About Cao Mila

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

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.

Our Airbnb Chalkidiki Greece

Not long ago we spent 10 days in Greece. It was glorious. 

Let me tell you about our place. It was wonderful. Airbnb link is below. You can check out the pics of the interior on the site.

A place for rejuvenation. ZEN Tranquility


My husband found this place while searching for a vacation spot in Greece. We looked at the pictures and dreamed about getting away. This place didn’t disappoint.  The farm is a peaceful setting. Olive orchards surround the property, there is no buzz of traffic. It is quiet. You can hear yourself think.
The hosts are great communicators. We never had trouble waiting for a response. They have excellent English skills. 

We let them know the approximate time of our arrival and they were waiting. They opened the gate to their spacious driveway ask we pulled up! We were greeted immediately upon arrival and shown around with info about the place. We were told to let them know if there was something we needed. 

They also gave us some fresh eggs from the chickens and some luscious flavorful tomatoes from their own garden. SO YUMMY! One of the perks of farm living. 

INSIDE: The great room encompasses the bed couch and kitchen area but it isn’t crowded. The decor is thoughtful, relaxing, and the colors happy and peaceful. This was a family trip. The three of us. Our 9 yr old loved the place. She was just as happy and comfortable as we were. They are very family-friendly!  

The bathroom is SPACIOUS! This is a self-service spa with a jacuzzi tub for two. The amenities are top-notch. 

Our hosts invited us for a pizza picnic on the deck. It was scrumptious.

There is a sea view from the picnic/ grill area. I sat and enjoyed a good book just outside the doors while enjoying the breeze and singing birds.  I enjoyed the view. The hills roll down to the sea covered in ruffled rows of olive trees. It is a treat for the eyes. 

The kitchen is stocked with the necessities. And if we need anything we were encouraged to ask. The hosts are genuinely kind, helpful, and willing to give travel advice about things to do locally.  We even enjoyed a night out with them. They introduced us to a seaside village seeping with history. This well preserved in a tourist town about 30 min away offered great shopping, an old church, and a museum. The ancient architecture and seaside restaurants were divine. 

The conversation with our well-educated tour guides/hosts was just as wonderful. Thier English is Excellent! I can’t say enough good about them. They are wonderful and so is the place. We came back to a great night’s rest after an authentic night out in Greece. Clean, serene, and the beds and pillows are super comfy! I have rarely slept so well when on vacation. 

The beach is just a short drive away. We found a beach area that is sparsely populated even during the peak season! We went every day to enjoy the sun, the small waves, and the warm breeze. My idea of a great vacation! 

The lidl grocery store was an even shorter drive, we stopped to pick up necessities when we needed them. 


I highly recommend this place to others and hope to return for another visit. This is a gem!

Here is their link to the Airbnb site. 

Covid Vaccine. Serbia

This is my personal experience.

 In Serbia, in the very early months of 2021, we were able to sign up online for the vaccine. We both signed up for any vaccine to be first in line for whatever was available. The aged and vulnerable were given the vaccine first. Now, it was the rest of the populace who were able to get the shot. 

 My husband is a national. I am a foreigner. He was called the next day to go to the local Dom Kultura for the shot. He got AZ.  Because of the social healthcare. The shot was free. The second dose is 3 months later. 

I was called several weeks later. I was told to go to the Sajam or fairgrounds in the capital city of Belgrade to get the shot the next morning. That is 4 hours north, I had to work. I did not go. 

I am glad because the place was reportedly packed! Hours of waiting in long lines with far too many people is not a healthy idea in the time of Covid, the whole reason for the vaccine. A few day’s later the news channels made note that tons of internationals were crowding the facilities for vaccines since Serbia is one of the few countries that seems to have enough to go around.

More than a month later, I was visiting my neighbor and our Dr. friend told me Pfizer was coming the next week. I was not partial to any country’s vaccine, but something was comforting about hearing my own country’s shot would come to our small town. 

Then, the following week, I was having coffee with my bestie. Her husband heard on the radio there was an open call for the vaccine at the Dom Kultura where my husband had been jabbed. I went early the next day to get the shot. 

I was nervous but drove to town early in the morning. I entered the doors and they sprayed my hands with sanitizer and took my temp. The man asked, “Pfizer?” I said, “Sure.” I had no preference. But, if I want to go home this is a preferred shot to have on record. Some are not preferred, I am sure it is all politics. 


The building was mostly empty. I went to the first table where a lady was filling out the form with the vital info that needs to be recorded. This info must be precise for the shot.  It allows you to go abroad is so it must match your passport info. They are meticulous. 

My Serbian is not great and I was alone. I am proud to say, I did just fine explaining my maiden name is my middle name when the paperwork was not right. I got the needle with no waiting and came home to work. I felt fine. The first Pfizer shot was no big deal. Just a sore muscle from the needle that lasted a few days. 

My second Pfizer shot was three weeks later. This was a force to be reckoned with. 

At this time, the Dom Kultura was packed when I arrived at 8:30 in the morning. Serbia was giving a monetary incentive for the unvaccinated to get the vaccine. This $$ incentive was enough to instigate the throngs to come out of the woodwork to get the controversial injection.

The night before I got an automated email telling me to come at to the Dom Kultura at 8 AM. The national office cannot communicate with all the cities and towns to arrange for things to be perfect. I found that the early hours were offering the Chinese vaccine. Pfizer shots began at 11 AM. 


I came back about half an hour early. I prepped for my classes while I waited. My first class was scheduled to begin at 12:30 and I still had to drive back to the village. The place was still packed and the Chinese vaccines still had a wait.

I queued and was the first of three people in line after the Sinvac vaccinations were completed.  I was one of the first three in line for Pfizer. My vaccines began at 12. One kind lady let me go ahead of her.   I waited just a few minutes after the vaccine to see if I would have a reaction but knew I must get home quickly for my lessons.  I was 3 minutes late for my first class… I missed it. But, I was grateful I had finished the second dose and was able to complete the rest of my classes. 

I felt fine the first day, but that night the pain began. I slowly became overwhelmed with muscle pains. I felt like a steam roller had flattened me. I woke up in the night freezing and shivering. I did not have a fever. My body has a low normal temp, fevers are VERY uncommon for me. I piled on a thick blanket drank water and went back to sleep. 

 I was off the next day.  I made waffles in the morning but was too week to do anything else. I sat down a few times while making waffles. I thought I might pass out. I felt rough!

I laid on the couch for the rest of the day. It was not a good day. The following day was much better. I was not 100% but could walk the steps without pain in my muscles. I think the effects were spread out over a few days. I am grateful to be back to normal now. 

My experience with the system was good. The people in charge were orderly and kept control. One lady in the Dom Kultura was like a German soldier keeping people in line. I was grateful for the order. I am grateful for the opportunity. Thank you Serbia


The second dose, done and dusted. Waiting to see how Hubby’s second dose of AZ will be.

Learning Serbian or Chicken Breast is not Pileci Sisa

A few years ago, I was trying to order a grilled chicken breast and chicken thigh from a roadside grill. I had learned that batak is the word for thigh, but I was at a loss for the proper word for breast. I know that boob is sisa. But something told me that wasn’t the right word for that part of a chicken. I mean, we don’t say, “I would like a chicken boob sandwich.”

I usually want to make people laugh, but I guess I think the lady working the grill looked like a tough audience to try out my comedic Serbian. I saw an English speaking friend through the windows of a eat-in restaurant next door and went to ask for the proper translation.

The proper term in Serbian is grudi. I haven’t forgotten. Since that day, I know that batak is thigh, and that chicken breast is not sisa. It is grudi.


What did I learn? I learned that something funny helps me remember. I learned that a bit of pressure helps me to learn. I learned that with a bit of effort, I will improve.

Even as I am writing this I am learning. I was going to type cica. I put that into the google translate, it came up uncle. Sisa is boob.

Learning through comedy and fun is the best way to learn. I have also learned through trauma, but sometimes I just block that out. It is really not a good way to learn.

Here is a great youtube video/TED talk I watched given by a language expert. This explained to me my own difficulty in learning during my first trip to Serbia. I was stressed, overwhelmed, and feeling broken at the transition and events in my life at the time. This video spelled out in story form that being relaxed, happy, and passionate about what you are learning is the key to learning and learning faster.

Find what works for your. Find out how you learn best and run with it! I learn by doing and writing most. Learning is a journey. Make goals, have a plan and move forward. Do it!

My personal experiences in learning the Serbian language vary.

One of the things I have done was to put a poster of words to learn on the bathroom door. It was effective. I sat and had a little free time to learn. This was especially true if I had eaten something that had a little to many beans and my stomach was learning how to process them. This was before cell phones with internet.

In addition to my own ingenuitive education, that chart on the bathroom door also gave my company a laugh when they visited my loo. From time to time, I would hear a bit of laughter coming from behind the door as they viewed my study sheet!

During my last extended visit in Serbia, I joined the choir. I spent a few hours learning the language by immersion. It was effective and fun. It was not methodical. It was random. I do think that sort of learning has great value. But this is best as supplemental.

For a comprehensive education in Serbian I would recommend learning from a professional.

I am sure you remember teachers you either liked or loathed in school. I would wager learning was easier and more fun with the teachers you liked. Find someone who cares and also suits you.

Carve out a time and dedicate yourself to learning if you are serious about it. I have not done that yet, but I am about to engage in an online study.

About twelve years ago, a friend recommended taking classes from a professional Serbian teacher called Magdalena. I was not ready to hunker down to learn the language yet. Now, I am and I have checked out some of her YouTube videos. They are great! Here is a link for an older video she has made that is very helpful. You can see her personality, desire to help you learn, and give you more than dry book learning education.

Liking your tutor has a huge effect on your learning experience. I find that Magdalena is caring and real. She is not full of herself like many professors here. Her approach to education is refreshing. She has learned many languages and has found some of the best ways to teach through learning herself. This is a great asset.

SERBONIKA

Twelve years later, Magdalena has lots more experience and she has an online course. Here is the link for her course. Serbonika is a solid course for learning. For the record, I am not paid to give you this link. I just have great faith in her work, I know she is passionate about it and has been developing her skills and course for a very long time.

I plan to study Serbian with Serbonika. I will report back here with my experience and views on the course. Wish me luck, diligence, and determination! I need it!

Please leave a comments, advice, or tips, tell me about your language journey. If you have questions, feel free to ask, I will try to help if I can! Thank you for stopping by.

Cao Mila xo