On Friday my four group members and I bused north to spend the weekend nostalgically in Novi Sad, our first semester home. It's about a three and a half hour drive but buses have that annoying tendency to stop so it took roughly an hour longer, but once we arrived our trek to get there was forgotten and we were welcomed back into our families.
The weather on Saturday was wonderfully spring-like so my family and I took a long walk around Novi Sad. It didn't take me long to realize that I hadn't missed the city so much as this one truly spectacular family in apartment 14A on Narodnog Fronta so I spent the rest of the weekend talking to, playing with, and cooking with them. It's always nice to get away for a day or weekend, to change the pace of life, but this didn't just feel like a jaunt. As corny as it sounds it felt like coming home. Not Hawaii home, but a second home of memories fewer but more recent, with three human members, a dog, and a turtle who kept the best company imaginable for four months and provided me exactly what I needed for the start of this year.
Gosh I can say with absolute certainty there could not have been a better family for me. I didn’t realize it until about halfway through the first semester, but I really needed a family family, one that did a lot together and was family-oriented since that’s the kind of family I came from and that’s the family that I missed back home an indescribable amount. This family, the Damjanovic clan, was just that. It consisted of a 10 year-old daughter, Mima, Mama and Tata, Irena and Dejan, both in their thirties, and two pets, a toy poodle, Loli, and turtle, Luci. The pets were great because they helped me not miss my doggies at home as much, but it was the bipedal members who impacted me the most.
When I first arrived I expressed an interest in seeing as much of Serbia as possible and meeting as many people to hear their stories and they provided me with that and more: we took a number of day trips to Sombor, Apatin, Cerevic, Fruska Gora, and to their relatives and friends in and around Novi Sad. I also said I wanted to learn how to prepare some traditional meals and every time Irena or Dejan made something they explained what it was and let me help them. We also spent quality time playing cards, completing a 500 piece puzzle, playing a flag-country matching memory game, baking Serbian desserts and cooking Serbian foods, watching their favorite tv show “Friends”, and watching other Serbian and American movies. I mentioned I wanted to learn about the history and present state of Serbia and about twice a week we would discuss some problem of the past, present, or future and I loved it.
Now Mima. Mima Mima Mima. Moja andela, my angel Mima. Mima has become my sister, no question about it. We spent at least a couple hours a day together studying, reading, playing cards or other games, playing her mini xylophone, drum set, and piano, making paper airplanes, drawing, cutting out snowflakes, decorating the apartment for each holiday with our handmade crafts, baking, cooking, watching our favorite Disney channel show “Phineas and Ferb”, playing in the snow, going to CK for child-friendly events, going on walks, and really anything she wanted to do, I was there. Because I really love her and want to be a positive older influence, and fortunately I think I have been. I made her a part of each day and though at times I felt like she was too much and other usual big-little sibling complexes, I wouldn’t have let it be any other way. She helped me find and expand responsibility, discipline, fun, childlike wonder, love, and maturity which comes from realizing the wonders of childhood that come from being an older sibling and she is the undoubtedly the most important thing that I left in Novi Sad. She was the main reason I didn't want to leave and the person I had the most trouble leaving. But we’ve given each other so very much in love, friendship, and sisterhood as corny as it sounds and I’ll never forget any of it. She truly will always be my little sister.
Halloween at the American Corner
I never felt the need for 'closure' so often gushed about and I hadn't thought I needed it since leaving Novi Sad, but after having a few more precious hours with the Damjanovics I think I have it. Since arriving in Nis I skyped with Mima and sometimes the whole family half a dozen times and as indebted as I am to the genius of Skype for exploiting her this past year, it didn't provide the same feeling as being with them, mainly because they don't speak English perfectly and it was more difficult communicating with faulty internet connections and no room for gesticulation. However I'm determined to make myself apart of their and specifically her life in the coming years, and I hope one day she is able to visit me or at least study in America, she's really very bright. But for now I'm satisfied with the closure that I have and I am forever grateful to have been apart of their family.