Sve za Beba~All for Baby Traditions in Serbia 1

When I came to Serbia so many years ago,  I was in awe of the different traditions. Having wet hair and going out in any weather is inviting death as well as opening two windows at once that will bring the dreaded draft or promaja.

Enter the Bumbo Seat (Used worldwide…. but probably not in the Balkans) An infant seat that looks like it should be used in Bars from drunks who tend to fall off their stools.    But then, babies are like little drunks. Think about it!  They pee themselves, spill their drinks, vomit without warning, and there is no reasoning with them.

A month or so after my entrance to the Balkans I was taken by surprise. Visiting a friend who is a nurse in Serbia she fretted a bit when I sat her infant on my lap. She told me, Babies must not sit up or their hips can be damaged. I was so shocked. I had never heard this before. Not to mention, I had lots of experience in caring for infants from birth and none of them had ever had hip problems.

I questioned myself for a while wondering if I had lost my marbles and maybe this was a thing in the west and I was just unaware. But no, that wasn’t the case.  And in fact, they have seats called Bumbo made specifically for babies to sit in. !!! For real! Here is proof!

The hip problem is such a worry that mothers put a clothe wrap around the diaper that serves as a little brace to keep the babies hips secure.  That is worn til they are 6 months old.

NEW INFO!!! added 3/10/15 a day after the initial posting.

Here is the reason for the care of Serbian baby hips, and it is all in regional genetics. I had pondered this so many times.Finally answer that makes sense!

A kind reader was generous to share this info with me!

Former Yugoslavia had the second highest incidence of dysplasia of the hip in the world. It’s most probably genetic. Almost 10% of all babies in the 1970’s had hip dysplasia, mostly girls, so people are quite freaked out about it. It was not until the mandatory sonograms were introduced that this number was reduced.

Here is an online bit of research I found after having that helpful comment.

http://www.doiserbia.nb.rs/img/doi/0370-8179/2009/0370-81790908402S.pdf

That was probably my first shock concerning what is thought  to keep babies healthy here in Serbia. The next one came along not too long after.

I will write about that one soon!

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Sveti Nikola~ Saints on Sunday

Taken directly from Wikipedia….He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, a practice celebrated on his feast day―St Nicholas Day (6 December, Gregorian calendar, in Western Christianity and 19 December, Julian calendar, in Eastern Christianity) ;[7] and thus became the model for Santa Claus, whose modern name comes from the Dutch Sinterklaas, itself from a series of elisions and corruptions of the transliteration of “Saint Nikolaos”. (End copy paste from Wiki.

It is celebrated twice a year. All of them maybe. I am unsure.In December this is a fasting slava. It is also celebrated in May. This is not a fasting slava. Much better food is served in my opinion. 🙂

This is our patron saint. Every family has one in Serbia. When it is your Saints day, it is the custom in Serbia and only Serbia, that you have a dinner and invite your friends.  They come at an appointed time. Most likely that you will be serving loads of people over two or three days.

I love this Saint and how he became one. Everyone should strive to be a secret giver.  Random or non-random acts of kindness are a great way to make life better. Giving is so much better than receiving.

Happy Sunday!

Dobar Dan Y’all!

No Bread Plates

Up on the left you can see my plate. My bread perched on the side of the plate. I just can let it sit on the table. This pic is from our Jan 6 Orthodox Christmas Eve dinner. Fish is common as it is a fasting day for Orthodox Christians. No Dairy or Meat.

Crumbs litter the table, bread sits on the naked tablecloth. I was a bit stunned by this at first, and I still try to perch my bread on the edge of the plate. It seems strange to me that it doesn’t have its own place to sit.

There is always a loaf of fresh backed bread at the bigger meal. It is sliced and everyone takes some as if it is a bit of daily communion. No one cares about the crumbs that scatter about.

The tablecloth is carefully removed and shaken outside after every meal. It makes the birds very happy.  🙂

Attention Animal Lovers!! Help!

There is a dog sanctuary that will probably soon be shut down. There are just a few days left. A petition is raising awareness and collecting signatures from around the world to stop the dogs from losing their homes and keep them alive. They will surely be collected if this is not stopped. What will happen to them is uncertain.

Where is this happening? Nis, Serbia. Please help! Please please please sign the petition.

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/399/617/989/450-dogs-to-be-evicted-on-christmas-day-massive-international-protest/

Here is an article in Serbian about it: http://www.telegraf.rs/vesti/1352635-gori-internet-zbog-srbije-i-nisa-akcija-spasavanja-niskih-pasa-postala-svetski-trend-ukljucite-se-foto

Sasha has done a great job for years helping the strays of the city.

There is also an organization that has gotten involved,Serbia’s forgotten Paws is doing a tremendous job with collecting strays, caring for them, and trying to find them homes! People from around the globe have joined in and made pilgrimages to Serbia to help. Please Check out their site here and like it! https://www.facebook.com/serbiasforgottenpawspage

Thanks for your support!

 

Saints on Sunday~ Saint George

Once upon a time there was a blogger in the Serbian realm who I anticipated reading. The Real Housewife of Belgrade was a great story-teller. Funny and informative, and everyone loved her. I am sure they still do, but she has exited the great land of Serbia.

Her Sunday legacy was to write about  Churches she visited in her European travels. There were lots of Church on Sunday posts. And I loved that idea. I have done a few of them myself. But I wanted to use the idea and make it my own. I always felt a bit like a poor knock off.

Here’s the deal. I am Protestant.I miss going to church on Sunday.  And the Orthodox Christianity has the same God, but many different traditions. The church is freezing cold in the winter. I cannot understand anything. (The service are held in old Serbian. About 10% of the population of Serbia may understand.) so I don’t go.

FYI It is an old tradition like Catholics holding some of their Masses in Latin… All Masses were in Latin before the 1960’s. Thank God things have changed in the Catholic Church so people can hear the Gospel. I have no proof, but more people may attend if they could understand. That is just my Western brain thinking.

Since arriving here, learning about Slavas (dinners) and patron Saints of  families, I have wanted to learn more about the Saints. It is a new Christian education. I know the Bible fairly well. I went to a Christian college and even studied Hebrew for a better understanding. But the saints heralded  here are not in the Bible.

Enter my epiphany and self-education with Saints on Sunday posts!

We will begin with St. George. Why? Because I like that there is a dragon in the picture of this saint! I love dragons, but since I am a Game of Thrones fan, I can see how unwieldy they can be. Thus, slaying them was a must. 😦

 

Here is the story of St. George as per Wikipedia.  Yes, I did Copy/Paste!  😛

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_George_and_the_Dragon

According to the Golden Legend, the narrative episode of Saint George and the Dragon took place somewhere he called “Silene”, in Libya; the Golden Legend is the first to place this story in Libya as a sufficiently exotic locale, where a dragon might be found. In the tenth-century Georgian narrative, the place is the fictional city of Lasia, and the idolatrous emperor who rules the city is called Selinus.[8]

The town had a pond, as large as a lake, where a plague-bearing dragon dwelt that poisoned all the countryside. To appease the dragon, the people of Silene used to feed it two sheep every day, and when the sheep failed, they fed it their children, chosen by lottery. It happened that the lot fell on the king’s daughter, who is called Sabra in some versions of the story.[9] The king, distraught with grief, told the people they could have all his gold and silver and half of his kingdom if his daughter were spared; the people refused. The daughter was sent out to the lake, dressed as a bride, to be fed to the dragon.[8]

Saint-George by chance rode past the lake. The princess, trembling, sought to send him away, but George vowed to remain. The dragon reared out of the lake while they were conversing. Saint George fortified himself with the Sign of the Cross,[10] charged it on horseback with his lance, and gave it a grievous wound. He then called to the princess to throw him her girdle, and he put it around the dragon’s neck. When she did so, the dragon followed the girl like a meek beast on a leash.[citation needed]

The princess and Saint George led the dragon back to the city of Silene, where it terrified the people at its approach. But Saint George called out to them, saying that if they consented to become Christians and be baptised, he would slay the dragon before them. The king and the people of Silene converted to Christianity, George slew the dragon, and the body was carted out of the city on four ox-carts. “Fifteen thousand men baptized, without women and children.” On the site where the dragon died, the king built a church to the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint George, and from its altar a spring arose whose waters cured all disease.[11]

Traditionally, the sword[12] with which St. George slew the dragon was called Ascalon, a name recalling the city of Ashkelon, Israel. From this tradition, the name Ascalon was used by Winston Churchill for his personal aircraft during World War II (records at Bletchley Park), since St. George is the Patron Saint of England.

There is more to read on the Wiki site if you are interested. But I thought that would be sufficient!

I thought it was a decent story. Someday I will tell it to the Munchkin!

Happy Sunday Y’all!

Crkva na Sunday (Church on Sunday)~Manastir Lešje

A while back, we visited one of the coolest Monasteries EVER! Lesje is the eighth wonder of the world. I am in love with that place. No, really, I am.

An Orthodox Monastery with a great reverence for the Creator. You can feel it. This place is so beautiful and ethereal, if there were a church in The Lord of the Rings, this would be it!

If you are planning to visit south-eastern Serbia, this place should be on your radar.  You won’t regret it.

Like every monastery, it has gardens and massive green houses for growing food. Lesje also has a wonderful fish hatchery! They raise their own trout! The fresh flowing water add a feeling of calm. Watching the fish swim about is also cathartic!

This place is a visual poem,a work of art. Lesje is place set apart from the world. Please enjoy the rest of the pics that prove how extraordinary it is.

The entrance to the sanctuary John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

I would love to hear these bells chime!

There are some really amazing monasteries and ancient churches here in Serbia. You could learn so much from visiting them! No doubt, you will leave refreshed, ready for your next adventure. Dobar Dan y’all!

Expat with a Cat!

As I looked over at the sleeping kitten curled up on our couch, I realize it is easier to be an expat with a pet. Well, I think it is easier to be anyone with a pet. But, expat life has a new set of stressors, and sometimes no one who understands. That is where a pet becomes your ultimate companion.

In reality, I learned this a long time ago. Our second trip to Serbia I found my long time love Tomo, meowing in the stairwell. We became inseperable. And After I had been back in the U.S. for a couple of years. He came as soon as he heard my voice.

Here is the story Tomo, my first cat in Serbia.

(Yes, I can do my laundry whilst sitting on the loo!)

 We got a new kitten.
Tomo  a.k.a. Tomo da voz ( or Thomas the train)
He is a little spitfire tomkitten from the street.
I was was running the stairs in our apt building for the second time. And after a little while I heard a meowing coming from the first level. I thought a little kitten had gotten trapped inside so I went to investigate. There he was coming toward the steps crying, and when I bent down he came straight to me.

Then I saw a neighbor lady. The little kitten jumped straight from my arms to the arms of my neighbor. With a little hacking up of the Serbian language, I got that the cat was a stray and they just allowed him into feed him a bit and let him back out.  I wasn’t sure I understood correctly, so when she offered me the cat I declined. I misunderstand a lot. I went on running the stairs. A little while later at the bottom of the steps I saw her letting him out, I asked again in my limited Serbian,  “he is not yours?” She said no and offered him to me again. I said, maybe I will take him up to play. Needless to say, the Muz and I were instantly hooked.

The day before I had gone on the great Christmas tree hunt. I went on an adventurous hike to the nearest  Chinese store and bought a little “Charlie Brown” tree for 200 dinars, or less than $4. I brought it home and decorated it as a toy for our future kitten. Tomo loves playing with the lower branches.

Tomo had 4 lovely years with our family. He disapeared this fall while out playing in the fields. But he had a great village life and lived it to the fullest. He would not have been happy to remain an indoor cat. Once he discovered the village life and the great outdoors he was hooked. If he had remained a street cat, I am sure he would not have lived that long. R.I.P. Tomo.  You will always have special place in my heart.

Welcome to our new little companion. Lenka kitty

Munchkin Monday~SHHHHHH

The Munchkin is on the downward slope of 2 on her way to 3 years old now. This Christmas  and new years will be a new and exciting experience! She gets the present thing now and is all about birthdays. I have been telling her about Santa and showing her pictures. Not to rush the season, but to teach her.

We have a bedtime ritual. She drinks her milk as I read her a story. Then Tata comes to give us kisses goodnight. As we cuddle in the dark quiet room, I pray aloud so she will hear me talking to God about whatever. It feels like a good ending to any day.

As for our daytime life, We have preschool, so mommy can have some me time… and by that I mean time to study, clean, go to the dentist, etc.She comes home early in the afternoon. And she loves school. She loves playing with the kids and her teachers are warm and kind.

I can’t keep up with the new developments. There are just too many new things she is doing now.

She has developed a love of books, finally. Sitting with one and creating a story to go with the pics is a great new imaginary development.  Or she may just point at the pics and name each object.

Coloring and painting are still passions, but play dough is the main event! I have to keep putting it away and giving it some TLC with a couple drops of water and needing to bring it back from the brink of a dry death.

My favorite Baba in the village. she is spritely and funny. Not at all as this pic makes her out to be. love her!

The Baba comment

A week ago when we were clearing trees, I have having a hard time with the branches knocking of my hat and glasses. I decided a kerchief wrapped around my head would solve the problem and it did. But, in this culture it is only the Baba’s who wear this. When Munchkin saw me ready to hit the field she said, “You are Grandma!”  And I really did look the part. I think Baba “T” suits me. And one day, I will be a cool Baba, like the one above.

Munchkin is a becoming a bossy girl. She is fighting sleep a lot now, and it doesn’t help the upstairs neighbors are playing WWF games and basket ball when we are trying to get her to sleep. She has tried the water and potty tricks to stay up. Then one night she got up and went to the door. She turned and said, “Mommy, stay here.”  Of course I ask where she is going, knowing she wants to go play… She just repeats herself and then when I insist she comes back to bed turns on the tears as if the world has come to an end.

 She is using toddler trickery to get what she wants. For instance, since she was sick last month, she learned to like medicine. Weird, huh? She asks for it now and even though I give her a placebo of juice in a medicine dispenser, she tells me a few minutes later she feels better.

“Shhhhh!” she says with her finger to her lips when she wants anyone to stop talking and pay her some attention. Sometimes she will also say, “Iva spava.” (Iva is sleeping, and thus we should be quiet.”

Girly Girl She loves having her nails painted and her hair put up in ponytails. The pony tails never last. I can’t wait till I can really work on her hair and she will leave it.

Outsourcing labor Finding things is a difficult task. Even if she just had an item a second ago, she may not know where it is. So she asks the Mommy to find it. She may have learned this from Tata and his remote finding skills…. Asking Mommy is the way to find anything.

Dance Party I have written before about our nightly dance parties, it is a family event if Tata and I are not to tuckered out from a long day. She asks for music, Pink* music to be exact. Tata obliges and we have a family dance party.

Last night, we had guests, and tennis was on the TV. Munchkin asked for Pink music and she got the party started! It became a twirling princess party. A perfect way to end a lovely evening with friends.

Pink is a Serbian TV studio that has LOTS of channels. That includes several music channels.

 

 

 

 

Yoda Quotes for the Expat Soul

There is so much truth and so much to learn from the great Star wars movies. Just as I was writing another post, I realized just how much I could transfer into my life as an expat. Most of the characters are expats there, and are learning to cope on new planets. (I know we feel that way sometimes.)

Going for the real wisdom, I decided to write a post on the insights of the little green guy we all know and love.  Thank you Yoda for all this goodness.

“You must unlearn what you have learned.” 

Rule number one of expat life! When moving to another culture, almost nothing is the same, the way you think must change to accommodate the new truths.

“Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.”

You must acclimate. You came here for change, a new start, a new job, a new life, a great adventure. Do what you meant to do or go home.

“Named must your fear be, banish it if you can.”

Sometimes we are so overwhelmed with all the changes,we cannot name what it is that is overtaking us. Find some quiet time, meditate, and riddle out what that fear is. And do what you can to overcome.

“Already know, that which you need.” 

We know our basic needs, find a way to meet them. That is often a challenge in the expat world. But with perseverance, time, and some help, you can find what you need. Sometimes we even learn to create it ourselves. That inspires more self-confidence. What a Win/Win!!

“Fear is the path to the dark side, fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate. Hate is the path to the dark side.”

Fearing the change, the different, the challenges is only going to weaken you. Make you vulnerable. Muster the courage to face your fears or you will be taken by the dark side. Expat depression is the evil we all battle. Becoming bitter and angry as a result is the equivalent of going to the dark side.

“To be a jedi is to face the truth and choose. Give off light or darkness, padawan. Be a candle or the night.” 

This is the fight we all fight. In our times of darkness, we make a choice. Choosing the light may be hard, but it makes a better world for all of us.

“Calm you shall keep, carry on you must.”

Even in trying times, when the rug is pulled out from under you and you don’t know which way is up, keep calm and carry on.

“If no mistake you have made, losing you are. A different game you should play.”

In the expat game, it is inevitable to make mistakes. We learn large lessons from them. We are humbled, and wizened. We become stronger and better for the next lesson. It is just around the corner. If you aren’t making mistakes you need to get out and make some! They make for great stories later in life and great blog posts now! 😉

“Much to learn you still have my old padawan… This is just the beginning.”

The learning curve is constant. Once we overcome one thing, we have not finished. We have never arrived. What would be the fun in that? This is an exciting adventure. When you are tired, get some rest and be ready for the next lesson.

Dobar Dan Y’all! and may the force be with you!

 

 

 

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. 🙂

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. 😉

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!