Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Some thoughts, and a day in the life

I meant to type this up from my notebook last night, but between conversation hour at the American Corner and the beginning of Djokovic's victory, I didn't have any time. All of the "today"s mentioned actually refer to yesterday, September 12, 2011.

Life here is remarkably similar to life in the United States, except with more fresh fruit, less air conditioning, and, of course, conducted in Serbian.

I really feel like the language is the only thing keeping me from understanding this society, but I know that's not true. Langauge is key, but there are all sorts of cultural contexts and memories that I don't even know exist that keep me from fully knowing Novi Sad.

So many people speak English that my minimal Serbian skills are enough to get me by. Both of my homestay parents and everybody at CZOR speaks english fluently. This is incredibly helpful right now, but I'm afraid it will hurt me in the long run. What I'm living in is by no means immersion. Because I don't need to speak Serbian to everyone, I'm simply not getting the practice to become fluent.

To help practice my Serbian, I try to sound out in my head all of the signs I pass by. Sometimes it's easy to guess the meaning, especially from context. This expands my vocabulary, though not always in the most useful way.

For example, I passed a McDonalds ad featuring a potato in a graduation cap. Above it was printed "Prosek 10,0". Prosek, I guessed, meant average: with a 10.0 average, this potato was surely at the top of his class, and, I assume, graduated summa cum trans fat as a packet of fries.

I also try to read the graffiti I pass. I don't understand most of it: it's either nonsense or I lack the context to understand what its meaning is. My favorite is a street that has anti-NATO graffiti on one block, and then two blocks down has LED ZEPPELIN and HÜSKER DÜ painted on the wall. I feel like Serbia is a little wary of western culture, but generally embracing it.

Today was my first "normal" day here. I caught the 8:00 bus to the University for my morning Serbian class. Today we had two new classmates, one from Austria, the other from France. Both have done some self-study and are already better than the class, let alone me.

(Side note: When I think about how I have to wake up at 7:00, it makes me smile some. After all, I was staying up until 7:00 Serbian time /1:00 Eastern time nearly every night last year!)

After class, I went to the office of CZOR, the NGO I'll be working with. There's no way to susinctly describe what exactly I'll be doing while here. This Friday, for example, I'll be in a march against corruption. Some marchers will be dressed as doctors and will hand out samples of "anticorruptin" containing anti-corruption leaflets.

I walked to the city center after I was done, and grabbed some water and people-watched. It was a nice break, and it felt kind of strange to have literally nothing to do. Around 6:00 I walked to the American Corner, which is a sort of cultural embassy found in around a dozen Serbian towns. On Mondays and Wednesdays they have discussion sessions for Serbians to practice their English. Today a representative from the US Embassy in Belgrade dropped by to lead the discussion on the world post-9/11 (I had somehow managed to almost entirely avoid news coverage of the anniversary). The conversation was fine, though the diplomat managed to talk more than nearly all of the Serbians. Afterwards, he and I talked briefly about the foreign service, and he encouraged me to apply. I'll seriously consider it.

Going home, I nearly got on the wrong bus! Well, that's not quite true. It was the right bus in the wrong direction. Fortunately, I double-checked at the last second. I caught a #6 bus going through Telep and found my stop without too much trouble.

1 comment:

  1. Summa cum trans fat-- Lol. Tucker, you're brilliant. I'm reading your blog and loving it! Love, Magistra Moseley :)