No one in their right mind enjoys a visit to the dentist. I have a horrible fear of the dentist. Just thinking about the sound of the drill and the smell of the dentist office, makes the hair on the back of my neck start standing. I have had several impacted molars that my old dentist back home told me to remove, but I never did. I didn’t have the time, money nor courage to do so. That was a mistake! You should never let your dental issues drag on and on because they will only get worse. The last time I visited a dentist prior to this Serbian dentist was 2013 ! He told me that my back molar was going to need some attention in the very near future. I was about to head back over to Serbia so I just asked them to give me an estimate on what the repairs would cost. The two cavities were going to cost around $230 a piece and the “possible” root canal would be $1,100! No way was I going to spend $2000 before I left for Serbia. They would have to wait! Fast forward to December of 2014. I was eating some chocolate cake and it felt like a hammer had just been slammed down on my back molar! The pain was massive. I thought if I just started avoiding that side of the mouth when I was chewing the pain would go away, but it didn’t help. I had to find a dentist! I remembered a doctor had contacted me on Facebook a few months prior. He had mentioned that his girlfriend was a dentist and they were interested in getting into the “Dental tourism” business. I searched through my messages and found him. They told me to come over the next day so they could examine the tooth! That doesn’t happen very often back home! The office was very close to the center of Belgrade and was easy to find from the bus stop. I really had no idea what to expect from a Serbian dentist’s office, but it sure wasn’t the clean, modern office that I found. My dentist, Dr. Mirjana Filipovic, was even a beautiful young woman who didn’t invoke instant fear in me like my other dentists. :) She sat me down and asked me a little about about my problems. I apologized for eating some burek on the way over! :) I can only imagine how nasty that was for her! :) She found the issue and told me exactly what all I needed to have done. The cavities were 25E and the root canal that was a MUST, would be 100E. I couldn’t hardly imagine that would be possible. What was she going to use? Rusty pliers? Old, outdated equipment? She showed me all the tools that she would be using and even explained everything in detail to me. All of their products and instruments come from Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Japan, just like my dentist back in the USA. She told me that most dentists use the old silver colored fillings instead of the white ones because they are cheaper. She ONLY uses the white ones and doesn’t charge an extra fee like most other dentists. She had me sold! :) She started in on her work after giving me a few shots of something that numbed my entire mouth. She would constantly ask me if something hurt or if I felt anything uncomfortable. I felt NOTHING! She explained the roots in each tooth and how the root canal would be done. She opened both teeth and placed some meds in them before sealing them off. She said that I would need to return in one week. ROUND 1… Complete with NO PAIN! I left the dentist’s office to shoot 8 hours of video for a kitchen products company in Hong Kong! Thank God I was able to talk. My final round started the morning before I was heading to Uzice, Serbia for a speaking engagement in front of a few hundred students. The doctor met me by Sveti Sava church and told me that we would need to go next door for some x-rays of my teeth. We walked into a beautifully decorated office with a pretty young lady behind the desk. She took me right into the x-ray room, snapped the x-rays, and handed them to me within 5 minutes. The cost? Only 10E!!! The lady was impressed with my few bits of Serbian that I uttered on the way out of her office. We bring the x-rays to the dentist for her to examine. She told me that there shouldn’t be any pain this time because the roots were dead. She was exactly right! The worst pain out of this whole entire project was the shots that she gave me in my mouth and it was only a little prick. I was amazed that a root canal could be done without any pain at all! The little devices that she had to shove down in the tooth looked horrible, but you couldn’t feel anything. She finished up the procedure and told me that I could eat anytime I wanted to because she had heard my stomach growling. We all sat down over a coffee and discussed this whole procedure and how expensive it was in the USA. They told me that they can do porcelain caps and teeth replacement within 24-48 hours for around 120E too! I told them that I wanted to use my outreach to bring them more businesses. We called my good friend, Boris Marunic (video producer from Belgrade), and asked him to help us with a short little video! Check it out by clicking here! I can get you a dental price quote within 24 hours of you contacting me. If you have some dental procedures that you have been putting off, contact me asap! You could fly over here, take some exciting tours and get your teeth fixed and still pay less than you will at your dentist! Sound too good to be true? It isn’t! Everything is possible in Serbia :) You have nothing to lose except thousands of dollars at your dentist :) U.S. dentist was going to be around $1900 for all the work I had done while I got it done here for $150. Serbia wins this battle against the USA by saving us an enormous amount of money and time! :)
Spent the weekend down in Kragujevac, Serbia. Kragujevac was the first capital of modern Serbia (1818–1839), and the first constitution in the Balkans was proclaimed in this city in 1835. It is currently the 4th largest city in Serbia with a population around 150K people.
A few of my best buddies are Palestinians who study at the medical and engineering university in Kragujevac. It had been ages since I last saw them so I took the early afternoon bus from Novi Sad to Kragujevac. I arrived in Kragujevac around 4;45PM. The first thing you see when entering into Kragujevac is this massive cross that dominates the landscape. A few meters after the cross is a massive “Fiat” logo in the center of a roundabout. Fiat has a major production factory in Kragujevac after they purchased Zastava.
The city has a lot of beautiful buildings and a great night life. These are a few pictures that were taken by Slavoljub Radojevic.
My buddy, Sharar, met me in front of Hotel Kragujevac and took me to his apartment for lunch. His girlfriend prepared us a wonderful dinner of chicken, potatoes, and salad. We decided to go out on the town for a few drinks. One of the best things about Kragujevac is the nightlife. They have a ton of lively bars, kafanas, and nightclubs all over the city.
We chose the Rakija Bar which has every single flavor of rakija that you could ever want. I chose a premium dunja rakija. It was terrific. We left the rakija bar and headed down to smoke a little bit of nargile with our other buddy, Ramzi. We smoked a few different flavors, drank some beers and then one of my friends took his girlfriend home. I went off to eat with the other dude. We found a wonderful little pljeskavica shop and chatted with the owner for a bit. My other friend returned and we hit up a couple more bars and ended up at a some nightclub. I have a major phobia of being crammed into a small space and not being able to move so we left that place and found one that had a little bit more space. We ended ended the night around 3:20AM and drug our butts home.
I was roused from sleep around 11:30AM by my buddy. His girlfriend had prepared a wonderful breakfast for us.
We worked on a couple things for girlfriend and then he wanted to show me some little bar that was a few blocks from his apartment. I’m always up for exploring new places. The bar is called “Buena Vista” and is located in a little passage close to the main walking street.
The entire bar is decked out in Cuban flags, pictures of Fidel Castro, little models of Cuba, Che, and lots of posters against American imperialism.
The drink menu is about as thick as “War and Peace” . There are an endless amount of mixed drinks with some really unique names like ” Go Home Yankee” , “Fu*K USA”, and “USA Collapse” …
This might not be the place to bring Obama or any other government employee. :) The bartender was an absolute pro too. He suggested a variety of different drinks with many different liquors in them. They place a big slice of fresh fruit in each glass also. We were stunned at how cheap the prices were! The majority of the drinks were around $3!
This bar is a must if you are a westerner visiting the center of this awesome little country! Tell them that Charles sent ya. :) Check out their Facebook page here!
Marko Vignejevic is a young man from Pancevo, Serbia. He spent one year studying at an American high school through the A-SMYLE student exchange program. One day he received a letter from the organization telling him that he would be spending his year in the tiny little town of Sylvan Grove, Kansas. Sylvan Grove has a population of about 300 residents! What would happen when a 6’7 Serbian student enters a tiny town in the center of the USA? I asked him a few questions to find out…. Charles- “What were your first impressions of the USA?” Marko- “Okay. My first impressions? Well, lets skip all the flying and sightseeing and jump right into Kansas. So, my first impression of Kansas was “Holy shit, this place is flat!” and I live in Vojvodina. :) Then I started mentally preparing myself for the farmer lifestyle, instead of my city lifestyle that I had in Serbia. Then I got to the house and the farm and I liked it! It was way different than my house in Serbia, but I expected that.” Charles: “What about the family you lived with? Were they nice to you?” Marko: ” They treated me very well! I never once felt like I didn’t belong! They had four kids already. One daughter and three boys. It was a lot of fun living with them as you can imagine with all those kids running around.” Charles: ” Did you teach them any Serbian?” Marko: ” I tried, but It didn’t work out very well. They kept pronouncing the J and the G the exact same way. :)” Charles: “Were they a wealthy family?” Marko: “ No, average middle class family, but they live much better than an average Serbian family.” Charles: “ Were your real mom and dad worried about you? Did your host family speak with them? “ Marko: “ No, once all my flying was over, they were fine. My dad is a very reasonable man and calmed everyone else. I introduced my host parents to my real parents over Skype and there was a lot of awkward staring until I started translating because my parents in Serbia speak ZERO English.” Charles: ” How did the residents of this place treat you?” Marko: “The town is so small. It only has 300 people in it. The high school was a consolidation of a few little towns and only had 100 students. The people of Kansas were so nice to me, possibly too nice.” Charles: ” Were the kids at school friendly to you?” Marko: ” YES! The minute I walked into the school kids started saying ” Great! We are going to state in basketball this year” because I was the tallest guy in school. It was funny because they hadn’t even seen me play yet! I felt like the star walking around this school being 6’7! I was also the only exchange student.” Charles: ” How did your basketball season go in Kansas?” Marko: “It was good. We ended up 9th in whole state of Kansas, but lost badly in our final game. We were 5th in the state at one time” Charles: ” Did you tell the kids at school about Serbia?” Marko: ” Yes. We had my Serbian flag hanging up in my American history class! :)” Charles: ” Did you like American food?” Marko: ” Yes, I loved it! Could you find a way to bring a Taco Bell over here to Serbia? :) ” Charles: “What was the worst part of your trip?” Marko: “Probably having to leave everyone. ” Charles: “Anything else you’d like to tell us?” Marko: ” Well… I won a free trip to Washington D.C and New York City for winning a writing contest and for having lots of community service hours!” Marko: ” I’d love to find a way to go back to Kansas again next year!”
My friend picked me up at Nikola Tesla Airport in Belgrade, Serbia back in 2010.
There were a few large Serbs and my scrawny ass crammed into a little red Yugo. We were on our way to my buddies house in a little village around Zrenjanin, Serbia. We stopped at a red light and were talking about pure randomness when I saw the light turn from red to yellow and then to green. I found that so strange. The stop lights in the USA go from red to green. I asked my buddies why they have the yellow before the light turns green. They thought my question was silly because they assumed all traffic lights were that way. :) The more I live here, the more I think it’s a good thing. The VAST majority of Serbian automobiles are manual transmission while the VAST majority of American cars are automatic. The hardest part of driving a manual car, for most people, is getting it into 1st gear without killing it. Maybe the yellow light gives you that additional few seconds to get your car into gear without creating delays. It would also allow you some sort of break from staring at an “endless” red light. It might also allow you to shut your car off and save gasoline.
My opinion? Serbia wins this battle! :)
Back in the summer of 2013……. I had the honor of meeting the wonderful crew from “Operation Florian” who provide donated fire equipment to Serbia and other countries around the world. Haydn Brown, a representative from Operation Florian, had mentioned that there was another organization from Wales that was doing some AWESOME things in Serbia too. A few weeks later I received a message from them! They had a catchy name “Blazing to Serbia“! We agreed to meet up at the mall in Belgrade, Serbia when they arrived. We sat for a few hours discussing our lives, our connection to Serbia and the foundation of the amazing “Blazing to Serbia” organization. “Blazing to Serbia” has visited Serbia on 12 occasions taking various items of equipment from the South Wales Fire & Rescue Service. The equipment provided includes 93 Gas Tight Chemical suits, over 300 Breathing Apparatus sets and cylinders, approximately 30 sets of hydraulic rescue equipment, over 300 sets of protective fire kit and helmets and various other items used at road traffic collisions, lines and torches.The most amazing part is the 18 fire trucks that they have driven down here and donated to many different cities in Serbia! It is rare to find such kind and giving folks who have no ties to Serbia, but who have such a passion to help the country and its people!! The ONLY thing that they are asking from all of us, is to help keep this wonderful organization going by clicking “LIKE” on their Facebook page!
1. What is “Blazing to Serbia?
A. Blazing to Serbia is an initiative of the South Wales Fire & Rescue Service, whereby a small group of volunteers acquire Fire Service vehicles and equipment and then donate them to the Fire Services in Serbia.
2. Who does it consist of and why did they join?
A. The Blazing to Serbia team is made up of Operational Firefighters from across South Wales, together with former Young Firefighters and friends.
3. Out of all the countries out there, how did you choose to assist Serbia?
A. Serbia was selected by accident. Due to my involvement with the Young Firefighters scheme, which operates all across South Wales, I decided to get myself a youth working qualification. On the course with me was a Scout leader who had recently returned from Serbiawith a group of Scouts. Whilst there they had visited a Fire Station and found that the fire engines were really old. He then asked at what age the trucks were replaced in South Wales and so the seed was sown. This was September 2006 and in March 2007 we made our first visit to Serbia.
4. What did you guys know about Serbia before making your first trip here?
A. Yes I knew that Serbia was part of the former Yugoslavia and had a vague knowledge of the recent Balkan conflict. Other than that I didn’t know anything at all.
5. Tell me a bit about your first impressions of Serbia when you first arrived here. How does it differ from Wales?
A. Coming from Pontypridd at the foot of the South Wales Valleys, I was used to mountains and hills all around, but the part of Serbiathat we visited was really flat, so this surprised me. But the thing that I remember most is how friendly and welcoming the people were.
6. How do you guys get your funding, donated vehicles, etc?
A. In order to get the vehicles and equipment form the South Wales Fire & Rescue Service, I gave presentations to the Senior Officers and the politicians who make up the Fire & Rescue Authority. After much persuasion they agreed to support Serbia for a fixed period of time. This period has now expired, so the arrangement that we had is now being reconsidered.
In order to transport the vehicles and equipment to Serbia the team carry out various fund raising events, like packing people’s bags in supermarkets, sponsored events, raffles and social functions. Without the good will and commitment of the Blazing to Serbia team, these fund raising events would not be possible.
The first convoy of 6 fire trucks that we drove to Serbia in 2011 was accompanied by a television crew from our National television station ITV Wales, who documented the journey. This documentary, called ‘Blazing to Serbia, was shown on National TV in November 2011. This documentary can still be seen on our web site www.blazingtoserbia.co.uk Because of the involvement of television, we were able to gain sponsorship for each of then trucks, which made the task of fund raising much easier.
7. How do you determine which city will get a fire engine?
A. Because the Serbian Interior Ministry is best placed to see where the trucks will be most useful and where they are most needed, we donate the trucks to them and they then allocate them accordingly.
8. What is the funniest story that you could tell us about all of your times in Serbia?
A. It won’t come as too much of a surprise to know that rakija leads to lots of funny situations, but a generally good example can be found on You Tube, just search for Tom Mac Fishing joke.
9. What do you see in the future of “Blazing to Serbia?
A. Fire Services across the UK are experiencing serious budgetary shortfalls and South Wales is no exception. Because of this the future of Blazing to Serbia is in the balance as Senior Officers and Politicians decide whether to sell the trucks, or continue to donate them to Serbia.
Outside of the trucks and equipment, the team has also been working with the Serbia Red Cross at Sremska Mitrovica. The team has helped with the provision of clothing, blankets, shoes and gifts for children and hygiene packs for families. We are also working with two animal rescue centres at Nis and Sremska Mitrovica.
So to answer your question, the future of Blazing to Serbia is uncertain in its current format, but if trucks & equipment is not available, then we will concentrate on other things. However, it would be a shame if we were not able to donate any more trucks, as the trucks also allow us to bring lots of donations to Serbia, at no additional cost.
In July, my future son-in-law James Randell, did an open air concert in the square in Ruma. A couple of weeks ago he did one in Sremska Mitrovica and a second one in Ruma. The concerts in Ruma have been to raise money for the Ruma Rotary Club and for a Bowel Cancer Charity. This is certainly something that we will be doing more of.
There is a saying that goes, “Charity, like its sister mercy is twice blessed, it blesses him that gives and him that takes.” The experience of driving across Europe in a fire truck and being able to make a positive difference in people’s lives has certainly made an impact on me and influences my thoughts and the way that I lead my life. This would be the same for the other team members too. Young people in theUK very often get a very bad press, so the fact that Blazing to Serbia has lots of young people who are thinking of others, often before themselves, can only be a good thing and benefit communities in Serbia and in Wales.
10. I really loved to hear about your little shoe boxes for the kids. Didn’t you run into some issues with customs last time? How did the kids react to them?
A. In December 2013, we sent a lorry load of equipment, ladders and clothes to Serbia. Whilst we were collecting these goods, I thought that it would be nice if we could send some gifts out for the children. I messaged the Red Cross at Sremska Mitrovica and they agreed that this would be a great idea. The team then set about collecting and filling 268 shoe boxes, with gifts for needy children. The contents of the shoe boxes varied, but contained items such as coloured pens & pencils, felt pens, crayons, chalk, calculators, note pads,colouring books, soap, shampoo, toothbrushes and toothpaste and toys, puzzles and sweets of every different type.
The Serbia Customs Service is always a challenge, but thankfully we are always able to resolve things eventually.
The intention was for us to visit a couple of weeks later and then help the Red Cross to distribute the shoe boxes. However, the shoe boxes did not clear customs until we had left the country, but the photographs that we saw ensured that the effort that we made was worthwhile.
Seventeen of the team visited Serbia 4th – 8th November and brought just over 400Kg of gifts and hygiene products with us. These were made into gift bags and we spend two days with the Red Cross, distributing them to needy children. This is an experience that will not only live with us for the rest of our lives, but will also influence the way that we lead our lives. Everyone was so happy to see us and were extremely grateful for our support and concern.
11. How can all of us that read this article help ensure that your awesome organization … continues? Is there something that we can do?
We really need people to visit the Blazing to Serbia Facebook page and give it a LIKE. We then need people to SHARE it with their friends and ask them to like & share it too.
Follow us on Twitter @BlazingToSerbia
On our web site we have a section for ‘Our Followers’. If there are any Serbian Celebrities, Politicians etc out there who would like to give us a photograph and some words of support to put in this section, it would be great.
We need to raise the profile of Blazing to Serbia in Wales & in Serbia, so any sort of media coverage would be great.
On March 27th, 1999….. The Serbian air defenses were able to blast an F-117 Stealth Nighthawk out of the sky. The only one ever to be shot down.
The F-117 82-0806 (whose remains are exhibited at Belgrade Air Museum) was shot down by the 3rd Battalion of the 250th Air Defence Missile Brigade of the Army of Yugoslavia, with one of several missiles fired by an S-125 “Neva” missile system (NATO reporting name, SA-3 “Goa”) at a distance of about 8 miles.
According to Sergeant Dragan Matić, the soldier later identified as the operator who fired the missiles, the stealth plane was detected at a range of about 50 to 60 kilometres and the surface-to-air missile radar was switched on for no more than 17 seconds to prevent the site to be detected by the NATO’s SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defense) aircraft.
Fast forward to 2014……I was on a bus from Belgrade to Novi Sad. The bus had one stop in between, in the little city of Indjia, Serbia. The window seat is usually my first choice. I’ve never liked to sit in the aisle and have folks bumping into me the whole time. I was gazing out the window while the bus was pulling around the back of the bus station in Indjia,
when I noticed the words “F-117″ on the side of a little bar. I didn’t get a good look at the place, but noticed a few pictures in the window too. I had to get back over to see this place.
This afternoon,David Dautovic, contacted me for assistance. He is a young man from Pancevo who has been a Facebook friend for a long while. His sister is trying to gather a lot of pictures of people from around the world holding a sign that shows her love for her boyfriend. He asked me if I could help him out with one. I noticed that the bottom of his message said ” Indjia, Serbia” I quickly asked him if he was anywhere close to the bus station. He was close by so I asked him to seek out this little bar and shoot me some pictures. He was kind enough to snap the following pictures:
I’ll head over there in the next few weeks to do some videos from this location. I might wear my Canadian flag shirt ! It might be a little safer! :)
Everyone likes Canadians.