One of the things we’re loving most about having American television is our ability to watch our favorite HGTV shows, including House Hunters International, which has been one of my parents’ favorite shows for years. We, too, have felt drawn to the show: not only does it feed into our desire to see places all over the world but it also gives viewers the opportunity to see inside what are often pretty cool places and to find out how much they actually cost.
Due to Hurricane Sandy, we’ve had an extended weekend, which means that, inevitably, HGTV has been on for quite a lot of it. We watch the news until I can’t take it any longer and then we have to switch to HGTV: scenes of devastation of my beloved New Jersey, particularly of the Jersey shore, are ones I can only take in short doses, especially when I see iconic places that have been completely ravaged, like Seaside Heights and Atlantic City. Thankfully, my family is safe (without power, but doing well nonetheless), but all our thoughts are with those who have not been so lucky, as well as with LBI in general, as it is a place that holds a special place in all of our hearts. From what we’ve been able to gather via social media, much of the island is underwater. As for the family beach house, we’ll see what’s left of it when we can (fingers are crossed but I’m trying not to be too optimistic).
So back to HHI, which is certainly more fun to talk about than the tragic aftermath of a natural disaster. Anyway. It is fun to see people look for summer homes in the Caribbean or Central America and, in my opinion, even better when they take on Europe. As one can imagine, Italy is an overwhelmingly popular destination, and there always seem to be a few people who want to realize their “lifelong dream” to live in Paris. Once in a while, they highlight some places that are a little off the beaten path… like Belgrade!
Watching HHI is interesting; watching it when it is highlighting the city to which you’re moving very soon is fascinating, especially if it is a city you haven’t actually experienced before. On this episode, an Australian woman decides to move to Belgrade to start a tourism company. She chose Belgrade because she fell in love with the city during her extensive European travels and subsequently decided she wanted to live there. And you know what? After watching the episode, I wanted to live there. Except I am going to live there… so I guess it would be more accurate to say I got a lot more excited about living there. As each minute of the episode passed, we continued to get more and more excited about our next adventure. It is hard to describe how cool it was to sit there, watching the television, looking at our new city for the first time. We’d seen some maps and photographs in class and online, but those don’t compare to actual video footage.
There were tons of cute old-world European streets lined with cafes and stores (some were even recognizable brands) and we were able to get a sense of the city. Even though we won’t be responsible for finding our housing in Belgrade, we enjoyed seeing what some of the available downtown apartments are like and what price tags they come with. When we got the housing questionnaire from the embassy a few weeks ago, we did request to be in an apartment downtown instead of a house in a more suburban area — and after watching the House Hunters International episode, we were really glad we opted for location! Of course, the embassy has the last say, but at least we seemed to have prioritized the right things for our current situation. If I don’t end up having a job at the embassy for some reason, I can just picture myself hanging out at kafanas (the traditional bar/cafe/restaurant establishments found throughout the country) — maybe not drinking turkish coffee or rakia (a plum brandy) — with Scarlett, hearing the life story of some local and gathering material for my as-of-yet unwritten breakout novel. I wish.
To all our friends and family: get excited to come visit us in Serbia. Seriously: we love visitors! If you’re not excited yet, wait until you watch the HHI episode, and then you will be. My parents recorded it (thanks Mom and Dad!) and there will definitely be a viewing party when all of us NJ folks are back in town (the power should be back on by then…) — I know I’m looking forward to seeing it again, too!