About Christina Kiki Spivak

Writer. Entrepreneur. Dreamer. Blogger. Cultural Conservationist. Environmental Preservationist. Political Enthusiast. Amateur Genealogist. And all around Free-Spirit.

This American Walks With You

Alright, no lies from me – I’m writing this while on the brink of exhaustion so I will do my best to make sense. Promise.

Yesterday was March 24. To some people in the world, this was just the fourth day of Spring. And by Spring I mean by technicalities only as most of the world is experiencing crazy cold weather and snow. March 24 is also another day for people here in Serbia. It marks the anniversary of the 1999 NATO bombings that plagued Serbia for 78 days from March 24 – June 10, 1999.

Fourteen years have passed since the bombings started here in Serbia causing havoc, distress, and more pain and suffering than ever deserved. Ninety-nine percent of us foreigners will never understand what Serbs when through during those times. We can try to place ourselves in their places, but we’ll still not comprehend it.

On the night of the 24th, a walk of remembrance was held here in Belgrade. It started from Saint Sava Temple and ended at the demolished Ministry of Defense buildings. Now, the walk was supposed to originally be in silence or close to, with candles lit, and a true solemn atmosphere.

However, that’s not what happened. It turned into a few chants, and a popular song called “Oj Kosovo” was sung. This did upset a few I found out later, and I have to side with them, but what can you do? Oh well.

But I joined this walk with a friend of mine. Another foreigner that’s visiting. She frequents Serbia and is thoroughly educated about everything happening here so it was enjoyable to have her with me on this walk. Many people approached as they heard us speaking English. And contrary to stereotypes, we were welcomed with open arms. Many were kind of intrigued that we were there. They asked our origins. This brought about photos, hugs, thanks, and appreciate from everyone we encountered.

While the event did not go as it was originally organized, it was still nice to see people come out in the absolute frigid weather and remember those who have been lost, and to understand fully “never surrender and never forget.”

If you want to see photos, and get more of a back story about the 1999 NATO bombings, and everything else I’ve got about the 1999 NATO bombings, check out my blog Trek for Truth (http://trekfortruth.com).

Adventures and Opportunities

Depending on the circumstances as an expat here, the experiences will differ. On one of the few recent adventures I’ve taken with a friend of mine here – another expat – it was brought to my attention by her wisdom that all expats are living a life that most only dream of.

This hit me like a ton of bricks. I’ve got lots of my mind lately, and even more on my plate it seems, but she was right. Still is, too. She and I both had vowed at the beginning of the year as an unofficial resolution that we’d stop saying “no” to everything and experience this awesome opportunity we’ve provided for ourselves.

Now, as in my previous post that you may have read – I’ve been here 3 years. And in 3 years, I’m somewhat ashamed to admit I haven’t really experienced Belgrade or Serbia as much as I would like or had hoped. I’ve never been to a club here. Haven’t toured around Serbia much. I’ve only been to Sokobanja – which I must say I love Sokobanja! But that’s a different story. đŸ˜‰ I’ve never really been to many of the events, or anything. Now.. there are many reasons to this. Unfortunately, the biggest most of the time was money wasn’t there to spend. But that doesn’t cover the things that were free I skipped out on. So… this year, is about living up to the dreams I had and have about living in Serbia and not disappointing those who only get to dream about it.

There are limitations with this though – traveling around Serbia requires money and time. I work 1 part time teaching job (hopefully 2 soon), I have my own company, and I have household obligations also. Clubs and going out take money, time, and energy – all of which I am sometimes just completely lacking. It happens to the best of us.

BUT – these are also all excuses. We all know, as human beings, if you want to do something – you will find a way no matter what.

So from here on out – actually started like a week ago – I refuse to let Belgrade and Serbia pass by me any longer. I’m living a dream of my own, in a country and city rich with history, culture, and beauty. I refuse to not experience it anymore. So I will always do what I can within my means.

Are you an expat that lets Serbia just pass you by? Are you a Serb that doesn’t realize the gem of a city or country you live in? Who’s with me in making sure 2013 is fully enjoyed and appreciated?

The Good, the Bad, and the 3 Year Anniversary

Yep. You read that right… At approximately 4pm today (January 28, 2013) I will have lived in Serbia for 3 years. It has been one heck of a ride, too! I’m just an average emigrant here living with a Serbian salary and enjoying life. I wouldn’t change too much either, honestly.

Almost always I get asked why I left America to live here.  It’s simple.  It’s Serbia. True, it has the bad – what country doesn’t? But then it has the good – great even! It is a matter of what you want in a country – in your personal life and what you want in a culture/society. And I chose Serbia.  A special someone helped that, too. My original destination was Russia or Ukraine as a teenager. But Serbia is simply amazing and I love it. No regrets.

My three years here have been never dull. Ever. I’ve managed to always be legal here, thankfully. I’m aiming for citizenship when I’m eligible. I’ve had jobs with language schools, privately taught, and now own my own small, international company. The economy blows, jobs are scarce, but it’s Serbia! Everyone knows about the food, nightlife, and women (and men!) – but not everyone appreciates the true beauty of Serbia. That would include the customs, the culture, the deep rooted history, and the mystery of everything that happens in Serbia. I’ve been to protests, witnessed rallies and demonstrations, and sat through lectures and conversations of profound debates. This is my life as an expat. It’s not the normal life of an expat – true. But I wouldn’t change it really.  Okay, maybe more traveling around Serbia and Serbian territories. Bettering my own Serbian language skills – which is my own deaf lazy bum’s fault (but that’s my new year’s resolution). I’ve never been to a club here. I love dancing but most of the time would prefer to see a folklore dance troupe over clubs and drinking. And yes, I’ve had rakija. It’s nice if it’s of good quality. But I prefer a good wine which there are many options here in Serbia!

I’m new to The Balkans Daily, if you haven’t noticed. I generally write at my own blog when I have time, but it’s very focused on the topics covered. And here I have a chance to show a different perspective of expat living that doesn’t really fit into my own blog. I’m honored with the opportunity, too.

Today when I was headed home from my English lesson in Novi Beograd, I had the luxury of walking from Ušće to Slavija. It gave me so much time to think about my life here while I had Beogradski Sindikat, Frank Sinatra, Stateless, and other great music blaring in my ears. Seeing the snow blanketed river-banks, the mixed architecture from different time periods, the coming and going of passersby, bundled up children, the scars of wars yet to truly end , the stench of the winter air – all of it makes me feel complete. This is what a city should do for you. And this is what Beograd does for me.

So yes… Serbia has problems. So does America. But I feel at home for once. And I’m forever grateful that Serbia has taken me into her arms and treated me as one of her own.

Here’s to three years and many more to come!