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Spending Summer on Nantucket Island With 8 Serb Students


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My salary in Serbia isn’t the greatest, but there are some perks that go along with it. At Work and Travel Group, I solicit American business owners from September through January.  It allows me to meet many important folks in the hospitality industry. I explain to them about the summer work travel program and the positives of hiring our Serbian university kids for their hospitality businesses. You start to develop friendships with many of the managers and owner. One of them, the manager of the Nantucket Bike Shop, sent one of my student interview videos to the owner of the shop and the owner wanted me to work for him.  He loved my outgoing, talkative manner and thought I would be a great fit at his bike, scooter and jeep rental place. It was a little unexpected as I had already accepted a summer job at a fish processing plant in Anchorage, Alaska. It took me about 2 seconds to make my decision about where to spend the summer…… I was going to Nantucket!

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Nantucket is a little island located 30 miles off of the coast of Massachusetts. It’s well known in the USA for being one of the wealthiest places in the country. There are many famous folks who call Nantucket home: Secretary of State John Kerry, Uma Thurman, Sharon Stone, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, Alex Gorskey (CEO of Johnson & Johnson), and many more. It has 80 miles of beaches and is the setting for the novel “Moby Dick”.

Nantucket

Nantucket

The Nantucket Bike Shop is one of my best accounts. The students always have a great time and make great money so I handpick the best of the best for the interviews. They want guys who can speak English well and who have a very outgoing personalities. The manager loved my picks for the previous year so he was excited to interview the ones I picked for 2016. I settled on a great group of students for him to interview. The finalists were: Dusan Dragicevic, Nikola Pausic, Milos Pesic, Nebojsa Peric, Momir Amidzic, Stefan Radic, Bogdan Dakic and Nikola Uzelac. Dusan and Nikola were working at the Nantucket Bike Shop on the program the previous year and the bike shop  wanted them back. The others were first-time j-1 summer work travel participants, but they dominated in their interviews. He picked all the students that I had selected so I was going to be living and working with this group of young Serbs for 3 months. I was excited to see how the summer would go.

Let me introduce this amazing group of Serbs before I go any further:

Stefan Radic

Stefan Radic with his rakija

Stefan Radic is one of my oldest and dearest Serbian friends. We randomly bumped into each other in downtown Zrenjanin, Serbia on my first trip in 2010. We have continued our friendship over the last 6 years.  I can honestly say that I consider this young man as a brother. I’ve met his wonderful mother, beautiful sister and will soon be able to meet his nephew as soon as he comes into this world in late 2016! Stefan is in his final year of security studies in Belgrade and plans on enrolling in the master’s program when he returns in October. He works at the Nantucket Bike Shop where he gives scooter lessons. He also took a 2nd job at the pizza place. If you don’t know Stefan Radic, you are missing out.

Nebojsa Peric

Nebojsa Peric

Nebojsa  Peric is a young man from Becej, Serbia. There isn’t a more kind and likable guy on the planet. I can remember my first encounter with Nebojsa at the Work and Travel Group office. He was always coming in to ask for help or to seek some advice. He’s laid back, friendly,  and a huge fan of Crvena Zvezda (Red Star).  I always have fun when he’s working in the same shop as me. I love listening to the owner’s pronunciation of Nebojsa because it’s always a disaster. My favorite thing about him is his haircut.

Bogdan Dakic

Bogdan Dakic

Bogdan Dakic is another guy that I’ve known for years. He was with Stefan Radic on the same night we bumped into each other. Zrenjanin is his hometown, but he’s an English major who studies in Belgrade. He always has a big smile and a positive attitude.  I respect Bogdan a lot because he is always concerned about paying me back after I buy drinks for him. You don’t meet people like that everyday. He’s also one of the guys that likes to join me at the local sports bar.

Milos Pesic

Milos Pesic

Milos Pesic is a guy that words will be hard to describe. This guy reminds me a lot of myself. He’s has a ton of energy, a born leader, and a guy who you like the minute you meet him. We first met in the Work and Travel Group office. I instantly knew he would be one of the best candidates for the Nantucket Bike Shop because he has an amazing personality that you don’t see everyday. He’s big into fitness and loves spending his free time on the beaches. He’s also the guy who cuts my hair here on Nantucket. Milos Pesic will go far in life!

Dusan Dragicevic (standing) Nikola Pausic (sitting)

Dusan Dragicevic (standing) Nikola Pausic (sitting)

Dusan Dragicevic is one of the coolest guys anyone could ever meet. He was born and raised in Veternik and studies in Novi Sad.  We first met in 2015 when he came into my office to ask about going to Nantucket. I instantly loved the kid. He has a permanent smile attached to his face and a wonderful personality:) Dusan is one of the best workers at the bike shop. He gives scooter lessons and works a second job at a sports bar. The only thing I don’t like about Dusan is living with him.:) He’s one of my roommates and one of the ones that loves to party the most. We had a yelling match during my first week here because he woke me up by yelling Serbian swears at 12:30am. He also eats peanut butter and salami sandwiches! :O Who does that??????

Nikola Pausic is the other returning student to Nantucket. The manager of the Nantucket Bike Shop told me ” Nikola Pausic will have a job here anytime he wants to return” That doesn’t happen all the time! Nikola was a prized employ of the bike shop last year while working as a delivery driver. He knows the island like the back of his hand and is always friendly and respectful to everyone. He is the one that was able to defuse Dusan and me while we were yelling. If you don’t like Nikola Pausic, there is something wrong with you.

Momir Amidzic

Momir Amidzic

Momir Amidzic has one of the most confusing names imaginable. It’s rare to find someone who can say it correctly. This young man studies in Novi Sad and first came into my presence in early 2016. He walked into the office to signup and the same day I had him doing an interview with the bike shop manager. Momir is another one of those people that you just can’t dislike. He’s laid back, friendly, and always has a smile and a joke. He does his best to annoy the hell out of me, but it isn’t working. He tries to screw me out of money at times by claiming I haven’t paid for stuff (he’s only joking). He also has some of the best hair on the island.😉

 

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Nikola Uzelac and Kevin Spacey

Nikola Uzelac …… What can I say about this young man? I intentionally placed him last because I’m so jealous of him. This young man will be a very successful man in the very near future. He’s from Novi Sad and studies law. He works at the bike shop and found a second job as a doorman at one of the best bars in all of Nantucket. There isn’t a Serbian on this island who has better English than Nikola. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know him over this past month. We work great together at the bike shop and enjoy hanging out for some drinks when we are off work. He’s turned into a really good friend of mine and he’s helped me meet one of my heroes, Kevin Spacey.  Kevin Spacey, Nikola and I had a great conversation the other night. He comes into the bar that Nikola works at so Nikola knew where he would be sitting. We picked up the table right next to him and his two bodyguards. I bent over next to him with my beer in hand to offer a cheers which he accepted with a clink of glasses. He ended up turning around to ask us where we were from. He is one of the most down-to-earth movie stars that you could ever encounter. I asked him for a pic, but he refused. He said that he never gives pictures while in public because it will be never ending session. After going into the bar a few nights in a row, he promised to give snap one with Nikola before he left and he followed through on his promise by showing up on his last night on the island for the pic. Nikola was also featured in the Boston Globe with his picture of James Franco.

Nikola and James Franco

Nikola and James Franco

 

The summer has just begun! I can’t wait to see what’s on tap for the rest of the summer! I couldn’t have selected a better crew than the one we have now.  This experience is great for all of us. We have to learn how to live together, deal with different personality types, juggle difficult work schedules, and budget money on a very expensive island. The boys have really impressed me so far with their abilities to save money. They found a place called “Food Pantry” that provides free food to people on low incomes.

Boys taking a selfie at the food pantry

Boys taking a selfie at the food pantry

 

I’ll keep you updated on  our adventures as the summer continues.

Nantucket Bike Shop Serbs

Nantucket Bike Shop Serbs

 

Serbs, a Croat, and a Jamaican

Serbs, a Croat, and a Jamaican

Nikola, Milos I Stefan after work

Nikola, Milos I Stefan after work

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2016 in Through my eyes

 

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Thanksgiving for 500 in Serbia

Thanksgiving for 500 in Serbia

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Charles “The Host” Cather

The company I work for, Work and Travel Group, held the largest alumni summer work and travel event in the history of the world this past November.

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500 students from 2008-2016

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Mikser House in Belgrade

We had a massive Thanksgiving event at Mikser House in Belgrade Serbia on Thanksgiving.

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Upstairs displays

We had students from 2008-2016

We had students from 2008-2016

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Decor

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Throwing down Red Bull

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Checking in students

Work and Travel crew

Work and Travel Group crew

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Stage

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Can you feel the love?

 

Placing ribbons on each guest

Placing ribbons on each guest

 

We brought in over 500 former students from 2008- 2016 to experience an American Thanksgiving and to win some prizes.

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Students piling in

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Students having some free beverages

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Around 500 former students of summer work and travel

Once the students arrived, they were given coupons for two free alcoholic beverages and unlimited soda, juice and soft drinks. We started off serving some Serbian pies and American pie for them to snack on before our main course.

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Mixing Serbian and American foods. Serbian pie

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American apple pie

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Students enjoying some pie

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Two of my favorite students checking out the displays

We let the students mingle for an hour and then had the prize giveaway. We had the students from work and travel 2015 submit their favorite picture from their summer in the US. Once we received the photo, we placed it on our Facebook page to see which one received the most likes. The three with the most likes, received a refund of their program fee which was between $1,000 and  $1,300! The prize money came from CIEE and Work and Travel Group.

 

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Handing out prizes to the lucky winners

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The winners! Each one won their program fee back!:)

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Free pictures from InstaPrint

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Main course of 10 turkeys, gravy, potatoes, cranberry sauce

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Juicy turkey

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Beautifully laid out turkeys

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Students enjoying the meal

I was the host of the entire event so I had to nibble around between talking and preparing for my next presentation. I hated that part of the event because I love to eat.

After dinner, it was time to interview a few of our students about their experiences in the USA.

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Students telling about their experience in the USA

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Some great kids!

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Filip Uzelac telling about his time in St. Louis

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Sinisa Vojvodic discussing Chatham, Massachusetts

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Selecting the winners

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Congratulating the winners

The last segment of the night was another prize giveaway. Puzzle Group donated three vacation packages to be given away at random. We used a lotto wheel to randomly select a number that was on top of their ticket.

The night ended around 11pm when the buses arrived to bring the Nis and Novi Sad students back to their cities. I felt my night was successful as the host. I only had a few minor errors in my presentations. Not bad for someone who hated public speaking in high school.

We had a 5 minutes video made about the whole entire event that you can watch here.  A great time was had by all of the attendees.

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2015 in Through my eyes

 

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Serbian Grandma and Sarma

Serbian Grandma and Sarma

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One of my dearest friends here in Serbia is a Norwegian from the northern region of Norway. We met up last winter at Horus Nargile Bar and have been great friends ever since. He was born and raised in Norway, but his father’s side of the family are Serbs from Croatia who were forced out of Zagreb during the 90’s. He’s in his 2nd year of English medical school here in Novi Sad.

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Church in Sirig

Last Sunday, he asked me to go with him and his beautiful girlfriend to his grandmother’s house in  Sirig, Serbia for lunch. Sirig is a pretty little village about 20km from Novi Sad. I knew all about his grandmother’s cooking because I was there for a birthday party last summer and she sent over some sarma for me a few times so I was thrilled to go. He tells me that his grandma is going to teach me to make sarma:)
We arrived at his granny’s house around 1pm. She lives in a big, beautiful home right in the heart of Sirig. There are tons of fruit and nut trees in her back yard,  a large garage  and two floors of living space. She had the table all laid out and prepared for our arrival.  The older women in Serbia really know how to take care of a dinner guest. We had some of her homemade rakija and beer, and then she brings out this lovely homemade soup.
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Next round of food comes after she clears the soup and bowls from the table. The ladies seem to refuse your offer of assistance:) This round was some appetizers of cold meats, homemade cheese, cvarci (fried pork fat), cabbage salad and pickled red peppers.

DSC_1505_1280x851She also had these lovely homemade breaded things that reminded me of doughnuts. They were super!

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The next round of food was some delicious pork and beef goulash that was poured over pasta noodles, fried pork strips and some delicious fried cauliflower.  That’s the first time in my life I tried fried cauliflower, but it was really good.

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Nikola, grandma and Valerija

By now we have eaten ourselves into oblivion. We have to take a break for my sarma lesson. Sarma is one of my favorite foods here in Serbia. It’s a leaf of soured cabbage with meat and rice rolled up inside it.

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1/2 kg of pork with chopped onion in a bowl

She starts off by putting 1/2 kg of pork into a bowl with a cut up onion.

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1 carrot, one potato, and another onion

She likes to put a carrot and a potato in her sarama. You don’t have to, but it’s her way of making it. She throws one of each into the food processor and grinds them up.

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add it to the meat and break open an egg

Once it’s all ground up, she throws it in the bowl with the meat and adds one egg to it. You need to put in some salt, pepper and a little Vegeta (Serbian salty spice).

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Rice

Next, you want to add a cup of rice that has been sitting in water for a few minutes to the mixture of meat, etc and mash it around with your hands until it’s all mixed together.

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Soured cabbage leaves

Then you get your soured cabbage leaves ready.  You will then roll up your pork filling  into  balls and place a large ball in the middle of the cabbage leaf and then wrap the leaf around the meat filling

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placing filling into leaf

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Wrapping the sarma

Once you finish wrapping the sarama, you place a large poton the stove. She adds some bacon in the bottom to flavor it up.

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Strips of bacon in the pot

Stack the wrapped sarma around the entire pot, one row on top of the next, until you have it full.

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Filling pot with sarma

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Unused leaves on top

Once you have the pan full, place some unused leaves on top of the sarma and add some sausage , if you like , then place the lid on top. You can turn it on high heat until it gets hot, then turn it down to low heat and cook for 1.5 hours.

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Done

Remove the lid and let cool! It’s now ready to eat! Prepare yourself for a taste of heaven.:)

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Delicious sarma

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Svargla

By time the sarma is ready, i’m hungry again. I eat 5 of them and then Nikola’s girlfriend asks me if I’ve ever tried something called svargla. I’m a guy who usually likes everything so I accept a slice. The second it hits my mouth it almost triggers my gag reflex. The taste is HORRIBLE. It’s soft and meaty and reminds me of a juicy meatloaf. Blah! My friends tell me not to eat anymore of it and that it’s mainly a food for old folks.:)

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Barrel of sarma

After dinner, the grandmother takes me down to her basement to show me how she makes the soured cabbage. She has a large plastic barrel that she fills with full heads of cabbage, cuts a cross in the base and adds salt to it. After a few days, they are ready for sarma. She also has a lot of nuts from her walnut trees that she separates in the basement.

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Cabbage heads in barrel

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Walnuts

Nikola takes me upstairs to check out the living quarters up there. It’s massively big and beautiful just like a second house. They have a bar with many different kinds of alcohol in beautiful bottles.

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Decor

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Norwegian alcohol

Nikola and I throw down a shot of this Norwegian alcohol that he brought from home. It wasn’t too bad at all.

It’s time to head back to Novi Sad. The neighbor girls are driving back in their car so grandma calls to ask if we can ride with them. They have room so we all squeeze into her little car. Grandma sent me off with bottle of rakija, jar of peppers and a container full of sarma!:) What a great way to spend a lazy Sunday!  I learned a little something, filled my belly and had a slight buzz .:)

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2015 in Through my eyes

 

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“Passage Women” of Novi Sad, Serbia

“Passage Women” of Novi Sad, Serbia

A confused man scratching his head wondering why

Passage women? o.O 

 

I can hear y’all right now “What the hell is a passage woman?”  Well, I’m about to tell you all about them.

I’ve lived in many different parts of Serbia : Zrenjanin, Nova Galenika, Kotez, Pancevo, Zemun, Nis, Sremska Mitrovica, and in Novi Sad. Novi Sad IS the most beautiful city in all of Serbia.

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Trg Slobode

My office is right smack in the center of Trg Slobode, the most beautiful and well known part of Novi Sad. I’ve called this city home for over 1 year now. Back in early June, I moved from one apartment right off Nikola Pasice to a small, 130 euro a month apartment in a passage off of Zmaj Jovina and Dunavska.

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Zmaj Jovina

 

People are usually blown away when I tell them I live there. It’s the busiest pedestrian area in the most beautiful part of the city. Could you live in the most beautiful part of the most beautiful city in any other country for 130 euros?:) It isn’t fancy or even nice, but it has a large bedroom with two beds, a hallway that leads to a big kitchen/dining room, large bathroom and a big balcony that overlooks the passage below.

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Passage off Dunavska

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Another example of a passage in Novi Sad

Most of the buildings in the center are connected so the only way to get through them is to stroll down one of the shop filled passages or walk all the way around.  The passages in Novi Sad are filled with an assortment of clothing stores, shoe stores, sports equipment, money exchanges, etc.

 

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Another passage

 

So what hell are passage women? Are they some homeless ladies who live in these passages or  sleazy women who hang out in them and do “things” for a $1? NO, NO, NO!!!! Neither of the two. Let me continue with my little story. Once I moved into this apartment back in June, everything was pretty good with the exception of no a/c. The summers in Serbia can be brutal, especially when you live in the center. The whole entire center is concrete, brick and rock so the heat stays here. I had a fan that I would stick in the window each night and it made it bearable, but each morning around 8am I would be jolted from sleep by laughing and loud talking from below my balcony. The ‘passage women’ or ladies who work in the passage shops, had set out chairs right below my balcony. There are a number of shops and none of them do much business throughout the day so the ladies tend to sit out there for hours upon hours, smoking , gossiping and drinking coffee. passage 7

Living above the passage women is an absolute nightmare for those of us who look forward to sleeping in on our day off. Serbian village women have always been known for their nosy ways, but the young city gals are no better!

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Serbian surveillance

I dread walking out of my apartment each morning because every time I walk past their little 5 seat table, they get quiet. I’m always the first to wish them a “dobro jutro’  and they always reply with the  same greeting, but I know that the American is always the subject of their early morning gossip. I kept telling myself that winter would bring a little bit of silence, but the temps don’t seem to bother the gossipy passage women in Novi Sad. They just throw on a coat, make a cup of steaming coffee and sit below my balcony laughing and gossiping away the day.

Beware of the passage women………

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2015 in Through my eyes

 

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An American, a Croat and a Palestinian in Munze Konza


The title sounds like the start of a bad joke. Zemun or Munze Konza (Zemun Zakon= Zemun rules) as it’s known over here, has a bad reputation by those who live outside of Munze.:) It was known as a rough place in the 90’s and home to the Zemunski Klan. It’s a strange place to start this  crazy story.

 

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I reached out to the Palestinian Student Diaspora group in Serbia last year. I’ve always been interested in those folks who come from countries that my nation labels as “American haters”. You usually find out the total opposite is true. I made a post on their Facebook page and quickly received a message from the student president. We spoke for a bit and I told him that I’d love to meet up with him and a few of the 30+ Palestinian students who study in Serbian universities here. He told me not to get offended if some of them had some harsh words for the American government. I assured him that nothing could offend me and that we had plenty of Americans who had harsh things to say about American foreign policy.:)

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The whole gang and me!

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Palestinian culture day

We all met at Yala Habibi, a nargile bar, over by Slavija in Belgrade. Sharar and his crew of 6 or 7 other Palestinians showed up. They were all very kind and happy to meet up with an American. It was an honor to meet them and to have  them share some of their heartbreaking stories about life in Palestine.😦 I also learned that Palestine is strong supporter of Serbia and they refuse to recognize Kosovo. They were one of the 50 brave nations that voted “NO’ to  Kosovo in UNESCO.

We parted ways, but kept in close contact. I took a few trips down to Kragujevac to visit Sharar and met a few of the other Palestinian boys and girls who study there at the medical and engineering faculty.

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Crazy Hassan

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My Palestinian pals and I in a kafana. The boys were singing some Miroslav Illic!

 

I stayed at their place for a few weekends and a few of them turned into some of my best friends over here. They come up and stay with me when i’m at my apartment in Zemun and here in Novi Sad. We are very different, but enjoy each other’s company. One of them even came over and taught me how to cook something called maqluba, a famous Palestinian meal.

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Suliman teaching me to make maqluba.

 

I happened to be at my Zemun apartment over last year’s Serbian New Year’s Eve holiday. Sharar was staying at his girlfriend’s apartment in New Belgrade so we agreed to meet up for a few drinks to celebrate. We met up at a little bar in downtown Zemun with his Serbian girlfriend’s Croatian cousin. We had a blast throwing down a few beers and talking about all the differences we had between us. It was last call and the bar was about to kick us out so we paid our bill and started to walk over to Glavna for them to catch a cab. The streets were almost totally deserted with the exception of two police officers talking to the guy working at the trafika. I never like walking up on police officers in a foreign country especially when I didn’t have my id anywhere near me. Serbia requires you to carry a picture ID and police registration card on you at all times. We were talking when I notice the police looking at us. They started to walk towards us and I started sweating. I told Sharar that I hoped they wouldn’t speak to us because I didn’t have my id. What did they do? They walked right over and asked for our passports! :O My Palestinian pal speaks perfect Serbian as he studies medicine in Serbian language. The guys pull out their passports and I’m thinking to myself…. “We are doomed! A Palestinian Muslim, a Croatian Catholic and an American with no passport on him!”  The cops look at the guys and seem shocked that they are both foreign. Sharar has to translate to me. I tell him to tell the police that I do have a legal right to be here, but I hate carrying my passport because a Gypsy stole my last one! The cops don’t seem to give two shits about my excuse. They ask what id I have in my wallet. I pull out a Bank of America ATM card. The guy gives me an annoyed look and he asks me “What are we supposed to do with this!”  :o I then tell Sharar to explain to them that I promote Serbia in a positive light and have been on many tv shows for it. The cop pulls out his phone and tells me to prove it. I go to Youtube and pull up the Prva Exploziv episode I was in where I sing “Tamo Daleko” figuring it might pull some heart strings on some big, mean Serbian cop. They both watch it for a few minutes and then the younger one smiles really big. He says “We knew who you were. We saw you and wanted to give you a scare!”:):):):) I’m saved!!!! They tell me that I must keep id on me at all times. The older cop hadn’t heard about me, but insisted all five of us go in for a coffee at the kladionica. He doesn’t speak English, but the others translate most of the conversation. He said ” It isn’t very often that they run into a Croat, a Palestinian and an American at 2am in Zemun!” We have our coffee and I wish the gentleman a very happy new year! The policemen both add me on Facebook and we head out of the kladionica with a big sigh of relief.

The moral of the story? Make sure that you carry id on you at all times when in Serbia. You might not bump into the same friendly cops that I did!

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2015 in Through my eyes

 

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Questionnaire for Serbians Living in Serbia


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I’m 100 steps closer to getting my tour idea legal. After years and years of answering questions from foreigner after foreigner about traveling in Serbia, I decided to create my own travel association. Creating an actual tour company in Serbia is very difficult. There are tons and tons of requirements that must be met. If you want to create your own customs tours, you must have a degree in tourism and a few years of tourism experience. They also require 50K euros in an account. My lawyer here in Novi Sad, after hearing about what all I do here and my mission, suggested I create an association instead. She is going to take care of all the legal paperwork and such to get this association registered. We have a number of aspects that we need to get completed, but we are on our way! My Serbian pal from Novi Sad is a business owner here in Novi Sad. His father was kind enough to allow us FREE office space in this 3 floor, new office of his on Europe Blvd here in Novi Sad! We will just have to pay the electric, trash, etc. It will be the headquarters for our association.

We have some big plans for the organization that might include:

** Organized trips to many interesting locations in Serbia. My Gmail, Facebook and Youtube message boxes are always full of questions from foreigners who are interested in Serbia. The majority of them know about Belgrade, but know little else. This country has soooo much more to offer than just Belgrade.  We are going to be seeking advice from locals in many different places in Serbia and organizing trips to many of them. It will help expose Serbia to the large quantity of tourists who come here with money, but don’t know what to spend it on. My large following and contacts can help draw interest and tourism to many struggling communities. A few months before Exit Festival, I get a ton of messages about Serbia. This massive group of foreign visitors are looking for things to do, but can’t seem to find the info they need. This will be a way to funnel them to other parts of Serbia.
** Free conversational English courses for the underprivileged Serbs and minority groups who don’t have money for regular English courses in a private school

** Foreigner meet and greet sessions. I have a ton of friends from many different countries who live, study and visit this city. Many Serbs are interested in meeting others and learning a bit about their culture.

** Fundraisers for some of the sick Serbian kids that are in need of money for different medical conditions. This is a constant issue over here in Serbia. My Facebook is always packed with messages from Serbians who want me to post about sick kids here in Serbia. Many Westerners are interested in helping, but are unaware of their struggles and how to help.

** Helping villagers market some of their homemade products. I’ve been living over here for around four years now and have experienced many, many locations in Serbia. Many of the villages and towns that I have been to are filled with local folks who make wonderful crafts and other items that need some exposure. I’ve asked many of the folks how they market their products to folks outside of Serbia and they usually say “We don’t.” It would be a great way to assist the little man in Serbia by having a place for them to market their products to the massive diaspora and others.

And more…..

I need all of you Serbians to help me out now. Please take a minute to fill out this questionnaire. I’m seeking advice on what to see, eat, where to sleep, etc in your communities. I know there are a lot of “hidden gems” in this country, but you guys know your communities better than anyone. Please take a moment to fill out this brief questionnaire. It won’t take long, but your answers will be vital to my project.

Thanks so much for your time and stay tuned for info. We will have a beautiful website with tons of links and info to help spread the word about this awesome, unique little country.

Ready to start the questionnaire? Click here!

If you are a Serb from the diaspora or a foreigner who’s interested and have the means in assisting with  some needed cash for our project, please feel free to donate to my Paypal.  You will be listed on our website as a “friend of Serbia” for your assistance. We don’t need a lot, but furniture, website design and creation, legal fees, etc will take a big bite out of my miniscule Serbian salary. Feel free to message me for more info or throw some cash to my Paypal account at charlesserbia@gmail.com 

Volim vas!

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2015 in Through my eyes

 

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16 Year Old Serb Talking About Uprooting to Indonesia Because of NATO Attacks


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It’s very interesting yet horrible to hear of the struggle so many Serbians went through during the NATO attacks on their country in 1999. I was fortunate enough to discuss the story of one young Serb student whose family was forced to flee the bombing attacks of 1999. Igor Mijovic was kind enough to share some of his experiences in Indonesia.

“I was born in Belgrade in 1999 just 14 days before the start of the NATO bombing. I lived relatively a peaceful and fun childhood, I was never bothered with my family’s money issues, we didn’t have much but I was happy with the way things were, of course I was unaware of the real state of things with my dad’s job and how it was all falling to pieces. When my parents announced we were moving to Indonesia it hit me like a dagger to the heart. I was leaving all of my friends and family behind, going not only to another country, but to another continent I knew nothing or very little about. For me the worst part was that I would be unable to communicate with other people since I thought my English was way below the level of those kids that went to an international school. At first my months at my new school were awful, everything was so different from what I was used to, and everyone whispered about that tall Serbian guy who came from an unknown land, they could not bully me because I was too big for them, I was just ignored and I kept telling myself that this whole nightmare will be over soon, that I don’t need these new people in my life and that I will be back in my beloved country once again. It all changed though when I met a Canadian guy who spent an evening with me and that’s when it all started for the better. I met people from loads of different countries, shared stories and began to change mentally and emotionally. I realized not everything was as I thought, at this time I found Charles Cather’s first video on youtube and it really helped me fight my nostalgia, I’ve watched every one since. After 4 years I made tons of friends from all kinds of backgrounds, but it was not to last, since I was to move to my country once again. It was my choice, since I was old enough to be semi-responsible, but getting something means leaving something else behind. I had to leave all those dear friends I made and return to those I haven’t seen for years. Honestly living in an international community helped to change me for the better and I decided I won’t hate on anyone before I have a good talk with them and get to know their story. I’m planning on studying history and maybe becoming and international teacher to travel around. ”

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Charles:  What were your first impressions of Indonesia?

Igor:  I expected it to be like those Chinese cities you see in movies, lots of tall buildings with flashing signs in unknown letters. I was surprised at what I saw though, the air was humid and hard to breathe, there is a huge difference between lower and high class, with no middle class. There was very little bread and red meat and the way people acted was very strange, I’ve never experienced that much respect and awe of white people in my life.

Charles:  What did you miss the most about Serbia?

Igor: Well for the first year or so it was my friends and my relatives I missed the most until I actually started making international friends. Food was also a pain to get used to. It’s not the usual asian food we eat in the west, lots of rice, many spices we haven’t even heard of, fruits that taste very strange compared to kajsija and shljiva😀. But most of all it was the freedom, I couldn’t walk around and go exploring, I couldn’t hug or kiss my friends in public. It was mostly the staying at home all the time that tortured me the most.

 

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Charles: Where the locals respectful of your faith since it’s a Muslim country?

Igor: Indonesians are a very religious people, no matter what religion they are, they dismiss facts and other pleasures of life in order to be that much closer to their god. I myself am an atheist, I did enjoy celebrating my country’s many traditions and festivities, but that stuff was hard to come by. I did get looks of curiosity but sometimes even disgust and hate for not being a religious person, mostly from radical muslims and christians. My first year at school had mandatory religion and they had Protestant, Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim, and I couldn’t find a place there, so I went with the protestants (one of my worst decisions since all we learnt about is how only they are right and true and everyone else is false).

Charles: Any similarities between the cultures?

Igor: The cultures are very different. The only things I found similar is the fact that they were under colonial rule for most of the time we were under Ottoman occupation.

 

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Charles: What were the biggest differences in culture that you had a hard time adjusting to?

Igor: Indonesians have everything the opposite of Serbia, they are very radical religious, have more than 300 ethnic groups within the country, some even warring with each other. They don’t like to show emotions, believe in ghosts and spirits too much and due to the lack of education (with every school having to be paid for, and millions in poverty having no money for it) lack basic knowledge and intelligence. It also takes much longer to reach to them and get close to them as friends, than it would with a western person. In the end they proved to be just as good and fun as my Serbian friends.

Charles: Had most people heard of Serbia? If so, what were their impressions?

Igor: Most Indonesians didn’t know what I was talking about when I said Serbia, but when I said Yugoslavia they usually nodded their heads and said things like “Long live Tito, Indonesia’s friend!”, I didn’t really feel like explaining to them that he’s dead and that everything changed. People in my school never showed much interest in my country, most thought its a warzone still, laughed at my opanci and asked me to say random things in Serbian. I tried my best to show Serbia in a good light, and how civilised it is compared to Indonesia, for me that was a must when it came to discussing my country.

This is one story of thousands of Serbs who were displaced throughout the 90’s. 5366_10200496493149514_460826202_n

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2015 in Through my eyes

 

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