Weather, walking (literally on foot), CK and friendly people:
It isn't even October and I've seen my breath four times. Last Thursday, when the first breath was seen, I toyed with the science behind my breath and its temporary materialization testing the difference between the impact of breathing out through my nose versus my mouth and trying to discover which consonants created the most water vapor puff, if you will. But this game between my mind and exhalation was short-lived as it struck me that it wasn't even October and I could see my breath. Serbia has centralized heating so – as I understand it – every year around October 15th the government turns on the heat in all the buildings that pay a monthly bill for it. The alternatives are to live like Ma and Pa from “Little House on the Prairie” with a fireplace and heaps of layers or to pay an exorbitant price for gas heating with the luxury of choosing when and to what degree you will use it. Basically this means that going into a building doesn’t actually ward off all the cold and sometimes it hardly seems to make a difference so I’m counting down the days. Roughly fifteen. Let them be gentle.
Another point of interest: transportation. I walk virtually everywhere and I'm still deciding if that's the best/most efficient method. When I have time to look around, I enjoy traveling afoot so I can spontaneously stop to more closely observe something at any given time. But if I'm in a hurry, I fancy owning a bike. There's a really neat open market called Nylon that I've only briefly walked through where I could find an inexpensive, used bike, but for some reason I'm resistant to that. Perhaps I'm worried I'd fail to illustrate the phrase "it's just like riding a bike" since I haven't ridden one in a year and never with a destination in mine, simply recreationally. Perhaps. And perhaps another hesitancy is that it's already so hladno (cooooold) and I will be forced to use the bus to avoid and conquer the evil winds within a couple of months so why should I tease myself with a device I won't use and will have to find a place to store. But if I see a pretty one at Nylon one day I may just make it my first substantial investment.
And now more concrete information about my service placement and hobbies. CK has proved to be a good fit for me, especially with their newly opened, healthy-alternative providing kitchen. We had a successful second open kitchen event where we satisfied about seventy people with a healthy salad and tortilla. Before this, I only had negative experiences of cooking with a group from 6th grade Home Economics so I hadn’t considered what fun could be had preparing food with others. And let me tell you, a lot of fun can be had. The volunteers from the kitchen don’t necessarily know how to cook but they are an enthusiastic and gregarious bunch with ages ranging from late twenties to early sixties and I’m so glad that I’ve been assigned to work with and manage them. Initially it was difficult to round everybody up and get them to work with their inherent “polako” mentality - I will attempt to tackle this in another post - but the kitchen was buzzing with good conversation, laughter, and the occasional screw-up that would just add to the first two. The next open kitchen night is just a couple weeks away and I’m quite excited.
Lastly I have found a way to (hopefully) counteract all the delicious foods I’ve been eating. Other than walking for an hour or so each day, I am planning on signing up for a zumba class! I took a jazz ballet class with my friend Asya five or six times but on Monday I sampled this class and I already love it. The teacher is so fit and encouraging and the seven members of the class are fun and welcoming. They – like all other local Novi Sadians – loved it when I spoke Serbian whether just explaining “dolazim sa Havaja,” I come from Hawaii, or acknowledging their statements with “dobro,” good. To see so many people rejoice when someone is making an effort to speak like them makes me sorry that sometimes in America the initial reaction to foreigners who speak poor English is agitation. People here are honored that we’ve chosen to learn the language, history, and culture of Serbia which automatically breaks the barrier between coming into an unfamiliar group or society. More importantly this collective affability is one more motivator for wanting to speak, understand, and learn everything I can while I’m here!