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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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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!”  😮 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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6’7 Serbian Student Spends a Year in Kansas


pan 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. sylSylvan 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.”  kansas 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.”  serbi1 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.”  serbian 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! :)”  serb1 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!”  serbi Marko: ” I’d love to find a way to go back to Kansas again next year!”

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2015 in Through my eyes

 

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U.S.A. vs Serbia…… Stop Lights


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My friend picked me up at Nikola Tesla Airport in Belgrade, Serbia back in 2010.

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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.us1 I found that so strange. The stop lights in the USA go from red to green. us 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! 🙂

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2015 in USA vs Serbia

 

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Mexican Girl Falls for Serbia…..


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I had a wonderful young lady contact me over Facebook. She was from the middle of Mexico , the exact state (Michoacan)  that I lived in for 1.5 years . She was nice enough to answer a few of my questions about her experience. I copied and pasted the responses so forgive any spelling or grammatical errors. If you would like to send her a nice little message, here is her Facebook profile.

Q) Tell me a little bit about yourself and your hometown

About me, well, theres not much to say Im a student, soon I will get Mayor in Psychology, next May actually, im 22 years old already, and I still live with my mom and my older sister, I have another younger brother, and he lives with my father and his wife. I loooove food, dance and sleep very well right now, im training crossfit, I really love it, its very complex and beautiful sport . My hometown… Morelia is a very historic place, it could take a looooooong while for me to tell smth about it, but, what can I say… mex2 mex1Morelia is the city with most populated city in Michoacán (its state), and is the most extense, with an area of 78 km² and 597,511 habitants. It used to be a very strategic place for wars (when it was founded) and right now, the most important activities are culture and economy, you know, it’s a touristic place, for example, we have one touristic event called “Mariposa monarca”, and is a reserve of nature, where you watch all butterflies migrate to Canada (I think), and of course its an opportunity to sell food and services, tratidional food, like enchiladas, corundas, uchepos, tamales, elotes, atole de grano, atole of different flavors, churipo, carnitas, buñuelos, tequila, charanda, mezcal and other funny drinks , by the way, mescal burns almost like rakija, and taste is very similar, and of course don’t forget the effect jajajaj

Q) How did you first hear about Serbia?

Serbia was a country I never heard before in my life before, I even thought it was some sort of Asian country xD (sorry people, but we only learned about Yugoslavia) I first heard about it on the internet, I won’t say more , but when i heard about it I started to investigate it. I looked up its location on the map, the music, culture, food, and started to like it.

Q) What gave you the idea to visit Serbia? 

With time, I wanted to travel, thanks to a special b-day present from my mom so I started to look for different scholarship or volunteer programs that would allow me to travel and have some experiences. I found a program called “Vive Mexico” it is an organization here in Mexico that allows kids to travel, experience new cultures and volunteer. I applied for many countries including Serbia. I was accepted into the Serbian program called ” Drustvo Istrazivaca- Vladamir Mandic- Manda.”

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Q) What did you like the most about Serbia?

this is a hard question for me, cuz, basically, I can say im in love with this country. I cant say I like everything, but…when I got there I really felt like I was at home. Serbia is very similar to Mexico starting with the people. They were very generous and kind. The food, OMG, the food was so interesting because it’s not the same food we have in Mexico but had some things that were similar like style, flavors and ways of cooking. They had spicy foods, cheeses, homemade dishes, yogurt, milk, meats and bread and so on. My favorite of them all was  sarma and burek. I could eat them both forever and never get tired of them. and even if it’s not a dish or anything special, yogurt (moja kravica) and cookies was great. Landscaping is amazing in Serbia too. Mexico has some green places, but I never knew green until I came to Serbia, PERIOD. Another thing was the water. In my country you cant take water from the tap or public places and drink it. But in Serbia you can drink it which is so practical. I loved the music, dance and drinks too! Rakija is similar to our drink, tequila. but when i tried it the first time it made me think of “Metzcal” because it burns and tastes so delicious. I almost forgot, the old buildings, they are beautiful!!  The Serbian guys are also very good looking so girls GO TO SERBIA. 😉

Q) What were your favorite cities that you visited and why?

I cant tell you like my favorite, i mean i enjoyed staying at all those cities, but, instead i rather say like an order, and the number one would be Jagodina, its a small one, and because of that I think the most calm one, and i loved that, whole city is amazingand beautiful, very nice and great people, and one of my favorite parts besides downtown, is Potok park, that place is so simple and so misterious at same time, I couldnt be at the top of it, but where i was, I could see a place where you can just close your eyes and feel how the whole city embrace you, I cant explain the exact feeling, but is a great place to be chill . Number two, is Kragujevac, and again, city is great!, bigger, but still not crowded, I also loved the park, Veliki park, and I actually got lost there, it was very funny , anyway, that place is beautiful!!, green is all over the place, and there is a place where you can sit and watch people passing by, and still is quiet and relaxing, that place brings me lots of special memories, there, I felt some strong energy of love, peace, and fullfillness, its a magic place , third Valjevo, its a great city, great ice creams at plaza, but what I really loved from that place is Gradac, I actually stayed there, and we went to rock climbing, we were inside a cave, and the craziest and most amazing experience there was at this mountains, is near a border of town, but I cant remember the name of those mountains, we went there with Russian cars, and it was very fun!! Again, greeeen all over the place, there were like 3 mountains in a roe, all together, the smallest, middle and biggest, I wish i can remember the names, but, that was amazing. And last but not least, Belgrade, that city reminded me of Mexico city, crowded and big, people all around, transports, plazas, huge malls, even I rather more peaceful places, I still find Belgrade interesting, is because its huge, and full of history, buildings, that makes it so interesting, it still isnt that crowded as Mexico city, and gosh thats great, but, that city wellcome me and said goodbye to me of an amazing experience

Q) What was the strangest thing you encountered?

I cant say strange, but I wasn’t familiar with the carpets, you know, you get in a place, and take off your shoes. We don’t do that in Mexico. The toilets were also very strange. They are a different style and I didn’t know how to work it. One time in a restaurant I had to go out and ask a waiter to show me how to flush it. 🙂 The door handles are also a different style and the electrical outlets are so different from the rectangle ones we use in Mexico.

Q) What was the biggest problem that you ran into? 

Not problem actually, the only thing I can complain is that I couldn’t stay longer xD 😛

Q) Did you learn any Serbian ? 

I did learn Serbian, actually, im still learning, with my friends I made there, they help me a lot, plus, I search for pages where I can check grammar and all basic stuffs, but now is harder cuz im not constantly hearing it, when I was there, I realized I could actually learn it 100%, but of course I had to stay there way longer, I love Serbian, and the hardest part for me, probably to remember how to change last part of words, depending on tense and depending on gender, so, its funny for me sometimes to write it xD jajajaja

Q) What advice would you give to someone that is interested in visiting Serbia?

To not be afraid of what news, media or anybody that say things, especially negative things about Serbia, just don’t listen to that and go to Serbia, live your own experience. I can say that it is very safe, of course it isn’t perfectly safe, just like any country there is some crime, but it doesn’t mean there is a terrorist on every street corner, that is ridiculous. I can assure you that it is a place where you can find peace, so i am sure you are going to love the place. Go everywhere you can while you are there, try everything you can, meet all the people that you can meet , there are many things to enjoy. You will find a very close “family” there! 🙂

 

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2014 in Through my eyes, What others think

 

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My Tiny Little Hometown in East-Central Illinois


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My hometown is a tiny little blip on the map. If you blink you will miss it. If you are familiar with country western music, this is your typical small town that is mentioned in there. We have one bank, one stop light,  one grocery store, one car dealership, and the more churches than restaurants. The biggest disagreements and fights started over  Miller Light vs Bud Light, Cardinals vs Cubs, or Ford vs Chevrolet.  A big truck with a loud exhaust was a status symbol for most young men.

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Greenup, Illinois USA or “Village of the Porches”  is located in East-Central Illinois in the country of Cumberland and has a population of around 1600 people. It is far from a wealthy town.  The median income for a household in the village was $29,375, and the median income for a family was $36,902 according to the last census.

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Illinois has a total of 102 counties and has the most forms of administrative government in the United States of America with over 8,000. The Illinois Constitution of 1970 , created for the first time in Illinois, a type of “home rule” that allows localities to govern themselves to a certain extent. Each county is broken down into townships with  an elected board that makes local decisions.

Greenup received its name from National Road surveyor William C. Greenup, who platted the town in 1834. He was one of the supervisors hired to oversee construction of the National Road in Illinois.

The little town has one dark bit of history. It used to have something called a “Sundown Law” that required all African Americans to be out of town before the sun went down.

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This sad part of my town’s history was mentioned in the book ” Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension Of American Racism” by James W. Loewe.

The times have changed and Greenup has turned into a great place to raise a little family or spend your retirement in a safe little place where everyone knows everyone. Growing up in a tiny little community has made me a kinder and more friendly person. It wasn’t uncommon for me to wave at every single car that drove past me or to say  “hi” to the majority of people that you bump into at the grocery store.

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I went to school at Cumberland High School which is  located a few miles outside of Greenup, IL. Some of the best times of my life happened in the halls of this little high school. We were known as the “Pirates” and had some really good basketball and baseball teams during my tenure. I was a very loud and obnoxious hooligan at basketball games. A total of five schools banned me from their gymnasiums for being loud and disrespectful. One school, Kansas High School, even sent a letter to my parents telling them that I was banned for life from all sporting events in Kansas. Dad decided to bring out the belt after receiving that letter. 😛

The community has also been crucial in the two large donations of sporting equipment that we pulled together for Serbia. I was interviewed in our most popular newspaper about my time in Serbia and had many schools, people and businesses contact me to help. We pulled together all of this American football gear that was delivered last winter. The local teams really appreciated it and had a dinner in my honor in Zrenjanin. We also shipped over a big donation of baseball equipment the year before. The people in Greenup love to help those that might need a bit of help. We have another big donation that Ervin Equipment and Arcola Youth Football pulled together a few months ago. It will be brought over soon!

If you ever find yourself in East-Central Illinois, swing by “The Village of the Porches”. I took many of these beautiful pictures of my hometown from Jim Grey’s blog. He was kind enough to allow me permission to use them. Jenny Stewart from Greenup, Illinois was also kind enough to allow me to use the picture of her nephew.

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Shot of downtown Greenup. There are tons of antique stores and very little else. You can see why they call it “Village of the Porches”

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another close up of the porches.

 

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This used to be the old bank. It was common for old banks to have the entrance on the corner.

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This is the “American Legion” that is one of the few drinking establishments in town. This town used to be “dry” on Sunday. That means no alcohol could be purchased. That changed about 10 years ago.

 

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This is the old train depot that has been relocated into the downtown strip.

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Museum located beside the old depot.

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They claim our town is historic. 🙂 I know that Abe Lincoln supposedly helped dig a well in Greenup. He was raised about 20 miles from Greenup at the historic site of ” Lincoln Log Cabin

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This is our pride and joy. These covered bridges were very common in Illinois, Indiana and other places in the Midwest.

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Beautiful shot of the entrance of the bridge.

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The Cumberland County Fair is held every August and features lots of horse racing and a Saturday night demolition derby.

We should all be proud of our roots. I am no exception to that rule!

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2014 in Through my eyes

 

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Searching for a Meal in Zemun


I had the craving for some home-cooked food today. The workers at the three little fast food stands think that I’m nuts because I am there every single night 🙂 I decided to hit up one of the boat restaurants along the quay here in Zemun.

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Today was a cruddy day here in Serbia. The city of Zemun was quiet with very few folks walking around besides a few old men fishing from the docks. This whole summer has been rainy and chilly. There are some major flooding issues down around Negotin. 😦 The people have had such a terrible year dealing with water over here. I walked down along the endless amount of boat restaurants and saw that no one was in “Sidro”.

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That was the selling feature for me. 🙂 I had been there a few times before for some beers and a quick bite to eat. Nothing freaks me out more than going into a packed place and ordering food. People tend to stare at you the minute you start in attempting to speak Serbian  . 🙂

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Nothing is better than  some alone time with my music blaring in my IPod,  some good food, and a cold beer. The song that started playing the minute that I sat down in a little corner table on the edge of the boat was “Thunder Rolls” . How ironic on a dreary, cloudy day.

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The waiter slowly sauntered over after seeing me sit there for 5 minutes. I avoided speaking English and told him that I wanted a big beer and a menu.

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There were so many  items on the menu that I had never seen before.  I didn’t know if they were some kind of fish or monkey brains. 🙂 I recognized my favorite salad, Sopska.

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Sopska salads  have some of the freshest veggies and this AMAZING cheese on top of them. What was I going to eat for the main course? I hated to ask questions to this waiter with an unsmiling face. Ummmmmmm.. I just selected the middle priced one “Bečka šnicla” in this one section because I recognized the word “snicla” but had no clue what “Bečka” meant. It reminded me of how the Serbians call the city of Vienna, Austria. It is called “Beč” over here. My selection had been made , but the waiter was no where in sight. I made some huffing noises, dropped the menu loudly, coughed a few times, and finally he sauntered over to see if I was ready to order. I ordered in Serbian and even asked him if the snicla was chicken or pork. He told  me that it was pork. That makes no difference to me as I’m a huge pork lover (sorry to my Muslim pals) 😛

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This waiter is on the typical “Serbian speed” which can be so frustrating for me. I guess it has caused me to be more of a laid back and patient guy than I ever was before. Serbia has even eliminated my need for ADHD medications that I used to take prior to living here. 🙂 The slowness and tardiness can still be very annoying for me. I’ve always been a guy that was on time or 10 minutes early for everything. That is useless over here in Serbia. The vast majority of my friends will tell me to be somewhere at 2PM so I get there at 1:50PM and they saunter in around 2:30PM without even a simple excuse or apology. 🙂 Time just doesn’t seem to have the same meaning as it does to us in the West. Well….. There is a time when Serbs seem to be extremely impatient. Behind the wheel of an automobile. I have never seen people that use their horn as much as they do over here in Serbia. It is a constant blaring of horns. Thank God that Serbia isn’t a “conceal and carry” country or there would be lots of shooting. My friend , Ivan, is a good example. He seems to always have his hand on the horn and uses it in the most ridiculous situations. You will get a ticket in the USA for “disturbing the peace” or “unlawful use of your horn” . I like that law because the sound of a car horn instantly pisses me off. 🙂

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My food finally arrived! It looked AMAZING! The veggies were glistening and the aroma of the snicla was overpowering my nostrils. I immediately recognized the  snicla . It is something like a breaded tenderloin in the USA, but this is high quality pork and 300 grams of it. 🙂 It came with some tarter sauce, a some fries and a few veggies that decorate the meal.

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It took me a good 15 minutes to shove every last bite of the salad and snicla down my throat. I even dabbed up every last drop of juice with my bread. You can’t eat a meal in Serbia without a big piece of bread. Serbs are always seeing me eat something and they say ” How can you eat it without bread?” Bread has slowly turned into a must have for me too!

I piled all my plates together and straightened up my table. A new waiter came over to collect the dishes and he remembered me from my previous visit. He was very friendly and spoke  pretty good English for a 42 year old man. He greeted me and told me that he is going to stop speaking to me in English and force me to speak Serbian. -_-  I had no time to object before he started spewing out something about how he had learned English by being forced to speak with English speaking customers in a Thai restaurant in Belgrade. 🙂 I understood a good 50% of the conversation. It is good to run into people that will force me to speak their language.  Polako, polako, polako……………………….

“Sidro” gets a big thumbs up for me. My total bill was 800 dinars which is very close to what you would spend at KFC or some other fast food joint, but here you get everything fresh!  Another day and another interesting and tasty meal here in the heart of Serbia:)

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2014 in Through my eyes

 

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