You don’t know until you KNOW

Homemade wool socks form the neighbor’s sheep. Home made canned cherries.

This applies to so much in life. I have found the things I believed as a child and even as an adult were not as they seemed time and time again. These misconceptions are multiplied when you live internationally. Some concepts are placed within language, culture, and tradition. We don’t question them. They just ARE.

There are so many unwritten rules that we learn almost from conception. But they are just perceptions. One way of seeing or doing things. Yet, they are presented as an unwavering truth.

I remember, my brother-in-law having an oil stain on his shirt. I had been told my whole life that if an oil stain is dried in a dryer, there is no hope of removal. The stain is set. He had not grown up with a dryer and never heard this. He worked on the stain and removed it. I still don’t know how! I was astonished. But this was just one of the revelations to come in the coming years as one straddling countries, beliefs, and traditions. It is truly eye-opening!

The need for slippers.

My grandmother used to say, “You will catch your death of cold.” I never found this to be more true than in a Serbian village house in the winter. The homes here are made of cement. The walls are thick. If they have been left to chill in the winter, they are a veritable ICEBOX!

Enter the fear of being barefoot and the need for slippers ANY TIME OF YEAR!

In my home country of the U.S. slippers are optional. Often, the homes are warm and well insulated. On our first few extended trips to Serbia, we lived in an apartment. The heating was more than adequate. We were on the third floor. The heat rises and the floors were not even slightly cool. Then, on our fourth and longest trip to Serbia, we moved to a village house. This was a perfect place of freedom during COVID quarantine, but I learned the need for slippers is real. The cold comes up through the ground. The ice monster wraps itself around your feet swallowing you like an anaconda. You are chilled to the bone. Regaining your vital warmth is essential. Slippers are the barrier that may protect you from this deathly chill. Slippers are necessary if you are in this style of home. I now KNOW the necessity of slippers. Though, I still love bare feet in the summer or when the home doesn’t threaten my soul with a lasting chill.

When we first arrived, I noticed immediately that slippers were a huge deal. When entering a home you remove your shoes and are given slippers to wear. I like being barefoot and declined to the shock of some of the hosts.

I am sure they have all experienced the bone chilling cold I told you about. There are many old wives tales associated with that. (We won’t venture down that rabbit trail at this time.) Thus the deep-seated fears associated with bare feet.

Maybe there is something more I don’t know. on being barefoot in this area. But I do KNOW being barefoot where I come from is normal, healthy, and it just feels good in the grass, sand, and on a nice carpet. Where ever! I love being barefoot whenever possible. Cue the Shakira song, Wherever whenever!

In many European countries, air conditioning is seen as unhealthy and dangerous! There are lots of rumors of how it has caused illness or even killed someone. I have heard these protests first hand from Europeans fresh off the boat, but just like I had no idea of how frigid the cement block homes of Serbia could become, the newcomers to the U.S. do not know the dangers of the heat in our homes. Some poorly insulated old homes become ovens cooking the residence. Without air conditioning, people do die. The deaths are added to the statistics and are reported on the news. 

When heat waves hit, large air-conditioned buildings are available in every community for those without essential AC’s. The elderly are usually the most in need of rescue. They are the ones who succumb to the high temperatures.

That same brother-in-law I spoke of earlier used to tell me how dangerous air conditioning was. He now lives in Miami. I am sure his opinion of central air has changed immeasurably with life experience in one of the hottest cities in the U.S.

What you “know” may be subject to change. What your friends or acquaintances “know” is the same. Be careful of your judgments, be kind and forgiving of yourself and others. Also, be kind and forgiving of me as I post my perceptions of Serbia. I am aware they may be wrong. My perceptions may change. Many already have.

You really don’t know, until you know.

Our Airbnb Chalkidiki Greece

Not long ago we spent 10 days in Greece. It was glorious. 

Let me tell you about our place. It was wonderful. Airbnb link is below. You can check out the pics of the interior on the site.

A place for rejuvenation. ZEN Tranquility


My husband found this place while searching for a vacation spot in Greece. We looked at the pictures and dreamed about getting away. This place didn’t disappoint.  The farm is a peaceful setting. Olive orchards surround the property, there is no buzz of traffic. It is quiet. You can hear yourself think.
The hosts are great communicators. We never had trouble waiting for a response. They have excellent English skills. 

We let them know the approximate time of our arrival and they were waiting. They opened the gate to their spacious driveway ask we pulled up! We were greeted immediately upon arrival and shown around with info about the place. We were told to let them know if there was something we needed. 

They also gave us some fresh eggs from the chickens and some luscious flavorful tomatoes from their own garden. SO YUMMY! One of the perks of farm living. 

INSIDE: The great room encompasses the bed couch and kitchen area but it isn’t crowded. The decor is thoughtful, relaxing, and the colors happy and peaceful. This was a family trip. The three of us. Our 9 yr old loved the place. She was just as happy and comfortable as we were. They are very family-friendly!  

The bathroom is SPACIOUS! This is a self-service spa with a jacuzzi tub for two. The amenities are top-notch. 

Our hosts invited us for a pizza picnic on the deck. It was scrumptious.

There is a sea view from the picnic/ grill area. I sat and enjoyed a good book just outside the doors while enjoying the breeze and singing birds.  I enjoyed the view. The hills roll down to the sea covered in ruffled rows of olive trees. It is a treat for the eyes. 

The kitchen is stocked with the necessities. And if we need anything we were encouraged to ask. The hosts are genuinely kind, helpful, and willing to give travel advice about things to do locally.  We even enjoyed a night out with them. They introduced us to a seaside village seeping with history. This well preserved in a tourist town about 30 min away offered great shopping, an old church, and a museum. The ancient architecture and seaside restaurants were divine. 

The conversation with our well-educated tour guides/hosts was just as wonderful. Thier English is Excellent! I can’t say enough good about them. They are wonderful and so is the place. We came back to a great night’s rest after an authentic night out in Greece. Clean, serene, and the beds and pillows are super comfy! I have rarely slept so well when on vacation. 

The beach is just a short drive away. We found a beach area that is sparsely populated even during the peak season! We went every day to enjoy the sun, the small waves, and the warm breeze. My idea of a great vacation! 

The lidl grocery store was an even shorter drive, we stopped to pick up necessities when we needed them. 


I highly recommend this place to others and hope to return for another visit. This is a gem!

Here is their link to the Airbnb site. 

Serbian Kittehs

During my bike trip to Gornje Zunic I encountered lots of farm kitties! Lots were wondering about and others enjoyed the sun’s rays warming their fur. Cats always make me happy. They are my favorite animals. Next to horses and cows. Farm girl confessions. 🙂

Kitty in the road.

 

He ran away as I approached.

Take some time to enjoy the spring sunshine. Absorb some vitamin D and just enjoy the end of Old man winter!

Recovering Energy

Sunday was the Big day, 1400 sour cherry trees planted. Gathering all the seedlings from the garden was done the day before. The big day we started out at 6 AM with three tractors pulling two wagons, and one large corkscrew digger thing to dig the holes.

Seedlings were stacked in the wagons and the crew took seats and rode the bumpy wagon to the fields. There was another lady, her and I trimmed the roots to prime them for the new soil and fertilizer. We joined the men when that job was done.  Planting was really hard work, making sure they were in straight rows takes time and patience.

On the way down the hill to the last field there was a little excitement as the tractor began to slide down the hill in an expedited fashion. Control was gained rapidly and the roller coaster butterflies were squelched as quickly as they began.

The last field was the smallest and went super fast even though we had lost two workers. They had asked if I wanted to leave as I was a female (I guess?). But, this is my field too, I will work it! So I stayed and was happy to see the job done.

After the long day, there was a very large feast prepared by Mama and Aunty Slavica! It was awesome, and loud and so smokey. The best part for most was the roasted pig!

I opted out with the munchkin, we went home early. I savored the quiet and fresh air of the condo. It started to rain just after we got home. It was a long steady rain that will soak the cherry trees and melt the fertilizer, feeding the little saplings. 🙂 Yay!

We had about 10 people working hard to achieve the goal. Thank God for great friends! I wasn’t even doing the really hard work and all I did was lay around yesterday. I know the team has to be hurting!

Today, I am a new woman. And I have a break to write while the little one sleeps. 🙂

Preparing for my last class tomorrow and figuring out what to pack for the little one and myself for the next month+ are my next projects.

This little Mama is overjoyed to go home!!! Making plans with friends for reunions is a big priority. I may or may not be containing the drool that pools in my mouth as I think forward to Thanksgiving! YUM! Pecan pie, green bean casserole, and the rest of the fixings are coming to mind. My belly growls even though I just ate.

Bring it all on!

I hear the whimpering munchkin duties calling now. Naptime is over.

Dobar Dan Y’all

Whatever Wednesday~ Right Now

Right now, things are a bit Crazy! For the past two weeks we were preparing to plant several hundred sour cherry seedlings. It was going to be last week. Then when the hubby pulled one up and saw the roots were green, the date was pushed back to possibly this weekend. If the roots are green, the plant is working on something. If they are replanted, it may injure them or kill them. I have learned lots of new stuff in the last week regarding planting. That was one of the many things.

Planting is on hold now because Mama tripped and fell HARD! She broke the top ball par of her upper arm bone or humerus. Not funny at all. She is sporting a shirt style cast missing one arm, with the broken arm pinned to her middle. Poor lady, I can imagine sleep is difficult for her. And covering herself is a serious challenge.

The Munchkin finds the cast interesting.. She knocks on it like a door.  We all had a good laugh over that.

Taking showers in our house is a bit awkward at the moment. It was 4 AM two or three weeks ago, when I was awakened by a loud CRASH and then more crashing. The acoustics in the bathroom enhanced the sound of the tiles falling from the wall into the tub and even woke the neighbors on the other side of the very thick cement wall.

It scared the crap put of me at first and I was afraid someone was breaking in and even had a flash of fear going back to the bomb in our building 5 years ago. But when I got up and saw the tiles I was at least relieved neither of those scenarios were true.

Because we have been so busy with the farm work, we haven’t been able to get the wall fixed.

 

The day the tiles came off the wall was the day we road tripped up to Krusevac for a seminar. I went to make contacts with a fellow expat who has an NVO with a Green emphasis. He invited me to help me with my English teaching project that is working on  a Green agenda. I did some good networking. But now I must wait til I return from the States to make further progress.

Our work in the village has consisted of: Making markers out of corn stocks from our corn field, marking four fields for planting, harvesting carrots and beets. Oh, and dealing with a guy who was steeling wood from our forest. That is a felony here… We have been busy.

Marking the fields was more difficult than I thought. It takes a lot of planning. The tractor must be able to go around the rows of trees, the trees much be planted super straight, and the fields must be plowed before we do the marking and planting to soften the soil to make marking and planting easier.

Then, when we get to the field, the hubby and the Papa bicker over where to start, what is best… and a bunch of stuff I can’t understand. So I walk around taking pics to share with you. But the new motherboard in my computer screwed it up and won’t let me add pics. The hubby’s computer screen went out last night, so no pics. C’est la vie!

In the end the fields got marked with the help of really skinny trees or long poles cut from the forest. They were measured and used as measuring sticks. About four long ropes tied together were used to keep the rows straight. They were pulled tight and then laid down carefully. Marker corn stalks were shoved into the dirt at measured stick length intervals and after a couple of days the fields, with lots of corn stalks sprouting just out of the dirt wait for a team of friends with shovels and about a thousand seedlings to come and make new little orchards.

First all those seedlings will have to be plucked and have the roots trimmed just before they are replanted.

 

Mama was going to care for the Munchkin, I am not sure if I will be able to help now. She would have cooked to feed the mass of field hands… she is good at making bulk amounts of food. Did I mention it is all Serbian food. Of course!! So now, I am not sure what will happen.  or when.

Adding to that, the Munchkin and I will be flying away for a visit to my homeland in about 2 weeks.

My Serbian paper work, that makes me legal to live here without crossing borders every so often and on my way to citizenship was filed in December of last year. It should be filed at the same time. But I will be in the U.S. The money invested to start the process may go down the drain. 😦 Hubby is going to the police station today to see what we can do about that mess. Either way I am legal. I have papers and I will go home.  And being legal here isn’t really a problem since I am married to a Serb and enhanced by our little Half blood princess. 🙂

Needless to say we are a little busy. Off to make more apple bread cake to make life a little sweeter.

Dobar Dan Y’all!

Photography Friday~ Fall in Vina

We pulled off to the side of the road when we saw Papa working on the tractor last week as we made our way to the village.

The Muz helped his dad while the munchkin and I explored the field and foraged for walnuts under a big walnut tree.

This beats pulling of to the side of a highway in NYC. The John Young Parkway may be a beautiful in some places, but not nearly as safe. But the Van Wyck expressway… fugetaboutit!. This is better in every way! Just a random thought that came to me as I compare pulling of to the side of the road here and back home. 🙂

This picture is from about a month ago, and it looks like something you would find in a history book. Time stands still in so many ways in Serbia.

Sometimes I can’t believe my eyes. And I think this is why at times my life seems surreal. Like I don’t live in the “real” world. I feel out of touch with modernity and what is going on in the outside or western world.

Such a contrast to other places I have lived. In New York, I felt like I was always up to date and enjoyed the fast pace.

In Maryland, I loved the relaxed beach life. And in California, I experienced a culture shock living on the left coast. Every place has its benefits, downfalls and beauty. You just have to find the joy in where you are.

I find joy in the beauty of the wilderness in Serbia, the wonderful people, and the antiquities now featured in story books back home.

I get some really cool surprises sometimes. Like this!

I found a small long ago disguarded antler laying in the forest while we gathered wood for the winter. Then while taking a break from the work sitting in the shade I found a little feather. This is the kind of stuff that makes my day. Simple pleasures.

Oh and these stickers never cease to give me a bit of mental mirth!

I hope you find pleasure in the simple little things too.

Dobar dan Y’all!

Whatever Wednesday~ field work

Yesterday, we literally were working in the fields. I saw three field mice when I disturbed their shredded corn husk nests. The pair of us, my man and I were picking up piles of corn stalks to stack and use later in planting our baby sour cherry trees. I also saw a tiny lizard on the same field.

The hubby and I made quick work of that small field and soon we were off to harvest walnuts. A very long stick was used to beat the upper branches to free some of the clingy nuts, that was the tall man’s job. I scavenged on the ground for those who had already given up tree hugging. The pastures floor was riddled with nuts and I soon had my bucket full.

http://www.nuts.com/gifts/bucketsofnuts/walnuts.html (My bucket was much less commercial looking.)

Buck kept us company. Our “hot dog” style mutt, ran from one of us to the other and around the field and regulated the vehicles that passed occasionally.  Once he tried to steal some nuts from my bucket, but he wasn’t pleased with the taste.

Back at the house there were a few more trees to smack and more nuts to harvest. One of the biggest trees stands over a small ridge where a small creek trickles below.

The hollow under the ridge was covered with nuts, so we went back for our boots and went down the hill like Jack and Jill. This was the easiest place to find them with no long grasses hiding them, and there were so many!

While we were down there, the hubby found an old horse or cow skull. You don’t see that everyday. Well, unless you have a love for south west  art including cow skulls….

Soon the munchkin made her way down via Baba’s arms and when she saw me, it was all over. Back to Munchkin duty. Thanks God for naps that allow me to sneak away for a bit.

It is morning now, and she will soon wake from her long nights nap so I will bit you adieu for now and share more stories next time.

Wish me luck, I have my third TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) class tonight. I have been taking an online free class in TEFL course and I am excited I have learned so much to help me do a better job!! Can’t wait to use my new skills!! Thank you TEFL boot camp!

Happy Hump day Y’all!

Photography Friday~ Barn & Garden pics

We spent a few days in the village this week. It was peaceful and beautiful. Food fresh from the garden fills our stomachs. Going to the back of the house is like visiting the produce section of the grocery store.

Our seedlings are growing well. I have done a good bit of weeding, and it is nice to see the progress! They got a bit of a parasite and we have to give them some  medicine. Soon they will be all better. Lots of tender loving care is going into raising these babies just like with the Munchkin.

One afternoon, I got a decent break from motherhood and retreated to the barn loft with a cup of tea. The smells of hay and drying grains kept me company.

Old roof tiles stacked and ready when needed.

And even though I was enjoying the break from my little one, my mind went to her as I looked at the vines hugging the barn beams like my Munchkin hugs my legs.

The loft was quiet, not even the sound of the chirping chicks below made it up the narrow  barn stairs.

 

The “stairs” are little more than a latter with double rungs and a rail. But they do the job. What a great place to have as a retreat.

Soon enough the sound of my Goldilocks brought me back to reality. Baba had gone up to the rooftop terrace to show the Munchkin where I was.

Then it was back to the grind… 😉

Photography Friday~ Zubetinac

More Fairy Tale village pics!

Fresh fruit from the village.

Last week I spent 4 days in the beautiful village of Zubetinac. I have posted about It before, but the pics were taken in late winter/early spring. It is like another world with the colors of summer giving it a make over.

Baba was watching her munchkins in the garden

It was a great get away for the little one and I. Not terribly relaxing… We were guests of my Serbian besty and her two little ones (pictured above). Most of the time we were minding the three dwarfs. Our only reprieve was when they slept.

I was glad to get away with my pal. Girl time is priceless. Like water for my friend parched soul. I only regret there are no pics of the two of us.

These two flowers will take our place.

Munchkin Tuesday Little Rock

Perfection~ an old Turkish style Serbian house. I am in LOVE!

Sunday we went to a friend’s village for a Slava. (One of those Big Thanksgiving type dinners that are related to a saint.) We went to a village I had only previously driven through before. Gore Kamenica or Upper Little Rock is the name of the town, like Little Rock, Arkansas. It reminds me of the country song, “RockyTop” and it as just as country as the song!

The food was nothing less than spectacular, Fresh from the garden veggies, Home made  cheese from the cow and the sheep’s milk! YUM! Roasted lamb and of course, Rakija!

The Munchkin didn’t allow me to eat much, soon we were off to play with the other kids and eventually took a walk.

Just down the road we ran into some other familiar children and soon out the front door comes a friend of mine. How Fun to run into friends in a town half an hour from home!

Mosquitoes and rain drops drove us back home after seeing some gorgeous fairy-tale village scenes.

Old Serbian Home

Old Serbian Home

This old house was just the tip of the iceberg. So much to great stuff to see. I could walk around these old villages for eternity. Ideally with the good camera and no Munchkin. 😉 Chasing after the Speedy toddler impairs the view. Here are a few more phone pics for the road!

Check out this chicken walk!

 

Doesn’t this look like something you would see in a movie?

End of the blurry pics.
Happy Tuesday! Dobar dan.