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Sports Equipment Donations to Arrive in October

The day has finally arrived. The 800 lbs of baseball, softball, and soccer equipment that we gathered in Greenup, IL is officially gone! It is currently being loaded onto a semi trailer that is bound for a Maryland shipping yard. It will then be placed onto a barge where it will sail to Montenegro and then be trucked to Belgrade in middle October. This result couldn’t have taken place without the kindness and generosity of regular citizens. I listed EVERYONE that played a part in this remarkable feat at the bottom of the page. THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART!  Watch the video I made about all the equipment…

This idea popped into my head after watching my buddies from Gradnulica Beckerek play a baseball game. I was stunned when they had to go over and ask the opposing team to borrow a baseball bat!! Also… only a couple of the kids had baseball cleats!!! I thought of all the baseball gear that I had owned as a child. Most of it I used once or twice and disregarded. The average American household is not filled with endless streams of money like many people around the world like to think. We struggle with house payments, car payments, property taxes, high food prices, etc……. BUT, One thing I have noticed after living in Mexico and Serbia is we do have more LUXURY items than most other countries. I can remember having around 6 pairs of baseball cleats, 5 or 6 baseball gloves, ENDLESS amounts of baseballs, every new video game console that came out onto the market , etc. Many of these items I used a few times and stuffed them into the closet. This is not the case in many countries around the world. I found it interesting that in Serbia it is not considered rude to talk about your income. I was invited to many of my friends homes and got to meet their parents. They would tell me their monthly income and I would try to keep my jaw from dropping in dismay. How ANYONE could support a family with shelter, food, clothing, etc on $400 a month is beyond me!!! I heard this same story from numerous people throughout Serbia. That old saying about “not appreciating what you have” is so true! After seeing the kids ask the other team for a baseball bat… i wanted to ask ” Why the hell don’t you buy your own!” Then you think back to the $400 a month family income!!! A baseball bat is the LAST THING this family needs to be purchasing. The idea hit me!! I would contact my local newspapers in Toledo, Greenup and Charleston, IL.

My TINY hometown that a HUGE heart!!

September of 2011 the Toledo Democrat, Greenup Press and Charleston Times Courier published my story about Serbia and my desire to help bring unused sports equipment to the kids. The second it hit the papers my Facebook and email were flooded with requests from people who wanted to assist in gathering it, storing it, moving it, etc. I was blown away! Businesses, family members, friends, community members and total strangers were offering their help. My mom emailed me and said ” Where the hell are we going to put all this stuff! ” hahahaha… I should have informed them first. They are in the midst of building a new home and fighting some medical issues. They didn’t need the added stress of dealing with this big project. It is really hard to start something like this in your hometown community while you are on the other side of the ocean in Serbia! hahaaha..It stressed me out to no end. I would get updates from my mother on how many things were there. I would look up shipping prices on the internet and would shudder when I saw the prices!!! I thought to myself…. “THERE IS NO POSSIBLE WAY WE CAN GET THIS OVER THERE!” I was depressed and thinking what I would tell the kids, the community that gathered it , etc.. 😦 A couple great people donated some funds to help store it, move it, and help pay for the shipping BUT we were looking at THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS! The US embassy in Belgrade contacted me offering assistance with shipment if I could get it to the Ohio military base. They just needed weights, dimensions, etc. The problem was so much of it had not been delivered so i had no idea how many packages or what the weights were. I finally decided to go back the USA on May 29th of this year. I wanted to see how my mother was doing and help with the construction of their new home. I made manyyyyyyy phone calls, sent many emails, etc while at home to try to make something happen. I posted the email addresses for the guys at the US and Serbian embassies on my Facebook page with a message to all my friends to email them and ask for assistance. It wasn’t long before both embassies had contacted me asking me to please have the emails stop!! ahahahah… The gentleman at the Serbian Consulate was the BEST!!! He said that he found a Serbian/American businessman that loved my devotion to the kids of Serbia and said he would pay for all of the shipping! Thank you, Mr. Babic and Aqua Air Enterprises!!!! I just needed to get it to Chicago!! WOW!!!!!!!!!!!! This was exactly what I wanted to hear!!!! I packaged it all up and contacted my Chicago Serb buddy, Danijel Vukosavljevic.

My buddy, Danijel Vukosavljevic showing his Serbian flag after picking up all the donations. HVALA BRATE!!! Volim te!!!

He owns a trucking company in Chicago called P&D  He was more than happy to drive the 3.5 hours down to my parents and pick up the equipment and drop it off at the storage facility! WHEW!!!! My blood pressure dropped a few points! 🙂

This doesn’t have to end. I had some Serbian kids contact me about tennis equipment and rowing equipment too. OH!!!!! We will have one more shipment late this year or next year. My WONDERFUL cousin and her husband wrote me asking if I would be in need of 60 sets of American football pads and 50-60 football helmets! I told them that we would love to have them. The Serbian consulate asked me to assist them in locating more of it because they do not have the funds for this type of equipment and many teams are in need! I posted something about this equipment on my Facebook page and had 7 teams contact me asking for the equipment! THERE IS A LOT OF NEED!

I am very interested in starting a non-profit organization that would solicit used sports equipment for Serbia. Baseball, soccer, basketball, rowing, tennis, water polo, etc… maybe even help build sports facilities in some of the smaller towns. If anyone has any information about starting a non-profit in the state of Illinois let me know! This would let larger businesses and more people donate because they could write it off their taxes. 🙂 DON’T TELL ME I CAN’T DO SOMETHING!!!! 🙂

This goes to show that regardless of our governments past and current strife….the regular citizens can unite for a good cause!!!

Thanks to all of the following individuals that helped make this a success. Aqua Air Enterprises deserves special mention!!! Milos was my contact and was so helpful and friendly.  The owner, Mr Jovan Babic has a special place in his heart for his country. He is paying the thousands in transport charges! Milos Bajic is a very proud Chicago Serb. He donated 4 boxes of soccer gear for the Zrenjanin soccer team!!! Love you man!!  I hate making a list because there is always someone I forget. A GREAT BIG THANKS TO JORDAN MOSER!! He is a very kind young man that wanted to donate his VERY nice equipment bag and equipment!! YOU ROCK!!  Here are the rest that helped make it happen:

The Serbian Consulate in Chicago,Tasha Shaffer, Jordan Moser, Shay Shaffer,Gary Hasgen, Gerry and Dordina Mixon, Amy Polic, Karen Blade,  Danijel Vukosavljevic, Amanda Black, Dan and Julie Ponce Brandon Miller, Adam Fifield, June Hayden, Jenny Morgan, Pilson Auto Center, P&D, JK Mitchell, Toledo Democrat, Greenup Press, Charleston Times Courier, Vlasina Travel, Cumberland High School, Champaign schools, Salt Fork High School, Charleston High School,   Lake Land College, First Neighbor Bank, Casey State Bank, Danyel Reeve and to all of those listed below….

  • nik rhoades
  • Dragana Djordjic-Vidovic
  • Andjelko Jovanovic
  • Dario Debeljak
  • Milos Vukotic
  • Dušan Knežević
  • Andrija Dudic
  • Ivan Jelisavcic
  • Tiha Puaca
  • Angela Skocic
  • Marijana Stojadinovic
  • Mario Maric
  • Marko Nikolic
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Posted by on August 25, 2012 in Through my eyes


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Most guys on this planet enjoy a good spy flick!! i know I do. When I think of the most famous spy of all time I think of James Bond. I was shocked to find out that the character was based on a Serb!!!!

Ian Fleming… creator of James Bond

James Bond.

Ian Fleming, a wealthy Brit, was always intrigued by espionage. He failed to meet  military  service requirements and became a writer for Reuters. He earned fame and respect for his writings on the “show trials” in Russia of several Royal Engineers on espionage charges. He was fascinated by a Serbian double agent named Dusan “Dusko” Popov, nicknamed Tricycle. He wrote a number of books and soon had them on the big screen. The first film was released in 1962 and has turned into the longest continually-running film series in history and the second largest grossing series behind only Harry Potter. Fleming chose the name James Bond after a real life author of “The Birds of the West Indies”. He is said to have selected it because it was the dullest name he could find. Fleming lived a very unhealthy life. It is said that he smoke 70 cigarettes a day and drank a bottle of gin. He had a famous quote “i will not waste my days in trying to prolong them. He died of a heart attack at the age of 56. His last words were to the ambulance crew ” I am sorry to bother you chaps”.

Sean Connery and Dusko Popov

Dusko Popov…..

Born in 1912 to a wealthy Serbian family in Austro-Hungary (present day Serbia), Popov had an older brother that worked as a double agent. Popov spoke fluent German and was recruited to work for the Nazi intelligence group, Abwehr…. He notified his friend in British intelligence because he had a secret hatred for the Nazis. He signed him up to work for their intelligence agency, MI-6 or Military Intelligence , Section 6. He provided the Nazis just enough APPROVED material to keep them happy and shared numerous bits of info to the Allies. He was very well paid and developed a playboy lifestyle. He loved to live the high life and is said to have developed the code name Tricycle because his love for threesome sex. 🙂 hahahaha..

Info on Pearl Harbor attacks…..

In 1941, Popov was sent to the USA by Abwehr to create a new German network. He was provided lots of money and the intelligence questionnaire (list of secret German intelligence targets, later published as the appendix in the book THE DOUBLE CROSS SYSTEM. One page of the questionnaire was devoted to US defense at Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu. It also mentioned the impending attack on Pearl Harbor. He provided this info to J.Edgar Hoover of the FBI on August 12, 1941. Hoover either didn’t pass on the information to his superiors or they didn’t take it as a serious threat. Hoover had always been highly suspicious of Popov and at one point attempted to charge Popov under the Mann Act for taking a woman from New York to Florida. The Mann Act was implemented in 1910 to combat human trafficking or slavery. 🙂

WWII poster

Who knows if things would have been any different but the USA lost 2,402 military personnel and civilians on Sunday, December 7th, 1941. This date will forever be remembered by Americans throughout the country. This is one more instance of Serbian kindness and friendship to the United States of America. One day our friendship will return!!! 🙂

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Posted by on June 23, 2012 in Through my eyes


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Belgrade, USA….. How Many Exist?

My love for Belgrade, Serbia is well-known. It is one of the most interesting cities I have ever traveled to. It has beautiful girls, great food, lots of historic buildings and structures, hundreds if not thousands of cafes and bars all throughout  the city. It would be listed in my ” 25 PLACES TO SEE BEFORE YOU DIE!” list.Little did I know that my country also had a few cities named Belgrade. I did a little research and found 7 total!

Serbian filmmaker, Miodrag Kolaric heard about them too. He decided to travel to the USA and visit 4 of the cities named Belgrade . He wanted to find out what the people did for a living, how they spent their time, if they had heard of the Belgrade,Serbia and to see if there was anything in common with his Belgrade. He determined that 90% of the residents had never heard of Belgrade, Serbia or heard of the other US cities with the same name. He noted that “the Americans were a little friendlier than his countrymen”…:) It is hard to compare a city of 2.5 million to one with 7,000! I experienced nothing but extreme friendliness and helpfulness in all my trips to Belgrade. I think a foreigner in a foreign land pays more attention to the attitudes and treatment of strangers than you do your own surroundings. If you are interested in reading and listening to the interview with Miodrag…. click the link…..

I compiled a little tidbit of info on each of the 7 towns in the USA. A few of them are TINY and it was almost impossible to find info on them! I listed them from most populous to least populous….Enjoy…

#1……Belgrade, Montana

Belgrade, Montana is a small town that is located in the SouthWest corner of Montana. The town site was established in 1881 and incorporated in 1906. They named the town Belgrade as an expression of appreciation to Serbian investors who helped finance a portion of the Northern Pacific Railroad.  The city has a population of around 7,300 and a median family income of $40,378 dollars a year.

#2……Belgrade, Maine….

Belgrade, Maine was first settled in 1774 and incorporated in 1796. It received its name due to a suggestion from a local resident. John Davis was a local resident and world traveler. He was impressed with the fact that Serbs had fought Turkish rules and kept the Christian beliefs after years of Turkish rule. Today, the city has a population of around 3,000 people but the population doubles in the summer due to all the lakes. It is popular among fisherman and sportsman throughout the North East. The median family income is $42,300 dollars a year.

Belgrade, Minnesota

#3……Belgrade, Minnesota

Minnesota is one of my favorite states. The state motto is LAND OF 10,000 lakes. It is also home to my favorite baseball team.. the MINNESOTA TWINS! Belgrade is located in the center of the state and is home to 750 people. It is said that the name was taken to honor Serbian rail workers or investors. It is not very clear. Today, it has 340 homes and a median family income of $32,500 dollars a year.

Belgrade, Missouri

old country school that was painted in 1938

#4……Belgrade, Missouri

Belgrade, Missouri is a tiny town of 200. It is located in the South Central part of the state. It isn’t far from St Louis and has been known for ghost sightings. It and many surrounding towns are listed in HAUNTED AMERICA. There isn’t a clear mention of why it was named Belgrade.

Belgrade, Nebraska

beautiful sign in Belgrade, Nebraska

#5……Belgrade, Nebraska

Belgrade, Nebraska is located in East Central Nebraska. The last census listed Belgrade with a population of 134 residents. There are 64 homes and 36 families living in this little beauty. The median family income is $36,143 dollars a year.

Belgrade, North Carolina

#6……Belgrade, North Carolina

This little burg has little to no info available on it. It is close to the coast and is noted for being a stop on the First Post Road in 1738. The population and further data is unknown. If anyone has further info, please email me.

Belgrade, Texas

Centennial marker in Belgrade, Texas

#7……Belgrade, Texas

Belgrade, Texas was formerly known as Biloxi by the local Indians. It is was a river town located on the Eastern side of Texas on the Mississippi border. It received the name Belgrade in 1837 because they had dreams of Belgrade, Texas being a successful and important port like its European counterpart. Belgrade was once a thriving community until the beginning of the Civil War, now abandoned, a cemetery remains as well as a centennial marker. It is currently a ghost town with no inhabitants.

It is great to find some similarities between my country and my favorite foreign land.


Posted by on June 16, 2012 in Through my eyes


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Arrival into Nis, Serbia!!!

I know its been a long time since I last wrote here. I have been on a little expedition in South Serbia!! I promise I will get better! 🙂 Thanks for the messages of thanks and support!

I like to do crazy things. My trip to Nis was totally random. I hit the bus station in Krusevac at 3PM on Friday, April 30th. I just walked up to the window and looked at the schedule. There was a bus leaving for Nis at 3:50PM and I chose that one! I have a lot of buddies there and thought it would be nice to surprise them. Nis is said to be the 3rd largest city in Serbia with around 250,000 people. If you ask some locals they will tell you they are larger than Novi Sad because Novi Sad includes the surrounding village populations in their numbers. This was not my first visit to Nis. I was here for one night in 2010. We pulled in late and got a hotel room but didn’t get a chance to check out the sites on that visit.

The one hour bus ride from Krusevac to Nis was great! I had my own seat, the window was clean and easy to see out of. The landscape in South Serbia is very beautiful! You see many hills, trees, crops being tended and land being plowed by hand! I noticed many old folks bending over tending their soil on their small plot of land! You don’t see many tractors but people doing it with hoes and rakes.

It was a nice sunny afternoon when I arrived into the Nis bus station. A guy sitting a few seats away came up to me when the bus pulled into the station. He had overheard me speaking English and wanted to know if I needed any help finding anything in Nis. He was half Serb/ half Aussie. He moved here with his mom about 5 years ago. It was nice to hear that Aussie accent that I grew to love while in Australia in 96 and 02! I gladly accepted his offer because I knew nothing about this town and had no idea where I would stay. His friend met him there and they walked me through the center of town stopping at a few hostels. The first two were sold out because of some cooking competition that was being held that Saturday. They continued to walk me to different hostels. They finally found one that was secluded but a few minutes from the center of  Nis. I grabbed their hands and thanked them for taking the time out of their day to assist me! It is always refreshing to find good people! The great thing is… i seem to bump into good people all the time!!! 🙂 Knock on wood!!!

I went into the hostel and chatted with the young lady.The name was the ART HOSTEL.  She said ” You are the first American to ever stay here!” Her father wanted me to send them a little USA flag when I get home. I have to remember that! The upstairs room was perfect. It had two beds but if you pay 1400 Dinars you got the whole room to yourself. I put my things away and went on a walk! I still had not informed my buddies that I was here! I brought my little laptop with me and set off.

The city has such a small town feel to it. You wouldn’t know it had over 200K people by looking! There isn’t a lot of traffic noise, congestion and LARGE groups of people like in similar sized cities I have been in. I stopped the first under 30 person I found. I asked him if he spoke English and how to get to the center of town. He told me that he was going that way and to follow him. He was curious about my accent. I told him I was American and he was really shocked. He had never spoken to an American before. He walked me to the walking district and we went our separate ways.

The center of Nis is AWESOME!! There are hundreds of little shops, cafes, food shops on every corner, a couple large malls, banks etc. I sat down at the first cafe that had internet and messaged my buddies on Facebook that I was in Nis! They were very surprised! Dejan, Marko and Mimi made plans to meet me at FloCafe at 8PM. The guys showed up at 8PM. I had sat there and drank a few drinks while waiting on them. They were tall and very social guys!! I had never met them in person but chatted with them on Facebook many times. It is always great to put a real face with your Facebook buddies! It seemed as if I had known them my whole life! They were very polite, well mannered, funny and personable. We discussed everything from politics to women. I got up to use the restroom and came back to find that Marko had paid my bill! I was angry because I had not expected it and it was around 900 Dinars and that is a lot for a young university student with no income! They, more or less, told me to “SHUT UP!” They were honored to do it.

We made plans for the following day! They told me of all the things to see in Nis! I never dreamed there were so many things! Marko had a date that night and we parted ways. Mimi and Dejan took me to this new football stadium that was being built. It was still under construction but kids go in there and sit in the bleachers and drink beer. We bought some pivo and chilled out in the open air! We discussed everything imaginable! We drank our fill and decided we had better be off to bed. They walked me back to my hostel. They owners left for the night and told me to go around to the side door. The hostel was empty besides me. I turned on the tv and was quickly asleep.

We met the next morning around 11AM. They decided the first thing to do was show me the fortress. It is located beside this little river. It is so beautiful! The look of the old stone fortress is awe inspiring! It is hard to describe the sensations I get by looking at all that history!

They took me to a little memorial outside of the fortress. It was a little gazebo with three stone tablets in it. They were inscribed with the names of all the Nis citizens that were killed in the NATO bombing raids in 1999. It is very sad to see the effects of your countries military decisions.  We made a quick video and then walked into the fortress.

There are 4 or 5 cafes and a dance club inside the fortress. One of them is located inside the old Turkish bathhouse. We walked along this little walkway towards the center of the fortress. The surroundings are amazing. There are little benches along the path with many people sitting there enjoying the day. There is a lot of grass that is neatly trimmed, flowers and bushes. We came upon this old Turkish mosque that has been turned into an art exhibit hall. The great thing about the Serbs is they didn’t destroy the Turkish churches and historic sites like the Turks did to the Serbs.

The guys were telling me that Nis was the birthplace of Roman emperor Constantine! I had no idea!! There are some very old ruins from Roman times and then we found this old cemetery!!! WOW!! I was in awe!!! There were about 15 or 20 old tombstones that were in great shape! You could make out the Latin inscriptions and carvings of animals and faces. I never dreamed this stuff was still around! We made another video and by this time it was spitting rain!

They took me to the edge of the fortress that overlooked the river. There is an outdoor theater with around 150 chairs that they showed me. It is used in the summer for outdoor plays and such. BEAUTIFUL!! There are some places you can large portions of the city. We were standing on the edge of the fortress looking down into the river and we saw a wagon of gypsies ride past with their horses. My friends always find my fascination with Gypsies.. odd!!! hahaha.

The concentration camp was next on our agenda. It was located not far from my friends home. We got there in the afternoon and we were the only ones there. It was 150 dinars to enter and my friends didnt want to enter because they had been there a few times. The guide spoke perfect English and entered with me. The whole surrounding camp gives off this depressing, scary feeling. When you enter the 3 story housing complex it is even worse. The camp is called “RED CROSS or FEB 12” That was the date it was liberated from the Germans. The guide walked me through every room. One room was the main residence and sleeping quarters. He said it housed around 100 inmates in this room and they slept on straw. Ughhh.. The next floor was devoted to the women and children that were killed in the camp. One in particular broke my heart. It was a pregnant mother that entered the camp. She gave birth to her child in the camp and afterwards they shot her in the head and killed the baby. The Nazis didn’t discriminate in this camp. They killed women, men, children, Serbs, Jews, and Gypsies all equally.They said the camp was responsible for over 12,000 deaths. One other room was filled with many pictures from the local school children in Nis. They were told to paint a picture about how they saw life in a camp. Very sad images! The top floor was for “special prisinors”. The ones the Nazis really despised. They had a number of small cells that had the floor  completely covered in barbed wire and the prisoners were forced to sleep on it. This room gave me goosebumps. It was dark, lined with small cell doors, gray dreary walls and it was chilly. I imagined all the sick and dastardly deeds that were committed in there. That camp was one the most memorable things I have experienced. I think everyone should go to a camp like that to see what mankind is capable of!

We had walked many kilometers and were tired and hungry! I started to develop a TERRIBLE case of heartburn! We arrived at the home of Mimi and his family! They live in a large apartment complex. He introduced me to his mother and father! They were some of the nicest people in Serbia! It is rare to find a parent that speaks English but his mother is a pro!!! She said she hadn’t spoken English in 10 or 15 years but was able to communicate with me! She was so eager to feed us and make us happy! My heartburn was really out of control. I was trying to remember what I had ate prior to our days adventure. The only thing I could remember was a raznic. It is a sandwich with chicken bits that are wrapped in bacon. I put lots of onion on it and think that was the cause! His mom made a huge meal and I ate as much as possible! It was delicious but i was limited!!! I decided I better go back to my hostel and lay down. The guys walked me home and I laid down for the night!!! It had been a great, exciting and memorable 1st  day in Nis!!!

More to come……..


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I get lots of emails from foreigners that are planning to travel to Serbia. They ask me lots of interesting questions. The number one suggestion I have for them if they are planning to stay for a month or longer is “DON’T WASTE YOUR MONEY ON A HOTEL!”

I found out last year that Serbs offer their homes to their guests. I was blown away by the amount of people that wanted me to stay in their home! They looked at me like a fool when I said “Where is the nearest hotel so I can put my things away?” hahaah.. They said ” YOU ARE NOT STAYING IN A HOTEL YOU ARE STAYING HERE!!!” If you are a private person and prefer to have your own space…. do not look for hotels. Look for an apartment!!! My friends mentioned that to me last year but I kept thinking ” How the hell can I get an apartment?” Back in the USA it’s a time consuming and expensive ordeal.. most of the time anyway…. You have to worry about saving up the security deposit, first and last months rent and usually sign a 6 month or 1 year contract! Then you have to have all of the utilities put in your name. It’s a pain!!!

After my awesome time at Exit Fest in Novi Sad…. we returned to Zrenjanin. I was in need of my own crib! The families I stayed with were amazing and in no hurry for me to leave but I felt it was time! My buddy and I picked up a little classifieds paper here and drank a few pivos while he translated the available apartments. We called on a few that were under $100 a month but they were behind someones home or inside their home. We finally called on one that was 100E a month. It was new, furnished, close to the center, with one large room, kitchen, balcony, quiet neighbors and on the 1st floor. My friend called the guy and he said ” you can come look at it today.” My friend said “Is it ok that he is an American?” He said ” It makes no difference to me.. i speak English.” We arrived and looked at the place.. It was perfect!! Clean and everything he said it was. I said ” How do I go about filling out the paperwork, switching utilities, and how much is the deposit and such?” He said ” You don’t need to do any of that. Just pay me 100E and here are the keys!” I was in shock! I paid him.. he showed me how to turn on the washer, heat, tv controls and such. It took me 5 minutes to find a nice apartment with no contract and only 100E for one month!  I can’t speak for Belgrade or Novi Sad but Zrenjanin is very, very affordable!!! My electric, water, and gas ran me about $40 or $50 bucks a month for this one bedroom!!! AWESOME!!!  Back home my electric was about $160 a month, water/sewer and trash were around $50, and  gas is outrageous…..

Search for apartments in the paper!!! IT WILL SAVE YOU HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS!!!!!

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Posted by on January 25, 2012 in When in Serbia


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