Friday, 26 March 2010

Wonderful Warsaw but...

- Belgrade is Better!

Yes, I was away again. This time the Polish capital was my destination. I had never been to Poland before. When the opportunity came up to attend a partner building activity nearby Warsaw, I didn't hesitate and jumped at the chance.

Having spent nearly 4 months in Serbia, I had what some would refer to as a 'reverse culture shock' when I arrived in Warsaw. I knew I was back in the 'West' again, but somehow it felt strange to see shiny buildings, metro, shopping malls with all the big brand names on every corner, and not to mention all the fast food chains...

It made me think of all the 'things' that I have been missing since I moved to Serbia. Yeah, it was great to take the metro again and be somewhere quickly, rather than being stuck in traffic like it always happens in Belgrade. Sure, the shopping malls were nice to look at and I admit I ran into the Starbucks as soon as I saw it...but was I really missing these

- or did I just realize these 'things' were missing in my life when I saw it again?

Honestly, I don't think I have stood still about all these 'things' when I arrived in Belgrade, rather I embraced what was there and simply replaced my 'normal necessities' with the Serbian alternatives.

Rather than using the metro, I used my legs (it's so much faster to get somewhere when you walk than take the bus/tram in Belgrade ;)) I swapped huge shopping malls for the much more original street vendors and moka frappuchino became topla čokolada.

Warsaw made me appreciate more things than one, namely that:

1. I don't miss the "West"
2. I don't need the "West"
3. I don't mind using my feet
4. Who needs shopping malls anyways, when you can get way more unique items at smaller markets?
5. And Starbucks? Who?! I mean, nothing can top a Serbian TOPla čokolada - it's simply the best :)

- Warsaw was wonderful indeed, but give me Beograd any day of the week :)

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Creating Creative European Citizens

That's the name of the training I attended in Becej this past week. As the name suggests - the goal was to come out of this training a (more) creative European citizen.

- Being an European Citizen means being active and aware of the issues and think and behave like an European rather than a Dutch or Fin for example.

There were 21 of us from Serbia, Macedonia, Finland, Turkey, Croatia, Portugal, Spain, Scotland and The Netherlands.
It was a mixed group - varying from age and background, but despite the differences (or because of it) we all got along well. The days were filled with playing team building games and discussions. Playing these games was an integral part of the training, since it's a huge part of becoming a more creative person. The ones I'll remember and take with me?

- "Maffia"...and "Woosh"

In the evenings we would continue to bond over drinks and music.

As it always happens on a free day - the weather sucked! All week the weather was great - sunny and comfortable. But on our day trip to Novi Sad - WHAM it started snowing...and then there was this really chilly wind...So, our day in the city was basically spent inside a coffee bar...where the waiter kept topping up my topla cokolada :)

The last two days were spent creating innovating projects. I worked together with participants from Serbia, Italy and Spain. We had many ideas and it was actually quite hard to choose one to work on for now. In the end we decided to develop a project on social networking sites.

I don't know if I came out of the course a creative European citizen.

- But I guess the fact that we had so many ideas, says enough.

Other than the project ideas a few other things were created: partnerships and friendships. All by all, not bad for a week's hard work in Becej :)

Tuesday, 2 March 2010


Last weekend Miomir and Vid took the volunteers to Becej for an animation workshop. I was not sure what to expect.

-I mean the prospect of spending two WHOLE days with a group of 20 HYPERACTIVE kids, was kind of daunting... to say the least.

As we entered the room with our boxes (well one box and THE Box ;)) the kids just stared at us...Their eyes were pierced at what we were carrying in our hands as well as at the strange people entering their class - us. I can understand that they don't see Spanish or Typical Dutch ;) people everyday, so I was expecting the stares...but what I didn't expect was the amount of time it took for the kids to feel comfortable and approach us...

- 10 seconds!

As soon as I entered the room, this adorable little boy spoke to me: "I love English. I like you. I want to speak English with you!"

-My heart melted.

His name was Christian - or as I call him Kiki - and he was just about the cutest little kid I've ever seen. He was not only an eager volunteer in putting The Box together and participant in the workshop itself, he was also really keen to talk with me and kept making me these little gifts. His knowledge and pronunciation of English was ridiculous...

-RIDICULOUSLY good that is.

I mean if I spoke HALF as good as he does when I was his age - The Queen would even believe me if I said I was born British ;)

Kiki was not the only well mannered kid in the group - in fact the whole group was delightful.

- YES you heard me right. I used the words delightful and kid in the same sentence ;)

They were so enthusiastic and patiently waited their turns to play with The Box. I could not believe my eyes - but these kids were exemplary. Kudos to their parents and tutors!

I cannot deny it - they stole my heart, and in particular this little fella :) He did something that I didn't think was possible. The next time we're off to spend a weekend with a group of kids - I'll think:

-The prospect of spending two WHOLE days with a group of 20 kids is simply NOT ENOUGH, especially if their name is Kiki :)

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