A Year of Days in Belgrade
NOTE: I can’t find my thingee (technical term) that transfers photos to my computer, so I can’t show you all the cool stuff I’ve done this week. Instead, I’m posting a revised essay I wrote in May for my writing group. Hope you enjoy it.
A Year of Days in Belgrade
Godinu dana: a year of days. I’m told that’s the proper phrase to use when I explain how long I’ll be in Belgrade. I like this expression; it highlights my urgency to see everything, go everywhere, and eat anything in just 365 days. When I remember this year, I’ll think of the special days that defined the confusion, frustration, and happiness of a life abroad.
My first few days in Belgrade were a rainy blur. I was dizzy with jet lag. I had no idea where we lived and was constantly getting lost. To bring some sense into our new life, I started Serbian classes on my third day in Belgrade. After 30 minutes of instruction, the teacher asked if I had any questions. She then blinked rapidly as I asked, “Where can I buy a hair dryer? What do I say when the telephone rings? Why do streets have two different names? After patiently answering all my questions, we ended the lesson in a Bosch appliance store while I asked, “Treba mi fan?”
Then there was the day I ended my semi-vegetarian lifestyle. It didn’t take long. We were invited to lunch at a winery near Topola. The table was heavy with smoked meats and roasted lamb. I tried some dried vegetables instead, only to discover it was duvan čvarci. It was the first day in my life I ate pork rind. It would not be the last.
Life changed quite a bit on the Saturday we picked up our dog. The breeder spoke little English, and our Serbian was rudimentary, but he welcomed us like relatives. We sat shoeless in his living room and admired the juices and sodas carefully displayed on a nearby table. He asked lots of questions and gave us strict instructions. It was my first lesson in the Serbian love for dogs, despite (or because of) the strays I see around town.
One Sunday evening, Serbia suddenly seemed like home. We visited Studenica Monastery and were given a tour of the three churches inside. We drank coffee with a monk and spoke in broken Serbian-English about the church, life in Belgrade, and our families. For the first time in months, I felt as though I was a part of my surroundings, rather than passing through them on a first-class train.
Now I wonder about the days when we return to the United States. I wonder if I’ll overhear Serbian, or if someone will stop me when I’m telling our dog hajde, dosta, and fuje to. If that happens, I’ll say, Zivela sam u Beogradu za godinu dana. A year of unforgettable days.