I can't read or write

Trip Start Sep 07, 2004
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Serbia and Montenegro  ,
Monday, August 27, 2007

Today we woke up early as we wanted to take care of a few things with the police and the city. I got a first hand view of the bureaucracy that is Serbia. Anita wants to renew her passport since she is taking her husbands last name. We had to go to the police station, then the office for marriage certificates (other side of town), and then to another office that I couldn't figure out to drop off all the paperwork and then we have to go back tomorrow to do it all again (why? I am not quite sure, something to do with picking another form up and bringing it somewhere else...) She had at least 10 different forms to fill out and all for this name change. Unbelievable. Obviously remnants of communism...

We also registered my name with the city so that they know I am here visiting. In most cases this is not necessary, but we decided to be careful as when I leave , it is possible they will want to see where I have stayed and if I registered, etc. If I don't have this document they could stamp my passport saying I am not allowed to enter for 5 years. So we walked into this teeny tiny office with two chairs, a calendar, and a desk with a typewriter. The man sitting at it was smoking and reading the newspaper. Obviously hard at work! HAHA! He filled out my forms and let me take some pictures of his typewriter. I have never seen a typewrite with Cyrillic before! He jokingly said to me that I could take pictures of him as well. Little did he know I had already secretly shot a few when he wasn't paying attention! He laughed at my stealthiness and then posed for me for a proper one.

We then walked down the main street and stopped at different sidewalk vendors and bought a book, some sunglasses, and postcards to send home. Then continued on to the vegetable market to get some supplies for the week. Next to the river is a square where the farmers sell everything everyday. There are all sorts of different farmers in the area and everything is available, from walnuts to eggs to plums to cabbage to the most delicious and beautiful sweet red peppers, as well as the hot fiery ones.

Next to the market was a friend of Anita's hairdresser and we both were in need of a trim so we booked appointments for tomorrow and then looked for a cafe to sit down and have a coffee. We found one in which the waitress was tickled pink that I was an American and that she could practice her English. She had the most beautiful blue eyes and they sparkled when she was speaking to me.

So with bags full of veggies and the sun gaining strength, we walked into the old town as Anita wanted to "show" me a small table and mirror she was "thinking" of buying for the house here in Serbia. They needed a little something for the entryway. So we took a look in the window and immediately went in to make the purchase. When Anita has something in mind and goes back to "look" that almost always (99.99%) means "we are going to buy this now". Thank God the taxi stand was right out front so I wouldn't have to struggle with the mirror and veggies (and eggs!)

We got everything home and then immediately she called her neighbor with a drill to help hang the mirror. He came over immediately. It's so great how close this community is, and everyone has a moment to come help for a little beer or coffee and conversation.

So let me tell you a little bit about the city. Last night Anita and I went for a walk and found a cafe to have a little dinner. Everywhere were families walking, eating ice cream and conversing with friends and probably family that were also there. The old part of town is small as most of it has been bombed by one country or another, including mine. But it is undergoing some revitalization which makes for interesting juxtaposing of very old buildings next to newer buildings next to bombed out buildings. They have also built new additions on top of what was left from bombing so you get these patchwork buildings as well. In between are statues of all their famous figures in history with grass and benches and flowers. I had to stop and laugh because the kids (all ages from barely walking to 10 years-old) were climbing and playing and running all around the monuments. All at 9:00pm in the evening. The schedule here is similar to the Mediterranean in that they rest in the afternoon because of the warmth. So by 7pm the streets are full again and everyone is meeting to have dinner or go for a walk along the river. Oh did I mention the river? Just like my hometown Petaluma, it runs through the middle of town and the businesses run along it. There are several bridges that cross it, and marks one side of town from the other.

We decided, on this lovely evening, that I should try a couple of traditional Serbian desserts. Both were delicious but very heavy! I am pretty sure they use a pound of butter per slice. I could only take a few bites and then I couldn't bring myself to take another bite. One of the cakes was made with cookies that are normally for small babies. They mash them up and add a little lemon and the aforementioned butter. They are called Plazmakeks. Delicious!

Today the town center was not so busy as it was Monday and not quite noon. But still lovely and full of life. One thing I love about the neighborhoods is that there are kids everywhere. Just like when I was young, the kids rule the streets, playing soccer or tennis or whatever, and the cars, well, the street is so full that they come second.

One thing I have noticed is that all the taxis have no seat belts. They drive just as fast as in San Francisco but I bounce around like a ping pong ball. Thrilling and scary!
So we made a wonderful soup with the veggies. We wanted to buy some chicken to make the broth with, but its hard to find here. They eat mostly beef or pork. Mind you they have many farm with chickens, but they are for eggs not meat. We ended up going to her friends house, Donna and getting chicken from her. Apparently she buys it in bulk and then fills the freezer.

Donna is a character! She is maybe 70-75 years-old and my best example of the women here. Even though she has problems with arthritis and diabetes she is full of life. Every tale she tells includes all emotions, a little crying and then ends in laughing. The other women are also like this. It is the way of talking here. Everything is said with so much emotion. They are quite simply strong personalities with a lot of passion. Donna's husband surprised me with a little English (so sweet!) and reminded me a lot of my grandpa. Though he could barely communicate with me, he still managed to tease me and he did this direct from the garden where he had been cutting back some overgrown trees! He came in with his white undershirt and pruning shears and I had to laugh at how surreal it was to be somewhere so foreign, yet so familiar.

So today was a busy day. We made the soup, brought some to Donna and then Anita went downstairs to Donna's daughter to get her hair colored. They have a nice little lavender salon built on to the side of the house with all the furnishings a salon needs except for the chairs, they had normal dining chairs instead of salon chairs. But that didn't seem to bother anyone. I imagine it's hard to get barber chairs here. Anita paid about 10 euros to get her hair colored and the lady was complaining that she paid too much.

So the evening is not yet finished. Soon Glishko will be here with a special Serbian red wine. He is the neighbor who helped us drill holes and hang the mirror. He sat and drank a few beers with us and since he can speak German quite well was happy to converse with us for a bit. I tried the local beer from Valjevo which was a nice mild pilsner and easy to drink, no bitter after taste. They have been producing it since 1860. So as payment for hanging the mirror will be playing cards and drinking Procorde (a local red wine). Hopefully I won't have a headache tomorrow...
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