Ktown Choir an open Letter to my Mom

Mom, I joined the choir.

You know that all the years I was in school and beyond I was in the choir. I really love to sing. I remember singing along to the radio as early as 3 or 4. And of course I was dancing too. I just couldn’t help myself. Really, I am not kidding.

I began singing in church and doing solos when I was really young, now I think about it. I was probably seven or eight when I sang “Away in a Manger” my first solo at church.

Joining the choir here in Ktown was initially an attempt to improve my Serbian. But, I found I am just filled with joy that I can sing again. The people are so helpful, and I am thrilled to meet new people. The whole choir thing has made me feel so much more normal. I do fear my stupidity with the Serbian language will get old and they will soon tire of helping me. Crossing my fingers I am not overly needy.

Here in Serbia, often I feel like only half of me. Slowly, all of me is beginning to show up.

Nerves strike me often, and I make stupid mistakes while I am singing. I think I will feel at home soon. I practice at home with you tube videos when possible. Some of the songs move so fast that it is a bit of a challenge to read the text in Cyrillic and sing along. All this, while reading the music. But it is good for me. It stretches my brain.

Below is one of my favorite songs in Cyrillic… Just so you can see what I am working with. Here is the photo credit: http://vaspitaci.blogspot.com/2014/01/blog-post_8605.html

 

When I first walked into the choir room, they were already singing a song. I must tell you, I was stunned, it was in English. Immediately, I was a bit bummed! I came to the class for Serbian!! But it was only the first page and then it was onto Latin.¬† ūüôā¬†¬† Soon enough we were off to a another song and it was in Serbian.

I am really enjoying the singing as well as learning traditional songs that speak to the soul with their beauty and culture. I can’t help but smile when I hear the music for the first time. It is just gorgeous! Again, I feel like a tourist in an exotic land with so much beauty, and I get to take part in the action!! Freaking cool!!

Me with mascara running! Photo credit: http://bajo-el-mar.tumblr.com/post/17137369879/about-to-spam-you-all-big-time-with-dogs-available

Foreigner Follie Choir edition….I am pretty sure last week, I went to class with mascara all over my eye. The Munchkin (who is almost three now, is obsessed with snow and the idea of snow ball fights!) had thrown some snow at me when we were walking home from helping out at an English class. I though nothing of it and dropped her . Then, I went to choir. No one said anything. So maybe I am wrong…? But when I got home after choir practice and looked in the mirror, I looked like I had a black eye. LOL Munchkin- 1 Mom- 0

Learning songs it is a challenge. I still don’t know what the words mean. That makes memorization a bit more challenging! But I do love a challenge!

I am a little fearful I won’t be good enough. That my mistakes will be too much. Our choir is very good and the director is amazing! I was a bit shocked as this is a small town. But, I hope they keep me. Even if I am not good enough to sing in the upcoming events that would be ok.¬† This choir is feeding my soul. I really love it.

We are learning old Serbian classics, and they are really really beautiful. Just like the people.  Serbian people are just amazing. Check out the link below to hear one of these great classics. Hymna Sveti Sava

I love you Mom, miss you lots. XOXO

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Foreigner Follies ~ Scolded by the preschool teacher

Lately, I have been feeling much more settled. Munchkin is in school. I have some me time. I am meeting people. I have a sence of being part of the community.

Feeling more at home doesn’t mean you aren’t still a stupid foreigner.

Preschool has presented some new challenges. (I like to think of them as learning opportunities.) I am abysmal at the day-to-day knowledge of preschool norms. Culture shock slaps me in the face a lot in this new adventure.

My little monkey is usually happy to go to preschool, but some kids are not. There is one little boy who cries every morning. Two days in a row, we sat beside this little one while taking off the coat and changing into slippers.

The first day, I tried a little distraction. The English language is a curious thing to a Serb tyke! So, I talked to him in English and then translated in Serbian. He was confounded and forgot about crying for a few minutes at least.

Munchkin went to her class happily. From the doorway, I coached her a bit to find a seat (in English.) The gorgeous little tots stared at me with fascination. One little girl was so astonished, she got up from her seat and started walking towards me. I think, maybe she thought closer proximity would solve problem and she would understand?

Rabbit trail…..

It is funny how our brains work when it comes to foreign language. Just last week a friend and I went to a little store to get something and the sales lady tried to “help” me understand by yelling in Serbia. ¬† Sadly, it didn’t help. ūüėČ We left the store¬†and shared¬†a good laugh.

Back to the story at hand.

Enter the second day of the little boy crying without stop. There is no distraction possible. As I relieve my munchkin of her coat, gloves, shoes and change her footwear to the appropriate slippers. It is all very Mr. Rogers, minus being at home.

The sobbing boy’s ¬†distress became too much. Munchkin began to cry as well. Crap.

Thinking of being helpful and distracting my sorrowful little one, I take her to the loo to wash her hands. She stands at the sink and as I start to help the tall beautiful teacher comes in talking so fast. It startles me, and it takes me a few seconds to understand that I am not supposed to come into the bathroom with outdoor shoes on… Yes, this is a bit like China.

I am taken aback and don’t really know what to say. She is a new teacher and I think she may not know I am a foreigner with limited language skills. In Serbian, I say, “I am an American. I don’t understand. and I didn’t know”. Well beyond overwhelmed by the abrupt admonishment, I leave the bathroom as not to offend anymore. I keep walking down the stairs and out of the building.

My brain is mush with embarrassment, anger, and the puppy dog hanging its head with shame feeling. The anger is with myself for not knowing, and with the scolding.

Of course, I give it more thought than I should that day.

The next morning the hall is empty as I ready my girl for school, the teacher rounds the corner and makes a bee line for me. She immediately in English says she is sorry. I interrupt with my own rambling apology. All is made right.

Poor Munchkin will probably suffer through this a million more times…

And then I will write about it!

 

 

 

 

Foreigner Follies~ Halloween edition

I had a wonderful Halloween this year. I was lucky enough to be invited to help with the local high school celebration. I met with the teacher and kids prior to the party to plan the activities and decor.

After a short day in the village and munchkin interruptions getting ready, I was an hour late to help decorate. I am nothing but impressively punctual. (This should probably be my first folly, but I will let it slide.)

Pumpkins carved and glowing  lit up the cafe. Black cat and skull silhouettes danced to the Halloween beats. People began to file into the party slowly while I had a chance to meet with some of the teachers.

The music was loud like that of a night club. It made conversation was a bit dodgy at times. But we all managed and I met some new peeps. ūüôā

The other foreigner in town was invited as well and we were glad to be reunited. Spelling her name phonetically, Shu Sin Yen, was the bell of the ball. The young high school students (boys) were all about her.

One was very aggressive at asking her to dance, and she obliged the first time. But she is quite shy and was not keen on a repeat. This poor fellow, oozing with¬†beer induced¬† ¬†determination, ¬†wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Enter folly numero UNO!

I can see my friend is not wanting to be rude, but really doesn’t want to dance. She is too shy to tell this guy to bugger off¬†leave her alone and she is also a teacher in town, so she must be polite.

I am just a foreigner who speaks the tongue of the parties origin, so I say to this guy in his native tongue, “Ajde mash bre!”. ¬†Immediately, I got high fives from the other fellows. They were pleased and I started to question my words.

It was the wrong choice. I thought I was telling him just to leave. I have heard my father-in-law  among others and others saying it to hounding animals who keep begging for food and in other similar situations.

About a half an hour later, in a conversation with the doting bartender, I found out I have literally told him to “ef off!” This is not proper behavior for an adult school guest in my culture. (Somehow, I don’t think it is as damning in this culture, but I could be wrong.)

Games were played through the night and when they started bobbing for apples, I wanted my friend Shu to see this typical fall game. On my urging we walked over to watch.  Like with most of the activities, she had never seen it before. We gazed on at the first round of bobbing as two fellas went against the clock and each other to grab apples with their teeth in a bin of water.

Follie Number TWO.  

One guy was up for the next round and no one was going against him. They kept trying to pull some one in and no one would go. So they came to me. I didn’t really want to stick my head in and get soaked, but I also didn’t want to be a bad guest. Plus this was a game from my childhood so why shouldn’t I play. (Oh soo Many Reasons!)

I stand before the tub of bobbing apples and wait for the “GO!” I go all in and realize I am tall enough to practice scuba breathing but little else. I manage to get one apple, and after that, I feel as if I am just trying to drown myself. My height and bust size and stomach keep me from my goal of giving a competitive show… or so I thought.

When the minute is finally up, I feel the upper half of is totally soaked.I don my gnome hat and I look down at myself. The black bodice that I chose purposely to cover up my ample bosom has shimmied down. The shiny WHITE blouse is soaking wet and the leopard and lace print bra I am wearing is blaring through as if there is no shirt at all.

I may have just introduced and won the first wet T-shirt contest in Serbia at a high school event. CLASSY!

Fortunately, I haven’t enough sense to get all embarrassed and leave. I go to the bathroom. I fix the smeared ¬†mascara and dab myself with paper towel.

For the next bit to make sense to Westerners…. FYI In Serbia, the sink and mirror area are often a shared space for men and women.

As I wipe myself off, the bartender comes in and asks if I am O.K. as he heads into a stall. I say I am fine. Just embarrassed. He says something like, “Don’t be, It was great!” with the kind of boyish grin that makes it all the more embarrassing.

I did have some lovely chats post game that made up for all the shameful incidents. I can’t call the entire night a bust, pardon the pun. But part of it was. ūüėČ

Looking back on the evening I realize, I am certainly making a name for myself in this town, just not sure what it is.

I did find a blip from the Halloween festivities. If you want to see the great decorations and some of the great costumes click HERE!

Happy Halloween!

 

 

 

Halloween Obstacles in Serbia

Planning for an English Club Halloween party is proving harder than expected. It will largely end up being just a costume party. That is enough, and most of the fun anyway, right?  Keeping it simple is key.

Let me share the challenges I am up against. The decorations are the main issue.

I found that orange pumpkins aren’t so common. They are grown for feeding pigs. There are so many other options, that is really irrelevant. It is just shocking as massive fields are dedicated to these orange pumpkins in the U.S. for fall decoration and picture-taking purposes¬†only!

The decorative brooms we use to decorate and symbolize a witches broom, is as common as sliced bread here. Here is a bit of irony: sliced bread isn’t so common. LOL Brooms are so different here, I could do a post on them alone! ¬†I guess that will be my blog.

Costume ideas are often culturally different… for instance. In the U.S. twice I have gone as Gypsy because no one knows they exist. To us they are like unicorns. A.k.a. mythical story book creatures. It is a little like this M&M commercial.

 

Yet, the word in Serbian for Gypsy in Serbian is like saying the “N” word in the U.S. Roma is the proper word for these people.

The irony continues… The “N” word in Serbia is common. There are almost no black people here… only in cities. And the kids here that listen to American rap here the word and don’t understand how bad it is. ¬†Who is gonna tell them? Maybe me? in this post. ūüôā

Other costume issues are that things that are common costumes are possibly cultural reference that the kids here may not recognize. DIY (do it yourself) or home-made costumes don’t seem so common. But then again, maybe I am wrong. I am kinda new at this.

The food and drinks we would use back home aren’t even sold here. I doubt anyone here knows what candy corn are! In case you don’t, they are a super sweet chewy candy.

In the words of Wayne’s world, “Party on!”

or in the more recent and very popular…

 

Do you have any experience in putting on a Halloween party? Tell me about it!

 

 

 

 

Upside Down in Serbia

I was a gymnast a very long time ago. I decided to work on my core and get some “different” pics of Serbia simultaneously!

The first day pruning I got this one in a field on the way home. The downward slope was a challenge.

On the second day, we were having our coffee break whilst the dog ran about sniffing out food and begging for some.

I was determined to get another upside down shot. I was a bit to hasty. Should have given some thought to my top falling with gravity… oh well. ¬†Here’s to sloppy belly shots!

The ground was super hard here. The coat I was wearing wasn’t enough of a pillow.

The last one was the biggest test of skill.  I was in a plowed part of the field again on a slope. 

This was the last day, again we were on coffee break. It had been sprinkling off and on and we were glad to complete the task.

I admit I am quite slow at clipping the fruit bearing trees. But, by the last day I got a bit better and next time I will do it even better.

As my arms and core get tighter and stronger the “upside down” will be improved as well!

Dobar Dan Y’all!

Foreigner Follies~ Adventures in Baking internationally, Serbian edition * Bonus brownie recipe that works in Serbia

I was reading one of my favorite and funny blogs, Expat Eye on Latvia about her cake making abilities. They turned out to be delicious of course. As I was leaving a comment on her hilarious prose I thought I would share the agony joy of cooking internationally. For me that of course is in Serbia.

The hubby and I had been craving brownies, but no such thing exists here, and I have only ever made them from a box mix. Let the adventure begin. I got the idea to look for a recipe in a peace corp cook book from an ex-peace corp guy.

Thank you Google Search for making that possible! I found one in just a couple of minutes.

That was the easy part.

Next began the mad scientist experiments. You think I kid… nope. You have a recipe, you think will give you a desired product, but what you don’t know is the ingredients are not standard all over the world. Who knew?

I made it once and found that the cocoa is weaker here, and it turned out more like a cake. ¬†ūüė¶ SO I reduced it from two eggs to one and changed the 1/4 cup oil or butter to 1/2.

Still not right. With more tweaking I finally got something that we can enjoy, though not 100% like home.  YUM!

One thing that my fellow  gal pal blogger has taught me to do from now on is to cook with wine. I have heard of this concept .

I don’t believe I have ever tried it. Of course I have cooked with whine most recently, toddler at my feet arms up stretched and wanting to be held as I try to create a tasty treat. That is not as fun as you may think.

I try to focus without getting to angry and stare at the recipe ¬†blankly as I think to myself… “Why wasn’t I on birth control?” Yep, just give me the worst mom of the year award or punishment right now. ¬†It is no surprise to me!

With a little wine the little whiner may be less distracting. Then again, maybe not.

The brownie recipe I settled on is below:

I use English measurements…. but here is the untested ¬†metric measurements as well… good luck with that! ūüėČ

American Brownie Recipe

1 cup sugar ~ 250 ML

1 egg… no translation needed!! ūüôā

1 teaspoon Baking Soda ~ 5 ml

1/4 cup oil  ~ 50 ml

1/4 butter or margarine 50 ml

2/3 cup flour~ 150 ml

1/4 teaspoon salt~ 1ml

1/2 cup cocoa~ 125 ml

Optional: 1 cup or 250 ml of chopped walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts. or Chocolate bar! YUMMY

1 bottle of wine your choice to drink as you cross your fingers and hope for the best!

Grease a small baking pan 8″x8″ or a small round cake pan. Preheat the oven for 350 F or 175 C. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until not gooey in the middle. They will be soft and yummy if this turned out well.

If they didn’t it is because’
A. You were using British English measurements instead of American English Measurements or European metric instead of Canadian. How is this even possible!! What the French Toast?

B. You drank too much wine and fouled it up.

C. Other ________________________________

Good luck with the Brownies. Enjoy the wine!

Munchkin Monday~strollering around town

It was 40 days after the death of my hubby’s sweet Aunt Raditsa, and I was determined to make it up, up, up all the hills to the graveyard for the traditional thing they do here. I was late, but that was a good thing since my little Monkey was all out of sorts.

Later I found out I had just missed them. We knew because we saw the same little gypsy kids walking around the cemetery. The hubby asked why I didn’t call for a ride. When I replied I wanted to walk, he asked why didn’t you come to the dinner after? ¬†I had to tell him it was Millie’s nap time and there was no stopping that sleep bound train!. He quickly understood. I had that same rerun conversation with Mama later that evening.

Yesterday was a pleasant enough day to go out for a long stroll with the munchkin tucked in her stroller. The minute we got up to the graveyard she got grouchy and wanted only to go home to nap. Good thing we missed the family.

After much fussing, and when we had descended the hill a block from home she gave up and fell asleep.

Dreading putting the stroller in the basement with my tall toddler in hand then ascending the steps to our flat, I decided to walk a bit. In case you are concerned, I did make sure Munchkin was warm enough.

I leisurely walked on the path beside the Timok river. A mewing kitten on a park bench was begging for attention, so I went over to offer some free pets. Kitty curled herself up in my lap and napped next to the stroller with my napping munchkin.

I sat there for nearly an hour loving on the homeless furry monster. I was sad to let her go when the Munchkin stirred and I had to do back to attending to my own sweet love.

Just as the two of us were about to arrive home, and the little love had started to fuss again, I saw a man walking past talking on a cell phone. Then I heard him speaking American English with no accent. I paused, and listened again. My ears were right.

I must stop now and tell you how much of a small town I live in. We don’t get foreigners and hearing my native language is a bit of a stunner.

Without giving thought to what I might say, thinking only he is going to be annoyed I interrupted his phone call for what?? I turned the stroller with the now crying munchkin and began to run towards the man who was briskly getting away. Meanwhile, he was having his private English conversation on the phone and completely unaware of my spontaneous, ridiculously desperate trailing with a crying baby.

I hear my name and turn to see the hubby. He asks where am I going? Sheepishly, I tell him. I am running after the American.

I am sure he saved me from complete embarrassment. But I am bummed I didn’t get to find out what that stranger was doing in my town.

 

My First TEFL Class or Foreigner Follies TEFL edition

As I left my building to walk to the library where my class would be held, a swarm of termites like a massive cloud in a sci-fi film had descended on the grounds surround the library. I had been warned by the hubby as I exited the apt.

When I got to the Biblioteka (Library), I saw that most of the people there were now the landing pads for a ton of the flying critters. Initially, I tried to brush them off the unknowing people, but I gave up quickly. I saw I was fighting a losing battle. Throughout the entire class, I watched them crawl all over people. To be sure, there must have been some on me as well.

Once the librarian got them all in order with a list of their names and what schools they came from, and then she handed them over to me, left the room and shut the door. They were all mine. All twenty of them with only 3 boys in the group. I was a bit stunned as we had agreed 10-15 would be good for my first time teaching. But it really doesn’t matter. I am thrilled to have them and the opportunity.

I began with an alphabet game and followed up asking for words in English that began with each letter. It was a good warm up for me and them. I was able to see who knew the most English from this exercise, and leaned on the stronger students as interpreters when I couldn’t get my point across with English and my limited Serbian.

I had done a practice run with two of my neighbor kids who are the same age as the kids in my class. I will practice with them again too. I need the practice more than they need another English class.

One of the things I thought I learned in my practice class was the two songs I planned to teach, my young neighbors already knew. They thought the other kids would as well. I was gutted, but decided to use the songs as a base point as they were already introduced to them.

It turns out only two of the students knew one of the songs. For the rest of them, it was all new material! OMiGosh! So, I went about teaching them the songs way too quickly because I was so nervous. I really need to go slower and have a bit more confidence. I began with Row, Row, Row Your Boat. And followed up with Eensy Weensy Spider.

I plan to sing those same songs every time so they get to know them well, and to understand the meaning of the words. That’s the plan at least .;)

Next I told them that all the fingers have names in English….

The middle finger story

I told them there is the Thumb, the Pointer, Tall man A.K.A the middle finger, Ring finger, and Pinky. I went about teaching them the song that helps them to learn the names. ¬†I put up the ¬†words to the song and an outline of my hand that has the names of all the fingers. I sing a bit of the song for them and ¬†then have them follow along. This requires you to bring you hands from behind your back with only one finger sprouting from your fist. All went well till we got to the middle finger. I bring my middle finger out and they won’t follow along at this point, and I realize it looks like you are giving the middle finger. I assure them it is o.k. but they still won’t follow along.

Picture0019

It became really funny and we all laughed big belly laughs, because we couldn’t help ourselves. And it is a relief. The stress of my first time teaching and nerves all relax and we sing the rest of the song skipping the middle finger.

I think I shocked them at the end of the class by asking if they had any questions or if there was anything they wanted to learn. Blank stares all around. At the end I gave them my email address if they have ideas to send me. I think they were all interested in having a way to contact me, though no one has yet… it is now 4 days later.

I am excited and nervous about preparing for my next class. One little boy came up to me when most of the kids had gone and gave me a note in Serbian with an idea for the following class. He said he didn’t understand verbs. I am thrilled with the idea of teaching verbs. I must find some games to help me.

Three hours after my first class and even later, I was still on a high! To have found something to work at here in Serbia is a dream come true. Plus, I love the kids. They are so sweet, and more respectful than I expected. I am sure this will wear off when the novelty of the foreigner status in a small town dulls my allure.

I am excited for the following weeks. I hope I do well. I really want them to learn from me and be happy they spent time in my class.

I read a quote and immediately thought of sharing it with my kids, then I realized it was just as much suited for me!

“The expert in anything was once a beginner.”

Helen Hayes

If you have any advice, I am all ears!

Turkish coffee~ Foreigner Follies

our red jezva with bubbling Turkish coffee

Today, while making the daily Turkish coffee, I made a mess…. again. Usually while making it, I am juggling a newly diapered munchkin, the kitchen mess left by the muz, and trying to wake up at the same time. Filter coffee is much “safer”, I must say.

When I make Turkish style coffee, I let the water boil, take it off the burner, add the coffee/stir, put it back on the burner to boil. When the coffee starts to bubble you pour it into the cup/s. Sometimes when I put it back on to boil, I turn away for more than a second. That is when the coffee volcano makes a mess all over the stove top. ¬†ūüė¶

I got a bonus blister while cleaning up the coffee lava as the water on the cloth turned a super conductor of heat. Freakin A!! ¬†The tip of my middle finger was the victim of my morning haze stupor. Clearly, I should really have a cup of coffee before I make myself some. That’s a catch 22 if I ever heard one.

If you have never made Turkish coffee and want to see how it is made here is a youtube video.He makes it a little differently but it works.¬†¬†The guy has a nice accent ta boot! ūüôā

Dobar Dan Y’all!