Orthodoxy at the Post Office

Near the Posta

Several Days after my hostel received a notice from the post office that I had a package to pick up; they received a follow up notice. The next day, they finally told me about it. I knew the only way I would get my laptop back was to go to the Central post office myself, but I only had 1 hour between 8-9AM that I could do it; since they are closed by the time I would get out of school everyday. So I took the number 2 tram from old town down to the main Autobuska Stanica and found my way to Savska 2, main Posta. Once there, I patiently waited in line for 20 minutes, only to be told that I needed to go to floor 5, room 507…(why the hostel did not tell me this from the letter in Serbian I received is beyond me). The elevator was broken so I climbed 6 flights of stairs to the 5th floor. The first floor is actually the 2nd. Once I got there, I found my way from hollow room to hollow room until I reached 507, surprisingly labeled so, and in it sat 3 women lazily sorting a mess of packages. I showed a woman my letter from the Posta, and she ushered me to room 504. I eyed my package from across the room. That’s mine! I said, pointing at the package. Moj muz mailed me my computer from California. I tried to explain that he was Serbian (as if it would help)
From there, a man ushered me to room 503, and it was there that I met the man who I would later come to know as Marko. Marko was young and spoke more English than anyone I had met that day, which is not saying much, and it was he who took me and my laptop package all the way back to the ground floor, around the back, through the employees entrance, hurriedly explained something to the man behind the desk, and then winked at me, and said “This man, he help you”. Hvala Puno! I said, and presented my passport when the man asked me for it. By this time I had been at the Posta for nearly an hour. He asked me for 66 dinars, and I pulled out a 1000 dinar note, which is about 13 American Dollars. I didn’t have the change he was asking for (They Never Have Change Here! They always want exact change!) And for some reason, I thought he meant, 6 hundred and 6 dinars, and so we had some confusion. When he kept pointing to the number on the cashier, I thought he actually meant 6, 600 dinars, and I was shocked at the price. Wow! But I’ve been charged nearly this much at the American post office to send a heavy package, so I reached into my bag and pulled out all my food money for the rest of the trip. 7000 Dinars in all. I presented them to the man behind the desk, and he was mortified:

Ne, ne, ne, ne, ne, ne, ahhh…..noo..nenenenene. Six – Tee –Six Deeenarss.. Aje!

I was ashamed and quickly hid my money away in my backpack! Soon I had my change and was on my way, laptop and all!
As I departed the post office, Marko was waiting for me outside and instantly started a conversation.

You study Religion with the language?
Because you know, the religion and the language, they are together.
Are you orthodox?
Ne. Ja Sam Protestant. But moj muz, on je orthodox.
Ahh…… Pause….I have book for you.
Do you read orthodox books?
Hmm…unfortunately I couldn’t remember my Serbian teachers practicing this scenario in any of our preplanned dialogues in class. What should I say? How could I be polite? What did he want? And why did he want to give me a book? So I replied simply…
You come with me, I have book for you. You come to car mine.
Umm…. “Ja Moram Da Idem U Skola Sada” I must go to class now. Sada je devet i deset. Moj skola starts at devet. (Now its 9:10, My school starts at 9:00).
Jedan minuta.
He asked me to go to his car, and I was feeling open minded and felt he was safe, so I followed him. Soon he pulled out a religious book, all in Cyrillics, and I was relieved but confused. Then he read me a passage. Umm.. I could barely ask him his name, and he thinks I can read an entire book in Cyrillics? Yeah, right. And then he looked me straight in the eye and said:
I see good man in you. (which is Serbian for, you’re a good person)
So I said, Hvala Puno, and Do Vidjena! I must go to school now, Cao!
And now I have this book.
This was new for me. I think this was the first religious Serb I’ve met. Usually they are connected to the Orthodox faith as a link to their history, to their tradition, their country, but not at all in an evangelical sort of way. I’d expect this in the states from a door knocking Jehovah’s Witness or a couple or Mormons in their white button downs, but from Marko from the Central Belgrade post office?
I’d have never expected!
Ahh… it’s Serbia.
Anything goes….