Drive by Shooting

A nice spring drive….

Lots of tractors were on the road and in the fields.

Babas were everywhere, like this one on the side of the road with a full wheel barrow. Nothing shocks me here!

One more Baba, all of them in the socially acceptable Baba uniform. skirt, kerchief, sweater, Vest, dark stockings, and opanci (plastic flat ballet flats). Serbian Fashion for all the Babas!

One more for the road… A Deda and his tractor.

What a great day to be outside!

Sometimes when I see these beautiful houses, it isn’t hard to imagine Heidi from the classic old story living in them.

Happy Saturday everyone!! Thanks for stopping by.

Dobar Dan

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Flat Stanley a.k.a. Marcello does Serbia

One of my fellow expats in rural Serbia has created a musical mixture of the East meets  West. Paul Shapera created this excellent little video and the music. He is quite a talented fellow! Enjoy a glimpse into Marcello’s visit to Serbia.

Flat Stanley paper cut-outs have made their way around the world from classrooms in the U.S. to teach kids about geography.

Here is a little blip about Stanley…. Flat Stanley is a 1964 children’s book written by Jeff Brown (January 1, 1926 – December 3, 2003).

Stanley Lambchop and his younger brother Arthur are given a big bulletin board by their father to display pictures and posters. He hangs it on the wall over Stanley’s bed. During the night the board falls from the wall, flattening Stanley in his sleep. He survives and makes the best of his altered state, and soon he is entering locked rooms by sliding under the door, and playing with his younger brother by being used as a kite. One special advantage is that Flat Stanley can now visit his friends by being mailed in an envelope. Stanley even helps catch some art museum thieves by posing as a painting on the wall. Eventually, Stanley is tired of being flat and Arthur changes him back to his proper shape with a bicycle pump. Thank you Wikipedia for all the above info!

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

The Urban Dictionary has another meaning for a Flat Stanley. I will let you check a bit of naughtiness out here>> http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Flat+Stanley

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!

Moving to Serbia (the Balkans)~ Info I wish I could have found

This post aims at taking a stab at helping the before and after by providing info others have shared to smooth the edge of your nerves and the process.

Moving from one country to another is an acutely distressing task. It means leaving your friends and family and all the places you know and love. As well as your favorite foods. That will be more difficult that you will believe!

Starting over completely, upon arrival you will need to find a new doctor/pediatrician/vet, grocery store, park, and most importantly friends. This is often made more difficult with the language barrier you may incur.

The people here are amazing! They will help you. There are arses in every country. Don’t let one get you down. Move along and get some help from one of the many wonderful folks here. They out number the jerks.

Helpful Online resources

Skype! Sign up for it! Do it now! Get your friends and family to do the same.

Fortunately, now there are a number of Facebook groups for expats online. Search them out before your move and post any questions you have on their sites. You will be shocked at how helpful people tend to be.

I have found the most helpful ones are on Facebook. In Serbia, there is the Belgrade foreign visitors club, the Circle of foreign moms, and International women married to Serbs. These groups are a new expats best friend. And a great help for those anticipating the move. If you post questions, people are happy to help. They have been there. And they have priceless experience.

http://www.internations.org/ is a great international organization that helps expats to come together. They have groups in every major city, and ambassadors who seem really helpful.

Another FB group would be Flat to rent Belgrade. If you need to find a place to live you can also post on the Belgrade foreign visitors club page. It seems that is a brilliant place to find help, especially if you only want to rent a room in a shared flat or apt!

http://www.expat-blog.com/ is a great site for people moving to anywhere from anywhere. They a blog list for the world.

http://www.expatsblog.com/ This site has lots of blogs listed from all over the world, and they interview the bloggers. Some the interviews are very insightful.

Shipping concerns/preparing for the move

You will have to decide what to keep or ship. Shipping is very expensive. And once your stuff arrives, you may be charged crazy taxes. Making it questionable what is worth shipping.

To find out where to learn about shipping to Serbia we looked online, and at Balkan food markets where we asked and found a magazine with an ad for shipping to all the former Yugoslavian countries. We pondered moving our cars, and all the belongings but opted to sell almost everything.

We were lucky. We had a bunch of friends who were shipping an entire container. We did end up shipping about 15 plastic bins and boxes. I am really thankful we did. It is great to have a bit of home so far away.

But shipping cars would have been senseless (even though I miss our VW and my little red sporty girl.) The taxes and shipping would have been outrageous. And buying a car here isn’t that hard. If you want to get used ones there are sites for that, like http://www.halooglasi.com/.

I posted a question about shipping stuff to Serbia, I got this message in return. I just copy and pasted it as all the info may be helpful.

*****With reference to your post on Belgrade Foreign Visitors Club please find below more details on the import of households in Serbia.

If you are returning Serbian citizen you have right to apply for Repatriation Certificate which will allow you to import used households up to the value of EUR 5000. In order to qualify for this exemption you will need to prove that you have worked minimum 2 years without any gaps abroad. You can contact nearest Serbian embassy for more details and cost of Repatriation Certificate.

You will need to create valued list of goods in Serbian with the values.

If you do not qualify for this exemption, as a returning Serbian citizen, then import duties and taxes are charged at the rate of 45-47% of the value of the shipment.

Please note that value for Customs purposes are different from the Insurance values. Insurance values are replacement value of new items at destination and they are higher than actual value of the used households. Therefore do not declare Insurance value for the transport.*****

You can find some international shipping companies online. Do some research beyond pricing. There are some horror stories. Movers not showing up, or things going missing, etc. Reviews are priceless! I may also recommend writing embassies to see who they use as they are always having people move to and from here and there.

 

These are the things you think about as you anticipate the move. But before that, you must decide what to do with your stuff. Do you ship it, or chuck it all and get new everything?

Also, what will you do with your mail. There are companies who will forward it… $$$ I have mine sent to a friend.  If it is important, she copies it and forwards it.

Things to know about the culture of Serbia and everyday living. This was graciously written by another foreign woman married to a Serb. Thank you SM!!

1) Learning Serbian is hard for the linguistically challenged; perhaps even for those with a gift for languages.
2) Driving can be a challenge; narrow roads littered with pedestrians, strays and owned, people parking in lanes just to pop in to a store for a few minutes, drivers opening car doors into oncoming traffic, drivers overtaking on blind corners with a come-what-may flair and an overall sense of the survival of the fittest (aka if I can squeeze in before you reach me it doesn’t really matter if you have to slam on breaks to accommodate me).
3) Long winters that sometimes swallow up portions of what should have been spring or autumn.
4) Getting a local you trust to enquire/negotiate for you when asking for a quotation or selling price. Any foreigner is immediately assumed to be loaded and prices are multiplied accordingly.
5) Another general rule is that contracts are rare and requesting one is almost an insult. Serb’s run on an honour system of agreement (which generally turns out ok. Until it doesn’t).
6) Most negotiations are a bit like wooing. You need to set the mood for a positive outcome; good food and plenty of it, tons of rakija and pivo, laughter and possibly even music. Set aside a good few hours for this before you get down to business. If you think about it, it’s actually quite beautiful as setting a business relationship on a good footing is very important in any culture. This is simply how it’s done here.
7) Serbian homes are pristine. There’s a reason for this beyond mega-cleanliness, I believe. All visitors pop in spontaneously. From a culture where most things are scheduled, even amongst friends, this can be a little daunting if you’re not the neatest freak under the sun.

Number six maybe taken further. When we need anything done at the local city hall we always take a pack of coffee and some cookies. A bit of sweetness greases the wheels.

I have also heard, that if something is taking a long time, you should show up in person and ask continually, and kindly. Seeing your face will remind them of the task.

Here is one more note from another expat in the north. K wrote this letter about what and how she packed to her friends back home. Maybe her words will be a bit of help for you.

Things I’m so glad I packed!
1. SAMs club bags! Big enough to carry about 4-5 bags of groceries, can use either the shoulder strap or handles for lugging items around. Best thing I bought for the move by far!
2.Toiletries. Yes, I can buy shampoo, deodorant, q-tips, nail clippers… But with all the learning curve that’s involved with a new culture, not having to find out where to buy toothpaste the first week has been very helpful. Now (after 2 weeks) I know where to find these items, but it was an enormous help not to worry about that immediately.
3.Kitchen utensils! Not only did I bring my good kitchen knives, but my favorite spoons, can openers, pizza cutter, potato peeler… Items like that here are SO expensive, yet cheaper made. I’m thankful that while I’m cooking different food, at least I’m familiar with how I’m cooking it. (Oh – and don’t forget measuring cup/spoons. The metric system is used just about everywhere else, so if you have your American recipe that calls for cups and tsps, you’ll not have to guess or do lots of math!)
4.Tools! Just as the kitchen items are important to me, having a few basic tools have been helpful for D. Screwdivers, wrenches, level… finding the tools you need here has been difficult. Grateful that we do not feel at a complete loss when we need to repair something.
5.Those hooks that stick on the walls – the ones you can use to hang pictures, towels, flyswatters, kitchen spoons… you know the ones!
6.Practical, comfortable clothes and shoes. I did pack a few nice outfits, but I’m thankful I downsized. Now that I’m here, I can’t see myself wearing any of the “nice” things. I also packed a few clothes the next size up for the kids to wear if they hit a growth spurt soon.
7.A few toys and favorite items for the kids from home. Yes, just like the toiletries, we can buy toys here, but the comfort of having something from home has been a blessing. The kids also each brought a poster to hang up in their room, which makes their room look more like it belongs to them. Along those lines, we also brought some of our “traditions” with us – the “happy birthday banner,” a 4th of July tablecloth, “you are special today” plate.
8.Music, audiobooks and movies. (I put them on a hard drive.) It’s comforting to have English entertainment at the end of a long day.

Things I wish I would have packed.
1.Ziploc bags! Gallon size, freezer ready. Since they do not exist here, I would have been tempted to pack a suitcase full. (OK, that’s exaggerating, but it’s amazing how many things I used zipping bags for that’s not even food related.)
2.Smaller clothes. Not less clothes, but smaller. I think I’ve dropped a pants size already. It would have been nice to bring 1 or 2 pair of smaller pants. Buying clothes here is difficult as most places are on the street (no trying things on) and there are no returns.
3.D did a lot of work in the apartment before I got here, but if I was here initially, I would have liked to bring a small roll of “big” garbage bags and 1 tub of Lysol wipes. Just to get the place cleaned up.
4.I originally started to pack these, but thought I’d need to downsize more, so I got rid of them. Small, everyday items – the kind you’d get at the dollar store: paper towel holder, office organizers, Tupperware containers, toothbrush holder… These types of items are incredibly expensive here. (Thankfully because of homeschooling, I did bring pens, pencils, scissors, and glue. I did not bring scotch tape & it took a long time to find it here. We wrapped up our Christmas presents in packing tape! When D did find it, the tape dispenser was cheaply made, but we’re making it work!)
5.More American dollars. It depends on where you are going. We get the best exchange rate for dinars by withdrawing them from the ATM. However, rent, schooling, van and other big items need to be paid in Euros. The only way to get them is to withdraw dinars (exchange rate from dollars) and exchange them again for Euros. Double whammy. For our start-up costs, it would have been much easier to exchange dollars to Euros once.

Thanks to those who helped me writing this blog. If you have any other tips, leave them in the comments!! I can edit this and add them.

If you are moving to Serbia or anywhere, Good Luck!! Take it day by day and remember it is an adventure of a lifetime! There are some serious struggles, cultural issues and relationship trials. Xanax might be a good idea. 😉

If you need a bit of a pep talk…. check this out. https://chroniclesofserbia.wordpress.com/2014/11/14/yoda-quotes-for-the-expat-soul/

Please feel free to use the comment section to add your own advice! Maybe you could start a blog of your own! It can help others and be a great form of mental therapy for free! Thanks for stopping by!

Chinglish at Chinese Walmartka

hmm, rolling pin is such an in appropriate name! Movable stick is so much better. but wait, aren’t most sticks movable? (this pic was used in a previously posted blog, but I couldn’t help to included it!)

The largest local store in my town is a Chinese mart. I will call it Walmartka as many products or words we know here in Serbia have been slightly tweaked. Barbie is Barbieka, English is Englesky and Chinese is Kinjesky.

Chinese products don’t often tweak the words but I think they may translate Chinese to English without the use of grammar. Or as best they can. China is a big country with lots of people. I can’t speak for all of them. But I can “admire” the attempts at my native tongue. 😉

Monster High knock offs. So many things wrong with this picture, I will let you sort it out. My favorite part is the little orange and black sign in the middle that says, “The best gift for your children.” Hmm, doubt it!

This Serbian Walmartka is offering goods that are mostly poor quality. It isn’t the same as in the U.S. The goods we get from China are great quality. In fact the great majority of our goods are from China.

In spite of the fact that the Chinese or Kinjesky stores here don’t have the best goods, they have the largest selection at lower cost. There is little choice but to buy such products for most. The real deal  tech goods or kids name brand toys in more quality boutiques will make your jaw drop or your head tilt like a confused dog.

Miley back when she was sweet. circa 2008 Yep, band new in the package and waiting for you at your local Walmartka!

I confess, I do shop at the Chinese stores. When I enter the other stores, I am always put off by the aloof sales people.

In the Chinese store, lots of Serbian workers are milling around and always offer to help. I work on my Serbian, check on the goods and sometimes get lucky finding something of quality!

For instance, after going home to the US and buying new measuring cups because I had a crack in the large one I used in Serbia, I came back to find just what I needed for months in my local store.

No, it wasn’t there before I left! 😦

The Hi pad was my absolute fav of this trip. I can’t help thinking it should have pot leaves on the front. Since it is a child’s toy that would be inappropriate.  Still, I can’t help but imagine a stoner trying to figure out this mock IPad.

When I came home, I thought I would check some boxes left over from the birthday. They didn’t disappoint!

So nice they said it twice! I just want to correct that. “Turn the power switch for light and sound!” ooh aah!

I saved the best for last.

wait for it…

Naughty child looks like an adult…? Available to fly and jump while playing. Feel comfortable, happy and balanceable. Fly? really? I must try this when I want to be happy!

I can tell you, Munchkin is very happy with her toys. They are really great gifts. My fun with the language has no correlation with how much joy they bring her.

My use of the word Chinglish is not a slam on the Chinese. I know my Serblish is worth many more laughs and I am grateful for those who make the effort to understand me. I hope that some locals have had a good laugh at my Serbian attempts. Laughter is good for the soul.

Dobar dan y’all!

Solutions for a Better World

This is probably the best video I have ever seen on how to solve lots of world problems. Green living, sustainable solutions, and a change of our thought processes… Creates a new way to play the game of life. Please watch this and maybe we can all work together to make a difference!

http://www.upworthy.com/our-economy-is-a-game-and-heres-how-weve-been-playing-by-the-wrong-set-of-instructions?c=cp2

Expat Interview with Kiki

I am in an area of of Serbia where there are few expats. All in all, I don’t think there are tons as this is not a huge country, and the economy is not what it is in other places. But! I am pleased to have made friends with a few in other parts of Serbia.

If I recall correctly, I found Kiki via her blog. We have been sharing ideas and chatting off an on ever since.

Please tell me a little bit about yourself. where you come from, how old are you and why did you move to Serbia?

Well.. for starters, my name is Christina. Everyone calls me Kiki, though. I was born in North Carolina, USA but spent most of my life in Memphis, Tennessee. I’ll be 28 in Sept 2013. And can’t wait! As I get older, life gets more amazing and more amazing. So bring on 30! Hah! I originally moved to Serbia for my now ex-boyfriend, who I’m blessed to still call a friend.

 How did you meet Nemanja?

My ex and I met online. Can’t remember the forum, but I remember I started talking to him because he had a Slavic basic user name. And I had just started researching my family tree and had surrounded myself with everything Slavic. He started helping me with history and even reading some documents I couldn’t make out the lettering. Then it just went from there. About 1 year later, an unfortunate canceled trip to Greece to originally meet, I moved to Serbia without a job or anything to see what would happen between us. Haha. Crazy, I know!

 Did you ever want to go back home?

Not really. I mean… I knew I’d always go back to visit. But when I left on Jan 27, 2010 I never intended to live in the USA again. If Serbia didn’t work out for me, I’d aim for Ukraine since that’s where my family is originally from or some other country. Wherever I could find work. I just took my first trip back to the USA since I moved here 3.5+ years ago. It was nice, but it made me realize I’m not made for the US. I’m a Slavic girl to the core.

What do you do here?

I part-time teach English at the headquarters of a bank here in Belgrade, but I’ve relaunched my own company again, focusing on web and graphic design, and all forms of writing.

How did that get started?

Well with teaching, I got one TEFL certificate before leaving the US and then another one online here in Serbia. I couldn’t find work the first 7 months I was here and had no visa so I opted for a job in Donetsk, Ukraine. Went there and found out things between the school and myself were not going to be as were promised. So I did some digging on legalities of Serbia and found out if I was studying I could get a visa. So that’s what I aimed to do. I came back to Serbia after 2 weeks. The language school I enrolled in said they couldn’t give a visa – I found out later it was because they didn’t want to do the taxes and paperwork but whatever – they put me in contact with a language school that needed a native speaker. After fighting tooth and nail for them to give me my visa, the miracle happened. I had a work visa in Serbia! I’ve been in and out of language schools since then. As for my company… I originally created my company back in 2011 as being a freelance writer. That’s my specialty. I’m a writer at heart. But then I branched out into more things, giving myself the upper-hand of being able to offer a one stop shop for online businesses. And I’ve had my ups and downs.. my personal life sometimes consumes me. I’ve had some real hard moments since the beginning, plus

working a regular job while trying to start and build my company… sometimes it just doesn’t work the way we think it will. But that’s all changing now. Thankfully.

What is your favorite and least favorite thing about living abroad?

Oh wow! That’s kinda tough. Least favorite thing…? Hm.. I’d say maybe legalities. Haha! While I’ve never had a single problem with the foreign dept or anything of the sort, I still hate having to deal with applying and getting my visa every 6 months. Favorite thing…? EVERYTHING! The differences between Eastern and Western culture. I prefer Eastern over Western. The traditions, culture, history, people, sites.. just everything. 🙂

Do you have any advice for others who may want to follow your path?

Don’t have expectations. And do NOT compare it to your home country. I cannot stand hearing foreigners talk about how Serbia isn’t like the UK or the US. Of course it isn’t! If it was, then it would be those places. And when I hear foreigners say such things I can only think to myself.. if that’s what you want then why are you in Serbia?! But that’s just me.. I know some people are required to move here maybe for work and so it isn’t their choice.. but that kind of mentality and any expectations will ruin such a great experience you could be having here. Serbia has so much to offer.. don’t ruin it with negativity.

What is your favorite food in Serbia?

OMG – All of it! Hahahaha! I love lepinja, kajmak – though I’m allergic to lactose and can’t consume much of it, the amazing fresh fruits and vegetables that aren’t GMO and sprayed with goodness knows what chemicals all the time, and plazma… oh! Sarma is divine, too!! Oh I just like it all! Hahahaha!

Do you celebrate Serbian and American holidays?

I celebrate local holidays only really. I am Orthodox so I follow the Church holidays here. When I can, I send flowers to my mom and sister in the USA for birthdays, mother’s day, and similar holidays. But I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day…and I haven’t celebrated Halloween since I moved here. Though a part of me definitely misses it. Autumn is my favorite time of the year and Halloween was just awesome because it is drenched in so much controversial history and so much fun and it happens in the middle of my favorite season!

According to your blog Trek for Truth, you’ve participated in a few demonstrations and protests. Do you ever feel worried about being an American there?

 Ohh.. good one, Tina! Well.. I have been to a few of them, yes. I’ve never felt unsafe at any protest I’ve attended. Even the times I’ve gone alone, or the ones I thought I’d be alone and ended up running into friends. When the others there find out I’m American, most of the time they just have questions. And when they talk to me they welcome me with open arms and are glad to have me standing beside them in support for the cause. I always like going whether I support or not. Definitely on the protests and demonstrations I support I go to see it all for my own eyes. I want to report to others outside of the event what happened. I don’t want to just post some crap from a newspaper. I want to provide my own photos and video whenever possible. And I try my hardest, when I write about it, to keep it as fair as possible. Sometimes it’s hard, but I do my best.

What’s the response you get from most people when they meet you and find out you’re from the USA?

Hahaha.. most of the time, they think I’m Russian or Ukrainian so they don’t believe me generally when I tell them I’m from the US. Then they ask about my family because I seem to ooze Slavic looks too. So then when I confirm my heritage, then they go back to asking me where in the US I’m from and what brought me here to Serbia. And then minute I tell them my best summary of it – I fell in love with a Serb, then I fell in love with Srbija – they generally call me Srbijanka or Snajka from then on. It’s funny but that accepted feeling is amazing.

I can relate to that. Feeling accepted here in Serbia comes pretty easily. Serbs are warm and friendly people. Thanks to Kiki to letting me interview her! and Happy Birthday Month to her too!  If you are interested here is a link to her business website Indigo Creations. You can also find her on her blog: Trek for Truth.

War Stories Sunday (non-biased from a child’s perspective)

In the 90’s, Yugoslavia was torn apart by civil war. Off and on I hear stories of life during that time. These recollections are told from a child’s point of view. All my friends and my husband were kids at the time.

tn05

There are no gruesome details. I am in the far east of Serbia. Not far from Bulgaria. No battles took place here, but bombs were dropped not far away by the U.S.

My husband and his brother used to climb a nearby mountain to watch the bombs fall on a city about an hour away. To this day the sound of those planes send chills through his body.

I heard of one kid who was very mechanically talented. When the army was coming through confiscating trucks, he heard about it in advance. Quickly, he dismantled the family truck and scattered the parts about the yard and when the Serbian G.I. Joes arrived he told them all the parts were there, but they would have to put it together. Needless to say, they got to keep their truck.

I talked to one girl, her mother is a doctor. The need was so great for doctors her mother never came home for months. She was shuffled from one family member to another till the war was over. She was only six. But she said she didn’t mind. She just played where ever she was.

School was cancelled during the war. Kids, no matter what grades they had, were moved to the next grade.

If you want to share your stories, I would love to read about them and maybe put them on my blog. Leave a comment so we can chat!. But, I do not publish hate. I do not forget that I was in the country bombing this one. I am well aware some will carry grudges, but I have no wish to stir up any trouble. I love Serbia.

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.  😦

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! 🙂

Dobar Dan Y’all!