Pustolovina: adventure in Serbian

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

This Day in History

On August, 28, 1976, the NY Cosmos beat the Seattle Sounders 2-1 for the North American Soccer League Cup… and two very special people got married.

On August 28, 1977, Ron Guidry (the signature in my palm of my first baseball glove) faced just 28 men as the New York Yankees beat the Texas Rangers 1-0… and two very special people celebrated their first anniversary.

On August 28, 1978, Ja’afar Sharif-Emami was appointed premier of Iran… and two very special people celebrated their second anniversary.

On August 28, 1979, an IRA bomb exploded in the Great Market in Brussels… and two very special people celebrated their third anniversary.

On August 28, 1980, Corina Ungureanu, a world class Romanian gymnast who competed internationally from 1993 to 1999, was born… and two very special people celebrated their fourth anniversary.

On August 28, 1981, John Hinckley Jr. pled innocent… and two very special people celebrated their fifth anniversary.

On August 28, 1982, country singer LeAnn Rimes was born… and two very special people celebrated their sixth anniversary.

On August 28, 1983, Joseph Kreckman set a record with 2,215 clay pigeons shot in an hour… and two very special people celebrated their seventh anniversary.

On August 28, 1984, The Jackson’s Victory Tour broke the record for concert ticket sales… and two very special people celebrated their eighth anniversary.

On August 28, 1985, writer and actress Ruth Gordon died… and two very special people celebrated their ninth anniversary.

On August 28, 1986, a state of siege was declared in Bolivia… and two very special people celebrated their tenth anniversary.

On August 28, 1987, Mike Schmidt passed Ted Williams and Willie McCovey with 522 HRs… and two very special people celebrated their eleventh anniversary.

On August 28, 1988, the fortieth Emmy Awards were held (Winners included 30something and The Wonder Years.)… and two very special people celebrated their twelfth anniversary.

On August 28, 1989, Jim Bakker’s fraud and conspiracy trial began… and two very special people celebrated their thirteenth anniversary.

On August 28, 1990, Iraq declared Kuwait its 19th province… and two very special people celebrated their fourteenth anniversary.

On August 28, 1991, a drunk driver crashed into Union Square Station in New York City, causing a train derailment that killed six and injured dozens… and two very special people celebrated their fifteenth anniversary.

On August 28, 1992, Muttia Muralitharan made his Test Cricket debut versus Australia in Colombo… and two very special people celebrated their sixteenth anniversary.

On August 28, 1993, 76 people died in an airplane crash in Tajikistan… and two very special people celebrated their seventeenth anniversary.

On August 28, 1994, the first Japanese gay pride parade was held… and two very special people celebrated their eighteenth anniversary.

On August 28, 1995, a mortar shell killed 38 people in Sarajevo… and two very special people celebrated their nineteenth anniversary.

On August 28, 1996, the Democratic Party nominated Bill Clinton for a second term… and two very special people celebrated their twentieth anniversary.

On August 28, 1997, riders were stuck upside down for 90 minutes at a Belgian amusement park… and two very special people celebrated their twenty-first anniversary.

On August 28, 1998, Pakistan’s National Assembly passed a law to make the Qu’ran and Sunnah ‘Supreme Law’ (The bill was later defeated in the Senate.)… and two very special people celebrated their twenty-second anniversary.

On August 28, 1999, The Sixth Sense topped the U.S. weekend box office, earning over eight million dollars… and two very special people celebrated their twenty-third anniversary.

On August 28, 2000, The US State Department issued a travel warning for Lebanon… and two very special people celebrated their twenty-fourth anniversary.

On August 28, 2001 the first indictment under The Digital Millennium Copyright Act was returned… and two very special people celebrated their twenty-fifth anniversary.

On August 28, 2002, prosecutors indicted WorldCom executives Scott Sullivan and Buford Yates Jr. in connection with the company’s collapse… and two very special people celebrated their twenty-sixth anniversary.

On August 28, 2003, the London Blackout, a 34-minute power outage, occurred… and two very special people celebrated their twenty-seventh anniversary.

On August 28, 2004, George Brunstad, age 70, became the oldest person to swim the English Channel… and two very special people celebrated their twenty-eighth anniversary.

On August 28, 2005, Iraqi negotiators submitted a new constitution to the parliament… and two very special people celebrated their twenty-ninth anniversary.

On August 28, 2006, Kofi Annan demanded that Hezbollah release two captured Israeli soldiers to the International Red Cross and that Israel lift its air and sea blockade of Lebanon… and two very special people celebrated their thirtieth anniversary.

On August 28, 2007, there was a total lunar eclipse… and two very special people celebrated their thirty-first anniversary.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

90 days

I was looking at my calendar a few days ago. I realized that, at most, I have 90 days left until I leave Belgrade. Counting backwards, I realized that I am equidistant between last May and going home. And May seems recent.

I might be leaving even sooner, though. I still haven’t bought my ticket—I have to wait for my replacement to be chosen and the details to be worked out with her. I just know I will be home by Thanksgiving.

For months, I have been telling myself that I don’t need to think about what comes next until after I return from Northern Ireland. That milestone has passed; time to start planning.

I alternate between excitement and terror at returning to the states. I am beyond excited to see family and friends and return to the world of easy eavesdropping, cheap ethnic food, and excellent thrift stores, but I am scared that it will be hard as well, that I will forget the Serbian I have spent endless hours acquiring, that I won’t be able to find a job that I like, that I have built up an idealized version of home that reality will disappoint, that I won’t be able to integrate my experience here into the next phase of my life, that I will bore everyone I meet with an endless series of ‘In Belgrade…’ stories. I know I will miss the life I have built for myself here and the friends I have made. If only Seattle-Belgrade was an easier commute…

I am trying to motivate myself to tackle some of this over the weekend, as I will have keys to an out-of-town friend’s air conditioned DSL-equipped flat.

Wish me luck.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Two Good Days

In the past week, I have had to exceptionally good days.

Day One: Portaferry/Strangford, Northern Ireland

N, A, and I made a daytrip to Portaferry and Stangford, two cities on the East Coast of Northern Ireland. After arriving, we got our morning caffeine and played few games of crazy eights at a lovely little café, before heading off to the aquarium. I learned all sorts of fun facts like: sharks take a tasting bite of everything that they eat, to see if they like it, before they keep eating. Sharks don’t like the taste of people, so almost all shark attacks are only one bite.

The aquarium also houses a seal sanctuary. Every year, the sanctuary chooses a theme for the names for seals they rescue. This year’s is American states. In the past, they have included Harry Potter characters, winter clothes (long john, anorak), Indian dishes, and desserts. We had a conversation later about future name themes – my favorite suggestions included colors, artists not recognized in their lifetime, and the word for seal in other languages.

After the aquarium, we took the ferry across the mouth of a bay to Strangford, a small village. The weather was quite bad—rainy and cold, so we huddled in the enclosed bit of the ferry. We had a happy wander and lunch in Strangford before heading back to Portaferry. We followed the walking tour of the city printed in a brochure we picked up at the Tourist Information Office.

As it was still cold and we had a few hours before the next bus back to Belfast, we hoped to find a café to while away the time. One of my least favorite aspects of Northern Irish life is that everything closes early. Cafes and many stores shut at 5. I don’t understand how anyone does their shopping. We ended up at a hotel. The staff was busy with a wedding, so we sat in the reception area, ate yummy desserts, and were pleased that they forgot about us for a few hours.

Upon returning to Belfast, we joined in a going away party for someone I had never met before.

Day Two: Yesterday, Belgrade

Z, a coworker has long-promised to take me out on her boat, but we have had trouble finding the time—mostly because when I have been in Belgrade, I have been overwhelmed with work. Yesterday, with most of the rest of my coworkers on vacation or at a conference abroad, we found the time. N, another coworker/friend and I met Z and her husband at the marina in Zemun and we headed out to the river. Every the obliging tour guides, they took us past Kalemegdan, so I could see the city from the water. We headed up the Sava, along Ada to look at the vikendice, usually, but not always small floating cabins where people spend their weekends (hence the name). We stopped and swam for a while. The water was amazingly warm.

We climbed back on the boat and feasted on fried eggplant, pita, and fruit, washed down with beer and vinjak, before heading back down the river. We then stopped at Lino Beach, on the Danube, where Z and N ran into everyone they went to school with. Of course, these old friends where invited back to the boat for a coffee and watermelon. We sat and drank and ate and chatted and watched the sun set over Zemun before heading back to the marina and the bustle of city life.

If Only There was a Freaks and Geeks Reunion Movie…

Months ago, upon its release in the US, a few people, knowing my great love for Freaks and Geeks, asked for my thoughts on Knocked Up. The film finally made it to Serbia last week; a friend and I saw it a few days ago.

I went in to the theater not expecting too much, but wanting to be surprised. I was. It was silly and enjoyable. It was nice to see Bill, my Freaks and Geeks hero, again, albeit in a much harier incarnation. The film reminded me of Better Off Dead, in that many of the near-constant jokes didn’t resonate with me (the searching for an ob-gyn bit and the bouncer bit, among others), but the sheer quantity of jokes meant that I was frequently laughing at something.

My biggest problem with the film was that I had to force my suspension of disbelief twice. That shouldn’t be something that I have to do consciously while watching a film. The first hard-to-swallow aspect was that our two heroes would actually sleep with each other. Alcohol can only explain so much. Would two such divergent types even be at the same club? I also had trouble accepting that the heroine didn’t seem to even consider abortion. True, there wouldn’t be much of a film if she had made that decision, but it was too strange for a young, economically insecure (I would imagine, since she lives with her sister’s family, but she has a good job – another bit that I didn’t get.) woman who became pregnant after a one-night stand to not seriously ponder it. It seems like a textbook example of why abortion should be legal.

Although, it was fun to see some many of the romantic comedy notions turned on their head as the two heroes do all of the getting-to-know-you, falling-in-love bits after they have already conceived a child.

‘American’ native speaker, beginner at 'Northern Irish'

When foreigners ask me about the Serbo-Croatian successor languages (Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian, and now, Montenegrin), my standards response is, ‘They are very similar, but there are differences in vocabulary, usage, and accent. It would be like calling what we speak in the US, “American” and what Australians speak “Australian,” not English.

And now, after spending my first significant (read: venturing outside the airport) period of time in a non-North American English-speaking environment, I have developed an appreciation for the differences between the differences in the ‘North American’ and ‘Northern Irish’ dialects of my native language.

Understanding every word of a phrase but still having no idea of what the phrase means is a not uncommon thing for me in Serbian, but I wasn’t expecting it to happen in a land of English speakers. In Northern Ireland, there were Sprite advertisements in the busses which read ‘obey your thirst for chancing your arm.’ I spent quite a while staring at it, unsuccessfully willing it to make sense. Later, one of my hosts sent me the link for this site, explaining it all.

Another of my favorite UK-isms is ‘The Troubles,’ the euphemism for the conflict between Catholic and Protestant communities in Northern Ireland. ‘The Troubles’ sounds like a child having difficulty learning multiplication tables, so small and manageable (just bribe her with pie!).

If only naming it that way made it so…

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I thought they were only supposed to come in threes

I am fortunate enough to not confront death regularly. It has been a long time since a friend or family member has died. In recent weeks, though, death has crept into my life, lurking at the edges, snatching people-once-removed from me. None of the people who have died are close to me—I haven’t met all of them—but they matter a lot to people in my life. I have been reminded of how lucky I have been.

A few weeks ago, the father of K, the woman who coordinates my volunteer program, died. He had been in the hospital for months. K had been making frequent Atlantic crossings to be with family.

A few days after that, a professor beloved by many of my friends from college died after a long illness. I never took any of his classes, but had a few really nice interactions with him.

Most scarily, the mother of B, a good friend from college, died in a hiking accident. She was relatively young and healthy. She was an excellent cook. I didn’t tell my parents about her death before they set off on their recent hiking vacation, not wanting to subconsciously suggest anything to them.

And my best friend’s grandfather also passed, or ‘fell asleep’ as is frequently written on the older tombstones at the Derry City Cemetery (where I took a long, ponderous wander last week). I have very fond memories of watching Jeopardy! and Mariners’ games with him and impressing him with my knowledge of random trivia.

Big, beautiful, Northern Ireland-style murals (but with fewer guns and no nationalist symbols) should be painted for all of them.

Monday, August 06, 2007

on holiday

I know discussing how busy one is is among the most boring of conversation topics. Still, I will mention it. The previous two weeks were a flurry of working weekends, proof-reading and translation. I proof-read about 500 pages of tolerably well-translated texts, shaping them into something truly coherent. Not the most fun time. But, although I had my doubts, it did all get done before I left BGD last Friday.

I am in the land of people driving on the wrong side of the road (I always look the wrong way when crossing the street - I will probably adjust just in time to look the wrong way when I return to Belgrade.) and excellent cheddar cheese and weather that makes a Seattle October look balmy by comparison. I walked along the beach on Saturday and went to the ruins of a monster's bridge.

It's weird to be in a mostly English speaking place again- it's been months. (There is some Irish language about too.) And this is my first time in a English speaking place that isn't in North America. It's refreshing to not feel like a jerkface expecting others to accomodate my language deficiencies, although on my first evening here, I couldn't understand a word that N's roommate said; his accent was so thick.