This city Would Fail a Sanitation Inspection. OK, so I said a few words about this before, but I feel that I need just a small space to rant about the general level of cleanliness of this city. Me, as an American would usually preface a negative observation such as this with some time of positive statement, such as, I still really love Belgrade, but….
However a Serb probably wouldn’t do that, they would just jump right in, and so here we go.
Again, 95% of all bathrooms I have encountered are missing either soap, paper towels, toilet paper, running water, a working light, or a door that locks. Most of them are missing several of those. Even in my own hostel, which is a good one, had problems with the lock, their is mold growing throughout the cracks in the ceiling, their is no ventilation, and the hand held shower head has no perch. That is, you must set it on the floor of the bathtub if you need both hands, such as to pick up soap, a wash cloth, etc, and meanwhile the bathtub is filling up with shower water all the while….meanwhile you rush through it all before the hot water runs out…
The best restroom I have found in Serbia so far is the one in the American fast food joint KFC. Where I come from, you mostly avoid fast food bathrooms if you can, since they are the dirtiest. Here, they are the cleanest. What a juxtaposition.
When I met my husband’s cousin, a very nice man indeed, he was coughing and sneezy, and said he hadn’t come to pick me up at the airport because he was very sick a few days earlier. . His girlfriend was home with the same thing. He explained how he hacked and coughed, and his insides hurt so much from the coughing that he was dry heaving and in much pain….He then proceeded to kiss me three times on the cheek, as the Serbians do. Go Figure.
Today at school, my teacher was explaining about a recent flu epidemic, and how he got sick for 3 months, but still didn’t go to the doctor or hospital. Let me repeat that. He was sick for 3 months with the flu, and didn’t go to the doctor. By the way, he’s been wearing the same thing the last 2 days. And the hand towel in the school restroom is perpetually damp from frequent hand drying, and never a towel replaced. I’ve also been noticing a lot of people sick around here, and wonder if its due to the lack of sanitation, and compounded by the fact that everyone is kissing each other constantly and spreading their germs incessantly.
So today I stopped my my local Maxi Mart and searched high and low for hand sanitizer, which I never found. Yes, they have cigarettes on every corner, beer sold every 300 meters, cold pizza slices found for a dollar each, but no hand sanitizer at the biggest store around, something you can find at even the grubbiest gas station counter top in the USA. So I stocked up on mini tissues and some hand soap, and I am now less afraid of staying hydrated, for fear I may have to use the facilities and pick up a disease.
So this is how I happened on my great idea. Hear me out. A lot of young people in Serbia seem to spend all night in the clubs and all day in the cafes. Are they intentionally unemployed? This is what I first thought, but now I think maybe there is just no work. Maybe there are no jobs, the economy sucks. And the best way to make money is to sell cigarettes or work in an exchange office, or sell burned nuts from a street side vendor. So here is my idea…..Sanitation Kiosks!!! Yes, instead of selling cigarettes, sell hand sanitizer, personal toilet paper that fits in your purse, a quick drying hand towel, and maybe some Airborne immune medicine. Its genius, no?
Here’s another idea…how about creating a sanitation department that goes around and checks restaurants and public places to make sure they are up to code. Maybe first they would need to create a health code. Or maybe even a whole health department. Here’s how this would help stimulate the economy. They would need to create a whole branch of workers, people to create the health code, inspectors to check the code and enforce it, janitors and maids would need to be employed to clean bathrooms and streets and restaurants and hotels. A whole new section of employees would be created. Not to mention the fact that soap makers, toilet paper producers, paper towel distributors, etc, would make more business. Hey, they could even post those signs like they do in the US in every store window. A-F for cleanliness. Not one place here would receive an A, which is pretty much the standard in the US. I used to be annoyed with those signs found in every sink in the states that say: “Employees must wash hands before returning to work.” And then its repeated in Spanish. But now, I realize how absolutely genius this is. It creates awareness of personal hygiene. This is something I used to think was common sense. But now I realize, its not. It must be part of societies culture. And so I recommend putting signs around all over in Serbian and English that say something like the following: Washing hands prevents disease. Or it could say: “Promote good health, always wash hands with soap and water.” Or it could even give directions on how to wash your hands. Or perhaps, to finally get rid of the obnoxious old wives tales, it could say “Consuming Garlic and Tea are No Substitute for Hand Washing” think any combination of the above would be helpful. You’d think a country to closely tied to Socialism would love a public campaign such as this. So not only would this stimulate the economy in many ways, it would also stimulate the economy by keeping workers healthy and productive, instead of home sick for 3 months, or going to work feeling like crap because they are under the weather. Doctors might benefit as well if people would go to them when they were sick, and pharmaceutical companies could benefit by selling antibiotics and cold medicine. Its a win win!! And then I wouldn’t have to listen to the hacking, the incessant blowing of the nose, and the general personal habits that make cringe repeatedly throughout the day….And the benefit is, all these improvements could create jobs!! Less unemployment, more productivity, happier citizens that go to work and make money and come home to clean homes. And probably way more tourists as well….. Obviously I am new to the city and probably have no idea the road blocks to sanitation, the reasons behind it, blah blah blah, but it can’t be that difficult right? After all, if Belgraders are sophisticated enough to sip espressos and dine on delicate pastries all day, can’t they take the time to wash their hands?
Just my humble suggestions…..