Upon arriving in Belgrade, we were taken by our landlord (Milan — it seems to be a very common name here!), to a 4th floor walkup apartment in the heart of Skadarlija. This area seems to be the equivalent to Montmarte in Paris (aside: I looked this area up, and found that I’m not the only one who thinks so!) but much smaller — it’s a cute area, with tons of restaurants, a few other clubs, and a ton of cobbled streets. As we head South, it’s nice to find more and more aircon, which has been a welcome relief.
1. Refugees are a familiar concept in Belgrade.
At the end of our last week, I volunteered at Miksalište, where I sorted donations and handed out shoes. I met refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran. While they were all very friendly, some were definitely pushy, and trying to get as much as possible from the center so that they could sell it on the street. And I couldn’t really blame them. It’s been instructive to see how Serbians react to these refugees, and the parallels with refugees from the Balkan wars.
2. Cyrillic is hard.
Thankfully, we’d been exposed to a Slavic language in Prague. But unlike Czech, Serbian is written in Cyrillic. And boy is it tricky. For me, some of the most useful & common words were сир (sir/cheese), свињетина (svinjetina, ham), and пица (pica, pizza). As a vegetarian, it’s handy to know those three (two to ask for, one to avoid). Combined with our knowledge of Czech, some things were a little more translatable — for instance, Народно is Narodno in the Latin alphabet, which is very close to národní in Czech (the word for ‘national’, as in National Theatre).
3. Remote Year is a social experiment.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we’re still only 7 months into the second-ever group of Remote Year. We’ve become acquainted with each other under very different circumstances than our “real lives.” It’s easy to say you know another Remote, but I am constantly reminding myself that our friendships are still so new, and may not translate into situations outside Remote Year. Katherine recently wrote about how different our experiences have been on (mostly) the same program, and I think that the same is probably true about the friendships and the personalities.