Okay, what kind of weirdo blogger writes about her dog’s birthday?
Happy 2nd birthday to Milos, the best souvenir of our time in Serbia. I still catch myself yelling at him in Serbian, not that he listens in any language. However, he might listen to the Serbian happy birthday song (simply called Srecan Rodjendan). Serbia has a different birthday tune than you’re used to, and it’s catchier than I like to admit. Here’s a cheesy video of it for your listening pleasure.
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.
In an interesting mix of business and “doing business,” the Belgrade office of international advertising firm McCann Erickson devised a new ad campaign geared to convince Beogradjani to scoop their pet’s poop:
Okay, so it’s not all that sexy, especially by Belgrade standards. In a city with girls in bikinis selling luggage, a little junk in the trunk isn’t going to make people blink, but I hope it will make them pick up their pet’s, um, presents.
As a Belgrade dog owner, I offer a huge thanks to McCann Erickson for tackling this smelly subject. It’s hard to walk down the street or in a park without dodging dookie. Belgrade’s stray dogs can’t pick up after themselves, but I’ve seen far too many dog owners who refuse to pick up or acknowledge their own dog’s waste. I realize this isn’t high on the list of Belgrade’s problems, but it’s an easy way to make Belgrade a more enjoyable city for everyone. Plus, it avoids some pretty gross health problems.
So, Beogradjani, scoop that poop! Though you might want to bend at the knees…
Image and background info courtesy of http://adsoftheworld.com/taxonomy/brand/city_of_belgrade and this W!ld Rooster blog post.
One of the first people I met in Belgrade was named Nenad. I’m told that it’s a common name derived from the word iznenađenje, which means “surprise” in Serbian. Some Nenads receive the name because they were a twin, the mother was told that a child wasn’t possible, or because the baby came unexpectedly late or early in life. (Of course, some Nenads are just given a family name.)
Ever since learning this, I’ve joked to Muz that he’ll come home to find a Nenad of our own, wagging his tail in our apartment. I’ve seen a lot of puppies this spring and fall but I’ve managed to not take one home because (1) Muz will have a fit and (2) it’s hard enough to bring one dog back to the States, never mind two.
I developed a serious soft spot for these squirmy little guys, though. Someone was selling them/giving them away on Knez Mihailova two weeks ago. Hopefully someone else brought home a Nenad of their own.
Somewhere along the line I knew there’d be girls, visions, everything; somewhere along the line the pearl would be handed to me.
-Jack Kerouac, On the Road
I’m not actually on the road today but I though I’d share this snapshot of a very happy Milos in the car. Summer driving can be such a pain; sometimes it seems to be nothing but traffic, high gas prices, and bad roadside food. It’s hard to remember how much fun it can be–until I see this photo. It helps remind me that all the random sights and sounds and new experiences (good and bad) are interesting at worse and incredible at best. There’s also that feeling that even if things are going badly, somewhere, sometime, something amazing is going to come our way. And if it doesn’t, that’s ok. No one wants to hear about the trip that went perfectly, anyway.
A very happy (and hot) summer to our friends and family back home and our best wishes to everyone traveling on the road this summer.
You can bet your life that most Serbians were deep in prayer this Sunday–in front of the television, watching Novak Djokovic BEAT (!) Rafael Nadal for the Wimbledon men’s final.
I had grand plans to watch the match near the big tennis center by Sky Fitness, but we got caught in the awful mess that is the summertime Hungarian-Serbian border. I got back just in time to see sweet victory handed to a number-one Serbian son.
It’s hard to express how happy I am about this result. Not only is it well-deserved in my totally biased opinion, it means good things for Serbia. As Chelsea Handler’s recent comments attest, there is a fundamental and deep ignorance about this country. Whether it’s the lack of attention given to Eastern Europe in textbooks, the myopic viewpoint of the West (not just the U.S.), most people associate Serbia with war. I don’t think people should forget about the Balkan wars; it just shouldn’t be the only thing they know about the region. Now, when I tell people I live in Serbia, instead of the somber, “what’s it like?” I might be asked, “how’s your tennis game?”
Not as good as his. Or Ivanovic, Tipsarević, or most elementary school team players. But I digress.
A hearty congratulations to Serbia and Djokovic. Ladies, he’s single, so feel free to come to Serbia and get to know the man and the country. As far as I can tell, his only flaw is that he has a poodle instead of a French Bulldog. I guess no one’s perfect.
Here he commiserates with a furry friend who does not want to give up the OMIGODILOVETHIS, otherwise known as a ball. Miloš has developed an obsession with soccer balls. Fitting for a European dog, right? I’ve been trying to get Partizan and Red Star soccer balls to help Miloš declare his allegiance, but I haven’t found one yet. It’s probably for the best since this ball was destroyed in less than a week. Next time I’ll let him gnaw on the metal one in Rover’s mouth here. That ought to keep him busy for a while…