You don’t know until you KNOW

Homemade wool socks form the neighbor’s sheep. Home-made canned cherries.

This applies to so much in life. I have found the things I believed as a child and even as an adult were not as they seemed time and time again. These misconceptions are multiplied when you live internationally. Some concepts are placed within language, culture, and tradition. We don’t question them. They just ARE.

There are so many unwritten rules that we learn almost from conception. But they are just perceptions. One way of seeing or doing things. Yet, they are presented as an unwavering truth.

I remember, my brother-in-law having an oil stain on his shirt. I had been told my whole life that if an oil stain is dried in a dryer, there is no hope of removal. The stain is set. He had not grown up with a dryer and never heard this. He worked on the stain and removed it. I still don’t know how! I was astonished. But this was just one of the revelations to come in the coming years as one straddling countries, beliefs, and traditions. It is truly eye-opening!

The need for slippers.

My grandmother used to say, “You will catch your death of cold.” I never found this to be more true than in a Serbian village house in the winter. The homes here are made of cement. The walls are thick. If they have been left to chill in the winter, they are a veritable ICEBOX!

Enter the fear of being barefoot and the need for slippers ANY TIME OF YEAR!

In my home country of the U.S. slippers are optional. Often, the homes are warm and well insulated. On our first few extended trips to Serbia, we lived in an apartment. The heating was more than adequate. We were on the third floor. The heat rises and the floors were not even slightly cool. Then, on our fourth and longest trip to Serbia, we moved to a village house. This was a perfect place of freedom during COVID quarantine, but I learned the need for slippers is real. The cold comes up through the ground. The ice monster wraps itself around your feet swallowing you like an anaconda. You are chilled to the bone. Regaining your vital warmth is essential. Slippers are the barrier that may protect you from this deathly chill. Slippers are necessary if you are in this style of home. I now KNOW the necessity of slippers. Though, I still love bare feet in the summer or when the home doesn’t threaten my soul with a lasting chill.

When we first arrived, I noticed immediately that slippers were a huge deal. When entering a home, you remove your shoes and are given slippers to wear. I like being barefoot and declined to the shock of some of the hosts.

I am sure they have all experienced the bone-chilling cold I told you about. There are many old wives’ tales associated with that. (We won’t venture down that rabbit trail at this time.) Thus the deep-seated fears associated with bare feet.

Maybe there is something more I don’t know. on being barefoot in this area. But I do KNOW being barefoot where I come from is normal, healthy, and it just feels good in the grass, sand, and on a nice carpet. Where ever! I love being barefoot whenever possible. Cue the Shakira song, Wherever whenever!

In many European countries, air conditioning is seen as unhealthy and dangerous! There are lots of rumors of how it has caused illness or even killed someone. I have heard these protests first hand from Europeans fresh off the boat, but just like I had no idea of how frigid the cement block homes of Serbia could become, the newcomers to the U.S. do not know the dangers of the heat in our homes. Some poorly insulated old homes become ovens cooking the residence. Without air conditioning, people do die. The deaths are added to the statistics and are reported on the news. 

When heat waves hit, large air-conditioned buildings are available in every community for those without essential AC’s. The elderly are usually the most in need of rescue. They are the ones who succumb to the high temperatures.

That same brother-in-law I spoke of earlier used to tell me how dangerous air conditioning was. He now lives in Miami. I am sure his opinion of central air has changed immeasurably with life experience in one of the hottest cities in the U.S.

What you “know” may be subject to change. What your friends or acquaintances “know” is the same. Be careful of your judgments, be kind and forgiving of yourself and others. Also, be kind and forgiving of me as I post my perceptions of Serbia. I am aware they may be wrong. My perceptions may change. Many already have.

You really don’t know, until you know.

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