June 4, 2013

Our Serbian Family

As I write, Jocelyn is watching Thomas the Train in Serbian. We hear the bus engines roar to life as they leave with their many passengers on the way to work and school. Half a dozen stray dogs bark and chase cars right outside our apartment window. Our first loads of laundry hang on the balcony lines in the soft blowing wind. Kira says she pooped and hands me her diaper. She won't eat cereal this morning, but will load up on proschiutto and cheese. The overcast sky threatens rain. Again. A little voice interrupts me. Again.

The girls and I are in Belgrade, Serbia for Jovana's sister Maja's wedding (pronounced My-uh). The festivities were a few days ago, on Saturday.

Jovana's family welcomes us daily with open arms. It feels good. We share an instant connection. When greeting each other, we kiss on the cheeks. Three times. Always three times. And sometimes sneak in a hug.

Our first full day in Belgrade the sun shone. This is where we are staying.
Because of this blog and Jovana's shared experiences over the past five years, her family feels like they know us. The girls seemed a little confused when meeting them for the first time. Deep down I'm sure they must have known Jovana had parents and a sister. But meeting her cousins, aunt, uncle, both sets of grandparents and other close friends boggles the mind a bit. Jovana's family network is thick. And they all knew our names. They wanted to hug the girls, overwhelmed by their cuteness. We, too, are family. We just hadn't met yet.

On Sunday when we went to dinner at Maja's husband Luka Dimic's family home. Jovana, Maja and their father joked about being on their best behavior and to not embarrass the Paunovic family's reputation. We must do what we can to keep up the (accurate) illusion that the Dimic and Paunovic union is a good one.

Luka and Maja Dimic
Jocelyn fell asleep on the hour long drive to the Dimic home. I carried her in and right away made a positive impression laying her on the couch. She slept for three hours. Then I woke her up...no sense in making our jet-lagged sleeping troubles any worse.
Jocelyn konked out on the couch.
Kira spilled her juice or water three times. Once while I was busy moving Jovana's glass away from her, she grabbed mine and dumped it in my plate. It's a good thing she's so cute and easy to forgive. And it was better later when Jovana's dad spilled something. We haven't damaged the family reputation after all!

Singing their hearts out.
One of the most endearing Serbian cultural traits I've seen thus far is the connectedness between generations. Old and young all sit around the same table, eat, drink, laugh and sing folk songs together in a way I've never before experienced. Their faces shine as their voices unify. And the kolo. Oh the kolo. Holding hands we dance the kolo in circles. Round and round. I get tired just thinking about it and my hips feel phantom soreness.

Jovana singing and her father waving.
Our plan today includes driving to Jovana's parents apartment to pick up her mom. Jocelyn and Kira will ride their first bus as we travel to the Tesla museum in Belgrade's city center. We will meet up with Jovana when she finishes classes about 1 PM.

In front of the Saint Mark Church
Saint Sava Othadox Church

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