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 all over one side of 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.

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!

 

 

 

Munchkin Monday~ Counting and Colors

Munchkin is talking and singing and learning. She watches and copies. Her English is surpassing the Serbian at the moment, but that is because I am her main teacher.

Twinkle Twinkle (little Star is the only real song she sings, and those are the only words to the song she says as well. It is just “Twinkle twinkle” over and over. and I could listen to it forever.

 

Colors have been concurred, though purple remains to be a challenge. It is just another pink to her.  Is that normal?

I love that she points and says, “Lellow car, red car!” She is so excited to learn and colors are fun.

Baba and Daddy are working on her Serbian and she is learning that a little more slowly, she understands but is more likely to be verbal in English. Accept for the words, what’s that? or rather, “Staj je to?” She says it all the time and sometimes just to hear herself talk.

Because of her love of spiders, and the numerous times she has watched “Itsy bitsy Spider” videos on her kindle app and on Youtube, she now has an obsession with water spouts. They seem to be placed every few meters on the downtown streets. She notices all of them!

We are working on numbers now and if she is not yet grasping the concept she is getting that there is a rhythm in counting. I am noticing numbers everywhere and now and eager to show her and get her excited about them.

 

I think about it even when we are in the garden or the barn. Yesterday I saw this thin piece of wood and could help but make a clock for her to see the numbers while she was outside playing. Grandpa added the DOXA. I think it is a Serbian brand clock.

Everyday bring new and exciting adventures. She is more and more aware of her surroundings and I must take what she says to be true more than before. If she says “spider” there probably is one.

Last night as we were driving home she said, “Daddy Whoa!” when we passed a car. The bright lights and fast pace shocked here. It was so funny to see that she notices now. Her exclamations are hilarious. “Uh oh, oh dear, oh no” are quite common.

“Ne” ¬†and “NO NO NO” are the words she will use to stop you if want to interfere in a task that she knows is a no no. And Bezi! is my favorite. She says that when she wants you to go away.

She knows when she is doing things she need to keep quiet about, when you discover her deeds, she will speak with authority and determination.

I found her yesterday in the pigs water dish, elbow deep.. It was just sitting out there soaking in the sun. being cleaned for the next round of pigs we raise. Millie of course can’t resist a “cuddle” (her word for puddle). She was splashing and enjoying til mommy the killjoy came along!

When I inquired what she was doing, she said, “Mommy NO!” I knew I had to stop the fun without even seeing the water dish from behind the make shift recycled skid fence.

 

The first Vasher of the season was this past week. Munchkin had her first Merry go round ride after a good bounce on the trampoline. She wanted me to join her, and I wanted to too. Sadly, it was not allowed. ūüė¶¬†

The Merry Go Round was her favorite. When I took her off the ride to head home, she was fine at first and then the crying started. It didn’t end all the way home! What fun pushing a stroller through ¬†hoards of people who keep turning to see why your little one is crying. Glad that is over!

Teaching her has been going really slow lately, because we have been in the field more than anything else.  It is serious labor, but exciting to see the progress a few people can make in the land. Hard work really pays off in the long run. That is really an all around truth.

 

Back to the grind…

Dobar Dan Y’all!

 

 

3 weeks in~ TEFL

It has been a strange but fun first three weeks. I had a friend make arrangements for me to teach an English class at the local library. I am doing it for free. And really, no one should have to pay for my unguided attempts. I am learning just as much if not more from this experience.

Just this the past week, I found a free online TEFL training course that has given me direction on techniques, lesson planning and so much more. I really needed the help. and it is boosting my confidence.

The biggest challenge is the class itself. The kids are great. But school schedules are vastly different here. There are morning classes and afternoon classes. Kids schedules rotate every week. The first week some kids only go in the AM and another group goes in the afternoon. Then the next week the first group goes in the morning and the other group follows in the afternoon.

This was something I (sorta) knew about, but didn’t plan for because I got lost in translation. (It happens a lot!)

The first week I had 20 kids from three separate schools. All of them were the same age, but some were not at the level specified by the librarians when they set things up with the school.  No translation was needed listening to her phone call, chastising who ever sent the kids who were a year behind in their English studies.

What I thought would be review songs turned out to be all new. The basket of nerves I was caused me to speak too fast. I never thought you could have stage fright as a teacher, but did!

At the end of that class, when I asked if anyone had anything they wanted to study, on kid wrote glagols. In the Srpski tongue glagols are not monsters, they are Verbs. Ya learn something new everyday, right?

I got the biggest rush when I came home that night.  I finally had something to focus on in Serbia. Purpose began to form. I was on top of the world!

The next week, I had eight new students who had the afternoon school shift the week before. There were four returning girls. I had planned a lesson and games for the ones that had been there before, so I mixed it up with the songs from the previous week and the verb lesson and worksheet for the that week. It was a decent lesson, but the presentation was a bit scattered. I forgot my makeshift whiteboard. Again, I was a nervous wreck even though I was thrilled to be there.

I still got a major high from teaching the class.

This week, after studying online, I had a better lesson planned for the kids from the first class. I had the verb worksheets, songs, and games all set up. I was much more prepared. At five o’clock two girls showed up, and a few minutes later 2 more. We chatted (good practical English practice) and waited a little, but started the class with four girls just before five fifteen. I followed my plan and then some of them told me they had never studied verbs before. Another curve ball! So I give them some basics on verbs and vowels so they understand a bit of how a sentence works. I have them write practice sentences and then we pick out the verbs. They all did great! Later they told me that was the first time they wrote sentences.

One more girl shows up after we have  almost completed that. There is just about a quarter of an hour left of class. We write more sentences and finish up with a game.

I know I am not a stellar teacher, but the change each week is throwing me way off-balance. I have seen just a few¬†a ton of the mistakes I have made, but I am analyzing each weeks class over and over looking for things I could have done better. I really want to be a good teacher, but I don’t know what they know or don’t know, so I am lost.

The language barrier is the most nerve-racking to me. I get frustrated that I don’t know if they understand. Or I can’t understand them. Thank God for the little English prodigy in my class who translates everything, one of the amazing Fab Four!¬†My greatest concern is turning some kids off to English, or confusing their other English class studies.

These are my thoughts on why I have lost the bulk of my students:

Many don’t understand me, they are slow to understand like I am with Serbian. And, I spoke way to fast in the beginning.

A few may have simply forgotten, but I am sure some just don’t want to come to ANOTHER class. Kids don’t really want to study. It isn’t that fun.

I think many may have been afraid to return after hearing the harsh call the librarian gave to the person who sent them all. Or maybe it was my song with Mr.Tallman A.K.A. the middle finger?

I think a lot of kids may have been interested to see a foreigner. This is a small town and I am the only non-Serb I know here. Curiosity could have been a contributing factor to my first large class.

I know that since this is a free class, parents are not making their kids come, I don’t even know if parents are aware of this class. The wonderful librarians set this all up. I just show up and teach. Since it is free, they aren’t losing any money not showing up.

A few of my mistakes:

Speaking too fast.

Not knowing what they already know.

Not giving new vocab words each week.

I should have a proper introduction routine for each class. I will do that next time.

My next class will be tailored to the 4 girls who come every week. I know they are eager to learn. I don’t mind having only four girls. It makes it easier to give each one English language practice with feedback. Small groups are best for learning, so maybe this is a blessing in disguise?¬†

I have started a question answer bit with them for my niece who is the same age back in the States. They send her questions and she will give the answers and ask questions in return.

I am wondering what to expect next week. I can’t help but think of the Forest Gump line, “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get!”

Comments welcome!! Actually, I am kinda begging for them. ¬†Thanks Y’all!