Read, Write, Run, Roam

A mildly successful, slightly silent, re-entry


Expats warned us that it is harder to go back home than it is to move abroad. I suppose that’s because moving somewhere new is usually exciting, even more so when it’s a foreign country. Adjusting to new languages, sights and sounds is time-consuming and (hopefully) interesting. Moving back to a known city, however, can seem like a bit of a letdown. Oh, there’s my old apartment building. Yep, that’s the coffee shop I went to for five years. Here’s the shoe repair store that ripped me off one time. And so on.

Yet so far, I don’t feel let down. Everything is familiar, but a find myself being confused or tongue tied at the simplest things. It’s almost like my first weeks in Belgrade all over again.

Here’s an example. I went to Starbucks yesterday and when it was my turn to order, I was unable to speak for twenty seconds. I wanted to order a grande green tea. Simple, right? But there were two or three kinds of green tea, and I couldn’t figure out the difference. Then I tried to remember how to say “medium” in Serbian but (1) I was not in Serbia and (2) if we had a Starbucks in Serbia it would still be called a grande. (Also, they don’t really have “medium” portions of things in Serbia. Go big or go home.) I stood there, mute, for about 20 seconds while I tried to figure this all out. Finally, I just sputtered “Tea. Green. Medium,” like a robot that barely spoke English (or Serbian, for that matter.)

Green tea in hand, I walked to my dentist’s office. I went into the restroom before my appointment and hit the light switch just outside the door. The hallway went dark. I thought the power went out for about five seconds before I remembered that U.S. light switches are inside the restroom, not outside. Someone poked their head out into the hallway but I managed to flip the light and dash into the restroom before anyone could see me. Probably.

My dentist, a man of Iranian heritage, asked what I was doing these days. I said I had just returned from a year in Serbia. I wondered if he’d respond: “Where’s Serbia?” I figured at best he’d say “sounds interesting” and at worst he’d say, “How bad was it?” What he said made me, once again, completely dumbfounded: “Govorite li Srpski?”

That’s right, readers. My Iranian-born dentist lived in Belgrade and Nis for two years. He went to University there before coming to America. I had no idea. We chatted and laughed, until he told me I had a cavity. (Thanks, krempite.) Then I was silent again, but for entirely different and more painful reasons.

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8 responses

  1. erasfa

    World is a small place! There were a lot of students from Iran, different Arab and African countries who studied in in former Yugoslavia. Some returned to homeland, some stayed here and the rest went to other countries, like your dentist. I guess slogan Govori srpski da te ceo svet razume! is actually befitting for this situation. 🙂

    November 3, 2011 at 7:07 pm

  2. milena

    Govori srpski da te ceo svet razume 🙂

    November 4, 2011 at 9:13 am

  3. FiReSTaRT

    You should have gone with a dentist in Belgrade. They are well trained, well equipped and a lot cheaper, unless you have benefits. In any case, welcome back!

    November 4, 2011 at 2:48 pm

  4. gemgem

    Hi, I’ve just stumbled onto your blog from Live Life Like a Best Seller, and you’re great! Will you be back in Serbia soon, what’s the deal?

    November 5, 2011 at 3:45 am

  5. Thanks! I hope to return next summer, but nothing is set yet. Fortunately we have Serbian friends visiting us this spring (!!!!!!) so I will still get a “Belgrade fix” no matter what happens.

    November 8, 2011 at 3:52 pm

  6. I heard that when I was there, but I didn’t go because I’ve never had dental problems! I wish I had gone. I do have benefits here but it was still expensive.

    November 8, 2011 at 3:53 pm

  7. Veomo istinito!

    November 8, 2011 at 3:54 pm

  8. Milena, veomo istinito!

    November 8, 2011 at 3:55 pm

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