About Cao Mila

Sharing my view of the gorgeous Balkans, one post at a time.

Dear Serbia

Dear Serbia,
Thank you. 
Thank you for helping me realize who I am and what more I could do and become. I am constantly evolving through the inspiration this new land has given me.  


As I look back, I can see how living in Serbia has changed me. The changes occurred slowly over time, but they are HUGE!


Serbia has inspired me to write. Before I came to Serbia, I was never inclined to record my thoughts or experiences. Now, I am inspired daily by the culture, nature, and my experiences. I could write a book on the inspiration Serbia has given me. 


It was always on my mind to teach English, and my first attempt was abysmal. After taking a course giving me the tools and education I needed, I began to teach. 


Becoming certified to teach has opened many new doors. I am always using my bachelor’s degree in intercultural studies and social sciences in tandem with my teaching certification. 

Continuing to learn more and expand my teaching abilities with new training is important to me. Thank God for the internet and all the schools online! I want to become a great teacher.


After almost four years and thousands of classes, I am in love with teaching. I have taught children as young as two up to retired folks. My students have come from around the world and I am enjoying every minute. It is thrilling to meet new people and help them reach their goals.


Teaching was always in my heart. I began when I was in elementary school. I was probably eight years old. My little sister was lugging around stacks of books. She was aching to learn to read at the age of 4. I opened my old school books and taught her the alphabet.  Then I taught her to read and write. I also taught her the simple math I knew at the time. 


She was a sponge. She learned everything very quickly. When she began kindergarten, she was immediately bumped up to first grade.


I know that it wasn’t my parents that did the teaching. My mother had a severe learning disability and didn’t learn to read until I finished high school. 

My father worked a lot. On top of that, I would guess he has Asperger’s syndrome from the way he acts socially. He was never diagnosed. Both of my parents loved us all and gave us a great deal of love and care as parents should. As a result, I am without a doubt, I was the educator. 


My teaching didn’t stop there. At about the same time, I was taking gymnastics. I was excelling. I loved it more than anything else! During recess, I would teach the girls in my class the things that I learned in gymnastics class. I would perform the new things I had learned on the grass or on the bars and then have the girls who were interested in learning, line up and I would teach them what I had learned. I had forgotten all of this until just recently when thinking of my teaching journey. 


Serbia has helped me to see the gift and realize my potential. I am energized by helping others learn grammar and improve pronunciation. 


Recently I even tutored a student in China; she went on to pass tests that allowed her to work in the U.S. She has since been offered a position at a firm in New Jersey! My heart bursts with joy because of her success! 


Because of Serbia, I see with new eyes and I hear with new ears. I listen slowly to grasp the meaning of Slavic words. Learning the Serbian language and all the cultural beliefs and traditions have changed my brain to some extent. I have a long way to go with the language, but I am looking forward to becoming fluent.


Living in Serbia has given me the most amazing new friends. The people here are so kind. I was blessed on my first visit to meet a few women who have become the dearest of friends. I cherish their friendship, understanding, and the things they have taught me. I am incredibly grateful for their forgiveness for the mistakes I have made. There have been so many!


Lastly, I am grateful for the inspiration Serbia has given me to begin painting. The barren cinderblock walls of our barn invited me to begin.  One summer day I started with watercolors. Flowers soon were blooming inside the barn. I gathered more courage and began to paint the front of the barn. 


One day I was feeling incredibly alone here in the village.  I wanted to cheer myself up with a bit of sun. I chalked out an outline of a sun. The sun’s rays bolstered my desire to create. My ideas flourished. 


My painting journey has been slow. But now there is a large mural with a sun and moon. I am continuously thinking of new creatures to add. It is my magical wall. It is magical because it inspires me to do more and lifts my spirits. 


While none of these achievements are astronomical, they have helped me to evolve. Without Serbia’s inspiration, prodding, and even the heartbreaking challenges I have faced, I have so much to be grateful for. Thank you for your inspiration and your nurturing environment. I am continuing to grow and learn from you every day.

Teaching English Language traditional Holidays! St. Patrick’s Day Edition

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to ya! I am wearing green in honor of the day. Back home it is a custom and if you are caught without something green you are likely to get pinched!  I plan to eat some cabbage for dinner which is also a tradition. I may also have a swig of beer with the cabbage. We will see. 

Kiss Me, I’m Irish is a common phrase associated with St. Patrick’s Day. It often appears on T-shirts. It originates from the legend of the Blarney Stone, which is believed to bring luck and eloquence to those who kiss it. I have heard this isn’t a great idea as some Irish who are annoyed by tourists pee on the stone… Maybe it is more yucky thank lucky. 😉 

Today, I asked a student what he thought when he saw the Kiss Me I’m Irish shirt. He told me, “Maybe Irish people like kissing?” We laughed. I told him about the Blarney Stone. I also told him that in Serbia we kiss people when we meet three times on the cheeks. He said that is TOO MUCH. LOL  We laughed again. Sharing cultural traditions and holidays are so much fun! I love sharing mine and learning about others. This is the good stuff!

The Irish are known for their blessings. Here is a lovely Irish blessing for the close of my St. Patrick’s day post. May good luck be with you wherever you go, and your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow. May your days be many and your troubles be few, May all God’s blessings descend upon you, May peace be within you, May your heart be strong, May you find what you’re seeking wherever you roam.

Happy St. Paddy’s day y’all!

Below is an Engoo lesson on St. Patrick’s day if you are interested. 

https://engoo.com/app/lessons/green-expressions-for-st-patricks-day/rQVs5EREEeqhi4tsW53Hdw

My Dream Job

Lately, I have been thinking of having my own English school. I would love to have an Active, Inspiring, Inventive, Playful, INTERESTING English School. My school would not follow the societal norms of a language school.

This school’s education would be based on real English, not rules. It would be active, infused with nature, food, games, and emotional education.

My school would be to use things that the students young and old find interesting so that the classes engage and resonate with them.

I would love to use Pixar movies and other visually amusing subjects to discuss more challenging topics. Movies like this are chocked full of phrasal verbs, idioms, prepositions, and real-life English usage. The disguise of fun, relaxing entertainment can jumpstart the educational process.

I want to do monthly or weekly hikes that stimulate the brain and the muscles. I want to do group bike rides or rollerblading events. I want to teach sports and use English to do it.

I want to teach the students about sap, stems, seeds, pods, and lichen. Nature is one of the best teachers.

I would love to teach cooking with the English measuring system engaging the tongue with language and tastes.

I want to roast marshmallows on campfires, sing songs, play music, and dance.

I would like to do this all while instilling pride in the land the students are living in. I find many are not happy with our town Knjazevac. They don’t know what a gem they have. I want to show them the magic I see in the old mansion on the hill. The cheeses their grandmothers make, and the history they carry in their genes. 

I want them to be proud of who they are and what they are capable of. I want them to see the possibilities in their future, not feel like they are defeated before they begin. 

 This is just the tip of the iceberg. But here it is. This is my dream. 

English Cartoons and Children’s Literature as English Tools

When my daughter was a wee bitty and I was a bit isolated in the winter cartoons gave me the break I needed to get things done. Some were just trash, others were creative and educational. I will share the ones that we loved the most for other mothers of young ones with links for them on youtube.

My absolute favorite was Aquanauts. This is a scientific cartoon about animals from all over the world that live in the sea. The stories teach you and your child about marine life, pollution, geography, and much more. All the while you are listening to many different English accents from many English-speaking countries. This is a fantastic way to learn many new things at once. I HIGHLY recommend it!

The next cartoons are Peppa Pig and its sister show Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom. I am sure you have heard of Peppa pig. This is a seriously famous little cartoon with simple amusing art. The sister show is just the same with different characters. Both are fun-loving, puddle jumping, belly laughing, and adventurous. I didn’t mind hearing either one in the background of whatever I was doing.

Beyond cartoons there a MANY children’s books on Youtube that are educational, read by native speakers, and introduce books in a super fun way.

Here are two of my favorites.

Fancy Nancy has many books and adventures. Little girls love ❤❤❤ Fancy Nancy.

Pete the cate is another super fun book series that teaches a myriad of useful things with excellent artwork and EVEN music. I can’t get enough of this crazy cat.

Last but not least is one of my childhood favorites, Sam I am by Dr. Suess. I have read this book until I had each prepositional phrase memorized. It is a great way to learn so many English words and meanings.

I hope you enjoyed this list of goodies.
Please don’t hesitate to like this post if you found it helpful.
If you have Questions or Comments, please leave them below. I would love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading!

Smoking Kills or maybe just Mortifies

We all have embarrassing moments, I think I may have more than most. I make a lot of mistakes. But sometimes those moments are inevitable.

Let me tell you a very memorable story (for me at least) relating to language barriers and a prime example of “Why literal translation isn’t always the best translation. ”

Let me set the scene, I had just arrived in Serbia. I was having a coffee on the street as in the norm. I pleasure I relish here. I am sitting with my sister-in-law and her friends. ☕

My Serbian consists of the most vulgar words and phrases I learned from my husband and his friends.

Enter the kindest Serbian soul. 👼He joins the group and we are introduced. His English is limited, but he makes a great effort.

The kind soul politely offers me a cigarette. He literally translates the question from Serbian to English. “Do you suck?”❓ 😱

My mind reels!!! What does he mean? Why would he ask me that? What do I look like? Then it hits me. He is asking me, “Do you smoke?” 🚭

This is really funny now, but at the time, it was really disconcerting. These are the pitfalls of a literal translation. Be careful my friends.

Do you have a story to share? What mistakes have you or others made that make you laugh in hindsight? I look forward to hearing from you!

Jumpstart Your Year!

For the last 6 months to a year, I have become more tenacious about achieving goals.

I know I am not the only one looking for ways to BECOME better, smarter, wiser, and inspire others. 💪

👉If you are trying to improve your English, this can help you as well! It is an excellent multitasking opportunity. Watch and listen to these inspiring videos that will help you learn while you practice your English listening skills. Win/Win!

One of my favorite ways to learn is to watch Ted talks and educational videos on youtube. I take notes and post the most important things on a board beside my desk.

Recently, I have been a bit overwhelmed by the number of books I want to read, but I realized that finding the time to complete the list would put a dent in my other pursuits.

Then 💡 I realized I could find quality summaries from youtube videos. SCORE! ⚽

Here are two of the books I have been wanting to read. And the videos that have cut my learning time down to a fraction.

You can also look for other summaries that will help you hear the same tips in another way helping you to really grasp the concepts!


For the record, I still want to read the books, but NOW I can implement the wisdom of the books immediately. In turn, I will see personal improvements in my life in the next month rather than in the next year when I finally get around to reading the books. Huge win for me!

Without further ado, here are 3 videos to encourage, enlighten, and inspire!

Atomic Habits by James Clear 💣

The 5AM Club by Robin Sharma has inspired me to get up earlier and has helped me to achieve more each day. 🔥

One more! This video gave me a new perspective on rejection and resilience. What I learned from 100 days of rejection.

I hope this helps you. I found this video very enlightening. It’s funny too! 😂

I hope this has given you some wisdom and motivation. I had to share it because it really helped me to jumpstart the year. Happy New Year everyone!

The Ginger Bread House

For Christmas Eve I opened a sweet sacred box containing the walls, foundation, roofing, and decorations. I dug out my piping bag and mixed up the icing/glue that would hold it all together. The plan was to decorate and create some Christmas spiced memories.

The munchkin and I worked to build the house, holding each piece in place till the glue held tight. We worked to decorate each side and enjoyed a Christmas movie in the background.

Does anyone else feel like Hansel and Grettle eating the witch’s house when they break off a piece to eat?

Looking back I realized I could have done a much better job. I should have decorated some parts before constructing the sweet little home. I could have used less icing to make it. I learned that a bit of strategy and more rest would have made it more beautiful.

But most of all I learned that moving forward prepared me for a better plan next time. That the experience and memories made were enough. We had a great time. I hope we can do it again.

Beyond those great Christmas family memories, upon reflection, the gingerbread house taught me that with enough rest and strategic planning, and actually putting in the work, we can achieve a lot more than we think we can.

Lately, I have been working too much. Working too much makes us surprisingly less productive. If I stopped, planned, and thought about what I wanted more and found a way to those goals, I could do so much more.

So, here is to resting, planning, assessing, and, creating to achieve the goals I want to achieve.

I encourage you to rest, assess, and find out what you want to achieve, then make plans. Goals are just dreams without a plan.

Happy New Year to all.

Dear Ex-pat MOM

Dear ex-pat Mom,

Are you feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or maybe like you have lost your identity?

I know the stress you are feeling, I feel it every day still but it is getting better. After finally finding work online, I am working on balancing home and work. Fortunately, the commute is just to the next room.

Let me tell you my story. I am from the U.S. and we have moved to Serbia. I began writing this blog on another platform on my first short-ish trip. Then the writing got real on our third and longer venture. We had a small child. I wrote to share life experiences and cultural revelations.

At that point, writing became my thing. I wrote mentally even when I wasn’t writing physically. It was an outlet that inspired me and gave me mental stimulation when I felt like a human milk maker and baby carrier. The little’s naps gave me a tiny bit of freedom. I used that free time to write. That wee bit of writing helped me to become something new.

Winter was cold. Venturing out was exhausting. Bundling up was a chore. Walking flights of stairs to leave and return often was mentally discouraging. Then there were the outdoor challenges of language and pushing a stroller on uneven pavement and through markets and stores narrow aisles. My local friends also had little ones so the isolation was the same for them.

Time differences and sleep schedules made calls to home complicated. I was really lonely.

Later, when we were back in the U.S. I was hiking a trail and came across a Viet Namese woman who was in much the same boat, just on another shore. We talked as we walked and shared our stories. She expressed the same feelings I had when I was a foreigner in Serbia. I realized as I met others like me, that this was a common international problem.

Over time, I came to see this was a common occurrence. Women are often the caregivers and the trailing spouses become isolated by language, culture, and family responsibilities.

During this time of transition, stress, and turmoil we often get lost, overwhelmed, and struggle to keep our heads above water. The challenge is real.

I am here to bolster you. This transition is EXTREMELY DIFFICULT! Be patient with yourself. Be patient with your spouse. Find things that you love, and find a community even if it is only online to help you feel connected. This connection is crucial to a healthy mental state.

Once you make it through this complicated transition, you will never be who you were. You will BECOME more. Stronger, smarter, more empathetic, and learn tools to manage you never could have dreamed of in your past life. You are in transition. You are the caterpillar transitioning to a beautiful butterfly. You will soon fly.

Let me give you examples from my life, I started writing. I never had words to put to paper before this reincarnation. And it really is a reincarnation.

I painted a mural (still in progress) on my barn. I am an amateur, but it was an amazing creative outlet. Like this blog, I used the time putting color on the grey cement walls to fill my brain with positive feelings and inspire me with my accomplishments.

I got a teaching Certification! I hit the books hard. I studied and completed the task while burning the wick at both ends. I learned to teach English. The end result, I love it. This is my greatest pleasure. Adults, children, professionals, and students alike are a new challenge. I want to find a way to help them all.

While I focus on helping medical professionals, I have extracurricular English goals. One of my favorites is working with children. I love teaching children baseball and doing other fun activities in English. I am on a journey to discovering a new me. It is Exciting.

If you have been an ex-pat mom or are on that journey, let me know where you are. I would love to hear about your adventures, cultural experiences, and enlightening moments.

If I can help you learn English, don’t hesitate to ask.

Empowering Men and Women with Better English skills through mindset adjustment.

Lacking confidence is a tall wall that must be scaled when learning English. Confidence is a huge part of learning. I think we all have times when we are not feeling as though we are up to whatever task that comes before us.

As women, we often have more to overcome. Before we can even begin to work we must complete the household chores. We are tired before we begin.

Finding things that strengthen us and help us focus on our goals is key to success. Let me share one of my favorite empowering videos. It is long, but it is powerful.

I hope this will empower you. I want to give you the confidence to help you achieve your goals.
https://lnkd.in/dJZdtgpx

#learning#success#work#share#empower#help#womenleader#womenempowement#wolfpack#confidencebuilding#Englishlearning#Englishcoach#Englishcoaching

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.