Sunday, June 25, 2006

Back in Boston

Much to our amazement, we didn't have to pay a penny in extra baggage fees, even though we had twice the allowed amount (and my back still hurts). I'm not sure if it was because Dan spoke to the check-in guy in Serbian, because I smiled cutely, or just because the guy was too stunned by how much baggage we had to think about charging us. At any rate, we're home with all our stuff and we didn't have to clean out the bank account to make it happen.

Since we got back we've been hanging out with family and friends, and I've been talking a lot. It really is great to be back around English all the time, to be able to make small talk with the grocery clerk or whatever. I think in some ways (despite all my English-speaking friends) I became slightly mute over the past ten months. It's very freeing to be back around my native language.

For those of you wondering about our first food indulgences, so far we've had Mexican, Japanese, American, and tonight we're going for Indian food with my dad.

The super-exciting news since our return is that I was awarded a fellowship for school, which means that my tuition is completely covered and I get a super job working on event programming and international programs. Doesn't that just sound like me?

So we're back and things are off to a fantastic start, although I already miss my gang of Serbian friends. Hello you guys!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Last Day

Today is our last full day in Serbia. We'll spend the day packing and visiting friends. Tomorrow morning we head back to Boston. Of course, I'm sad to leave behind my friends and the life we've made here. I still remember returning to Serbia from a trip to Budapest and sighing with relief at the sounds of Serbian. I like that for a short time a language other than my own meant "home."

I'm also excited to get to Boston, see my family and friends, and get started with graduate school. Also looking forward to baseball and asian food.

Leaving Serbia does not mean the end of blogging, at least not right away. I'll keep it up when I get home to talk about reverse culture shock and all the weird things that happen to me in the States.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Serbian Wedding, Part II: The Bride's House

As soon as we arrived and got out of the cars, the accordions started up (of course).

When the groom's party arrives at the bride's house, there is a tradition that the groom must shoot an apple placed somewhere in the yard by the bride's family before being allowed inside. Sometimes they put it in a tricky spot, like on top of the house or up in a tree (how difficult the shot is supposedly relates to how much the bride's family likes the groom). In this case, there was no apple - the groom simply greeted the bride's family at the gate, and they let us in.

We followed the garden path conga line-style, getting pinned with corsages on the way. The line wound its way up to the balcony, where we were once again offered drinks (vino, pivo, rakija?) and pečenje (roasted meat). At this point the bride's brother and the groom's brother began negotiating the price of the bride.

That's right, we were there to buy the bride. While this was once a serious transaction, it's now done very much in the spirit of tradition and good fun. The negotiations were heated, with much waving around of money and arguing, and at one point the groom's brother pretended to walk away, saying "She's too expensive. Let's go." They were all trying really hard to keep straight faces. I just laughed and laughed.

Throughout the negations, the bride was kept inside the house. I've heard that sometimes the groom will arrange with the bride in advance to "steal" her. While the groom is distracting the family, his friends sneak around back and take the bride. In this case, the groom was honest and paid up. The first offer was for 10 euros, and the last offer I heard was for 40 or 50 euros, but I didn't hear the final price they settled on. Once they came to an agreement, the bride was produced and there was much drinking, celebrating, and ooh ahhing over how beautiful she looked. Gifts were exchanged (including jewelry for the bride from the groom's mother and sister) and the groom shot off a full clip into the air (and later his mother would do the same). Does anyone have statistics on wedding day tragedies resulting from celebratory gun shooting gone wrong?

We sat for a while drinking and eating (Dan and I were pleased to discover that many people spoke English) before climbing back into the cars and heading to the opština (city hall) for the first of two ceremonies. It was 11:30 AM, we were already full of roasted meat and home made liquor, and we still had 12 hours of wedding ahead of us.

From here I'm going to throw the ball into Dan's court - he was there too and he should get to write about it. So you can read about the ceremonies and the reception at The Native Speaker, although maybe not until after Wednesday.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

I love The Onion

It's great to see that the US is caught up in World Cup fever this year (hah!).

I was showing this piece to a friend in Serbia, and I had to explain the joke.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Ok, so you'll have to wait a week for the rest of the wedding saga. We leave today for our tango vacation in Croatia. After that, we only have one more week in Serbia!

See you soon in Boston.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Serbian Wedding, Part I: The Groom's House

One question that has come up with surprising frequency over the past year is "Have you been to a Serbian wedding yet?"

While none of our friends were willing to get married just so we could attend a wedding, our friend Milos did get us invited to his friend’s wedding, so I can now answer "Yes." And also "Wow!" Yesterday we spent about 15 hours at wedding-related activities. For blogging purposes, I'm going to break it up into four parts: The Groom's House, The Bride's House, The Ceremonies, and The Reception.

We arrived at the groom's apartment around 9 AM. There were hors d'oevres, drinks (vino, pivo, rakija?), and snacks for us while we waited for everyone to arrive. Also, there were two guys with accordions to get us in the partying spirit (as if we needed anything more than the rakija). From what I can tell, this part of the day is really about immediate family and close friends; we were invited along so we could see how the whole thing works.

Once everyone was assembled, the groom was ready, and all necessary pictures were taken, we headed down the stairs and out to the cars, parade-style, with the accordions in the lead (I think this was around 10 AM, and I’m sure we woke the neighbors). As we were walking out of the apartment, we noticed that the groom was packin' - a handgun in a shoulder holster. I've often heard shots going off on Sunday mornings from wedding parties, but until I saw the holster I had forgotten about this detail.

I understand that in villages the groom's family traditionally walks over to the bride's house (music all the way, of course). In this case, the groom lives in the city and the bride is from a village, so we had a caravan of cars, all decorated with bows and flowers. As we were waiting to pile into the cars, we had our first dance of the day - the groom's mother, sister, and best woman (kum in Serbian, more on this later) got together for a quick line dance, or kolo. I could tell it was going to be a good day.