We can't believe it's already week 2 here in Belgrade. Our days here have been so busy that time has flown by!
Since we last wrote, we have been really getting into our English classes here. Casey and Emily are enjoying learning some Serbian from their students, too. They taught us how to count, how to ask for hot coffee, and how to say "I don't speak Serbian" (Ja ne govorim Srpski). The last one has proven to be really helpful. The kids are learning important American phrases like "tailgating", "brainstorming", and "peel out". We are now facebook friends with them (they are 13 years old and have facebook).
Carolyn and Cassie have a few more students than they did last week, and have had great conversations, debates, and discussions about cross cultural issues between Serbians and Americans. They are working hard to keep the students engaged and not bored with grammar lessons. Many of the students are taking the class so they can apply and interview for English-speaking jobs. This week, their class will discuss the stray dog problems in Belgrade, the division between church and government, Serbia joining the EU, and long-distance relationships. Quite the range of topics.
After teaching in the morning, our team usually ends up meeting with students or friends we have made here, including EUS staff members and student leaders. However, a good chunk of our days are taken up with riding the buses and getting from one place to the other. We are constantly amazed by how big this city is!
Last weekend, we had a really great time meeting with students and having some much-needed team time. On Friday, we had a party with EUS students in Belgrade. We ate cevapi, which is REALLY good Serbian barbeque. You eat it with yogurt, ketchup or onions, along with bread and olives. We were disappointed with the turnout, but most students are finishing up exams so hopefully they will be able to attend our next party. We loved the cevapi though, and proceeded to eat it for the next 3 meals. Here is Bojan (I probably totally butchered the spelling) showing us how to eat cvevapi.
On Saturday night, we had a chance to get together with some of the Serbian women's softball players. We had dinner with them and a few sports journalists, Bulgarian softball players, and some other big shots in the Serbian softball world. It was SO fun! We're really enjoying getting to know these women, especially since they aren't believers and don't really know why we are here in Serbia. We're just loving them as much as we can and trying to build friendships with them.
We also had some great team time this weekend. With how packed our days are, we really haven't had too much time to get together and pray and do a bible study together as a team, especially since we're split up at two different flats.
Yesterday we got the chance to visit the Parliament building here in Belgrade. We visited with a member of Parliament who works specifically with American issues. He talked about his desire to see Serbian one day be a part of the EU, and talked about how he thinks that may happen within the next 5-6 years. He also shared his opinions about President Obama - he's not optimistic that Obama will be successful, but he says he'll have to wait and see. He was also very curious about our perceptions of Serbia. He's really passionate about creating a stronger relationship between Americans and Serbians, and he sees PR and marketing as a way to do that.
Last night we also discovered a hidden treasure here in Belgrade: blueberry beer! Here we are enjoying our fruity beers at our new favorite bar in Belgrade, the Black Turtle, with some friends we made from the International church we went to last Sunday.
Today was also our second day working with the Gypsy children at their preschool. We learned how to ask them their names ("kako se zoveš") and that was helpful. We wish we knew how to give them directions and teach them songs, but we brought along Nada, Casey and Cassie's host mom, and she was able to tell them the important things. The kids are so hopeful and encouraging. It was interesting to hear from Nada what Serbians think of the Gypsy people - many Serbs think they are dirty, shady people that can't be trusted. It's hard to think about those negative impressions when you see 15 kids running and jumping over each other playing Duck Duck Goose. We're excited to hopefully meet some University students in Belgrade and bring them with - not only to translate for us, but to also begin to break down those stereotypes.
This weekend, to celebrate the Fourth, we'll be going to the Embassy for a party with other Americans and their families here in Belgrade. After that, we'll be going to the US vs. Finland basketball game as part of the World Universiade Sporting event that's being held here in Belgrade this week and next. Tickets are 100 dinar (about $1.50) and Quincy Pondexter is on the US team! The rest of the weekend we'll be in Novi Sad, meeting with Vanja and other students there.
You can continue to pray for our team in many different ways. We pray that our relationships with people we are starting to get to know will continue to grow, and that we could share our faith with them. We'd also like pray for continued growth in our relationships with God as a team and individual.
Cao for now!
Team Serbia (Emily, Cassie, Casey, and Carolyn)