An American in Serbia: From a Writer’s Notebook
August 2, 2018
“NOSTALGIA?” NO… BUT JOIE DE VIVRE (FUN), YES – IN SPADES!
This morning I got a nice note from a longtime friend in Australia – now in Melbourne, formerly in Perth. She wrote:
“Sounds like a lovely, nostalgic stay you’re having! Will Elizabeth visit sometime? Have fun in Belgrade! I do enjoy reading your articles! Thanks for sharing!”
This made me think of doing a recap of my first month back in my hometown after nearly 50 years. I even created the above photo collage to go with the story. And I replied to my friend:
“It is interesting that you are getting the impression from my stories that I am having a ‘nostalgic stay’ in Belgrade. Nostalgic suggests longing for the past. Which I certainly do not. I savor the memories but do not want to go back. Been there done that. What I am enjoying is seeing how much my hometown has progressed for the better since I visited here frequently as a war correspondent in the 1990s.
I went on to elaborate on the things I enjoy the most and the least.
BELGRADE: A BIG CITY WITH A SMALL TOWN FEEL
“I love my flat. I love not having a car. I love my swimming, shopping, biking, walking outings in the neighborhood.
(I love not seeing any shopping malls or freeways nearby. I live in a big city with a small town feel – added later).
I love that the merchants call me “komšija” (neighbor). I love that the butcher asks how my swim went when I walk by his store. I love that the lady who sells nuts at the market inquires, “how is your day going, ‘komšija?’
I love meeting friends in neighborhood streets by chance and sharing with them small talk and happy greetings.
I even cherish seeing the old lady who talks to herself all the time and feeds the stray cats in the streets. And the crippled beggar who always parks his wheelchair in front of a medical lab office. Today he was not there. So I worried about him.)
I love my social life. I think my white piano is cute (I have never had a white piano before). 🙂 I love the weather (lots of rain and thunder vs. none whatsoever for nearly 11 months in AZ).
(I love the smell of bakeries when I walk back home after swimming in the morning. I love having to pass through a farmer’s market in doing so every day).
(I love hearing music everywhere I go… in the streets, at the farmer’s markets, in cafes, through the open windows of homes I pass by).
The only thing I do not love is that it is a CITY after all (1.7 million people with all the traffic and pollution that connotes). I miss the open skies and living in nature.
But you can’t have everything. Maybe if I do decide to come back to Serbia permanently, I would buy some land (with a lake, river or creek on it) outside (but near) Belgrade so I could have the sky and nature as well. We’ll see…”
And that just about sums up my impressions after my first month back in my hometown.