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. 😉 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!

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Munchkin Monday, Smarter by the Minute

I can almost see her brain growing. Her personality, wits and charm are taking me by storm. Her cuddly sweet nature melt me.

Her life is making me less and less selfish. My needs are secondary, unless I need to pee… even then it is questionable.

The learning curve is steep. I slip often. I know she comes first. We play on the floor, make tents in the bed, drink juice, and pee OFTEN. Other duties can wait.

Trying to find time for other things is a challenge. How can I accomplish anything besides laundry, and dishes when I am making food and drinks and putting her on the potty over and over again. I am not an organized person, and that sucks. I need to get my head sorted out, but how can I when I hear” Mommy” over and over followed by a request for her doll or cakes and milk?

I know these soft hugs and adorable puckered kisses will not stay, and even though it is trying at times. This time is precious. My heart burst with love and I can’t get enough of her  wrapping her toddler body in a full body hug as I carry her up the stairs. I love the way she hugs my leg as I pull up her pants after she used the potty. These are the moments that make is all worth it.

I am so grateful for her learning two languages at once. It is extremely  helpful that she repeats things in on language and then the other as she speaks to Baba and myself. I learn new words much easier that way.

Holding her kitty is one of her favorite things. I am sure the feeling is not shared by the kitty. Though the kitty still purrs away in its discomfort.

Village life~ The village Baba’s always stop us to chat and love giving her flowers from their gardens or some sort of candy. Munchkin relishes having a bouquet to carry or getting a sweet. Who doesn’t?

Because she is getting smarter and pickier, I am learning tricks from Baba, and I sure that goes both ways. I think my relationship with Baba is growing too as a result.

She is so comfortable with Baba, I have no trouble leaving to work now, and she goes on playing and chatting away.

The Baba’s say that caring for children is the sweetest job there is. Most of the time I agree. But every Mama needs a break for their own mental health. Upon returning to your baby’s smile after a short spell away, that is a little piece of heaven.

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

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.

 

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!

Ted Talks… Learning a language

I haven’t been around enough this year yet in Blog Land to talk about my goals for the year, but I do have a few.

I am serious about getting fluent in Serbian. This Ted Talk Really helped me gain insight and understand a few things AND confirmed a few things I thought I knew. Like learning from your partner on a small scale is good, it is wearing on your relationship if you really lean on them to be your end all teacher!

Maybe this will help you too, if this is an interest for you:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0yGdNEWdn0

I will share another Ted Talk and goal next week!

Entering the TEFL world (Please Help!)

I have been living in Serbia now for 9 months. It takes time to get your Sea legs when you get on a moving ship. I got on a moving ship with a moving baby. My identity has changed two-fold. I am not just an expat, but also an expat mum now. For the first few months it was as if the rug was swiftly removed and I was flailing to find footing.

Gratefully now, I am recovering. I think I landed on my backside, but I will soon be standing tall. I am finding my self and who I will become! I am entering the wold of TEFL or Teaching English as a Foreign Language.

I plan to start with and English club this fall at the Library. Meeting once a week with the first week getting a feel for who may be interested. It is a small town and I am not sure what I am in for, but I am optimistic! I believe children and teens will be my main students. But I would love to work with adults as well.

Eventually, I would love to make a living at this. I know that I love kids, I love teaching, and I have what no other English teachers have in my town, English as my Native tongue. This does not make me cocky, but confident I have something new to offer. I know I have lots to learn from teachers native to this land.

Any advice is welcome. Advice on teaching, books, and degrees. I haven’t gotten a TEFL degree yet. I am unsure if I will need one, but I am looking into them.

I would love to hear from other TEFLers on books that have been helpful. Thanks in advance!!

Culture shock is like PMS

Culture shock is like PMS. really. If you have never had PMS let me explain. Many of the simptoms are similar. 
Crankiness

Exhaustion

Overwhelming sadness for no reason

crying over stupid little things

exhaustion

misunderstanding

fighting with family, friends, partners

general ill at ease

Nothing seems to be right. The world is off kilter. ugh! disaster.

 

I got this idea as I was exploring the things that were frustrating me. I was once again laying down with the little monster, who was grouchy, fighting sleep, and sucking down milk like a frat boy chugs a beer. The washing machine was making thunderous noise through the closed bathroom door daring to fully wake the nearly sleeping child.

Thousands of things on my mental “To Do” list spiraling through my thoughts as the Christmas deadline looms. There is a Christmas video that needs work. Ornaments that “Need” to be made. Trips to town for various things and a constant nagging baby that is thrown in just to make things a bit more challenging. Fully knowing that I will have to put that all on hold to drape the laundry over the radiators befor anthing else gets done… and yet what do I do? I stop and write this blog. Shooting myself in the foot, by stopping to blog, having a personal pity party and a a bit of psycho-therapy all at once.

Always causing more of a strain on my life now is the Language. There is the language barrier continuously complicates things further. Making a simple trip to the store or post office into a stressful necessity. The language itself is probably the most exhausting factor.

Language is also a factor in dealing with relatives. A mother-in-law, in particular who is nothing but sweet, kind and understanding, but annoys the H- E- Double toothpicks out of me. Listening to an endless string of incomprehensible words that are always louder than necessary. A megaphone has nothing on her. Sometimes I feel like I am at a stopped at railroad intersection that holds the longest train of Words ever. Without the fun of counting the cars.

There are also household difficulties. I am so pleased we do not live with the in-laws as many locals do, but this time, mama has stayed with us almost enough to make it seem as though we are living with her.
Our home here is decidedly Serbian.

Things I have gotten used to include but are just the tip of the iceberg are: Tuning the bathroom light on before entering, taking shoes of at the door, wearing slippers around the house constantly, and having 7 course dinners every night are the kind of differences I am referring too.

I may be making this a regular post or… it’s very own Blog. It really has nothing to do with Serbia. Just with living internationally and the hardships involved. Whether you are living outside your home country or have done so previously, you will be able to relate!