I am going home for a month starting at the end of November. I can’t wait, because I will get to eat the foods I know and love. It really is about the simple things. Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, PB&J, and PIZZA! It is amazing that such simple things could bring me to drool just thinking of them! Oh, and Coffee! Really good coffee! Quality coffee, I really can’t wait!
Coffee Shoppe in Novi Sad, Serbia. Cute, huh?
The fact that this said coffee will be accompanied with long time friends with the joy of a reunion is going to make it that much more special. Heck, sometimes it will be tea too. So it really isn’t about the coffee so much as the friendship that goes with it. (Though, in all fairness, I can get good tea here, but the coffee is
a little below par.)
Side note: There won’t be any cigarettes at all!! I am not kidding. I am thrilled to be going to a place where some health concerns have been addressed… of course then there is the G.M.O. battle we are losing! Just as significant! Come on Amerika, get with the program!
Often over coffee with friends and acquaintances here in Serbia, I get the same question over and over. Which is better, here or the U.S.? and I assume they expect me to say the U.S. as they think it would be a wonderland. (Mostly, I think they think money grows on trees and jobs are about sitting and drinking coffee with friends.) Serbia has some great things going for it. So this is not such an easy answer.
In the U.S., overall we have a higher standard of living… in that we have quality products at a lower price, there are jobs if you want to work. There is help for those who need it socially. Sometimes, these things are hard to find. You may have to move to get them, or work hard to find them, but so much is possible in the States. But, life is hard because people work so much more to pay for healthcare, eating out, and mostly for a bunch of stuff they don’t need! They go into debt trying to have the “American Dream” and make their lives a nightmare.
In Serbia, there is less help, fewer jobs and things are lower quality but more expensive in general. Life is hard as a rule, but if you are willing to work, and work really hard, Life can be good. There is time for coffee with friends. Friends are always happy to see you. If you are out and about, you are constantly invited to the houses of people you meet. And children are welcome and valued. Hospitality is warm and so alive in Serbia.
The downside is that social conditions for anyone that is not white male are 50 to a hundred years behind in Serbia. Ironically, I can’t tell the difference between black and white in Serbia. That isn’t just because I am ever so slightly color blind. 😉 Gypsies aren’t always so dark, and the Turks rule in Serbia has darkened the features of Serbs. Being blonde and blue-eyed is not so common. but not entirely rare.
If you think I am exaggerating the time difference in the way of life in comparison to the social standard in the States, I promise you, I am not. I can easily make comparisons to the way 30 year old men think in Serbia to that of my 90 year old Grandfather’s ideas on how things should be. In case you aren’t doing that math, that is a 60 year difference! Sixty freaking years!!
Even life in the villages is much the same as what that same grandfather remembers from his childhood. The “little boy blue” style haystacks are alive and well! As are the old traditions and beliefs from that same time period.
The thing I find most pronouncedly different here are expectations for women. Standards for women’s lives are lower. It is something that keeps me thinking all the time. Women are patronized, sometimes beaten, or cheated on, and in general treated as less. I am not saying that this does not happen in the U.S., but it is not acceptable behavior and it is much less pronounced!
In most cases here in Serbia, it is not so extreme, but I feel the second class attitude that men give women. It is like women are children who will never grow up, but they provide the bulk of the labor. Men seem to be lazy in such an exaggerated way more like they children they are setting a bad example for at home. It saddens me to see it so blatant and with no thought at all. It is just normal. The thought of raising my daughter in this mindset, losing so many years of progress my people fought to achieve really tears me up.
These are the things I can’t wait to discuss with friends back home over coffee or tea. Finding solutions for the things I can change, and learning how to cope the things that are out of my control are my goals for the coveted trip home. I would love to be able to make a difference in a few women’s lives in Serbia. In time, I may be able to help in some way. 🙂
Because I studied the social sciences in college, I can see what has led to this lack of progress, i.e. so many wars and communism that crippled the people and still does to a great extent. There is a serious mental block for change, even good changes! But I want to have a better place for the little munchkin. So I will work to make a difference.
I want to uplift women here, They should know their worth. Coming from a country with programs starting at childhood like girl scouts, I have seen first hand that there are ways to make the change. Little by little, Serbia can become a better place for everyone.
I am starting with an English class this week. As I learn more Serbian, I will learn more about the problems and possible solutions, then I can address them. I don’t expect to change a lot. but for my little pond. I will be a little cleaner fish.