The “first three months” test (and the “three months ahead forecast”)

The lake I pass every morning on mThe lake I pass every morning on my view to the ICTY, frozen in Februrary 2012. y view to the ICTY, frozen in Februrary 2012.
The lake I pass every morning on my way to the ICTY, frozen in Februrary 2012.

When I arrive to a new country I have seen myself doing mentally what I call the “first three months test”. The test is simple: Taking into account my first long experience abroad (this is, when I went to Serbia), I annalyze how my life was there during the first three months and I compare it with my current situation, wherever I am .

The parameters I take into consideration are the following:

– Knowledge of the city, the culture, and the local language.

– Friends (and quality of friendship).

– My position in the local music scene (if I have a band or not, assistance to jam sessions…).

– Personal feeling about the city (do I feel like living here longer?, do I see myself here in a few years?).

– Activism in the city/country.

The “test” consists in annalyzing how those parameters where back then in March 2010 in Belgrade and how the situation is in the present. For some reason, my stay in Belgrade has become the “role model” for every project in a new destination.

Dirty Mind Quintet recording. August 2010.
Dirty Mind Quintet recording. August 2010.

Despite the simplicity of the test, the diversity of factors make it interesting and results vary every time I am in a new country. Sometimes, like now, I have no band (while in Belgrade I had already 3), but I may have made closer friends here faster than for example in Greece, where I needed a revolution to make long-lasting friends (althoguh I had some already).

In Serbia I had language lessons, which helped to learn the language, while my knowledge of Dutch is nonexistent. On the other hand, I experienced some activism in The Hague, while in Serbia social movements remain underground after years of wars and non-reliable political leaders.

The final question about my feelings about the city are inconsistent at the moment.

Plein, the main square of The Hague.

Although I love The Hague, the lack of income makes unlikely for me to stay here longer, and therefore I am not really seeing myself here. And that is the second issue: My personal “forecast” for the time ahead.

As you are probably aware, I decided to extend the internship until July. The following months promise to be exciting: Preparing the final briefing for our case, Queen’s Day, an interesting conference in Brussels, and probably a soul/funk band project. I also expect some visits from Andalusia when the good weather comes. In the meantime I will keep enjoying life here. Despite learning, going out from time to time, and having dinners with friends, I travelled quite a lot during the last months: London was the furthest I went, and I did it to visit

Traditional “folk” dance in Maastricht. American folk dance, though.

Antonio (who gave me the title for the blog and who I had not seen in 4-5 years) and Maciek. In the Netherlands I visited Amsterdam (3 times), Utrecht (twice), Delft (uncountable times), Haarlem, Leiden and Maastricht. Besides Brussels, I intend to go to the north of The Netherlands sometime, although I am also considering stay more in The Hague and save money (even low-budget travelling starts to be expensive, damn it!).

Maciek and me in the “I International Molerovers meeting”in London. Extreme volunteering, as usual.

Regarding jobs, I definitely need to keep doing “job-sicking” (as a colleague calls it), but nevertheless I keep being optimistic about it. Why? Because optimism is a revolutionary act.

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I’m not saying goodbye.. I’m just saying THANKS!!

I agree with Sabina that I didn’t want a sad post for my last article in this Blog. After all, I’m writing this after hugging and saying goodbye to my best friends at the train station, so that is sad enough. That said, I am a grateful person and, in order of appearance, I want to THANK: my parents for supporting me (much more than I would support my own son, I think) in this “crazy” decision of leaving everything to go to Serbia; my friends and co-workers at Calesur for respecting with truthful friendship-comaraderie my decision of leaving the coop– keep kicking asses to those who deserve it ;-) ; Miomir Rajcevic and Dragan Radic for accepting my application and supporting me in this process and during all these 9 months, it would have not been possible wihout you; my flatmates in Molerova (Sonia, Lana, Maciek, Johannes and Sabina) for never complaining when, clumcy and empowered by rakja, woke them up in the middle of the night (sometimes I was nice enough to make them enjoy the early mornings as well…), all of you deserve a special part in my heart, Molerovers Forever!; Víctor y Merche for making me feel at home and introducing me to the Spanish community, ¡¡sóis los mejores!!; bartenders, for serving small beers the biggest ones availables (when available) in Andalusia; all the people at my piazza in Vracar, for allowing me to eat again delicious vegetables and fruits (just do whatever you need to do to avoid joining the EU); Sonja Rajin for being such a patient and hard-working teacher, in adittion to a good friend; Dragan at Riff Club for such unforgettable moments, specially the concert during Orthodox New Year’s Eve; Aleksandra and Marina for being there even when we didn’t see each other; Igor and Milan (and their families) for becoming my best friends and allowing me to enter your lives and getting to know you in depth, I love you!; Jasna, Duca and Vesna for being so cute and friendly, All the Best!!!; Milana and Teodora from Dirty Mind for suffering my sometimes loud-funk-too free jazz way of playing :) , don’t ever stop making music!; Lael and Aurelie for so many funny moments and, naravno, for that bottle of wine I’ll share with my new flatmates in Venice; Filp, Aleksander, Dunja, Marija, Uros, Pavle and all others from Belgrade Alternative Guide for becoming such good friends, I miss you all already!!! (reading “A guide to the Serbian mentality” doesn’t help my nostalgia, though :)); Charlie for those unique nights at Bitef; Ida for smiling all the time, helping me with my serbian, and for those seeds I’ll grow in Venice; Pljeskavica/Burek/Palacinka/Pizza makers, for feeding me all this time; all those who came to my farewell party (even when Serbia was on semi-finals!!), because you made me really happy coming; MEC for the final drink and MEC’ers for such a beautiful last night in Belgrade; my best friends, for coming to the train station for a final hug…

For all of you, I won’t say bye because I sincerely want to come as soon as possible to Belgrade or because we’ll meet in Venice or Seville, so I will just say

THANKS!/HVALA PUNO!/¡ MUCHAS GRACIAS!

new doc coming soon

Last week Maciek and I started to film our new project which will be a remembering of our stay in Serbia. We want to interview all the MEC-Volunteers and the staff and also add the movies we did (or… started): the vampire interviews, the Eternal Way Home, the banana movies, …

So far we interviewed ourselves, Lana and Vid but and we want to shoot (film-wise speaking) to Johannes and Sonia before they leave and get everything done before the Farewell 9/11 Party where Maciek and I will say goodbye to all our friends in Serbia.

That’s all for today because I’m running to the Zeleni Prozor festival where Lael, Aurelie and Sonia are working so… write to you soon!

2 weeks to go but 12 months ahead

Yep, everything takes to an end. Also your EVS life. If you don’t believe me just ask Johannes and Sonia, the first two Molerovers that finished their stay in Serbia just a couple of weeks ago. Watching them packing and taking their stuff from the fridge made me realize that, yes, this is the way it finishes, and that I will be the next one packing and eating and giving away whatever it is on my part of the fridge (sorry Lana and Sabina, there won’t be many sweets there…).

It is unbeliveable how all this time and all this situations, people, food, places, music… will be, in just two weeks, part of my past life, although it will be also part of my future. Anyway I try to think positively and think in how much there is to discover in the next 12 months: Lots of work (I’m already studying and I didn’t even get there!!), for sure, but also new people, new cities, new food, new places and new music.

In these weeks I have left my purpose will be following the next list of “10 things to do before taking the 15-hour-train to Italy”:

1- Take the tramvaj number 2 and take a free tour around the city center, while filming it with Maciek.

2- Go to kalemegdan and have a drink there during the sunset.

3- Take pictures of/with: my funny gipsy hairdresser,  the shop assistant at the pljeskavica place in Makenzijeva, Dragan from Riff Club and Roberto and the rest of the crew at “Casa García”.

4- Go to a monastery and buy homemade Rakja (Maciek and Igor, please help in this).

5- Finish the documentary movie about our EVS experience.

6- Go and visit the re-opened tower in Avala.

7- Watch a concert in a splav (this goes for the Beetantone concert on Thursday, 2nd of September at Ladja splav)

8- Record a demo with the Dirty Mind Quintet and enjoying the last time we play together.

9- Have a long farewell party and meeting, at least, the 99% of the people I expect to come.

10- Yes, you all expected this, eating the last pljeskavica and taking, while looking back to Molerova for the last time, bus 83 to the train station.

Words and people


Today I will take a moment to talk about Serbian words.  I have been learning serbian mostly in a classroom but, also, on the streets. That is why I have linked on my mind many words to certain people (and places). For example, curse words like “boli me k…..” (“I don’t give a shit”) are part of Milan’ s vocabulary. “Opusteno” (take it easy) reminds me of Filip, Aleksander and the rest of the crew of the Belgrade Alternative Guide, as well as “brate” (brother). The omnipresent “polako” (kind of “quietly” or “slowly”) and  the polivalent “moze” brings me to my first dinner in Belgrade with Victor and Merche. We ate that night “karadjordjeva”, so those big meat rolls stuffed with cheese have, somehow, a spanish flavour.

“Bubnjeve” (drums) and “svirati” (to play an instrument) are together with the image of a flat in a Belgradian suburb and sorrounded by serbian musicians during one of my many rehearsals. “Razumes?” (“do you understand?” takes me to the cold winter and Dragan from Riff Club when, in fact, I didn’ t understand him at all.  “Sto”  (both “table” and “hundred”) is Aleksandra but also Sonja (from whom 90% of my Serbian vocabulary come from), in different contexts. “Djubre jedno” (“you are a piece of shit”) and a big smile, on the other hand, is just Aleksandra’ s contribution.

“Izbeglice” (refugees) is Dragan explaining our project to those refugees. “Kajmak” and “pljeskavica” are words that I first heard in Seville back in November 2009. “Katastrofa” belongs exclusively to Jazmin in Mostar, but “hajde” is Katka’ s legacy. “Ljubim te” (“kisses”) is part of  Becej’ s charm and “ciganka” (“gipsy woman”) and “glupi” (“silly”) is a night filled with laughs with mosquitos in Kalemegdan. “Sta kazes?” is one of the only expressions I could hear in Serbian from Petar, since it came naturally from a conversation in a fluent spanish.

“Slusaj i uci” (“listen and learn”) are part of Igor’ s humor and “svadba” (“wedding”) entered my vocabulary during his wedding ceremony with Jasna. “Snimati” (“filming”) is part of MEC and, finally,  “vidimo se uskoro” (“see you soon”), is my way of finishing this post.

“nAmore” – Seaside in Montenegro and Croatia

Yeah, I swimmed there… Hate me.

On the boat crossing the Kotor bay

Last week I spent 4 days in the seaside (na more, in serbian). I just bought my bus ticket to Herceg Novi 3 hours before departuring and I did not have any room booked or friends there. Anyway as soon as got off the bus after a 13-hour trip (and leaving my mp3 in my seat to keep travelling without me… ) I was offered a cheap room where I stayed for two days. I left my stuff, said hello to the nice bugs who were going to share the house with me and went to enjoy the city center.

Although the sun was burning I enjoyed the beautiful sights and it didn’ t take me long until I went for my first swim in Crna Gora. I spent most of the day in the beach but I went for a long nap until I went out to check out the nightlife in Herceg Novi. Next day I went to Dubrovnik, which I enjoyed and came back to Herceg Novi to sleep. I contacted then some friend who were staying near Petrovac and stayed with them for a short time since I had to go back to Belgrade on Friday evening.

I have to admit that I fell in love with the seaside of Montenegro and Croatia and I can’ t wait to go back there. It was a happy discovering seeing how the seaside is not too exploited. It reminded me of the Andalusian seaside before our particular building-armaggedon in the 60′ s. God forbid the Russians (or whoever has intentions to build there) to not destroy the natural beauty of the ex-Yugoslavian seaside.

Squatters in Molerova – Survival Guide

Last week my lovely-as-much-as-patient flatmates suffered the visit of 3 andalusians who were visiting me in Belgrade. Improvising is part of our culture (we are mediterraneans, damn it!) so we  just enjoyed Belgrade (mostly at night) although they (more than me) suffered the heat during the daytime. It was great to meet some friends from Seville after 7 months here and I enjoyed making jokes of everything, speaking fast as hell in Andalusian, know about friends that I left there and how they changed, and, of course, making “botellon”. About this: it was impossible to find ice cubes in Serbia — tip: go where Lana stands at the supermarket and ask the guy at the fish spot for a bag with that ice they use to keep the fish fresh.They will be suprised but you will have some cold drinks.

We had time to do extreme-splaving, devojke-sightseeing, Mtv festival, visiting Novi Sad and Sremski Karlovci, rostilj and swimming in Ada at a bachelor’s party, enjoying traditional music in Skadarlija and feeling like smurfs next to these serbians who are all like bodyguards (the smallest ones) compared to us.

Finally, Molerova is a little more quiet but I am looking forward to meet them again either here, in Venice, or wherever. Next post: my first Serbian weeding. Opusteno dear fans, it’s not mine.

Found in Translation – Short Review Of A Serbian Dinner

I woke up on Monday morning with some flashes from something that probably happened the night before. First of all I see my best serbian best friends. Then the parents of one of them and my own one are sitting around a table next to a swimming pool in Stari Grad. Then tasty cebapcici, bacon, chicken (meat, meat, meat) and unbelievable bread. Wine from Monte Negro. The talk starts to be louder and everyone starts to feel relaxed. I keep translating from Serbian/English to Spanish. Then more wine. Then I see my father holding a Kalashnikov while “The No Smoking Orchestra” plays the song that repeats the name of that famous russian weapon all over and over. Then my friend’s father (who used to sing in a chorus) starts singing serbian traditional songs. Clap, clap, clap. More wine. Sweets. Hugs. It is getting dark. Rakja. My serbian improves. Chats about montenegrian and serbian people between some representatives of both groups. Then we all realize how mediterranean people are in oposition to northern european: Feeling mediterranean, feeling serbian, feeling… Full. Now it’s dark. We start thanking each other and saying good bye not with distanced hand-shakes but hugging, touching, and huge smiles. Way to Terazije. Wishing a good trip and, once again, way up to Molerova. Before I went to sleep, I thought I probably found myself during the translation.

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