In the fall, Grant had a training trip to DC, and I decided to go with him. Originally, I thought I would let him go on his own and I would stay home and keep Scarlett company, but following our return to Serbia after our late-summer R&R, I was bumming hard. R&R was great. We spent a lot of time with family, at the beach, and with some of my best friends. Then we returned to Belgrade, where it was great to be reunited with Scarlett, but for the first time since arriving in May 2013, I was fighting a losing battle with homesickness.
Grant was super busy with bidding, and a number of the friendships I had begun during the summer in hopes of having some friends I could actually hang out with seemed to fizzle for various reasons (such as an early departure from post). Plus we had neither upcoming visitors nor a trip planned for me to look forward to. So I decided that spending the beginning of November in the States would be just the thing.
And boy was it ever! It was one great ethnic/pizza meal after another. We got to see my mother-in-law, both my parents, three of my siblings, and two of my high school friends. We celebrated a lot of birthdays, and I enjoyed spending time working in DC-area coffee shops when Grant was in training. Plus we went to our first NBA game! Life is short, so when we have an opportunity to spend time with the people who are important to us, we need to just do it.
Life as an expat is invariably full of ups and downs, and it is the people who really make the difference when it comes to how those ups and downs impact one’s overall life experience. As we’re nearing the end of our second tour, I’ve realized what a gift making a true friend is, particularly in this lifestyle. As someone who has a fur baby but not a human one, I am often on the outside, and keenly feel the cliques that are rooted in having children of a similar age. There are some really nice people here but as the only spouse at post without either kids and or a job, I am perhaps more aware of how cliquey these cliques can be than they are themselves.
So when we finally received new neighbors in the final apartment in our building, after it had been empty for months, I was excited for the possibilities of making a new friend (as I always am when a new person comes to post, but wouldn’t it be so nice to have a friend living right next door?!). We were away when our new neighbors moved in, but I managed to catch up with the wife and her daughter a few days later, as I went over to introduce myself, welcome them to post, and give the girl a box of the incredibly popular Serbian cookie, Plasma.
We bonded over the quirks of our apartments and I told her to feel free to call me up for anything she might need, no matter how big or small. To my delight, she actually did! When I offer to help, I really mean it, and I was thrilled that she took my offer at face value. I like to be helpful and I really love living here so I particularly like to help people get settled in and learn about what a great place we get to live in here in Belgrade.
One of their first weekends here, her sister was in town, and Grant was gone, so I spent the majority of each weekend day with my new neighbors, checking out downtown, shopping, and just hanging out. Needless to say, Grant and I feel very lucky such a great family moved in next door, and we always love whatever time we spend with them. Sometimes, I feel like I’m back in college, like when I get a late-night text for a meeting in the hallway leading to the garage so we can exchange garlic/olive oil/flower/that thing one of us borrowed, where we inevitably stand, whispering, for much longer than the quick exchange required.
I am grateful for every friend I have made in this life, and particularly when I realize how unlikely it is that I would have met any of these wonderful people if my life had gone in a different direction, and I am so happy such a nice, fun family moved in right next door. Given the chance, I will still complain about not living downtown, but I feel much less like doing so now that we have friends living a couple feet away!
The biggest change in my day-to-day life that happened this past year is that I started doing yoga a few times a week. I had always enjoyed yoga, though most of my experience with it had been the occasional class following ballet, just for doing so,ethnicity not a little different, back in the day.
Now, I love yoga. It has made a noticeable difference in my life, and I am extremely grateful to have found a teacher I genuinely like as a person and a class (in English!) I can go to a couple of times each week. Yoga is often my favorite time of the week. In fact, I want more! I’ve progressed and am probably the best student in the class — I am certainly the most dedicated — and I would really like to take more class and do more advanced things.
Occasionally, I am the only student, and on these days, my teacher deviates from our normal routine and makes things a bit more difficult. I love challenging myself, and have found yoga in general (and these lucky “private” classes in particular) challenges me to be a better person: mind, body, and soul.