First Concert in Serbia

The band Frajle. Pic from their website.
About a week ago, I had the privilege of seeing the band Frajle in concert in Subotica, Serbia. If you have not heard of this Serbian singing ensemble, then I'm sure you're wondering what in the world "Frajle" means. I asked my Serbian friends the same question, and this is the answer that I got: Frajle is the Serbian pronunciation of the German word "Fraulein" which loosely translates to "young, unmarried woman." Fitting it seems - since the group is made up of four, lovely (unmarried?), Serbian women from the Serbian, university town of Novi Sad.

Technically, it wasn't really my FIRST concert in Serbia considering I saw Lepa Brena belt out a few tunes in Belgrade during a taping of Zvezda Granda. But Mrs. Lepa was a surprise appearance, where as with Frajle, I bought a ticket, dressed up a bit, packed my camera and joined my friends for a night out on the town. 

Packed auditorium! Standing room only if you didn't arrive early.
It was a fun and entertaining evening! The girls were incredibly talented and they performed a few covers in English, French, and Spanish along with several Serbian and Croatian hits. The concert opened with a cover of Lady Gaga's Poker Face (click here to see the YouTube performance), and the crowd loved it! They transitioned into a song by Adele and then a clever arrangement of "Hit the Road Jack."

If you watch any Frajle videos on YouTube, you'll get an idea of how animated the girls are, and they are exactly the same way in person. If I thought the crowd enjoyed the songs in English, then I had another thing coming once Frajle started belting out well known Serbian hits. The crowd went wild; jumping out of their seats, flailing their arms all over the place, giving each other hugs and high fives, and dancing in the aisles. I didn't understand most of the songs in Serbian, but I loved the outward display of emotion and familiarity in the people sitting around me. It's a part of the Serbian people that you don't experience simply walking down the streets; here, every stranger became a friend - they were united in their memories of better times. It was as if the 500-person auditorium had morphed into a room full of family and friends. I loved being in the middle of it!

She is the Frajle Diva. 

If you live in Serbia, go see Frajle in person. I think you will really like it. Even if you don't enjoy their music or the covers that they perform, you'll enjoy the lively atmosphere. 


Happy New Year!!

I know it is a little late, but for what it is worth, HAPPY NEW YEAR!
How has 2012 been treating you so far?
We are almost all the way through January!
Can you believe it!?
This year is flying already!
Are you keeping up with your New Year's resolution(s)? 
One of my resolutions this year (along with losing a few pounds, and perfecting my Serbian) was to stay in touch a little better (Skype!) with our friends from home as well as constantly building community wherever we happen to find ourselves. 

Chris and I rang in 2012 not once, not twice, but THREE times! We are serious about tackling that New Year's resolution!

Two of my best friends from Kentucky. 
Since Chris and I were in the States on December 31st, we celebrated the upcoming year with some of our best friends from Kentucky. It was a fabulous evening!

Chris and his great friend trying out Chris' automatic bottle opener.  This picture just makes me laugh!
Great friends
Of course we missed the December 31st parties and celebrations all over Subotica, but lucky for us, most Serbians celebrate the New Year twice! Since Serbia is primarily Orthodox, the county still observes the old Julian Calendar that places Christmas on January 7th and the New Year on January 14th. Most of the world follows the Gregorian Calendar (The one Americans are used to) and some families in Serbia, who are not Orthodox, follow that calendar as well. As you can imagine, there are many mixed families in Serbia where one parent is Orthodox and one Catholic (etc.). Rather than observe one set of holidays, most people just party through the entire season and celebrate two Christmas' and two New Years'. From December 1st - January 14th, Serbia comes alive with Slava's (Saint's Days - to be explained in a later blog), two doses of Christmas, Holiday markets, rakija drinking, two New Year celebrations and excessive gun shooting. Most companies significantly slow down as well and often people take vacation for several weeks at a time since little happens at work. 

Crowded bar in Subotica for the Serbian New Year.
By the time January 13th rolled around, we were back in Serbia ready to ring in the New Year AGAIN. Chris and I and 10 friends spent the evening at a bar in Subotica called "Bulivar." A 6-piece band played well known Serbian songs heavy with sounds of the accordion. I am not going to lie, Chris and I did not recognize much of the music, but it was fun to watch the whole place erupt with dancing and arm waving when a familiar song filled the air.

Towards the end of the evening, the band started playing a famous 1980's song by the infamous Lepa Brena titled "Mile Voli Disko" (Mile loves Disco), and I knew that song! In fact, I was able to sing almost every word in Serbian. As we all danced around and belted out the lyrics, I felt like I belonged. Chris didn't exactly have the same experience of belonging, but he did get a few good laughs at my expense. There is a video that may make it onto the blog soon. 

Promotional girls - or Santa's little helpers (wearing very little)
 I just had to share this photo. On a busy weekend night, it is typical to see two "promotional girls" dressed in the exact same thing, selling cigarettes, lighters, or some sort of alcoholic beverage. I guess they make money because promo. girls show up everywhere. These two ladies cracked me up because they were dressed in dirty-santa-lingerie on January 13th and they were selling spiked cider. I was trying to discretely take this picture, but I think one of the girls caught onto what I was doing. Oh well. . . anything for the blog!

Torley Promotion at The Code Subotica, Serbia (pic from their website)
The following evening, we went out AGAIN! I promise, we don't EVER go out this much! We said we were celebrating 2012 for a third time, but in all honesty, we went to The Code Nightclub because our friend, David, was hosting a Torley Champagne Party. Friends don't let friends promote champagne alone! 

Chris and Champagne Dave.
Yeah friends! (Pic borrowed off The Code website) 

Welcome 2012! We think you'll be a great year!
After three celebrations, Chris and I are ready for 2012!
Hope you're ready for it too!
Make this year absolutely unforgettable!
Chase your dreams, and Live Your Like Like a Best Seller!


A Little Comfort Food. . .

Three weeks of American-Christmas-excitement-shenanigans completely pooped us out, and we were ready to REST. 
Serbia = no crazy holiday hustle and bustle and space for a REAL rest.  
We knew that we could not hop across the "pond" without first hugging Chris' Mamma McCoy. 
Chris wouldn't board that plane without one of her home cooked meals. 
Hmmmm . . . . hearty, rich, heavy, scrumptious food that instantly leaves you in a comma. 
Don't you just want to pull up a chair and join us for lunch?
It may not be the healthiest food in the world,
but geeze, it's totally worth the extra calories. 
I would call it "Southern" food, but that's not really an accurate description because Mamma lives in West Virginia, but it's close, right? 
West Virginia is a whole lot closer to the "South" that Oregon is. 
There is logic in that. 

Sweet Mamma McCoy and by wonderful Husband. 
Mamma's a rock star. She is almost 92 years old; and since her husband passed away years ago, she maintains a 6-acre homestead all by herself. Her home is spotless, and she makes a killer "Southern" meal! Mamma started working when she was 14 years old because she was the main bread winner for her large family. Although she's (obviously) retired, Mamma still speaks well of her first and only employer. She must have been the dream employee because she is dedicated, energetic and positive. 

You can drool . . . It was as tasty as it looks!
This picture only shows a portion of the meal Mamma prepared. It was as tasty as it looks! Fried chicken, creamy, mashed potatoes, green beans, sweet potatoes, warm rolls, gravy and sweet creamed corn. It was the meal Chris had been dreaming about in Serbia. We ate seconds . . . and then thirds; we had way too much, but it was just too good to pass up! Needless to say, Chris and I were full for the next two days straight. 
But again . . . it was worth it!

Between naps and football, we played a lot of card games. 
Chris' siblings and us. 
It was great to see Mamma and to have a home cooked meal. Thank you to all of our friends and family for opening your homes and kitchens to a couple of traveling vagabonds. It was great to see everyone! We love you all and we are only a Skype call away!

Back to Serbia!


Mega Zips Louisville, KY

Did you know that Kentucky boasts one of the largest man-made caverns in America?! I had no idea and to think, I had called Kentucky "home" for seven some-odd years! The 100 acre limestone cavern that quietly rests under the bustling metropolis of Louisville, was the proposed escape shelter for 50,000 people during the 1960's Cuban missile crisis. 50,000 people purchased entrance tickets . . .  just in case; and a hospital was even built underground. Of course the location of the caverns was a secret for several years. That little fact alone made me super interested in learning as much as possible about the caverns. There are all sorts of fun little "factoids" about this massive hole in northwest Kentucky.

The entrance to Mega Zips is right behind this sign. 
Today, the cavern is privately owned, and six months ago, part of it was turned into the world's only underground zipline adventure tour. Ummm . . . . awesome!

When Chris' best friend asked if we wanted to check out Mega Zips, we said "YES" without hesitation. 

Two of our best friends. 
The excursion was actually in honor of one of our friend's birthdays. It was a very unconventional (and awesome) birthday outing. I would expect nothing else from this group of friends. They are all pretty adventurous. 

Hey birthday girl! Show us how these harnesses work!

The whole crew posing before the first zipline "the Zipline to Hell."
This is the best picture I could get of the "hellish" first zip. 

The tour takes you through a small fraction of the cavern, and in between stumbling across swaying bridges, you harness up and scream your way down five different ziplines. Our group had two knowledgable guides and they were both very attentive to detail and safely. I appreciated the safety aspect. The tour lasted two hours, but we were all having so much fun that it seemed like only 20 minutes had passed. We tried to convince the guides to let us go back through the course. They sort of laughed it off. . . "annoying kids . . . errrr. . . adults."

Chris and two of his closest guy friends. 
Couldn't get a normal face out of these two
If you live in Kentucky (or plan on visiting the state), I would suggest checking out the Louisville Mega Caverns. Ohhhhh, and just in case this tid-bit of information ever comes in handy, "Geologists say that this is the safest place in Kentucky," Jim Lowry, co-owner of Louisville Mega Cavern.


My Old Kentucky Home

Haystack Rock Oregon Coast - (Picture from google)
Chris and I waved farewell to Oregon. (while we did not fly over the coast, the picture above is how I choose to remember my home) Next time we step foot in Portland, we'll be a year older, more traveled, and perhaps a little bit wiser. Who knows, Oregon, next time we meet, Chris and I should be fluent in Serbian and working on mastering a third language. That's a thought! Time to start studying!

How cool are the mountains that surround Las Vegas?!
Hey Las Vegas . . . . there you are! Our only lay over was in Vegas, and we landed at sunset; just in time to watch the dry, pink, broken mountains give way to the flashy city of gambling and lights. The actual "Strip" looks a lot smaller from the sky than I had imagined. Chris assured me that it really is quite impressive when you're in the midst of it. No time for black jack or slots, we quickly made our way to the connecting gate and bucked up for the flight to Kentucky. 

One of the many Kentucky horse farms - (courtesy of Google)
Chris and I landed in Kentucky at 1:00 a.m., and we were greeted by Chris' parents and grandparents. It was so late for them, but we were ecstatic to see their smiling faces as we exited the airplane. 

The next three days were relaxing and peaceful. It was exactly what we needed after a busy week in Oregon. Basically we holed up in Chris' grandparent's home and simply enjoyed the family. Between meals, we played card games, board games, golf and bowling on the Wii, Family Feud, exchanged gifts, shared stories about Serbia, showed everyone pictures and videos, presented the family Fantasy Football trophy, slept in, laughed, and exercised (just a bit).

Chris' uncle with the 2011 family Fantasy Football trophy 
My dear, sweet husband loves American football, and since I want to see him on Sundays, I learned to enjoy the sport myself. There are still a few things that I don't quite understand about football, but regardless, I agreed to play in a family Fantasy Football league. Basically everyone in the league puts together a "mock-football-team" online and every time one of "your players" does something good on the football field, your team gets points. It is a little more complicated than that. . . but you get the idea.  Most of Chris' family participated, and we discovered that Fantasy Football was actually a really good way to keep in touch despite the time difference. Much to my surprise, I sort of enjoyed playing, and the best part was that Chris' grandparents almost won the entire thing. In the last few games, Chris' uncle snuck in and nabbed the title of "Family Fantasy Football 2011 Winner." I found an old clown statue/trophy (that used to be in my childhood room) that must be displayed in the winners home for an entire year. 

Now I know why I hate clowns!
That thing is hideous. 
I am okay if I never win. 
Chris better not win either. 
That thing will not be back in my room ever again. 

Gmama making breakfast. 
We brought some Serbian rakija (fire water)  for everyone to try. 
Chris and his Aunt. Christmas gifts!
Gmama made homemade stockings for everyone in the family
Thanks for the great time family! We desperately needed it!
After a few days, Chris' Mom told me that she could tell that Serbia was exactly where Chris and I needed to be. We were happy and content, well fed and healthy, and we had so many positive things to say about Serbia. Like all of our family and friends, Chris' family was initially nervous about our big move to Serbia. It was unknown, far away, and still recovering from war. . . but instantly, we loved Serbia, and she could sense that and see it in our eyes. She felt the peace that my mother had felt after her visit to Serbia in October 2011. After this conversation, I was even more grateful for the few restful days that we spent with Chris' family. 


Home for the Holidays

"I have been very happy with my homes, but homes really are no more than the people who live in them."
- Nancy Reagan

 - 27 Hours - 
That is how long it took to get home. 

Subotica, Serbia
Budapest, Hungary
Munich, Germany
Chicago, Illinois
Portland, Oregon

All of that travel in one day (or rather one day and 3 hours of travel) landed us in the majestic Pacific Northwest. Fresh air. Family. Friends. Childhood memories. Battling "Ducks" and "Beavers." Pinot Noir. Rain. Lots of rain. Evergreens everywhere. Mt. Hood. Home. 

Chris and I were exhausted, but as soon as our plane landed in Portland, Oregon, I insisted on a meeting with little "JJ." Ohhh sweet, smiling little JJ, the newest addition to my family and the only person to truly make me cry of homesickness in Serbia. 

Chris, JJ, Me, new Daddy and new Mommy. 
We were tired, but there was no better way to kick off Christmas 2011 than with a kiss from my new nephew. 

He is perfect. 
Absolutely content. 
Alert at only 3 weeks. 
And he can already wear a mohawk. 
How cool is JJ?!

Our short visit in Oregon was a whirlwind of family, friends, parties, Christmas songs, gingerbread houses, gift giving, food, and MORE food. The trip reminded me that no matter where I go in life, I always have a deep community that loves me and knows my story . . . no matter how long I have been away. 

I truly am blessed. 

My parents threw one party after another, and after the handful of dinners I've thrown in Serbia, I have to say that I have a new appreciation for my mother. She hosted three huge parties in a row, and didn't skip a beat. You go Mom! I have a lot to aspire to!

Sweet dear friends from middle school, high school, and church. 
All of my "Mom's" (minus Mrs. Dikih)
Mom hosted an "Ugly Christmas Sweater/Gingerbread Contest Party." I didn't really know what to expect, but I am always ready for a dress up party. The party was non-stop laughter, and at the end of the evening we all went caroling around the neighborhood. How about that for some good-ol-American-Christmas-traditions!

The gingerbread "houses" got pretty creative . . . 
My brothers and Chris decided to make a football field.  Go 49ers! 
My team made a NASA spaceship. 
The annual family Christmas picture! 
Party #3 - we brought Serbian rakija to share. Our friends called it "Serbian fire water."
My best friend and her hubby (and their soon-to-be-little-one)
There are about 300 more pictures from Christmas 2011 in Oregon, but those can stay safely on my new little computer. Chris surprised me with an amazing computer for Christmas and a new camera so that I can better document our time in Europe. What a husband I have! Being home with Chris reminded me that I have so much to be grateful for. 

"Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to."
- John Ed Pearce

Next stop - Kentucky! Off to visit Chris beautiful family and the "home" we left to move to Serbia. 


Total Embarrassment

First, let me start off by saying - HELLO! 

This will make sense . . . just keep reading.
Ohhh, and HAPPY 2012!

I have missed writing, so it feels great to get back to it!
"Why the weeks of silence on the blog?" you may be asking. . .
Well, Hubby and I enjoyed three packed weeks of Holiday fabulousness in the States.
We saw family, we enjoyed friends, we packed on a few pounds/kilos, we rang in the new year, and of course as often as we could, we snuggled "JJ" (that adorable new little nephew of ours).
We loved every minute.
We needed the trip.
It exhausted us.
We slept for 12-straight-hours once we got back to Serbia.

We are happy to be home. 

Before I get into Holiday reminiscing, I have an embarrassing story to share.
I apologize ahead of time if this makes you blush.
I did more than blush.
I almost died!
So please, share in my embarrassment.
Have a good laugh at my expense.
It's fine. . . I expect you to be laughing at the end of this post.

About a week before we left for the States, I thought it would be a good idea to pamper myself. You know, because I work so hard here. (That was a joke.) As I've mentioned before, the women here are stunning, but beauty and lots of upkeep go hand-in-hand. Salons abound! Everything from facials, nail art, aromatherapy, massages, hair color . . . you name it, you can find it in Serbia. There are so many options that I was lost trying to pick a salon. I got a recommendation from a sweet friend on where to go for a bikini wax. I was not planning a tropical get away over the Holidays, I just wanted to compare the treatment in Serbia to similar treatments I had had in the States.

On the day of my appointment, I walked to the salon and met my esthetician for the first time. She was a nice middle-aged-motherly-type woman who immediately invited me into the room and closed the door behind me. We had set up the appointment over text message, and I had even texted in Serbian; so, I was shocked when she addressed me in English. I spoke in broken Serbian and her in broken English, and we seemed to manage. As she cleaned the bed and put down a thin piece of tissue paper over the area where I would sit/lay, she told me to de-robe. I did and then I sat down, bracing myself for the pain. And, man, was it ever painful!


I tried not to let the pain register on my face.

Is this how much it hurt last time? I thought to myself. When the esthetician asked how I was doing, I squeaked out a pitiful, "ohh, I am great. I had this done not too long ago, so I am used to the pain." That was sort of a lie. While I had gotten a wax before our wedding, I was nowhere near ready for the intense pain. She kept trying to make small conversation, but all I could think of was the burning, tearing, ripping sensation between my legs.

I started sweating.
Profusely sweating.
The turtle-neck sweater I was wearing didn't help.
Maybe she couldn't tell.

Here is where the embarrassment really came. Remember we are dealing with a language barrier and a foreign culture.

She kept waxing away, and suddenly she stopped and looked at me. "Lana, I know you are in a lot of pain, and this would be a lot easier if you were not so wet down there."

NO - I must have heard her incorrectly. . . .
Nope, she really said that out loud.
I was embarrassed.
I turned bright red.
I about died.
I wanted to slip off the table and dissapear into a pool of my own sweat.

Suddenly I realized that I was not just sweating under my arms, but I was sweating all over from the pain. What she meant (and she couldn't say because of the language barrier) was that my skin was sweaty and that was the problem. I relaxed a little until I sat up and took the thin piece of tissue paper with me. It was stuck to my sweaty back. The esthetician just let out a startled "ohhhh my!!!"

It was FINALLY over.
I put my clothes on and paid quickly.
As I scurried out of the salon I asked myself if I would ever go back. . .
I don't know if I can face anyone in there again. . .
Maybe next time without a turtle-neck.
Ohhhh, and it only cost me about $6.50, so compared to the $60 I paid in Oregon, it may be worth the pain and embarrassment of going back.

I wonder what her nickname is for me?
The sweaty American?

Go ahead and laugh! I am sure it will not be my last embarrassing moment.