Bilingual Baby and the Mother Tongue

Like many American kids, I studied Spanish in elementary school, but my understanding of the language is pretty limited.

I also studied Latin in middle school, French in high school, Chinese in college, and now I study Serbian as an adult. Yet despite all this language exposure, I do not speak any other language fluently. I do have an appreciation for languages, understanding how cultural nuances can be gleaned from slang, and how the presence of foreign words in modern day jargon gives insight into a languages history. This is all well and great, but its like someone who can appreciate music but not play. Sure I can enjoy a night at the symphony, but when I try to play the violin, I’m an amateur.

I’ve spent countless hours studying the Serbian language, my stack of vocabulary cards is massive, my grammar charts declinating the cases are extensive, but when someone puts me on the spot at a party to speak Serbian, I freeze. I realize now, being a new parent of a beautiful baby boy, that I have an opportunity. The opportunity to give him something I don’t have. The gift of being bilingual. The freedom from wrestling with a language, the gift of natural fluency. I also realize that being bilingual is not something that is ensured simply because his father is. I see so many kids who were born in America to foreign parents, who don’t speak their parents native language well. They usually understand it easily enough, but they respond in English, and its only with a lot of prodding that they utter even a few words in that language. Why is this? Is it because they are surrounded by so much English all around them that this becomes more dominant in their brains? Is it because the parents did not insist on Serbian being spoken or whatever the secondary language is in the home, from day 1? Or is it, as I am starting to wonder now, that the window of language opportunity has closed, and the child’s brain is now wired for English, and speaking anything else requires mental work.  A New York Times article discussing the difference in brain activity between monolingual and bilingual babies talks about “neural commitment” in babies as young as 6 months old. It explains how by 10-12 months, monolingual babies brains are wired differently than bilingual babies brains, and monolingual babies have started to lose the ability to distinguish phonetics from any other language other than their own.

ćao!

After researching babies understanding of language and how they process sounds, meanings, and distinguish one language from the other, I’m even more motivated than before to encourage my child to be exposed to Serbian. But despite my efforts and my constant nagging of my husband to speak Serbian to our baby, I wonder if its all in vain. Even by modern standards, my husband is a very involved dad – skilled at swaddling, diapering, bathing, and bedtimes. But still, I have to admit that I probably speak way more to our baby than he does. Its just the natural way of things I suppose, our baby hears his mothers voice more. So say that I speak 70% of the words to the baby, and my husband speaks 30%. Of that 30%, perhaps half is in Serbian. Or, put another way, our baby hears several types of language in the home. Direct conversation with me, direct conversation with my husband, and overheard conversation between my husband and me. Of those 3 types, only one has the potential to be in Serbian, and probably only half the time it is. Is it realistic to assume that this miniscule amount of exposure to Serbian during infancy and childhood will ensure that 30 years from now he’ll be toasting in fluent Serbian at a slava?

At a kids birthday party recently, I discussed these ideas with a few other young parents. It was one of those great conversations where I found myself talking with a Serbian girl friend, a French woman, and her Israeli husband. I found myself laughing as they looked on with horror as they watched some American kids bashing a piñata. We discussed the differences in birthday traditions and shared stories about language and cultural barriers at home. We realized that the phrase native language or as we would say the “mother tongue” has a direct translation in both Serbian and French. In French, its “Langue Maternelle“, and in Serbian, “Maternji Jezik”. Both phrases have the word “mother” in them, hinting at the idea that its the mother who most influences the language of the child. If this is true, than perhaps my baby has little hope of becoming truly bilingual and will at best speak some form of “Serblish” like me, regardless of how many times I prod my husband to “govoriš Srpski to the baby, bre!”.

Do you have any experience raising a bilingual babe? Struggle to get your child to speak in anything other than English? What has worked for you? Let me know!

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What’s in a name?

Muž and I are expecting our first baby in June.  Preparing for baby has been an exhausting process. With nausea, fatigue, and emotional ups and downs permeating many of my days, keeping my cool in an incredibly challenging and stressful work environment while continuing to move forward in my training as an air traffic controller at a fast pace has been a struggle. One of the more joyful parts of the process of turning two into three has been choosing a name.

I’ve always held the belief that names are very important. Names are the first part of your identity that many people see or hear, and they are full of cultural nuance that I believe can help or hinder the named. I absolutely love my name and wouldn’t ever want anything different, it’s exactly me. My muž on the other hand, being born in Belgrade with a very Serbian name chose an American one for himself to help acclimate to society after immigrating to California. He chose a classic American name and it suits him perfectly. So now he has a handful of names and nicknames that he can choose at will; selecting to wear the one that best suits the current social climate.  To me, he’s just my “Voli Thing”. But most people do not get to name themselves, most people are stuck with the name their parents gave them without any say in the process.  I’m know I’m not just naming a baby boy; I’m naming a child, a teenager, a man who will one day work and love and eventually grow old. This name must carry him through life.

Being an international couple, we want an international name.  We want a name that he can use while traveling and living abroad if he chooses and in circles of global friendships that he surely will develop. We want a name that doesn’t sound too foreign to the average American, but one that his grandparents in Belgrade won’t stumble over. We want one that is unique, but not so unique that he will have to spell it out every time he introduces himself.  We want a name that is actually a name, not just a made up word, but nothing in the top 100 list. It must have the right balance of strength and likeability. It must be a trustworthy name, one that looks good on a resume, but also sounds good to a date.

We went through thousands of names; most of the obviously international favorites were just too popular for our taste – Dominic, Luka, Aleksandar, Stefan, etc. The Serbian ones were just too foreign sounding to the American ear – Lazar, Stanislav, Jovan, and somehow many of my suggestions curiously ended in “o” – Carlo, Corrado, Otto and Leo.   Then of course, we had our aviation names – Glenn, Neil, and Skyler. For a while we were fixated on Felix, inspired by Felix Baumgartner, the man who famously held the world’s attention in 2012 when he broke records by being the first man to skydive from outer space and break the speed of sound with his body in free fall. Conversations at our dinner table would sound something like this. “Is Felix the guy who brings coffee to the boss, or is Felix the boss himself?  Is Felix just the hot guy who is always off hang gliding or surfing, or is Felix the guy who puts a ring on it?” One by one, our long list of boy names dwindled as we vetoed them for some reason or another. We decided Felix had Peter Pan syndrome, and so he was off the list. Salvador was a tortured soul, and Nolan, well Nolan just didn’t stand up for himself enough, especially in relationships, and no guy named Trevor would ever cure cancer.

For a while we were at a stalemate, each vetoing the others name suggestions as soon as they were spoken.  For some time, Muž wanted to get a book of Slavic names, and he would google “Orthodox Calendar” and other things, looking for the most Serbian of all Serbian names. More than once, frustrated with the process, I pointed out to muž, not so lovingly, that our sons name would already include a Serbian last name, and that a Serbian first and last name made no sense, since after all, he is born to a Midwestern American mom living California. Our son would be American. Born in America, educated in America, and probably spend his lifetime in America.  Any time I mentioned this, an unspoken hesitation would flutter across muž’s face, as if he wasn’t really sure what to make of the idea of having an American son. Perhaps this very thought is why he launched into the search for a really Serbian name. If his son would be American, at least his name would be a reminder of his roots. I wonder if muž had ever considered that possibility growing up. I certainly never really considered the possibility that a child of mine would technically be a first generation American on one side.  I wonder how our son will think of his ancestry one day. His dad immigrating to the states in his mid-20s, with a rich and often misunderstood cultural past, and his moms family having come over to the New World with the pilgrims, as American as apple pie.

Pondering the cultural identity of my son brings up many questions. I wonder what his first word will be, and will his native language be Serblish, the hybrid Serbian-English that we speak only to each other at home?  Will Muž be Tata or Daddy? Will our son feel American or half Serbian? Will his grandparents in Belgrade be around long enough to tell him stories about the old country? Will he correct my Serbian grammar by age 3? Probably. Will he be a rock star, a neurosurgeon, or just a pilot like mom and dad? Will we be able to finally choose a name that honors both his father’s and mother’s heritage while still maintaining a timeless sense of style and allowing him to be accepted in both obscure villages and cosmopolitan circles?  The clock is ticking, but we are up for the challenge, the name game is on and we will play until the time is up.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”- William Shakespeare

Talking with Tata

Tonight, after dinner with my muz’s parents at his childhood home, he left me alone in the apartment while he went with his mom on an errand. Only his dad and I were there. This would be the first time I was alone with my father in law, and I was eager to practice my Serbian. He speaks only a few words in English. To my surprise – we spoke wonderfully. I spoke slowly and halted, but I somehow reached into the depths of my mind and pulled out vocabulary and grammar construction I hadn’t used since I was here last. We talked about many things, and we really understood each other! I was so encouraged by this conversation with him, that I am motivated to keep going with my Serbian. I really had an entire conversation with him. It was simple of course, but we communicated. We connected, without a translator. This is huge for me. This is the kind of moment that makes it all worth it. He is old and won’t be around forever, but now we have this connection, and that means so much.

“Where are you from?” vs “What do you do?”

In the US, at restaurants, in the elevator, at the grocery line check out, the single most common question you will hear in greetings and small talk is this: What do you do? Upon hearing the answer, opinions are formed, judgments laid out, and various doors and windows to conversation are open and shut based upon your answer to this question. In America, we define ourselves by our profession because we are individualists. We believe in the power of one more than in the power of the collective, we place value on individual rights, individual freedoms, and individual accomplishments. We very often judge a persons’ success by what they have achieved in their lifetime. This individuality stems from our ingrained national morality that values opportunity over heritage, equality over class systems, and individuality over the group. We believe that everyone is born with certain rights, and that with the right amount of hard work, determination, and perseverance, anyone can succeed. We have phrases such as “to pull oneself up by his bootstraps”, “rags to riches”, and “it doesn’t matter where you have come from, it only matters where you are going”. These age-old sayings explain what we respect. We believe in a system where any one person is born with a blank slate, and has the responsibility to make a life for themselves, regardless of whatever previous successes or failures their ancestors may have had. This mentality is part of the American spirit, and in a country that was formed by immigrants, that spirit has served us well, as we have been a nation of entrepreneurs, idealists, and visionaries.

This is a spirit that many who were not born here do not entirely understand. This is because in most other countries, it is the family line that is more important than the individual. It matters more where your great, great-grandfather was from or what he did, than what you, yourself have accomplished. When you meet another American for the first time, they will most likely within a few minutes of meeting you, ask you what you do for a living. Here, it is what you have chosen to do with your life’s work that defines you. Another common, but lesser important question is, “Where are you from?” To an American, this question refers to where you grew up or were raised. It does not have anything to do with your ethnicity or heritage. For me, the answer to that is always “The Midwest, more specifically, Kansas City, Missouri”. But when I use this answer with foreigners, they almost always look at me quizzically and say, “Yes, but where are you REALLY from”, as if I am avoiding their real question. I answer again, “the Midwest”, but they say, “Yes, but where are your parents from, your grandparents?” “They are from the Midwest too”, I answer. “Yes, but what about your great-grandparents, your ancestors?” Again, I answer, the Midwest. Apparently it’s surprising to a foreigner, who usually believes that America is a “baby” country, that an ordinary American like me could have roots that grow for centuries within my own country. It’s as if they are refusing to accept this truth, that I am from here, and so are my ancestors. Most of the time, when people ask me this, they continue to dig and dig until I name some European country, and it is only then that they are satisfied with my answer. It’s as if, I must say that I come from European descent in order to be accepted as legitimate. So I guess what they are asking is, what is my ethnicity, not, where am I from? If that is the case, they could just look at my skin color and reasonably determine that I have European ancestors. I do not consider myself a “European- American”, even though technically, if you trace my family tree long enough, I do have roots in Czechoslovakia, Sweden, England, and Germany. But if you are asking about that, it seems a bit discriminatory, don’t you think? To regard my European ancestors as my only legitimate ethnic roots is to completely disregard my American heritage as insignificant. And to disregard my American roots as insignificant is to ignore the important history of my homeland and the valuable lives that my relatives have experienced.

My mother can trace our family tree at least back to the 1600s, when Katarina Sheer came over from Germany, married a Juhngen (changed to the more American spelling -Younkin). She tells me about another Younkin, who was a private in the army in the Revolutionary War in 1775. We also had a relative in the American Civil War, a young boy who lied about his age, claiming to be 15, when he was only 13 so he could be a drummer boy, instead of staying home. A woman relative of mine helped found the National Benevolent Association in the 1880s, which was an orphanage in St Louis, Missouri, a city very close to where I was born one hundred years later. This association is still in existence today. I am also related to Alexander Majors, a founder of the Pony Express, the precursor to the United States Postal Service, and an important chapter in our history. The Pony Express originated in Jefferson City, Missouri, a town very close to where I was born generations later, and the same city that I competed in cross-country athletic races while I was in high school. Another relative of mine was a conscientious objector in the Civil War on the Confederate side; I also had family on the Union Side. One relative of mine rode with the cattle on the railroad from the Midwest out to California tending to their health along the way; he later became the State Veterinarian for Nebraska. Besides all this, we have a handwritten diary from our relative that was scribbled out while he crouched in the trenches as a soldier in World War 1. We have relatives that were Pioneers of the Wild, Wild West, and homesteaders who grew crops, developing the agriculture of our heartland on the unexplored prairie land. We even have an ancestor that boarded the Mayflower as a Pilgrim on the famous voyage to America in the 1620s. Moving to more modern history, my own grandfather was a commander of a Navy Ship in World War II, and my Great Uncle was the head of the cryptology (code deciphering unit) state side, and was in charge of over 100 waves (women military workers) that worked nightly deciphering codes coming in from the front lines. It was one of these women brought a decoded message to him in the middle of the night indicating that the war would soon be over. He promptly replied to the woman who brought it to him, “We need to go wake the admiral.” He was the 2nd person to lay eyes on those words that signaled the end of World War II and would soon shape world history.

A page from my family history book.

Another page from my family history book.

So yes, my ancestors have all played their roles in the significant and fascinating history of the United States and to dismiss all of that history, implying that it is only what happened before all this that is really important, it’s ignorant and disrespectful. When I hear people saying something like, “Yes, but where are you REALLY from”, it shows me that they don’t value my American heritage. While America has shorter roots than some other nations, they are certainly no less important.

My pride and awareness of my own cultural heritage in this country has little to do with the extensive history of the Balkans, however, it is interesting to note some societal milestones, to give us all some perspective. For example, the oldest major educational institution in Serbia, the University of Belgrade, was founded in 1808 or 1838, depending on which date you use as its origin. In contrast, the oldest university in America was founded in 1749 (University of Pennsylvania) or perhaps Harvard University (founded in 1636). And yes, our arts and culture paralleled each other as well, with the first American Opera house was constructed in 1859 (New Orleans), and a Serbian counterpart, the National Theater in Belgrade, was formed 9 years later in 1868.

As we all know, we cannot take credit for our ancestors; we can only claim what we have created in our own lives, the life we have chosen, not our genetic code or our country’s history. We favor personal responsibility over a sense of entitlement or ignorance. And what is even more valuable than my own ancestry is that every single person here has an opportunity, whether their parents were house cleaners or politicians, and that is something that my ancestors did fight to preserve. What you do with your own life is more of an indicator of your character than what your great grandparents did with theirs. Our inalienable rights given to us by our Creator and stated in our own Declaration of Independence say that everyone has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. America is not perfect, we admit it. It’s hard to maintain the values that our founding fathers stood for. But we embrace all Americans, whether they are born here or are new citizens from abroad, whether they come from royalty or from poverty, and regardless of creed, ethnicity, religious belief, or national origin. This is what my being an American is about; it’s not about what part of the world my ancestors were from. Our sense of American identity encourages each person to be themselves, to preserve their own identity while contributing with their own unique talents and skills to help make this place better. It’s this sense of identity that I am proud of, not a distant cultural heritage that skips my American roots.

Love and Moussaka

I’ve never been known as a domestic goddess. Most of my spare energy in life has been spent learning how to fly bigger and faster airplanes, and most of my free time was spent hanging around the airport. I wasn’t the type of girl who made cookies in the kitchen with a parent after school. It’s not because I didn’t want to, but because my mom wasn’t that kind of mom.  It wasn’t until my early 20s that I finally started to experiment in the kitchen. Movies like Big Night and Julie and Julia inspired me, and it helped that the guys I dated usually liked it. My sister-in-law, my only relative known for her excellent meals, has gifted me two aprons, and though they usually hang un-worn in my kitchen, I’ve always thought they’d do wonders for winning over the in-laws, if they come over.

When I was growing up, my mom was busy with the 5 of us young kids and our various extra-curricular activities, lessons, and events, and though she was a rare and genius mother, there was never much to say about her cooking skills. If we were lucky, we would get canned “Spaghetti-O’s”, a runny, goopy, mess of processed noodles, and if we weren’t, we’d get a lump of ground meat that had been cooked and cooked into a shriveled disc that was supposed to resemble a hamburger. Pair that with some gritty cold mac and cheese, and some lukewarm tap water in a goblet, and that was our dinner.  While we sat through it, picking at our food, someone would excuse themselves to microwave the plate or give a bite of it to the family dog. Meanwhile all 7 of us sat patiently at the dinner table, night after night, listening to my mom read us newspaper articles on various topics covering a wide range of history, politics, religion, and world affairs. The food on our dinner table played second fiddle to what was really important – intellectual stimulation. I never realized how that mentality had seeped into my own values until now. Why cook when there were so many other interesting, challenging, and rewarding pursuits that I could be using my valuable life energy on? I could be tutoring my Japanese student, writing a book, renewing my flight instructor ratings, working, or perhaps, online shopping!

It was only when I got to really know the secrets to my Serb’s heart that I realized I better channel my inner domestic goddess lest the Serbian community continue to make snide comments about how skinny my husband was, and oh yeah, what a good cook his late ex-wife was. I wasn’t about to let that happen, and so I learned, with no instruction other than the internet and my own creative devices, how to cook. By now I have a menu of Serb worthy dishes, the pinnacle of which I prepared for the 1st time tonight – Moussaka.

Ok, so I know what you’re thinking – Moussaka is not really Serbian, it’s Greek, but Serbs seem to love it nonetheless, and cook it much like an American family would prepare an Italian style pasta, a household family favorite. So tonight, after spotting a gorgeous eggplant at the grocery that seemed to be calling my name, I decided I was up for the task.

Several hours later and my kitchen looked like a tornado had made its way through. I was painstakingly making every morsel from scratch, and taking no shortcuts along the way. My muž came home halfway through the preparation, and he entered the door smiling and giddy, saying the hallway outside smelled like home (a Belgrade kitchen).  Pretty soon he was holding me like he did when we were first falling in love, as I stirred and chopped, and worked my magic. What emerged from my oven hours later was no less than a masterpiece! I was thrilled at my creation and my shoulders arched back in pride as I served moj muž that dish. His reaction was priceless! He gushed over how perfect it turned out, and immediately cleaned his plate and asked for seconds. He even said he couldn’t wait for tomorrow for leftovers. At the moment I am typing, he is in the other room singing and doing the dishes…ahh…..domestic bliss, and I created that!  The icing on the cake was when as he scraped the last crumb from his plate he murmured under his breath, “I think this is even better than my Mama’s”.

So take that Mama Z – you ain’t got nothing on me now!

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 eggplant
  • 3 potatoes
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes, or fresh chopped tomatoes
  • 1 onion
  • ¾ cup grated parmesan
  • Cinnamon
  • ½ cup butter
  • 4 cups milk
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • Feta
  • 2 eggs
  • Oregano
  • Fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

– Peel eggplant, cut into bite size pieces, salt, lay on paper towel for 30 minutes to draw out moisture

– Brown beat in pan with olive oil, add chopped onion, simmer for 10-15 minutes

– Add tomatoes, parsley, and oregano, simmer a bit more

– Whisk 1 egg and add to meat mixture, simmer, then add a shake or two of cinnamon

– In a separate pan, brown eggplant with olive oil

– Peel potatoes and slice them into round discs, brown in pan with olive oil, or you can roast them in the oven until slightly golden (eggplant could be grilled instead of fried as well)

– Béchamel Sauce: melt butter in skillet, whisk in flower, heat milk separately in a pot, slowly add the hot milk to the butter and flour mixture, whisking slowly until thickened (may take 5 – 10 minutes)

– Slowly add a beaten egg to the béchamel sauce mixture, whisking slowly, add salt and pepper to taste

– In a greased baking dish, start layering with the eggplant in first, then add most of the potatoes

– Add the entire meat mixture on top of the potatoes, then sprinkle with ½ cup parmesan

– Add the remaining potatoes, then another sprinkling of parmesan

– Pour all the béchamel sauce on top, and finish with a sprinkle of feta

– Bake for about 1 hour at 375 Degrees, monitor at the end – dish is finished when Sauce has baked into a puffed crisp

Notes

This recipe is a compilation from several recipes I found online, and has been tweaked a little by yours truly.

  • I believe that cooking is an art, not a science, and so all measurements and times are approximate, experimentation sometimes yields successful surprises!
  • Dish can be made with either lamb or beef
  • You can vary the amount of eggplant and potatoes, I used only 1 eggplant and more potatoes, however many recipes call for the opposite ratio, or to leave out either vegetable, according to your taste
  • Veggies can be grilled, fried, or roasted. This part is time consuming, so plan accordingly
  • Be sure to stir béchamel sauce until it thickens, otherwise it will be too runny
  • Some recipes suggest layering in the béchamel sauce throughout the dish, instead of having it on top

 

Mama goes to Belgrade

So my mother is currently on a Danube River Cruise with her boyfriend. Yes its December, just a few days before Christmas, and the Eastern European winter is very cold.  My mother is the kind of person who calls me up on a random Tuesday afternoon and announces that she will be journeying to Afghanistan the next day to work at a humanitarian aid project. She once called me to tell me that she was going to climb Mt. Everest, and did I want to join her? I didn’t bite, but my little brother did, and indeed, the 2 of them journeyed to Kathmandu, Nepal, for the adventure. The next month I received an email containing a single photo my mother took while flying in an Alaskan bush airplane on an aerial tour.

My mother was born in 1950, and lived a life of Midwestern conservatism.  An unsatisfying marriage, the toils of raising 5 children, and the shackles of suburban motherhood left her yearning to see the world and have her own life adventure, instead of waiting patiently while others had theirs.

So now here we are, she’s in her 60s, divorced, and travelling the world, mostly alone, but sometimes with a companion. Somehow she ended up in the very same far corner of the world that my in – laws live in: Belgrade, Serbia. Unfortunately, my mother didn’t realize until the 11th hour, that her river cruise brought her agonizingly close (100 miles) to my husband’s parents, who reside in Belgrade near the Tesla Museum. Why she didn’t make this connection until it was almost too late is beyond me, but nevermind the rational thought process here, this is my mother, who will probably show up in a blizzard wearing nothing but cruddy sandals and a jersey knit above the knee dress. Perhaps if we’re lucky, she’ll have thought to bring a scarf. I can only imagine the tongue lashing my mom will get from Mama Z if she showed up at the door without the proper winter apparel. Nevermind the fact that she bought a ticket from Vienna at the last-minute to spend the day with them, nope, what’s important will be the footwear. But I digress.

So my mom sends me an email this afternoon essentially saying that she wanted to fly from Vienna to Belgrade for 1 day and then fly back that evening to catch her midnight cruise departure. This would have been great, had it not been a mere 8 hours prior to her proposed arrival in Belgrade, and she contacted me in the evening over there. The in-laws are of course, sleeping and would in no way be prepared to entertain a foreign visitor (their son’s mother in law, no less), immediately upon waking. The in-laws are older and not exactly mobile. And oh yeah, they don’t speak English.

My mother, being penny wise and pound foolish, feels its justified to purchase last-minute airfare to see the in-laws in Serbia, show up practically unannounced in the dead of winter, but tells me that “it’s too expensive to call me”, when I email her to call me, so that we can discuss currency exchange, phone numbers for the relatives, address to the home, what to do in Belgrade, etc. Ahh…mom…

So now, after exchanging a storm of emails back and forth (her on some cruise ship internet port on the Danube river, me in Los Angeles) in which she tells me she can’t open my emails, she can only read the subject line, she’s on her own. It’s 7 AM in Belgrade, and her flight should be touching down within the hour. Dobro Doshli u Beograd, Mom, I hope you have a great day. 🙂

Don’t make me leave Belgrade!

I leave Belgrade tomorrow and I am so sad.
I really don’t want to leave this place, stvarno. But I have to go. I wish I could stay at least a few more weeks, at least a month, at least 6 months more. Everytime I talk about it, my time frame gets a little longer.
So I wanted to take this moment to say thank you to all the people here who made my stay really significant, enlightening, more comfortable, more enjoyable, or who just made me smile.
For all the people at Captain hostel, Mirana, Dixie, Dusan, and Severin…thanks for helping me with my Serbian homework and making me feel at home!
For all my teachers at my Serbian school, Neda, Katarina, Predrag, and Zeljiko, you guys are a great team! Thanks Katarina, for dealing with my meltdown so gracefully, and to Neda, you are amazing!! Class with you was always a pleasure!
To my other classmates, Natalia, Christophe, and Carolina, what fun we had!! And also to my friend Marta, from Poland, it was great going to concerts with you! Natasha, you were such a great classmate to get through those last few weeks with! And we had so much fun, too! 🙂 Hope to see you all in your own parts of the world at some point, lets keep in touch!
To all the random strangers who offered to help me find my way in Belgrade when I was lost, or offered to help translate for me, or give me a hand in some way, or even recommend a place to go out to. You are good people, Ja volim Serbi. To the guy at the post office who gave me the book, Aleksandar that I met on the street that first weekend, the people at the Kafana by my hostel whom I befriended, the girl from the Grad Ctr who is also a blogger, to the guy who said the Serbs would give me their kidney if I needed it, you guys are awesome and I wish I could stay and foster friendships with you all!!!! And of course, it was great to meet both fellow bloggers I met in Belgrade that are Americans living a Serbian experience, just like me! I can’t believe I’m not alone in this. Wish both of you the best of luck with the rest of your stay here. Thanks for meeting with me!! And keep blogging! 🙂
And to Sonja and Rade, my cousins, thank you for welcoming me with such open arms when we hadn’t even met before. Thanks for your generosity. You are great people and I am so glad I got to get to know you more. You made my stay so much better. Rade, you hooked me up with my DVDs with subtitles, and were so nice to escort me to and from home those few times. And Sonja, you are my favorite Serb here in Belgrade! You have dismantled all the negative impressions I ever had about Serbian women, thanks to a few unfortunate experiences back home, You are classy and beautiful, and I’m glad we are cousins. Thanks for all the endless translations and for being so excited about my visit! 🙂
Also, I must take a minute to apologize to all the people I didn’t get to see, all the friends of family, friends of friends, and others that I wanted to get together with or see more. I wish I could stay 6 months and see everyone! But know that Belgrade welcomed me fantastically! And I really love your city! 🙂 I’ll be back, for sure.
I know I will be back here soon, but it just won’t be the same. Next time, it won’t be as new. Next time I won’t be alone, I won’t live alone, and it won’t be my own adventure. But Belgrade will still be the same. Can’t wait till I return.
Thanks to everyone who finds my ramblings interesting enough to read. Please keep reading! I have tons more material to blog about that I just didn’t have time yet to type up, I was too busy exploring this great city and making every day a day to remember! So please keep on reading, there’s much more ahead…
See you next time, from California! 🙂
Cao!