Sunday, May 13, 2012

7 months

Tuesday will mark our seven months in Belgrade!  It's weird, because on one hand, I feel like it's been a lot longer than that, and in other ways, I feel like we just got here.  Some quick thoughts.

1. I am sooo NOT fluent in Serbian
When we first learned about the pending move, I had the chance of taking Serbian lessons and/or AT LEAST practice with Phil at home while he studied for this Serbian language exam.  Then, when we moved, I definitely had plenty of time to either take lessons with the Serbian instructor at the Embassy, or to pay a private tutor.  But arrogantly enough, I figured I would just pick it up on my own.  After all, don't teenagers go abroad on these "immersion" programs all the time and come home fluent in German or whatever else?  Well, let me just say, I am clearly NOT a teenager, and I could not be farther from fluent or even beginner in Serbian if I wanted to.  A couple of weeks ago, I went to the market with my good friend, K, and she noticed that when people told me how much I owed them, I didn't really pay attention, I just gave them some money and accepted whatever change came back.  She said, exasperatedly, "you still don;t know your numbers?"  oops.  I was embarrassed to admit, that NO, unfortunately, I STILL DON'T KNOW MY NUMBERS!  Why?  Because somehow, I have not made it a priority.  Every time I go to the market I make a mental note of  next time I am at home with nothing to do, I should learn the numbers.  And what happens is that, the next time I am at home with nothing to do, I go online and find out who Ashley Simpson is dating or which is the slowest, crappiest airline in the world.  My priorities are NOT in the right place.  Plus, after seven months, my stupid arrogant self, still thinks I can become fluent without a single class or textbook.  I still have 17 months to make this happen.

2.  Never underestimate the power and importance of body language
I might not be fluent in Serbian, but I AM fluent in  knowing what people want from the expression on their faces.  I can't tell you how many "conversations" I have had with complete strangers in pure body language.  I don't need words.  Just a couple of nods, points, shrugs, and frowns will do the trick.  Just yesterday, I was literally driving IN a man's backyard, lost like a stray dog, and was finally able to my destination using just the street name and my fingers.  If this is not a story of triumph and success, I don't know what is. Now, this situation of me stranded in the middle of nowhere in the "burbs" of Belgrade would have never happened if it wasn't for #3.

3.  You can't trust the GPS in Belgrade
When we moved, we paid over 100 dollars, which is almost the price of the actual GPS, to buy the maps for Eastern Europe and the Balkans.  Well, to my great discontent, these maps are kind of old and are missing a ton of new construction including bridges, bypasses and exits.  Not to mention that one way streets are sometimes marked as two ways and vice versa.  Then, when we see if there were any updated versions, Garmin wants to charge us another now, the GPS is more for a general idea of the vicinity of the actual place, but you can't be alarmed if you end up in a cul-de-sac in the middle of nowhere while the robot voice of the lady with the British accent is still repeating "in 500 feet, turn left".

4.  The discovery of the butcher-to-go place
This has been my favorite discovery in Belgrade in the past few months.  I had noticed a bright pink place not far from my house that looked like a butcher shop.  I am always looking for new places to buy meat, because my old favorites, near the green produce market, close way before I get out of work. Also, since we moved, I stopped eating frozen/defrosted meat, so I needed a place that was close to my house and was open late. Pink house palace seemed to be the answer.  The first time I walked in there, they had the usual spread of meats at the counter, so I ordered my chicken breasts using the sign language method and the lady weighs them like usual, but instead of wrapping them, she takes them away to the back.  I immediately realize that they have a grill in there, actually multiple grills.  Apparently, you buy the meat at this place and then take it home already cooked!  They don't have any seating or offer any side dishes, so it's not a restaurant, but they don't sell the meat raw either,so it's a hybrid of the butcher shop and your typical take away cevapi place.  I don't think they have any other methods of cooking other than grilling, but the meat selection is pretty decent and the prices are the same as at the butcher.  Never again will I be cooking meat, unless it is in the slow cooker.  This place has changed my life and lengthened my evenings in ways I could have never imagined.

5.  Puerto Rico and Serbia are remarkably similar
From clapping when the plane lands, to telling people to their face when they've gained weight.  From older women dying their hair platinum blond and wearing high heels and nice clothes to go grocery shopping, to drinking coffee right before going to bed;  let it be "promaja" or "el sereno", the same cold draft that grandmas warn young people about even on hot summer nights, I have had a pretty easy time adjusting, mostly because I have seen/lived it all before.  This one might require a whole other post, though.


Karissa said...

Sometimes it feels like you just left! (Now go learn your numbers!)

Anonymous said...

LOVED #5. So true. Looking forward to a whole other post on that one.

Lana and Chris McCoy said...

Hahaha! I totally feel you on not being fluent in Serbian yet. When we were talking to people about the move, I was telling everyone that "my first "job" is to get fluent in the language. . . and then after a few months I'll be fluent enough to get a job." I am laughing just thinking about how far I still have to go to fluency!
Take care and I love reading about your adventures. Ps - we really should plan a meeting some time soon!