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

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Farmer Problems, love stories and other village tales

Now that I am working on the farm here (in Serbia), I see that problems facing farmers in this neck of the woods are quite often different from the ones at home. The history of the land changes how things are done. The land is cut up into tiny sections or plots to farm, unlike back in the US where the fields being farmed are most often acres and acres for one farmer.

When a person decides to farm instead of moving to the city to get a job (like everyone else) a delicate process begins, finding land that is flat enough and close enough to other plots. All this at a good price. This can be tricky, and more complicated when people know you have worked in the U.S. and have an American wife!  Yep, the price goes up for us… but we are savvy and patient, we don’t buy over priced land.

This how it works for us: Mama makes calls to family member and friends begin to see if anyone has land they want to sell. When she does manage to acquire some, Then the game of “Connect the Plots” gets more interesting. And maybe you get lucky with some that are almost side by side.

This is where we are now. A few of the plots are quite close together, one is only separated by a long strip that is literally only two or three meters wide and a football field long.

Enter a love story half a century old. A woman long ago scorned and her thwarted desire breaks the connection. Quite literally, she was arranged to be married to the hubby’s father. He married someone else, my awesome Mother-in-law and they had my adorable hubby.

Rabbit trail…….Arranged marriages were quite common here not all that long ago. The hubby’s grandparents had an arranged marriage. Two prominent village families combined their land and their children. Talk about family business!

Back to the blog in progress~The sour old bitty won’t let it go, even though the land it just sitting there, and hasn’t been worked for YEARS. Still, she won’t let it go even for monetary gain! Her loss.

This is not the only love story of old that marks the village. Once I came downstairs to Mama having coffee with two of the neighbor women. I am not sure how they came to be sitting next to each other, but I noticed they only spoke to Mama and not each other. A strange tension was tangible.

After they left, Mama had a giggle about how they didn’t like each other. Back in the day, when they were both young girls, they had liked the same boy. One married the now long dead fellow and had a family. The other lived with her mother the rest of her life. These women were practically next door neighbors for eighty years!!!, and they refuse to speak to each other. 😦 Sad.

 

Choosing to be happy and letting things go is such a healthier lifestyle. Imagine the laughs they could have together if they only let the dead guy go and focused on life and friendship!

I can see how these things fester. We take a couple of dirt roads to get to our fields, this spring while one farmer was plowing his field, he decided to widen it a bit. The rest of the farmers using the gritty dirt road were a bit put off by his adding a few feet to his field by plowing into the well-traveled earth.  That kind of thing sticks in your craw. And when Papa drives the tractor on that strip, he steers the wheels over that bit of plowed patch so that the road again will be widened and the greedy goose won’t prosper from common property.

This is not the only episode of over plowing this season that has been an issue. One of our new fields (that abuts the sour old bitty’s unworked patch on the left) was measured, marked and planted. The knowledge of how much space we would need for the tractor to get around the trees guided our work. Two very large stones were placed at the edge our field and his to be out-of-the-way of the plows. The farmer, then plowed a full meter into our field. It isn’t like it will ruin our crops, our trees are another meter over so no harm done to them. But he won’t be reaping anything from our fields to be sure!

Distrust is something that seems to be ingrained in the heads of people here and it is no wonder. The hubby and I were interested in some land not far from one of our families biggest field’s. The very old village drunk was keen for some more beer and was eager to sell us land he was far to old to work.

We made arrangements to see the plot and picked up the antique gent for a look at the piece that was his. His rickety frame wobbled out to meet us on the road and we helped him climb slowly into the wagon.

To make a long story short, it turned out to be a nice piece of flat land with complications staggering. The son didn’t want us to buy it. From what I heard, he was a drunk too, and he didn’t want to work the land he wanted to sell it to spend the money on adult beverages. That apple didn’t fall far from the tree! He threatened my husband, but the hubby isn’t easily intimidated. 😉

When the paperwork was to be done and all was on its way to being signed in the city office, hubby got a look at the plot of land on a computer. It was not the same one he was shown.

Dah    Dah     Duh!     What a twist to this tale! After seeing the land, working out a price, repelling threats, and paying fees for paper work, we find out we almost bought and worked a completely different piece of land!

It pays to do things the right way and make sure things are handled properly!

I am positive there will be more village tales to come, I am always hearing old stories and experiencing new cultural things.
Thanks for stopping by!  I would love to hear if you have had any similar experiences. or interesting cultural stories. Please leave me a comment! 🙂

Dobar Dan Y’all!

 

 

 

 

 

In Honor of my Parents Love

This is a repost from my old blog with the same name at Blogspot.

This week we had a wonderful family reunion that led to a wonderful discovery.

I asked my mom to bring me some old photo albums so I could compare Millie to myself.

She unearthed a wonderful find, an old postcard.

I love this old Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes Post card. Tony the Tiger has had a few makeovers since then for sure!

 

The postmark is August 24, 1966. She writes about the rain and going swimming. At the end she mentions a boy asking to sit beside her, but says she didn’t like him all that well.

That same boy asked her to the camp fire at the end of camp, she didn’t want to go with him, but she was kinda pushed by a friend and….

After almost fifty years he is still sitting beside her. They were married 4 years later.  They have 3 kids and 8 Grand kids. Not bad for not liking the guy! 🙂

Happy Belated Valentine’s Day to my Mom and Dad!

Let them eat Cake

This is really a yummy apple bread, but in Serbia, Bread isn’t sweet and this IS!

I realized a lot of expats like myself are at a loss when baking abroad, I was! It is always a good bit of trial and error. Even when you use someone’s tried and true recipes, if the ingredients aren’t the same. The end product most certainly will not be either.

I have found that using recipes that I have never tasted before are better for me. I have no expectations. For instance. I could make something that I know and love, only to be disappointed with the outcome of perfectly good tasting cake. But when it doesn’t taste like what I am used to. 😦 I am not happy.

Now, I go to allrecipes.com and find a recipe that uses products I have access to here in Serbia. Or sometimes I use Pinterest. This recipe was on Pinterest, via Eva Bakes blog. She makes it with an extra topping, you can check it all out here. The topping is extra work and lots of extra calories. No thanks! this is yummy enough! I use an extra cup or two of apples. But that is all I have done to modify the recipe.

With out further rambling, here is the recipe that I get loads of compliments on! It makes two 8 inch round cakes.

Apple Bread (Cake)

Preheat your oven to 350 F or 175 C

Lightly grease two 8″ cake pans

~5 or 6 cups Apples I used the ones from our apple grove. I don’t know the name. I peel, core, and chop them. I do this before preheating, greasing pans and such. Or I used some from the freezer. We had a lot of apples!!

~4 eggs no particular size. Whatever the chickens lay, I use!

~1 cup vegetable oil

~2 tsp vanilla

~2 tsp baking soda

~2 tsp salt

~2 tsp cinnamon

~3 cups flour

~2 cups sugar

1 or 2 cups walnuts optional. That would be even more yummy. I must try that next time!! I love a little g

Beat eggs till fluffy, add oil, baking soda, salt, cinnamon,and vanilla.  Beat thoroughly. In increments add the flour and sugar… Stirring adding stirring etc.

Add the apple pieces last and mix thoroughly. Then pour half the batter in one pan, half in the other. and bake for one hour. Probably one at a time, depending on the size of your oven.

Remove it from the oven when it feels firm to touch. It is best to let it cool a few minutes. Don’t wait too long or someone else will eat it all! This screams Autumn! sweet, moist, Nom Nom Nom!!

This is the wonderfully organic and yummy blessing of living here in Serbia!!

Enjoy!!

Dobar dan Y’all!