Famous Lepa Brena

". . . . the most popular singer of the former Yugoslavia." - Wikipedia 

Found on Novinite.com - probably a picture from around 2004. 
A month after arriving in Serbia, I remember seeing massive billboards announcing a concert by some short-spiky-haired-blond named Lepa Brena. Then a little later, in October, I heard that this Lepa Brena sold out the Belgrade arena on not one night, but two nights in a row! That means that for two nights, 40,000-ish people were screaming her name and just dying to get their posters signed after the show.  Didn't "lepa" mean "pretty" in Serbian? 

So who was this "Pretty Brena" woman anyway? 

Found on Wikipedia - picture from her 2011 Belgrage show. 
I got really interested in this former Yugoslavian pop-star-sensation, so of course, I went straight to Wikipedia. 
Where else?

According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, Fahreta Jahić Živojinović (her given name), was born in 1960 and by the time she was 22, she released her first album called, Cacak, named after her home city. Her second album title translates to "Mile Likes Disko," and when my friends were trying to explain this pop sensation to me, "Mile Voli Disko" was the first song they had me listen to. Click on the link if you want to hear it for yourself. 

By 1991, she had released 13 albums, become an undisputed sex symbol, traveled through the Balkans performing to sold out audiences, acted in a few movies, and even managed to become a symbol of a united Yugoslavia. She married a Serbian tennis player named Slobodan Živojinović in 1991, and they moved to the States.  In 2000, she released a 14th album that was not very well received; so as a result, she retired for 8 years. Apparently she has a few homes in Florida, an apartment in Monte Carlo, and of course a home in Belgrade, Serbia, so it seemed that her and her family lived a good life in "retirement." Of course there is a lot more to her story, but those are just a few highlights. 

She returned to the music scene in 2008 and has since released two hit albums. She celebrated her 51st birthday by performing two sold out shows in the Belgrade Arena. Those where the shows that got me interested in this 51-year-old-pop-star-sensation.

She has loads of songs that can be found on YouTube, but this song just cracks me up. The translation is most likely skewed, but regardless, the theme of the song is pretty hilarious. 

Lyrics to Uske Pantalone (Tight Pants):
I love her as tight pants
these carry only the prima donna,
I love her as tight pants
these carry only prima donna ...
From alley to alley in the ...
all the sighs of the guys in the ...
What is sweeter than sugar candies,
tight pants, tight pants
what it adorns my white grandmother,
tight pants, tight pants
Guys say I'm fine material
I am girl which is rarely found,
I tell guys that's fine material
that girl as I rarely find ...
From alley to alley in the u. ..
all the sighs of the guys in the ...

Found in a Google search - Has to be from the 80's!

Thanks Balkanmedia.com for letting me use your pic. This is sort of what she looks like now. 
I decided that while I am not a fan of her music style (not to mention I cannot understand a word of it without Google Translate), I wanted to see Lepa Brena in concert before I left Serbia. 

Stay tuned for the next blog! 


Thanksgiving - bez Turkey.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday; but I love it for more than the three-day-food-comma and hours of endless football viewing. Take a look at this picture. That is my family. My amazing, constantly growing, fun-filled, life-giving, fabulously spontaneous, wholesome and encouraging . . . 

My parents (the two pilgrims in the middle) believe that community (not meaningless possessions) makes you rich, so they have always focused on living their best lives intermingled with the lives of others. When I was a kiddo, my parents started doing just about everything with three other young families. So we're not 'technically' related, but we are just about as close as any family could every hope to be. We all grew up together - went on houseboat trips every summer - shared a ski lodge in the winter - traded prom dresses - got into mischief - fell in love and then fell out of love - went to each and every graduation and birthday party - found any excuse for a dress up party (as seen in the picture above) - and walked through really good and really hard times together. 

This picture speaks a thousand 'Thanksgiving' words!

It is not at all politically correct to dress up like pilgrims and Indians, but we do it almost every year and we take loads of pictures, enjoy a tasty potluck, and the lay around for hours enjoying the company and laughter. 

Maybe it all clicked on our wedding day - when a torrential downpour tried to ruin our entirely outdoor wedding and the "first day of the rest of our lives," - maybe that is when Chris and I realized that our lives would never be "typical." When we watched all of our friends and family salvage our fairytale, perhaps in that moment, we realized that we could never do life alone. We were created for community, and we felt it deep in our souls. Maybe that was the moment when we realized that our hearts were longing for something different - for an adventure that would shape us and mold us into a dynamic couple that deeply loved others. We promised each other in that moment that we would never do life alone and that where ever life put us, we would be part of a vibrant, loving community of people. 

- Thanksgiving 2011 -  

I wanted to make Thanksgiving special for our new friends in Serbia, but it had to be done "bez" (without) turkey. You can find turkey here, but my tiny oven would not accommodate a turkey, casserole, and a pie all at the same time. So, adios turkey tradition. I hope they don't mind chicken instead!

While I am used to a Thanksgiving where you can hardly count all of the dishes, I have never actually brought anything to contribute to the potluck. How, you may ask, did I manage to get a free ride to family dinners for 28 years without contributing one morsel of food?? I asked myself the same question! Perhaps this year was my year of payback! All of our Sebian friends offered to bring food, but I insisted that I would prepare everything myself. This was an American holiday after all, and I wanted to treat them. 

I started researching Thanksgiving food (cause remember, I have never done this on my own before), and  I used google translate to figure out how baking powder and cream of mushroom translated in Serbian. My sticky notes, containing my shopping list in Serbian, and I headed out to the grocery store in search of all necessary Thanksgiving ingredients. I quickly learned that ALL casseroles contain some sort of canned ingredient that is impossible to find in Serbia, but I found a recipe online for homemade cream of mushroom. There is a wealth of random stuff online! During my supermarket excursion, I was able to find baking soda, not baking powder. I bought baking soda for my cookies . . . that's almost the same as baking powder, right? 

Chocolate chip cookies = a very American dessert! 

You can look forever, but don't expect to find chocolate chips in Subotica! For a second I was sad, but then I got resourceful and turned two chocolate bars into scrumptious chocolate chunks. Instead of brown sugar, I added extra white sugar and a spoonful of honey. The cookies turned out really well, and one of our guests said that the cookies were his favorite part of the meal. Housewife score! Forget the fact that I labored for hours over the meal! The cookies took about 10 minutes to make!
Hey, at least they were a hit!

After about six hours in the kitchen, this is what we ended up with! Two salads, corn, a broccoli casserole, white wine chicken, creamy mashed potatoes, an apple pie, chocolate chip cookies, and wine of course! Chris was worried that I had overcommitted myself, but with his help, we were done on time, and we all enjoyed a great meal. 

Where is your dishwasher when you really need one?! Ohhhh . . . yeah, that's right, I am the "housewife-dishwasher" these days! Chris watched football, and I tackled this dissaster.
Did I sign up for this? 


Out on the Town - Subotica

 When we started planning our big international move, the two things that most frequently popped up on "Subotica" Google search were the Narodno Pozorište u Subotici (National Theater of Subotica - now under construction) and pictures of The Code nightclub. While looking for a suitable home to rent, Chris was the first to lay eyes on our new city, and the report I heard back from him went something life this: 

"Lana, that beautiful theater is gone! I mean it is still there - sort of, but those Roman-looking pillars are completely covered up with a billboard and everything else is under construction!" 

Picture borrowed from Wikipedia 
It is true. The National Theater has been under construction for several years, and this once stately building has become more of an eyesore than a stunning piece of architectural history. It seems that a lot of the money to complete the reconstruction has gone missing, and responsibility keeps being passed from one construction company to another. Chris and I would love to attend a play here before our three year contract is up, but the locals seem skeptical that these doors will welcome theater goers any time soon. 

The Code nightclub is still open and hopping, so after three and a half months, we figured it was time to check out one of the hot spots in town. The truth is that Chris and I did not want to go out alone, and we finally were given an excuse to put on our dancing shoes and show Subotica our "moves" (if that's what you want to call them. . . ). 

Hey there DJ!
Our friend was the DJ for 70's Night at The Code, and I don't need too much convincing to dress up, make a fool of myself, dance, and have fun with friends. Chris sometimes needs a little more coxing after a long week at work, but in the end, he is the best dance partner a girl could ask for. 

We started the party at our place and then headed out to The Code around midnight. We had a great time and we danced and simply enjoyed being with our friends until the wee hours of the morning. The non-stop night life in Serbia is not for the faint of heart, or for those who have to wake up at 6:00 a.m. I've heard that our first night out in Subotica does not even come close to the night life in Novi Sad and Belgrade. We will have to rest up before we attempt going out in either of those cities.  

It is easier to find 70's attire for women. . . "70's" somehow turned into "plaid and blue jeans" for the guys. 
Me and Lela.
Chris, Darko and Marko
My fabulous dancing queen - Sanela.
So, everything I wore was from my closet. My best friend just said to me, "Lana, anything that you can wear to a theme party should probably find its way OUT of your closet." She may be right, but at least I had an outfit for the occasion, and all of my friends had a traveling disco-ball dancing right next to them. 

The last three pictures are borrowed from The Code Facebook page. 
Ohhh, this is the fabulous Rade. He gets paid to dance at The Code on the weekends, and he is a hairdresser by day. He will probably be my new Serbian hairdresser.

The best dance partner in the world. We have fun!
I love this picture! Totally sums up the evening. 


The Buvljak - Subotica, Serbia

Chris, me and Dad after the wedding ceremony. 
In an effort to set up this blog post, let me tell you about one of the most amazing men in the world. 

My father. 

I could write a book about Him; and perhaps one day I will. My Father is a man of utmost integrity, a man who has traveled the world and back, a voice for the voiceless, and a man who has been shaped by the struggle and ultimate forgiveness of his own father. He is a strong leader who holds onto his convictions, but he desperately loves me, and I am certain that he would do anything for me. 

He absolutely influenced my life. 

Dad loved me through my awkward and defiant stages, and when I was 13 years old, he told me that I didn't need to tirelessly search for a boyfriend. . . he would be my date. 

He said that he would always be there for me no matter what happened in my story. 

I believed him, and I still do. 

He loved my mother and me in such a way that I knew exactly what I wanted in a spouse. 

I wanted to find a man who loved others the way my Father did. 

found on mimifroufrou.com
Dad started a tradition with me when I turned 13. We would grab coffee (or hot chocolate) at Starbucks, and then make our way to the Nordstrom fragrance counter. He would spread his arms wide and exclaim that I could choose any perfume for my birthday. I always had everything I needed as a child, but this was one of my first "indulgences." No label was out of reach, and no price was too great. I was in 13-year-old-paradise, and I instantly felt mature and important. The women at the counter treated me like I was someone, and I knew it was because Dad was there. One fragrance after another was sprayed onto tester wands, and we smelled them all. We laughed and discussed the "notes" in each one, and then we started smelling more. I could choose anything! It seemed as if the world was at my finger tips, and I remember feeling overwhelmed and treasured all at the same time. 

The first fragrance I chose was by the designer Faconnable. When I smell it now, I think it stinks, but it was the beginning of a tradition that shaped my childhood. 

Soon, Dad and I were making a trip to the fragrance counter for my birthday, Valentine's Day, and sometimes even Christmas. Eventually, we started picking out several fragrances for Mom each year, and in no time, Dad was the MVC (most valuable customer) at the counter. He started getting invitations to all of the fragrance events, and he was personally called whenever a new fragrance made its way behind the counter.  For an important man who traveled for a living, he somehow always found time to enjoy this tradition with his daughter. 

I felt special and important. 

It became one of my favorite places - because it was a place I went with Dad.

So, fast forward 15 years. I have packed up my life and made my way to Subotica, Serbia with a wonderful husband who greatly resembles my father in character, heart, and mind. About ten of my favorite perfumes made the trip with me, so really there is no need for a fragrance counter in the foreseeable future. 

But when I see perfume, I am instantly transported back to that favorite place that I shared with my Father. The first fragrance counter I encountered was at the Buvljak in Subotica, Serbia. What is the Buvljak, you may ask? Well, in short, it is a place, near town, where you can buy just about anything. From fake Nike shoes and track suits, to batteries and alarm clocks, and even puppies if you so desire. There must be several thousand little "shops," and often the items are cheaper on the Buvljak since they've been brought in from Hungary or Turkey (often tax-free). 

One of my friends was shopping for a fragrance for her father's birthday. I smiled as I remembered how many of my birthday gifts were purchased at a fragrance counter. This counter was a little different. While the women claimed that all of the perfumes were authentic, I had to wonder considering all of the fake Louis Vuittons hanging over my head. My friend asked the vendor if she sold any fragranced aftershave, and the vendor replied, "No, I am sorry, I only sell toilet water." What in the world?! She quickly corrected herself, "Ummm . . . you know, eau de toilette only, I don't sell aftershave."

With the toilet water comment cleared up, my friend proceeded to test a few of the men's colognes. Rather than producing a wand with a squirt of fragrance, the vendor instead took the cap off of the fragrance and allowed us to sniff whatever remnant of scent lingered in the cap. My second friend (not a Subotica local yet), picked up a fragrance that she liked and sprayed it on her skin. That seemed normal at a fragrance counter, right? Both the vendor and our Serbian friend stared in disbelief! The vendor gave the stink-eye and shook her head in disgust. Apparently at the Buvljak, you are not supposed to spray the fragrances. Everything that you see out on display is for sale,  and those opened perfume bottles are not traditional "testers." I am surprised that it was not me who committed the major Buvljak infraction. With my love of fragrance, that is something I totally would have done. Well, now I know for next time. 

I came to the conclusion that Dad and I would not be able to spend quite as much time at the fragrance counter on the Buvljak as we had spent over the years at Nordstrom. Nonetheless, I had a great time reminiscing days past. 

Thank you Dad for the wonderful memories that we created! When we could home for Christmas, we may have to make a trip to Nordstrom just for old times sake. 

 Below are a few pictures of the Buvljak in Subotica, Serbia. 

As always, thanks for reading!

Diesel jackets anyone?


A Monday Laugh

This is not going to be much of a blog post, but hopefully it makes you smile. 

Sex and the City will forever remind me of college. It's not that I see myself in any of those well spoken, highly professional New York characters, but more so that I love their friendships with each other. I found four unique and wonderful best friends in college (you know who you are!), and for the rest of my life, they will play a huge role in my story. Just like Sex and the City - but no one writes my scripts!

Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha - you are just as fabulous in Serbia (with subtitles) as you were in my college dorm room in Wilmore, Kentucky. But there is one difference that stands out when I watch Sex and the City in Serbia. Instead of Carrie's "main-squeeze-love-affair" being named "Mr. Big," Serbia has renamed him "Mr. Beast."

(Both pictures were found on Google)
Now, does this face look "beastly" to you? 

I absolutely love that little slip up/mistake in translation. Totally puts a new spin on a series that I have watched one too many times!


No More Musty

It is not typical for Serbian homes to have clothing dryers, although, it is possible to purchase them here. In the summer, it's commonplace to see clothing draped over balconies and make shift clothes lines strung wherever the sun appears. Chris' company mentioned that they would purchase a dryer for us, but I never followed up on the offer. I figured that Serbia was my home now, and I wanted to immerse myself in the language and the people and the culture. One cultural difference is that dryers are seen as excessive, expensive, and unnecessary. 

Learning to successfully do laundry without a dryer was an early, Serbian housewife, victory for me. We arrived in late July, in the midst of summer, and the radiant sunshine dried everything it kissed. Even on our sun terrace, laundry dried within a few hours of hanging. While I will never love the sandpaper sensation of air-dried towels, I quickly got used to not having fluffy, straight-out-of-the-dryer ones waiting for my grand (shower) exit. We managed without a dryer. Then winter hit. . . . 

(I am having second thoughts on the whole dryer offer)

Our fabulous sun terrace used to see loads (no pun intended) of action in the summer, but without a heater, it has become an extension of the outdoors. Simply take away the windows and call this a balcony. It is cold and not conducive to clothes drying in the winter months. I brought some sheets and towels out on the terrace to dry, and two days later, everything was still wet. Needless to say, damp and musty is a disgusting combination that deserves another quick spin in the washing machine. 

Well dear terrace, goodbye until next summer.  

So, I am trying to immerse myself in the Serbian culture; but how in the world do the Serbians dry their clothing in the winter? I tried to get creative with what I had. . . 

I pulled my drying rack into the living room and cranked up the heat. Even in a heated room, my sheets wouldn't evenly dry because they were folded, wrinkled, and pinned in an effort to keep them on the rack. Please help!! How in the world do you dry your clothes in the Serbian winter? Do you drape them over your living room furniture? Do you have clothing lines inside your home? Do you prop a fan in front of your clothes? How often do you even wash your sheets? This all seems like a lot of trouble for one load of laundry!

I had lunch with a new friend last week, and I explained my laundry woes. Frightfully close to breaking down and buying a dryer, she helped me see an alternative to the "easy-way-out." 

"Well, Lana, they drape everything over their heaters! Yeah, whenever I walk into my families homes, I see socks, towels and undies covering every inch of every heater in the house." 

Forever concerned with safety, my first question was, "But isn't that a huge fire hazard?!"

"No, it's only hot water that is flowing through those heaters. Some sort of energy is produced and you end up with heat. There is no fire hazard, and everyone dries that way."

Chris had already explained the mystery of the Serbian heaters to me, but I was not completely convinced that suffocating heaters with clothing was a safe option. 

I went home and immediately tested out my new clothing "dryers." Chris' socks dried in an hour, and I am convinced that even an industrial dryer couldn't produce such quick results. 

I am back to being content without a typical clothing dryer. 


Our First Serbian Halloween

- Halloween - 

. . . An excuse for sweetly disguised kiddos to stock up on candy, eat all of their candy stash in one sitting, and drive parents crazy with new found energy. 

- Or -

 . . . An excuse for adult women to order skimpy "nurse" outfits online, show up as said "nurse" at the local pick-up bar, drink up a different sort of "candy," and pretend that they're children living without consequences for an evening. 

Either way you look at Halloween, it's never been a holiday I enjoy celebrating. Maybe I'll have to pay more attention to October 31st when Chris and I have kiddos of our own. Last time I dressed up, I was the "Octomom" for a Halloween party at work. Not scary or sexy at all, and I knew there was no candy in the deal for me. 
The Octomom costume that I wore to work a couple years ago. Sexy, eh??
While not a huge fan of Halloween, I am a fan of parties (and especially dress up parties), and why not use the occasion as an excuse to throw one? Plus Mom was in town, and she wanted to meet our new friends and feed them some of Mamma's-home-cooking. One little hitch, Chris, Mom and I needed costumes! I ran all over Subotica looking for some semblance of a do-it-yourself or costume store. The town has a fabric store, a store filled with fancy buttons and lace, and an art store, but nothing the likes of Hobby Lobby, Tuesday Morning, or Halloween Express. Discouraged after my futile search, I told my friends not to dress up too much. "Don't go too far out of your way, and really don't spend money on a costume. Maybe just bring like a hat or a mask - some sort of simple prop that you have around the house." 

The Halloween party was just hours away, and while mom (dressed up as a "happy housewife") cooked up a storm, I created our M&M costumes. 

The doorbell rang. We quickly slipped into our costumes, opened the door, and just stared in disbelief! Six  of our cleverly disguised friends entered our home and brought with them a whole lot of laughter and joy. The black swan gracefully danced while Henry the 8th showed of the heads of his murdered wives and the whole time an evil nurse was trying to infect us with her poisoned syringe. I was impressed with the creativity and time put into each costume. I had run all over town certain that there was no way to create anything without a do-it-yourself store, but my Serbian friends again showed me that you can do anything you put your mind to. 

We took pictures and shared a wonderful home cooked meal. 

As the evening wrapped up and we gave final goodnight hugs and kisses, mom just smiled. Once we closed the door, she said that she felt very at peace with us being in Serbia. After mom met our friends, she knew that we would stay happy and healthy even being so far away from home. It is not a big house, fancy car or even a dishwasher and clothes dryer that ultimately make you comfortable and content. At the end of the day, the stories worth telling are those which involve a community of people. I truly believe that our international transition has been so seamless because of the amazing people we have come to call friends. 

I am already starting to plan our next dress-up dinner/event! 


Serbian Sugar Please

I mentioned to my parents that they really would love Serbia. 

"You should really get over here and experience Serbia. It is great, and the people are some of the most friendly people on this earth. Plus your daughter and son-in-law live here; as if you need another reason?!" 

My father's first question to me . . . 

"So, does Serbia have those tasty little breakfast pastries? You know the sweet ones that just crumble and melt in your mouth? Hmmmm . . . . I could really get in trouble with those!"

"Ohhh yeah, there is a Pekera (Serbian for bakery) right outside my door. You can find pastries on every corner, dad! Hurry, get here before they all sell out!"

Dad assured me he would visit as soon as his schedule allowed, but he rapidly put mom on a plane to taste-test those Serbian delights. 

We picked mom up Monday morning, and I announced that the following morning, we would take the 6:15 a.m. bus to Belgrade. No rest for the weary - or for the jet-lagged. Get your walking shoes ready!

Me and Mom at Hleb i Kifle - Belgrade, Serbia.
Mom's a trooper, and her energy and youthfulness often get her confused for my sister rather than my mother. I used to hate that innocent misunderstanding, but now all I can say is, "you go mom! I am sure glad that I have your genes! Now stop smiling, and get ready to walk and sightsee for the next 10 hours!"

6:15 a.m. came quickly, but as planned, we boarded the bus with Darko (a good friend from Subotica) and enjoyed the three hour trip to Belgrade. Our first stop was to check out Hleb i Kifle (actually spelled in cyrillic). I had to prove to mom that the pastries really were as good as I had bragged. Hleb i Kifle did not disappoint, but it left me wondering why in the world Subotica did not have this particular chain?

Business idea perhaps??

At the "Happy Housewives Cafe" in Belgrade, Serbia. 
Then in true Serbian style, we started the day off right. With coffee, of course! How fabulous is this cafe?! "Vesele Domacice" literally means "Happy Housewives." Fitting, eh? We were so early, that the city had not come out for their morning coffees yet; nonetheless, we drank our coffee and planned our day. Mom said she could get used to the strong, aromatic espresso that's common place in Serbia. I am certain that the three coffees we had throughout the day helped her forget about the nine hour time difference she was fighting.

Mom and Darko and fall colors in Belgrade, Serbia.
Mama's Biscuit House Belgrade, Serbia.

There was no time to stop and have dessert, but I just wanted to tempt my father with all the sweeties at Mama's Biscuit House. 
San Marina Chocolate & Pralines Belgrade, Serbia.
We did do more than just eat while we were in Belgrade, although it may not seem like it from this post. We saw a lot of famous sites and monuments, but those will be saved for another time. This post is all about the sweeties that we tried in Belgrade, and I think I had my fill for the next month. Our last stop on the trail-of-sweets was to San Marina Chocolate & Pralines. 

Darko talked the place up, and although the handmade chocolates are pricey, they're more than worth a trip and a few delicious bites. Talk about a sweetie that melts in your mouth! You can choose any sort of combination; dark chocolate with coconut (my personal favorite), doughy-delights dipped in milk-chocolate and rolled in cinnamon, chocolate with hazelnut, and even dark chocolate with chili. Seriously. We did not try the chili-infused chocolate, but it is on my "to-do-list" when Chris and I return to Belgrade. 

Here are just a few pictures to make your hungry!

Mom, Darko and I thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Belgrade, and I am sure that I will soon be taking dad on the same route! 

We are accepting visitors to Serbia, so feel free to drop in any time! I promise to meet you at the airport with pastries in hand. 


The Commute

(Guest Writer - Chris - my Husband)

The morning fog still hangs heavy in the air, its dense white accumulation clouding my view abroad, and symbolically foreshadowing what I am to expect each new day on the commute.  Sliding the key into the ignition, I rotate my wrist forward and cue the serenade of guttural groans inharmoniously vocalized by my cold diesel engine.  The dashboard lights flicker like eyelids slowly opening and closing as to gently allow entrance to the morning light.  I slide the gear into reverse, and the car groans, a plea to stay in bed.  Now in first gear, his unbalanced feet have hit the cold floor, and it’s time to go.

The commute is a two lane country road in Serbia from Subotica to Senta.  It covers nearly 60 kilometers of small villages and vast farmland.  On an average day, I arrive to work in less than one hour.  Exiting Subotica, I enter into a minefield of deteriorated road, potholes abound, flexing my suspension with each step.  The road condition later improves, and I begin to replace loose items, now scattered about the interior.  The most important of these items is the iPad, the source of my daily podcasts.  Podcasts are series of digital audio files that are released episodically, and range from a variety of topics.    Weekly, I listen to podcasts that contain messages from my church back home in Kentucky, or reviews and previews for each American football game.  One podcast, “Stuff You Should Know,” answers some of life’s bigger questions, like “How Silly Putty Works?”  

Between Subotica and Senta, there is only one required turn and is otherwise straight, yet most days it resembles an Indy Car circuit due to the many developments present on and alongside the road.  I increased the volume on the podcast to suppress the repetitious pant of the engine as I neared a railroad crossing.  Out of a small shack, a man appeared waving a red flag as to warn drivers of an incoming train.  The train appeared and disappeared very quickly, having only two cars.  Only the graffiti seemed to linger amidst the blur.  The man lowered his flag and returned to the solitary of his shack, whilst I continued across the tracks.  The fog had not yet lifted, and thus the visibility remained very poor.  I quickly approached the red tail-lights of an old Yugo, a common sub-compact car here in Serbia.  The car was inching along, puttering nearly 30 kph below the speed limit.  I was in a cloud, the red Yugo amidst a blanket of white.  Pulling into the lane of oncoming traffic, I relied on faith hoping to see a glimmering whimper of yellow, a warning to return back to my lane.  I saw no such color, and successfully passed the Yugo; inside, an old Baba with a white-knuckled grip on the wheel, eyes squinted, and head strained forward.  

The fog eventually burned off, but it wasn’t until I had to pass more Babas in Yugos with blind faith.  Now with more clarity, I was able to maximize the speed limit.  Freshly burnt fields raced alongside my car; their black, charred remains, a sign the harvest is over.  Nearing one of the three villages along the commute, I was taken back to the bonfires of my youth with the warm smell of chimney smoke.  The road was now littered with bicycles, Babas and Dedas pedaling away.  There were steel water jugs on the rear of these cycles, always two to balance the load.  The water inside was most likely from the local well.  The Babas and Dedas’ sense of direction was clearing failing though, as they repeatedly wandered in front of my car.  Swerving in and out, I navigated the maze of geriatrics successfully.  

Arriving into the center of this small village, an enormous church sits at the right, shadowing the streets below from the sun.  It is said this church is a replica of one in Italy, built for a city.  Here in this diminutive village, it resembles a fortress.  

Upon exiting the village, I was stuck behind a large truck with no chance to pass.  A plume of gray-black smoke bled from its exhaust and consumed my car, permeating through the vents.  I gasped inhaling the carbon-dioxide infused cancer, it saturating my lungs.  My chest burned, and I coughed with no relief.  I slammed close the vents and covered my mouth with a sleeve.  Even after passing the truck, my lungs still panged as I took in fresh air; the capillaries seemingly clogged with soot.  

Further into the commute, I had to circumnavigate more obstacles, of which there were now horse-drawn wagons and tractors to go with the Baba-driven Yugos.  I had just accelerated to cruising speed when I crested a small hill and caught glance of the horse-drawn wagon ahead of me, moving at a leisurely pace in my lane.  I slowed quickly, the iPad sliding forward and off the passenger seat, disconnecting the headphones from my ears.  “Silly Putty is a non-Newtonian fluid, which means it…”  The iPad with headphones, and consequently my podcast collected on the floorboard, only a murmured and inaudible explanation of non-Newtonian fluids resonated.  Now, closely trailing the wagon, farm debris, or more specifically corn stalks, caught wind and settled on my windshield.  I engaged the wipers, ridding the debris from my view, and promptly passed the wagon at my first chance.  As I looked into my rearview mirror, the now departing horse appeared unaffected by the loud manner resounding from my accelerated engine.  

Ahead, in the oncoming lane, a growling ogre on wheels took up both lanes.  This farm tractor had what resembled four large teeth protruding out, hungry to devour my car.  I passed unscathed, but was forced off the road to make room for the mechanical beast.  In the past, I have seen other cars, which have seemingly lost their ways and ended up buried in stalks of corn, or overturned in a field of disinterested sunflowers, faces drawn up instead towards the sun.  I speculate these cars were also forced off the road, fearful of these massive rumbling and groaning monster tractors.

The commute through the final two villages was no more eventful than the first.  The now common warm smells continued to greet me with warm memories of Christmas, and the bicycles still continued to believe they were akin to cars, in need of the whole road.  On the outset of the final village, there was a man aside the road, arm lifted, hand formed into a loose fist, and thumb erect; the international sign for “hey, may I hitch a ride?”  In the US, hitchhikers are now rare, which is especially surprising due to the distance between US cities and the heavy reliance on automobile transportation.  As a child, I remember seeing hitchhikers, roadside with their thumbs up, an entreating look on their faces.  However, there were some isolated accounts where hitchhikers had turned on the commuters who granted them transport, stealing their possessions, and sometimes murdering them.  Therefore, as any loving parent would do, I was discouraged from picking up hitchhikers from an early age.  Today, the man’s entreating face soured in discouragement as I passed him and remained fixed with a frown as the two cars behind me followed suit.  

Outside the village, I recommenced a faster speed.  The road was straight, and the land lay flat.  Visibility was the best it had been during the entire commute.  Running parallel to each lane was high grass, so thick that whatever lurked inside remained hidden from this aforementioned increased visibility.  Unlike the horse pulling the wagon, the large pheasants inside this brush were stirred by the bark of my engine.  Several pheasants took to a frightened flight curiously in the direction of the road instead of away from it.  The fatter one didn’t ascend quickly enough.  The fatter one rocked the car with astounding force upon impact.  The fatter one showered the departing road in a plume of feathers.  My father travels half way across the US to hunt pheasants.  I hunt them on the commute to work, and have no need for a gun or dogs.  In this high season for pheasants, the bark of my engine coupled with blunt force trauma inflicted by my car at 100 kph is enough to put dinner on the table or a trophy on the wall.  

I arrived into Senta shortly thereafter, feathers still stuck in my windshield wipers.  The factory is in the industrial part of town, and my car kicked up heaps of dust in the final straight-away.  I pulled into my parking space five minutes later, and slid the gear into park.  Outside, the morning air hung heavy with dust; the sun reflecting through the particles distorting my view like a kaleidoscope.  The podcast had only just concluded, and I slid my hand behind the wheel and gripped the ignition key, rotating my hand backward.  The dashboard lights slowly faded out and the groans of the engine ceased.  Then there was silence, a retreat back to slumber.  The commute was over; my day was young.  Sleep well car, for tonight, the commute takes on a new challenge.  Darkness.

Symbol Budapest, Hungary

"Have you checked out the Budapest nightlife yet? That city parties until like 8am on Friday and Saturday; seriously, it is like nothing you have ever experienced before!" 

After three months in the Balkans, we were yet to experience the infamous Budapest nightlife. (Or any nightlife for that matter.) I know, I know, lame-o! I try to blame it on my age, but let's be honest, that excuse doesn't even work yet. When I think of "nightlife," I envision a dark, sticky establishment where scantily clad, under aged sorority sisters do everything and anything for a free (watered down) cocktail in a plastic cup. The guys all look the same and they stand around the bar making bets to see who will get the hot chick in the red tube top. No one dances until they've had a few too many shots, and once the dancing starts, you can expect to have at least three beers spilled on your new Express dress. It appears that the bathrooms have not been cleaned in years and they never have paper towels once you get desperate enough to use their toilet. Just wipe your hands on your Express dress and get on with your night. Gross. 

Ohhh the joys of the American pick-up bar. Other than the occasional bachelorette party or night out with the girls, I didn't even like going to those places when I was single. Now that I'm married, I have lost all desire to check out the local "nightlife." 

Since we live so close, Chris and I agreed that we had to see what everyone was talking about in Budapest. At least once. What made their "nightlife" any better than the sticky places we avoided in the States? We wanted to go, but we did not want to go alone.

When David excitedly announced that after the fashion show, we had VIP tickets to Symbol (Nightclub) Budapest, I knew that we were in for a treat. David was the perfect person to introduce us to the infamous Budapest scene. The man rarely does anything half-assed. For instance, if David drinks, he drinks only the most quality red wine and champagne. He loves ambiance and David would never be seen in a seedy, sticky pick-up-bar, so I knew my Express dress and my dignity were safe with him. 

Symbol Budapest is a nightclub you might expect to see in New York or on a Hollywood movie set. Imagine walking into a world where you can instantly transport yourself to any sort of bar/club/restaurant. Below is a picture of the room you walk into, and from that room, you can choose to hang out in a sports pub, cafe and lounge, Italian fusion restaurant, art gallery, live music club, 200 year old wine cellar and restaurant, or outside garden. We stayed in the live music club where only fashion show attendees grooved to hip club music and sipped Torley champagne. The models from the fashion show ditched their designer duds and slipped into jeans and tank tops ready to dance the night away with a room full of short people. Everyone danced, and while the models were constantly being hit on, it didn't seem that people were there JUST to hook-up. Sure, some of that probably happened, but overall, it seemed that most were there to simply have a good time. 

It was about 2 a.m. when we left Symbol, and there was a line of 300-ish people waiting to get into the club. It is quite a happening place, and I would recommend it as a "must-see" if you are the clubbing type. Even if you are not into the club scene, it is a great place to do a little people watching. I did a lot of that!

I didn't take many pictures, but I posted the few pictures that I did take below. There are some great pictures of the Symbol Budapest website if you're at all interested. 

Photo taken off the Symbol website.
The main room you walk into. They were hosting a beauty pageant when we arrived. 

The live music bar we stayed in all night. The cover band was pretty funny. 

This is what the main room looked like when we left at 2 a.m.

Don't pay a fortune for Cirque du Soleil tickets. . . just visit Symbol Budapest.