw this in a window and thought it was adorable.  A cute little garden gnome (Noam-ey!) working hard attaching new heels to old shoes.  Then I started seeing them everywhere.  I don't know if it's a chain of stores or if it is the official sign for repair shops, but I think it's super cute and a great way to let non-Serbian speakers know what's inside.

Then last weekend, Phil and I went to the International Women's Club Holiday Bazaar, where each country sets up a booth and sells things/food/ornaments, etc from that country and for charity.  We had some Indian food and bought a few decorations at the Russian and Chinese tables.  Then we went over to the American one, where some of our friends were working selling raffle tickets to win American themed gift baskets.  They had one called "Tex-Mex basket" full of Old El Paso brand items.  There was a "American Baking" one, with chocolate and butterscotch chips and Funfetti cake packets and canned frosting.  All the awesome/awful things America has to offer in one big glorious basket of calories and chemicals.  OF COURSE, Phil had to go and WIN the "American Food Basket", which according to the raffle workers was the most prized one in the house.  It had 3 packs of Mac and Cheese, 2 jars of Peanut Butter, BBQ sauce, Ranch Dressing, Buffalo Sauce, some baked beans, some Zatarain's brand New Orleans style pre made dinners, and some other good ol' American items.   I felt really guilty for winning, mostly because of the other people had their hearts set on it.  We tried to give it away, but people were hesitant to take it.  So here is a picture of us with our grand prize.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Moving and unpacking

Moving is hard.  I have to pat my self in the back for doing a kick-ass job at separating our things in the four different categories that we had slated: storage, boat, air and luggage.  I can honestly say that our air shipment had every single thing I needed to survive for the two months that took our boat to get here.  Except for my cheese grater.  That was my only downfall.  We finally moved right before leaving for Vienna and on November 30th, we got our boxes.  It was crazy.  62 boxes in total delivered by two guys in a span of 3 hours.  They system worked like this, One guy would call out the box number and I was supposed to check it off against the inventory list and then tell them where to put it.  Some of the boxes were really easy "kitchen", "books", "bedding".  Then came the hard ones: "miscellaneous", "costco stuff", "things in closet".  I created my own system asking him, "is it heavy?" if it was, I sent him to the farthest room of the house, cause there was no way I would be able to carry that by myself later.  After all 62 were checked off, (though we sort of cheated because there were 3 #47s, 2 unlabeled boxes and about 8 unchecked numbers --which were probably might fault, because I was really distracted by the whole thing and not doing a good job of tallying) we called it a night. I think he and I were equally sick of each other and I was so worn out that I didn't even care if I was missing stuff.

Then came the hard part. Unpacking.  Phil is a firm believer that he won't be able to sleep at night if he knows there is a hot mess right outside his door.  I tried to convince him that it was inhuman to try to unpack everything on one night. I won this battle.

It took about 5 days to unpack every single box.  We kept a running list of things that were missing, and as we unpacked, we checked them off with a little cry of joy.

Every time we found a box with more clothes there was a groan of "MORE CLOTHES??!!"  Both of us definitely have a problem. I could not believe the amount of boxes we had of just clothes.  But since this place is so big, I have my own little dressing room and closet, a la Cher Horowitz from Clueless.  But Phil and I have promised each other not to buy ANY clothes in the two years we are here.  We've been really good so far, so I am really determined to go through with it.

Then there was the whole: "WHY THE HECK IS THIS HERE!" which is what I was screaming when I found a dust rag and some old magazines and such.

We are down to missing two items: my old yoga mat that was never used and cumin powder.  I choose to think that I just never packed them, and not that we are missing a box full of treasures that we have memory lapses about.  I could just imagine one day in the future we'll be like "where is the wedding album?"---  probably with the yoga mat out in Timbuktu.

Also, since we didn't know what sort of furniture and things we were getting, we definitely brought extra things.

This is the stuff that shall remain unpacked for the entire two years.  They'll be sitting quietly in the guest room until it's time to go back.