Marko Vignejevic is a young man from Pancevo, Serbia. He spent one year studying at an American high school through the A-SMYLE student exchange program. One day he received a letter from the organization telling him that he would be spending his year in the tiny little town of Sylvan Grove, Kansas. Sylvan Grove has a population of about 300 residents! What would happen when a 6’7 Serbian student enters a tiny town in the center of the USA? I asked him a few questions to find out…. Charles- “What were your first impressions of the USA?” Marko- “Okay. My first impressions? Well, lets skip all the flying and sightseeing and jump right into Kansas. So, my first impression of Kansas was “Holy shit, this place is flat!” and I live in Vojvodina. 🙂 Then I started mentally preparing myself for the farmer lifestyle, instead of my city lifestyle that I had in Serbia. Then I got to the house and the farm and I liked it! It was way different than my house in Serbia, but I expected that.” Charles: “What about the family you lived with? Were they nice to you?” Marko: ” They treated me very well! I never once felt like I didn’t belong! They had four kids already. One daughter and three boys. It was a lot of fun living with them as you can imagine with all those kids running around.” Charles: ” Did you teach them any Serbian?” Marko: ” I tried, but It didn’t work out very well. They kept pronouncing the J and the G the exact same way. :)” Charles: “Were they a wealthy family?” Marko: “ No, average middle class family, but they live much better than an average Serbian family.” Charles: “ Were your real mom and dad worried about you? Did your host family speak with them? “ Marko: “ No, once all my flying was over, they were fine. My dad is a very reasonable man and calmed everyone else. I introduced my host parents to my real parents over Skype and there was a lot of awkward staring until I started translating because my parents in Serbia speak ZERO English.” Charles: ” How did the residents of this place treat you?” Marko: “The town is so small. It only has 300 people in it. The high school was a consolidation of a few little towns and only had 100 students. The people of Kansas were so nice to me, possibly too nice.” Charles: ” Were the kids at school friendly to you?” Marko: ” YES! The minute I walked into the school kids started saying ” Great! We are going to state in basketball this year” because I was the tallest guy in school. It was funny because they hadn’t even seen me play yet! I felt like the star walking around this school being 6’7! I was also the only exchange student.” Charles: ” How did your basketball season go in Kansas?” Marko: “It was good. We ended up 9th in whole state of Kansas, but lost badly in our final game. We were 5th in the state at one time” Charles: ” Did you tell the kids at school about Serbia?” Marko: ” Yes. We had my Serbian flag hanging up in my American history class! :)” Charles: ” Did you like American food?” Marko: ” Yes, I loved it! Could you find a way to bring a Taco Bell over here to Serbia? 🙂 ” Charles: “What was the worst part of your trip?” Marko: “Probably having to leave everyone. ” Charles: “Anything else you’d like to tell us?” Marko: ” Well… I won a free trip to Washington D.C and New York City for winning a writing contest and for having lots of community service hours!” Marko: ” I’d love to find a way to go back to Kansas again next year!”
Tag Archives: SERBIAN MONEY
This wonderful young lady met her Serbian boyfriend on the social media site, Say Serbia, that my Chicago Serb friend and I helped bring about. Hope they name their first child after me. 😉 She contacted me on Facebook to ask for a few tips and bits of advice prior to coming here this past summer.
We had plans of meeting up while she was here, but we never seemed to be in the same place at once. One day I was with some friends in Novi Sad and bumped right into her and her Serbian boyfriend. They told me about a ton of experiences that she had encountered. She told me about her plan to create a video diary of her Serbian vacation when she returned to Ireland. Guess what I received in my mailbox today? This beautiful 28 minute video that documents her entire trip. I wanted to grill her with a few questions before posting it and she was kind enough to respond.
1. What did you hear about Serbia before visiting?
“I had never really heard much about Serbia. The only word I would have used to describe it previously would have been Sports! I was aware of a few of their athlete e.g. Vidic, Ivanovic, Seles, Djokovic etc”
2. Did you have any fears about visiting Serbia?
“As a kid, one of the stereotypes I heard a lot was Eastern Europe is dangerous, especially if you are black, as a result I never questioned that statement and deemed it to be a no go area for me. As I got older and began to interact and befriend more people from different nationalities I realised most stereotypes I’ve heard are extremely false and through stereotypes prejudice and discrimination are formed. I wanted to overcome that. I became more interested in travelling and learning about different cultures .My mum visited Poland a few years ago and loved it. It really encouraged me to want to travel more and experience places for myself. That’s where my curiosity to visit the eastern part of Europe began. Naturally I researched alot about different places to visit but after randomly talking to someone from the Balkans (he didn’t want to tell me he was from Serbia at first) and seeing how friendly and pleasantly easy to talk to he was, I wanted to learn a bit more about Serbia. Which is how started reading about other people’s travel experience and also how I came across YouTube videos of this American guy who was excited and passionate about Serbia.
Initially I wasn’t scared about visiting but when I started informing people about my upcoming trip, I was really taken back by the prejudice comments I was hearing from others, who I’m certain couldn’t even point out the country on a map if asked. This did lead me to start to worry about my visit just from allowing others comments to scare me. Two weeks before I was to leave, I messaged a black girl from London who had just returned from the EXIT festival held in Novi Sad. She shared with me her observations during her time there, how she loved every minute she spent in Serbia, how friendly and courteous people were and not to allow opinions of others to dictate my decisions and said that I should go there and see for myself before passing any judgement. Today I’m glad to say I’m delighted I went.”
3. I have heard a lot of propaganda about Serbs being racist. What are your thoughts after being here ?
“I did get alot of stares especially in Zrenjanin; people didn’t even try to hide it. I was asked to take many pictures in Guča but you realise that people are just curious about you. People were interested in my background, my hair, the type of music I like etc. I didn’t experience any hostility during my visits to different towns and cities.
Serbia is country that is often misunderstood by the world and seems to be painted in a negative way. All i can say is that it’s a place full of rich heritage, culture diversity and truly exceptionally warm and hospitable people. It’s the people who are the true treasure of this country. I’ve been to different countries but Serbia by far is the only place where i’ve truly felt welcomed and well looked after. It is impressive how they are willing to show you their home places and share their personal stories with you. I cried days before my flight, i just didn’t want to leave. Not many places or people can make you feel that way.”
4. What are four words that you would use to describe Serbia after spending your vacation here?
5. What is one thing that really shocked you about Serbia?
“I wouldn’t say shocked but more touched. People don’t earn alot and yet you wouldn’t realise that from their behaviour. A friend of ours had been working almost 24hours one day and yet whenever we went out he always made sure to come and spend time with us while I was around. Everyone would always offer to pay for me, they wouldn’t accept no for an answer. What I’m trying to say is that regardless of whatever situation they are in, people were still generous, caring and humble, making sure I was well looked after and even offering me gifts before I left. . My boyfriend’s baba gave me a gift she had owned for over 30 years. I loved the fact that every meal we ate together at the dinner table or that the Sunday lunch was always at the grandparents’ house, and everyone would insist that I should eat more because baba thought I was too skinny. Ne hvala, Sita sam was a phrase I used far too often. These kinds of gestures no matter how big or small really touch my heart.”
6. Name one thing that annoyed you or something you disliked about Serbia.
7. Favorite food and drink?
“Oh my goodness, there are too many to choose from. The food was so delicious with so many different flavours and very healthy. Most of the ingredients used were from my bf’s fruit and vegetable garden.”
Homemade plasma favoured ice cream
Medovača Rakija (had one too many
8. What would you tell any other women of color or women in general that were considering a trip to Serbia?
“I’d say go for it and experience Serbia for yourself. Immerse yourself in the culture, people and food of course. I highly recommend.”
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… Morelia 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.”
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! 🙂
Money is a subject we all enjoy!!! Most of us suffer from too little of it and others can’t get enough of it! Serbia has a very favorable exchange rate for Americans, Brits, Canadians, Aussies etc…. I have gotten a lot of questions about the currency that is used in Serbia. Here is a breakdown of Serbian currency compared to American currency. The figures are based on a current exchange rates for 02-24-12….
Serbia uses the DINAR or RSD (Republic of Serbia DINAR)… pronounced like (DEENER). The USA uses the DOLLAR. Currently one US dollar = 81dinars. The Dinar is available in the following coin currency……Here is a video that I did that shows the 1RSD to the 100 Dinar note.
- 1 RSD coin= $0.01 USD
- 2 RSD coin= $0.02 USD
- 5 RSD coin= $0.06 USD
- 10RSD coin= $0.12 USD
- 20RSD coin= $0.24 USD
USA currency has a name for each. The small copper $0.01 is called a PENNY, the $0.05 cent is called a NICKEL, the $0.10 cent is called a DIME and the $0.25 cent is called a QUARTER.
As you can see there is a bill for the 10 dinar and 20 dinar also. Here is a video that shows all the bills from 200 Dinar to 5000 Dinar The exchange rate is broken down like this…..
- 10RSD= $0.12 USD
- 20RSD= $0.24 USD
- 50 RSD=$0.61 USD
- 100RSD=$1.22 USD
- 200RSD=$2.45 USD
- 500RSD=$5.13 USD
The picture of American currency shows the $2 bill that is no longer in production but can still be used in any transaction. I have always liked the USA money because it is uniform in shape and color and not too flashy and gaudy! Serbian money has watermarks and different sizes for the bills. It would be much easier to be blind in Serbia!!! 🙂