My little clan spent most of September in Belgrade, Serbia. It was a fantastic trip. We had great quality time with family. We ate so much rich and delicious food that we nearly burst. Hushpuppy had the time of her life on the plentiful playgrounds and play centers. It was super.
I can’t, however, deny that there were a few little cultural differences. As a way of noting some of the more interesting ones, and touching base with home, I started writing a travel update for some of my online mum friends called “Today in Eastern Europe.” They’re meant to be a bit of fun, so, I thought I’d share some of them, and a few others here.
Eastern Europe … just a little different from home.
On the bus from the plane to the terminal, my shy toddler has already been offered a seat on a grandmotherly type’s lap and been quite literally pinched on the cheek. We haven’t even cleared customs, and she’s in culture shock. I think someone may knit her a sweater by day’s end.
The waiter informed us that that the long breaded pork thing in the back is colloquially referred to as “Girl’s Dream.”
Right. “More like Guy’s Dream,” I said.
Russian Out to Get One
It was either Putin or Novak Djokovic. Gah! Why didn’t I get one of those Djokovic ones? Mistakes were made.
We drove an hour and a half to Northern Serbia to have lunch with my husband’s extended family. Relatives kept appearing all afternoon – around 35 in total. One particularly boisterous and heavily bearded cousin heartily shook my hand and raised a toast to welcome me to the family (we’ve been married five years).
The best part was that they had an amazing garden, and my city slicker kid basically picked her entire lunch of peppers, tomatoes, walnuts, figs, and grapes. The most embarrassing part was when, after the soup course at lunch, the head of the household auntie, who was sitting next to me, presents to me a bowl of mystery meat. “This is ugly meat, but I like it,” she says. Then , she offers me some. Not wanting to be rude, I accept, and she scoops some into my bowl, along with a stewed carrot. It’s then that I realize that it’s chicken innards from the broth. The bowl gets passed around the table, and every other guest declines, in turn. They all then to proceed to watch me intently as I slowly eat my stewed carrot and poke dubiously at the gelatinous blob in my bowl. I’d been sternly warned before we arrived that it’s extremely rude to not eat everything on your plate. I don’t know what my move here is.
After 10 minutes, the aunt finally puts me out of my misery by clearing my bowl away. Next time, I think I’ll take my kid’s lead and just eat things I’ve picked from a vine myself.
It must be 20 years since I’ve seen cigarettes sold at every cash register. Smoking in restaurants (and pretty much everywhere else) is totally normal. We were visiting friends, and someone was smoking. Hushpuppy kept saying “Fire! Mama, fire!” I realized that we don’t have any friends who smoke, and she’s never seen it before.
Just now at the local bakery for breakfast, husband picks up one of the major Belgrade papers. Leafing through – news, news, news, and then … boom … 1/8 of the lower left corner page is a full color picture of a buxom blonde with her most generously endowed breasts on full display.
“Waaaah!” I say.
“Oh, that’s normal. They do that here,” he responds.
“Because why? What’s the ‘story’?”
“Let’s see. The story above it is about the Greek government. The caption over the girl’s picture says ‘I support the Coalition, too!'”
“… … … Seriously?”
“Yeah. That’s more context than they usually give. Usually it just says, ‘Enjoy this picture.'”
P.S. I do quite like my egg’s hat.
My husband decided he was going to get his teeth cleaned because it was going to cost something like $18 here, and someone recommended a dentist to him. He asked me if I wanted to get mine done, too. I asked him if the dentist would speak English, and he said, “oh, sure, of course” so I agreed.
So, we get there, and there’s no waiting room or receptionist, just the dentist and her office. Of course, she doesn’t speak a word of English. But, she’s lovely, so I don’t run. Husband gets his done, and I sit in the corner listening to all the whirring and grinding dental noises, and I’m getting increasingly queasy in my hot corner where the air from the one open window does not reach. Then, it’s my turn, and I really did think about saying thanks anyway, but got my bravery on and went for it. She looks around my teeth, and then she yells a monologue in Serbian back to my husband. Oh no, no, no. I’m thinking – “am I going to have a root canal right here in this office?”
He then translates: “She says your teeth are perfect. It’s been a long time since she’s seen teeth that good. She can’t believe it. She hopes our daughter has inherited your teeth. She says there’s hardly anything to clean.”
Let me tell you, my teeth are nothing special. I haven’t flossed in months. I think I’m going to get my teeth cleaned by Serbian dentists from now on. What an ego boost!
I could have eaten cheese pastries every single day. I practically did. On the last day, I tell my husband, “I really admire your country’s ability to wrap cheese inside warm dough in so many different ways.”
Looking forward to our next trip back where I’ll explore more adventures in cheese pastries and meat, which ought to happen around the time I’m due for my next dental cleaning. Don’t forget to send me your sizes for your Putin T-shirt orders.