Friday, October 14, 2005

Football match, I mean soccer game

I know I promised to write all about the Bosnia-Serbia qualifier, but Meaghan did it first, and much better. I'll just say two things: A lot of the time, when I learn about something new in a foreign culture, I try to compare it to something I know already. The "Serbian very special Serbian style beans" that our landlady made us? They're just like Mexican refried beans (tasty though). Serbians sitting in a konoba listening to sad songs and getting emotional? Just like Country & Western. But what I saw on Wednesday night was totally new. The emotion that European fans give to every soccer match is beyond anything I've seen in the states, and the fact that you're cheering for your country, not just your team, seems to add depth to the fans' commitment. Also, in typical language nerd fashion, I really enjoyed cheering in a language where "R" can be the nucleus of a syllable. Imagine 60,000 people all yelling "Srrrrrrr-bija!"

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Beginning to get started?

Things are taking forever to start up. We've been here three weeks now, and everyone in my department has been completely swamped with exams from last year. (I don't yet understand how the exam system works.) It's one of those situations where, the more work there is for everyone else, the less there is for me. So Meaghan and I spent most of last week killing time. You know you need a change when you start running your life around when Mythbusters is on. To break out of this funk (and to celebrate our second wedding anniversary), we spent the weekend in Novi Sad, a town in northern Serbia. It's a very different place from Kragujevac, geographically and architecturally closer to Hungary. Where the buildings of Kragujevac look geometric and industrial, Novi Sad's city center features a broad pedestrian avenue that leads you from the Orthodox bishop's house with its well-tended gardens, past shops, cafes, and popcorn vendors, and leaves you facing the grand Classical facade of the town hall. We explored, shopped, visited friends, and listened to music. Back in K. on Tuesday, we spent the morning hanging out, and Meaghan baked some chocolate chip cookies. The ingredients here are a little different - vanilla extract and chocolate chips are not available - but we found passable substitutes, and the final product was almost, but not quite, a taste of home. That afternoon, we had the first official event of my fellowship: an English conversation practice hour at the American Corner. We hadn't done a lot of publicity, so we were surprised and encouraged to see twenty people show up for it! The session went very well, and it was really energizing to do something. We met more young people later in the evening, as our landlady's son, visiting from Belgrade, took us out for drinks with some of his friends. He somehow got us tickets for tonight's World Cup qualifier match between Serbia and Bosnia, in the standing room (i.e. "crazy fans") section of the stadium. I'll be sure to tell you how that goes ..

Saturday, October 01, 2005

A universal sentiment

The Serbian national basketball team recently disappointed the country with their poor showing in the European basketball championship, being eliminated before the quarterfinals. It was sad for me to watch how poorly they played in the elimination game, but then I remembered - haven't they won this championship the last three times running? Maybe this is how it feels, I thought, to be a Yankees fan .. At any rate, we saw this huge poster in Republic Square in Belgrade. "Sutra je novi dan" means "Tomorrow is a new day," or as I would put it, "Wait 'til next year."