The Bodacious Belgrade Blog

August 10, 2008

Letter From Serbia 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — bunitingi @ 7:11 pm

Hi everybody!

In the great, classic tradition of the award winning “Letter From New York” series by The Matthew Show, (at least it wins an award in my heart…) and that best loved, fan favorite, ode to patheticness “Letter From California” by the totally awesome Mocha Lab (which was up on thematthewshow.com for a long time… now nobody would care except Jaimee who might get a sick satisfaction from it, sort of like getting to watch a train wreck of my life written about in first person after a painful backdoor shtupping)….

And since I know I’ve been totally out of touch with everybody and you’re all writing to ask how what the bloody shtup is up with eastern Europe and pregnant, nauseous serbians (and by nauseous, think constantly nauseous, often accompanied by debilitating tiredness and sometimes joined in by crushing headaches. Ah, the joy and wonder of pregnancy!)

Usually, all the verve maja can muster is to drag her nauseous, tired wreck of a body to the kitchen to pound down bagloads of food (and what a hungry baby machine she is!), but every now and then she actually feels all right for a few hours (like, a few hours a WEEK) in which case she likes to celebrate the wonder and miracle of pregnancy by grabbing me by the neck and screaming “YOU did this to me you bastard!”

Okay, I kid. Except for the part about her being nauseous and tired all the time. And the crushing headaches. But if it’s any consolation, I feel great about it! Every time she looks green and starts to whimper, I know my little joy and wonder is growing that much bigger! (And bonus, I don’t even have to duck anymore when she throws things at me for writing stuff like that last sentence. She can’t even project anything more than 2 feet anymore, and after trying to fling something at me, is usually so exhausted by the effort that she has to take another nap.)

But what better way to say hi than a mass e-mail, which let’s you, _____________ (insert name here), know that I’m REALLY writing to you specifically, and all these other freeloaders are just along for the ride.

But I really do need to say hi and rather then tell the same stuff over and over again, I hope you’ll bear with me if it’s just so much easier to say it all at once.

So, Serbia.

Let’s see, the day we left… the supershuttle driver saw our bags (only 4 bags plus about 5 carry ons, it’s just that each bag is as big as I am) and promptly refused to take us.

Fortunately, we were still in good old America! And if there’s one thing I know about my great and glorious homeland, it’s that every whining employee who doesn’t want to do something for a Valued Customer has a boss, who damn well has no intention of losing the sale because said whining employee doesn’t want to do it. The super shuttle driver called his boss to complain, WE called his boss to complain. Guess who drove who to the airport? (and you can SO kiss your tip goodbye….)

Ah, customer service. How I’ll miss you. (And really, you think I’m joking but I’m not. I won’t be seeing that concept again for a looooong time)

At the airport, my oversized keyboard bag (that was holding WAY more than my keyboard) broke, completely.

Did you know that at JFK they have a guy who has a machine that spits out saran/plastic wrap? Really, there’s a guy in the terminal who has a machine that just spits out huge wads of plastic wrap. For 9 dollars he wrapped the entire contents of my broken bag into a massive, mammoth wad of plastic wrap. Is there ANYTHING my glorious country can’t do?!?

And since you KNOW crap happens in 3’s, the WORST part was when we got to the gate to get on the plane… and we (read: me) lost one of our boarding passes. And they wouldn’t let us on the plane.

They wouldn’t let us on. Just flat out refused. They said since we bought it through a travel agent, they had to have the physical boarding pass, or no flight. We searched everywhere. We pleaded. Maja began crying hysterically. But nope. No dice. They called the luggage loaders to take our bags off the flight, and left us with no choice but to wait until the next day and purchase A COMPLETELY NEW SET OF TICKETS FOR ANOTHER THOUSAND DOLLARS!!!! AAAAHHHHH!!!!!

Fortunately, as they were closing the doors to the plane, I was crawling around on my hands and knees and lo and behold, under some seats near where we had been sitting was little piece of paper….

I starting shouting triumphantly, Maja continued crying hysterically, the boarding guy bellowed out to hold the plane, we grabbed up all our stuff (which was by now strewn out across the seating area) and we ran frantically down the walkway to the plane (a bit difficult for Maja who couldn’t see very well as she was still crying) making it there literally as they were shutting the plane door.

And thus New York gave us one last good swipe with it’s claws to keep me from escaping to the glorious promised land that is Serbia!

For those of you not familiar with the general Serbian way of things, I found during the trip there a perfect illustration:

As the flight from America to London takes off, a lovely voice comes over the speakers. In a crisp, cheerful voice it exclaims “Hello everybody! Welcome to flight blah blah blah to London today. We’re SO glad to have you with us! The weather in London is a delightful blah blah blah degrees, and the entire crew is diddling themselves in anticipation of taking care of you on this flight! Please let us know anything we can do to make your trip more pleasant and have a WONDERful flight!”

Pretty standard.

Once you get off in Heathrow and change flights you find yourself on JAT airlines, the Serbian airline company that flies to Serbian. (Possibly the ONLY airline company that flies to Serbia)

The intercom hisses. There’s a pause as you hear what sounds like the captain lethargically exhaling smoke from his cigarette. He sighs. In a deep, very bored sounding voice, with absolutely no expression whatsoEVER, he proceeds to deliver a monotone speech in Serbian that sounds to me like it would translate thusly:

“(Long sigh.) Well…… here we are. (pause) You are there I am here. Rather I would be somewhere else, but they call me out of cafana to be here, so here I am. (Another sigh.) I think my brother Marko has it better in US, where he is Supershuttle driver, but no matter. We’ll be in Belgrade at some time. Why hurry? Life is long enough. Too long I think. You take off, you land. What is point, really? (Pauses to consider this. Sighs.) Ah well, here we go. You will never actually see crew during entire flight, so if something you need, maybe think of it next time before you come. Dobar dan.”

And off we go, to the glorious promised land to have our joyful, wonderous pregnancy! (And we were like giggling children at the thought of being pregnant.)

And now here we are! Glorious Belgrade! (or Beograd to the natives) Gem of the River Danube, if by gem you mean “run down, unkempt stone that smells like diesel fumes”.

Diamond in the Rough! If by this you mean “All rough with no diamond that smells like diesel fumes.”

I kid, I kid… (or not. You may never know…) But I knew all this anyway, and I have chosen to embrace it regardless.

One thing to remember is that as crappy as the cities (gradovi) are, the villages (sela) are drop dead GORgeous. The place where the weekend house is, is AWEsome; stunningly quaint, heart burstingly, beautifully provincial, and doesn’t…. wait for it…… yes, smell like diesel fumes.

We’d hole up in the weekend house for a week at a time, if I wasn’t busy all week going to school! (Shkola)

Yes, every morning I get up and go to 2 hours worth of Serbian classes so I can learn this confounded language and be able to talk about how pointless everything is with the natives around me in their own tongue. Until I do this, the world around is cut off from me, and I’m very bored most of the time sitting around while everyone blathers on and on, leading me to believe that what they’re saying must be the most fascinating thing in the world and if only I could understand it I would be enthralled with awestruck attention. (I will be very disappointed if after all this effort, I finally succeed in learning this language only find that everybody around me is actually just a boring twit…)

Sometimes I go to Maja’s brother’s Aikido class. Which I’ve never done before. I’ve even been to his friend’s Yoga class. Another first.

So I’m ending up having left everything comfortable and taking up entirely new tasks from scratch. It’s completely like a born again experience. Only not born again in a “halleluyah, I see the light and am finally and completely fulfilled” kind of way. More like a born again in a baby just born can’t actually do anything of worth but babble nonsensically and poop itself. I have the babble nonsensically down, can’t bloody well do anything, and as for pooping…. Well, as most of you know it’s long been a special little specialty of mine.

Lastly, we’ve found an apartment on the Danube river in one of those giant socialist buildings they have here in zemun. While I’m not a big fan of the giant socialist buildings, this one isn’t tall as it is long, AND, all kidding aside, the apartment is GREAT! Seriously. It’s huge, by new york standards especially, bright, sunny, a great view, and a terrace that stretches the entire length of the apartment. Plus you walk out of it and you are literally on the long path that follows the river, and which is strewn about by cafanas, and popcorn stands, and accordion players, and artists, and guys who wear jogging suits, but NOT to jog! Yes, there is a particular breed of Zemonite (we live in the area of Beograd known as Zemun) who wears jogging suits out to the bars and clubs and considers it the height of fashion! What a strange and glorious land!

Which reminds me of a pledge I made.

Here’s a thing: when a friend of maja’s came to the US to stay for several years, a friend of theirs who had been here at one time warned them:

“Milan,” they said, “you will find America to be many things, and hopefully your time there will be wonderful and glorious. But, as happened to me and so many before me, one day, one day, Milan, you will find yourself sitting in front of the TV in the middle of the afternoon, eating a tub of ice cream and watching Oprah. And at this moment, you will have gone too far into American culture and you must leave before more damage is done.”

Sure enough, Milan went to American, had a time of it, did this, did that, went to school, etc…. And one day, one day he did in fact find himself sitting in the middle of the afternoon in front of the TV eating ice cream and watching Oprah. And he thought “Pitchka Matrinu! I’ve actually done it! I’ve gone too far… How do they do this to you?”

Well folks, wearing a jogging suit out to the bars and clubs is my Oprah-ice cream moment. It’s a line I’m just not crossing, and if I ever do, I will know that I’ve gone too far.

So that about wraps up the general news segment.

The fact is, I’m in a fun, snarky mood, and so I’m writing this as such. The truth is that life here is fine, rather exciting and definitely a pretty fascinating new adventure. The truth of Beograd is something that really opens up with good Serbian humor, which is what I’m trying to convey in my snarky, American way.

And now, for our last segment.

I hate people with babies and young children. They are incapable of talking about anything else other then their stupid little precious pooping machines (Matthew, you and Janell are excused. You actually do a wonderful job of bringing up the discussion well and appropriately.) But we all know the type of which I speak.

However, I see the dark path reaching out in front of me and it beckons me. I don’t know if I can resist. The fact is, being pregnant really IS big on my thoughts and our little world, and to make it WORSE, people (well, not really people, more like family kind of people. The sort who are horrifyingly INTerested in this type of thing) keep asking for updates.

So, I include this last segment for them. All the rest of you needn’t torture yourselves. Otherwise, you asked for it:

BabyWatch!

Just like Baywatch, only with bigger breasts!

I now turn you over to Maja, for her special byline, where you can hear about pregnancy in her own words!

Maja’s Pregnancy Spotlight:

“Pregnancy sucks. It makes you feel ooky all the time. Nauseous, sleepy, useless, useless, useless. You pee 200 times a day, and then 250 times at night. Did I mention ooky? But on the positive side, my boobs are triple D.

And my stomach is growing.”

Wow! The joy and wonder of it all… for all you future, not yet knocked up mothers out there, just repeat this mantra over and over and ignore my wife. Just remember, the more you drink, the greater your chances!

We are on the 9th week currently, and will enter the 10th week on Friday. For some reason kiwi is the only thing that seems to make the nausea go away, so she’s eating lots of it. And I mean lots. I have personally massacred and viciously sliced up entire acres of it in the middle of the night.

The baby fetus is healthy thus far, and Maja has all the right levels of everything.

A picture of our little baby fetus is attached. It’s the little nut looking thing in the middle of the hole. This picture is almost 2 weeks old, and by now it is significantly bigger and quite a bit more developed.

Despite all the humor to the contrary, we are actually doing very well, are quite happy all things considered, and are dealing with the tough bits of the pregnancy with a great deal of humor and mushy loviness that would make most of the you vomit, so we’ll just leave it at that. However, we’re not exaggerating the amount of ooky nausea that Maja’s dealing with. It should let up within the next few weeks, particularly by the 2nd trimester. Matthew and Janell, I would very much like to hear from you as to what this period was like for you and what we can expect coming up.

The truth is, I get all teary eyed and gooey thinking about it, so I would prefer to be snarky so as not to share the nausea.

And that’s it, folks! Congrats to the few, the proud, who actually made it though this entire Letter. (uhm…. There is someone out there right now? Hello? Hello?…..)

To recap: We’re fine, Maja’s fine, the baby’s fine, I’m going to language school and we move into our new apartment by the river this weekend. Six insanely long pages of drivel reduced to one useful sentence.

Love you all,

-Paul.

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