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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My list for a happier life! Rated “E” for Everyone!

Lately, I have been on a mission to find a way to live my life more fully. I was overwhelmed for sometime after moving to Serbia. Getting my “Sea Legs” has taken more time than usual. I think having a child pull your attention does that.

Now I have found some purpose just looking for one. Ironic right? But I know that won’t last long. I must find something to do here besides the farming bit that I love.

In the mean time, I have found that one must choose to be happy. One must look for the things that will do that. Here are things I have found super helpful to me as an expat but would do for anyone anywhere. Really.

They are in no particular order. Lots of them will work in tandem with another!

Take a walk and enjoy the scenery. This can be difficult in some places. But it can be done if you are dedicated. I do this all the time in my “new” small town. I find gorgeous sites locals don’t even notice. They ask me, “where is that house?” Of course they have passed it a ton of times, but have forgotten the beauty around them. I found the same to be true when i visited the U.S. last winter. We really¬†do become immune to beauty that is all around us.

The walk will clear your mind. New ideas or solutions will come to you. Being outside is good. Get out of the house! You don’t know what or who you will discover.

Make friends with your neighbors if you can. But really. Make friends. It is important to your well-being.

It is important to have good friends. Sometimes that friend is a dog or a cat. That is o.k. Chances are, you will find someone. Be open. and make some friends!

Helping others can do wonders for you. It really makes you feel good to do things to help others. it could be just listening to an old person who is lonely. It could be opening a door for someone. Moving a snail from the sidewalk to the grass. Whatever! just help someone!

Give Giving is like helping. It really does make us feel good. Even if it is just a smile, give your smile to a stranger.

Smile. Even if others don’t smile back. Living in Eastern Europe makes this a bit challenging at times. People don’t smile back. They don’t even wave back at my little girl when she waves. But she keeps on waving. And I keep on smiling. I hope that the smile does something to brighten someone’s day. If not, it gives some sour old coot something to wonder about. “why was that weird lady smiling at me?”

Adopt an animal. Animals bring an immeasurable sense of joy. An animal friend can limit loneliness to nothing. It can ease culture shock to a minimum. I know this from experience.

If you live in a place where you can have an animal and there are street animals. Adopt one of them. Take food with you when you go for a walk and share with your homeless furry friends.

Listen to music! It is medicine for the soul. Find some fun stuff. Upbeat Dance music always does it for me. and Dance it out!

Write! This blog is a huge bit of therapy for me. It is an outlet, a diary, a chronicle of my life that clears my head and gives me purpose. I hope sometimes that it helps others. But there is no doubt, it helps me beyond belief. I am happier because I write.

What makes you happy?

Language Acquisition: my TT Tuesday

I think I have done three of four Ted Talks Tuesdays. I will continue to do them. I use them as a mini class to inspire me to learn about something I have great interest.  If you have an interest in language learning, I hope they inspire you as well.

Benny the Irish Polyglot gave this great speech on becoming fluent in many languages. Hope you will find it inspiring too.

 

Life lessons learned on the farm

I mentioned in my last post we have a new (used) toy on the farm, our Italian tiller. I will call this “toy” ¬†Pecky because it expands and retracts like a pecker. And because there is a rooster on the sticker.

 

Pecky the tiller is a dynamo, it chews up ¬†the ground like cookie monster does cookies. The tilling arm extends until the sensor pushes it back from a tree like we would step to the side to avoid a pole in our path. This machines work hard¬†so we don’t have to hoe the field all up to stop the weeds. Like the rest of us it isn’t perfect. If the machine is tilling without guidance from a human, it can easily chew up baby trees because the sensor is only going to notice the big ones.

Like most farm machines, it is big, and heavy. It has to be. This makes it hard for little people like me to control it. You need a strong arm. Mine is not that strong.

Another downfall of the machine is the jostled while not in use, or it isn’t on level ground, the tilling teeth will slowly extend. *Spoiler alert* Our fields aren’t all that flat, so my job was very difficult.

I learned this all the hard way on the first day. I was the one sitting on the back of the tractor holding our little work horse rooster by the reins.

This is where the lessons began, but they didn’t end there.

As I was struggling with Pecky, I began to explain the problems I was having to the Muz. I guess he thought I was just being lazy or I just didn’t know what I was talking about, because he didn’t believe me.

How could his wonderful new toy be extending on its own, Of course it wouldn’t. I had to be the operator. His mule like wit made me want to quit, but this is my land too. Quitting isn’t much of an option for me. I like to see a job completed.

I worked on noticing one issue after another and tried to tell the Muz, but he wasn’t hearing it. I started to hate the machine by the end of that day.

The next day we were at it again and again he didn’t believe me. At the end of the day he wanted to go to a field of seedlings, and take the sensor off. That means it would be all my arm strength in pulling the tiller to keep the baby seedlings safe as Pecky rolled by with an insatiable appetite.

My arms were both sore and tired. I knew that I wasn’t capable of keeping our new baby trees from the spiraling teeth, so I refused to do it. He would have to drive the tractor and pull the rope himself.

After one row he stopped, he wanted to know if I was really going to make him plow an acre of our seedling sour cherries himself. I prayed for wisdom and the right words as I walked down the field to speak with him. Speaking simply and calmly, I told him, I wasn’t strong enough, I just couldn’t do it.

He pressed on and tilled up the field as I walked around removing large stones from the field that would harm Pecky’s teeth.

I was relieved to go home at the end of the day, and an even better surprise awaited me. We would have no baby sitter the next day as Baba had to go out of town. I was relieved that the Muz and Papa had to be the tilling team.  I knew by the end of the next day, the Muz would see I was right. Thankfully he did. He admitted it immediately upon his return home the following evening.

Even after he worked out some of the bugs he would still complain about how sore his arm and hand were¬†from pulling on Pecky’s cord to make it retract all day. All I could say was, “I told you!”

I am not writing this for him to read and see the” I told you so” thing. I am writing this for me.

Experiences like these are good for all of us. They are painful to go through. But I learned several lessons. Some were reruns or reminders of truths previously learned.

Relationship lessons

1. Sometimes no matter how much you explain something, a person must learn by experiencing it themselves.

2. We need to be patient with our loved ones.

3. Quitting may not be a bad thing sometimes.

4. Trust yourself. Only you know how strong you are. Don’t let others tell you that you are strong enough when you know you aren’t. And don’t let them stop you when you are!

5. Tomorrow is a new day, with more to learn.

6. Perspective is everything. Sometimes getting a new one is the only option.

Pecky lessons

1. Don’t be too cocky, no one is perfect.

2.  If we get too shaken up sometimes we bare our teeth.

3. Gravity can get to us all. We just need to know we can pull ourselves back up, even if it takes a little time and lots of effort.

4. Be sensitive to the big ones and the little ones.

5. Get rid of the weeds in your life. Weeds consume the life-giving water and nutrients.  Without them you to grow stronger and bare more fruit.

 

 

 

Ted Talks Tuesday. For Women and a Better World

One of the purposes of my life is to encourage and empower women. I am finding Ted Talks particular helpful for me, and maybe you will too.

I was incredibly moved by this  Talk by Manal al-Sharif. She is the women who filmed herself driving in Saudi Arabia. She has a lot of great quotes.
The points that most struck me are these.

A country is not free unless the women are free. 

This is so true, and like in her example, it is not just about law it is about cultural traditions and beliefs. Often I feel like I live in a Muslim country. And, in fact, Serbia was ruled by Muslims Turks for 400 years. The hangover of that occupation and oppression has left a serious mark. I feel it daily. Women must be very strong here. They must speak up for themselves and know their worth. Sadly, many do not and it continuing the oppression of women.

It is not only about the system, it is about the women. 

There is a quote I have seen here and there, “What you allow will continue”. It is not only about the people who appear to be in control. It is about everyone. If you put up with bullying and believe what is said, you allow yourself to be made less. It is your fault for not standing up for yourself, and it is a VERY bad example for your children and the rest of society. Everyone benefits from a strong smart society of Men And Women.

You get stronger only if you stick up for yourself and others. Being quiet and keeping the peace not only harms you but also the entire society. If you don’t put forth effort for change, nothing will happen.

Her last statement is the key to it all. “Who do you think is more difficult to face, governments or oppressive societies?”

It is obviously the societies, There are always norms or beliefs held to be true that if you do not heed them there are cultural sanctions. I feel like I fight them daily here, but I am different because this is not my natural society. That gives me freedoms others do not have. It also gives me a different view of what is right or proper. Fighting cultural norms are not so hard for me as for women here.

There are some freedoms in being a foreigner, but there are also some larger constraints. If and when I speak out about things that are wrong in my new society, it may be seen as a mean or unfair critique of that society. But if I don’t speak up, I won’t know if it is or not. I also won’t know if what I say may help empower or enlighten others to things that may not be seen as clearly as me. There is a better than average chance I will speak up if I can speak in English. I am not terribly afraid to rock boats. I like the way they rock most of the time. ūüôā

In my humble opinion, I think that women need to question the limitations put on them. Look at norms with logic. Think, really think about the things you feel are stopping you. It may just be yourself or an idea in the society and nothing more. Take the initiative for change. Trust me, I know that I am no one of great importance. I am just a women who wants a better life for herself, her family and her friends, and for the rest of Serbia. The little steps we take can turn out to be big ones. You just never know.

If you think this applies only to women in eastern countries you are far from the truth. There are so many things that need to change all over the world. Please apply these ideas to your own life for a bit of change for the good. ūüôā

It took 100 women of their society to  make a change in Saudi Arabia. Only 100! imagine what just a few can do in yours.

Please watch this Ted Talk. You may just find it inspiring too!

Please share your thoughts, questions, or any comments you have. Dialogue is enlightening. ¬†ūüôā