The strangest thing happened this morning. It began with my host mom handing me a clean pile of sheets and blankets to dress my bed with. While removing the previous ones and giving the bed a makeover with these I hadn't given much thought to the new ones. When I tucked in the final corner and emphatically relinquished the mattress -- changing sheets is not my favorite task in any country -- I finally saw the sheets. Sheets that strike an absolutely uncanny resemblance to ones I had as a child. White cotton with faded pink and white flowers, some fully bloomed others still in budding, and light green leaves and branches which wind around and sometimes connect to another cluster. This seems quite usual as I'm writing it but, if my memory serves right, the hues are spot on and they are the flowers are the same size and design as those sheets from the 20th century.
Perhaps this stretches a faultless, wellmeant metaphor but I jumped into thinking how in Serbia I resemble a child and how my final bedding is taking me back to my childhood. If you think this metaphor is ridiculous you should probably stop reading now, I tend to wax poetic.
In Serbia I've relearned how to communicate, both with a new language and different cultural interactions. I've retried my taste buds with myriad new foods. I've discovered two new cities and found meaningful nooks and crannies. I've become a member of two families and organizations. In a sense leaving what you know and opening your arms and mind to what you don't follows the path a child takes growing up, having to make sense of all the unfamiliarities and find a place among them.
I've also been surrounded by children the entire year. Until January it was my ten-year-old angel of a sister, Mima. Since then it's been my three to seventeen-year-old students. With Mima I was first learning the ropes of Serbian culture and she acted a guide through them and a constant source of childlike wonder. By January I had become familiar with Serbia but the Roma were still a giant znak pitanja (question mark) so my students were a way for me to see into their culture and community while keeping me fascinated and curious with their vitality. Because I have invariably been with children this year I believe I was able to more freely accept new cultures and because those children invariably possessed inquiring minds I have been inspired to continuously seek nuances between the cultures.
Sheets may just be sheets but I think there's something that can be said for adopting every new culture as you did your first.