Friday, October 31, 2014

History Mystery

 Very near our new house are the ruins of an ancient monastery built in the fifth and ninth centurys.
 There are intrically carved stones and remnants of pillars.

 But there is also a random metal structure over part of the ruins that we couldn't figure out. It is obviously recently added. As the place adjoins an area still in use by those monastically inclined, we don't know if it is an Orthodox or nonorthodox use :-)

Monday, October 13, 2014

There And Back Again

Admittedly it has been many months since I updated this blog. All apologies. But during that time, we were in America for two months, and upon our return we were without consistent internet for about a month.
The trip to the States was interesting. The first hitch was that the Montenegrin Airlines made us check the girls car seats all the way to Dulles (we had hoped to gate check them and then use them on the big flight). After our plane from Podgorica arrived in Frankfurt, we discovered that the flight from there to Dulles was cancelled. We also found out that while the girls and I were booked on the cancelled flight, Steve wasn't. And the airport wifi wasn't available for us to prove that indeed he was booked on our flight.
The airline is required by EU rules to provide meals and lodging during the layover period. So first we went by bus to a hotel for our supper. Then, because the hotels in Frankfurt were booked due to a conference, we went by another bus to Heidelberg (1 1/2 hours away) to spend the night. Our family was bumped in front of others because of our small children. Some people had to travel yet another 20 minutes to a third hotel.
Fortunately, at the hotel Steve was able to access wifi and pull up the needed proof that he had indeed booked and paid for a seat on the plane. Rather than taking the offered shuttle bus to the airport (which left at 5:30am when our make-up flight didn't leave until 5:00pm) we took a taxi to the train station and then two trains, the second of which goes right to the airport.
At the airport Steve convinced them that he was a ticketed passenger. We also received meal vouchers which could be used at the restaurants in the airport. For the flight, Steve and Ruth were near the back while Esther and I were at the front of economy class. The best thing was that both girls slept for most of the flight (and then also slept the whole night).
When we arrived at Dulles we discovered that the girls car seats were still in Frankfurt. So then we had to go through the hassle of getting the loaner seats from the airlines.

On the return flights there was a bit less drama. No cancelled flights. We did find that unbeknownst to us the flight was going as Austrian Air, even though it was United when we booked. So we had to move all our things from one check in counter to another. Also, we weren't allowed to use Ruth's car seat on the transatlantic flight, or either seat on the flight from Vienna to Podgorica. And Steve was not booked in the same aisle as the girls and I on either flight!
There was a long layover in Vienna, and I was so exhausted from the previous flight that I napped while Steve watched the girls play with all the toys in their Trunkis

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Independence Days

 May 21st and 22nd are Montenegro's Independence Days. I'm not sure why it lasts two days. The 21st is generally a day when people get together with their friends and have a Barbeque.
 We got together with a large group of friends, and friends of friends. We even brought some friends from America who were visiting us. Our language teacher and her son were there.
 Here is our group just before we eat. The food was awesome, by the way.
 Ruth is playing in a gravel pile with some other children.
Esther taking a walk with one of our very good friends.
On the 22nd we took a walk through the city with our visitors. We saw posters for the upcoming National Election.
And various groups of cars driving by waving the Montenegrin flag (and sometimes a politician's flag as well). You knew they were coming because they had horns blaring.
Montenegro has been independant from Serbia for 8 years now. I'm guessing the celebration in 2 years will really be something.

Thursday, May 8, 2014


 The girls love playing with kitchen utensils. One day they even ate their lunch from mixing bowls with large slotted and wooden spoons.

 They also love to help in the kitchen. They put on aprons and help make cookies or color eggs.On Sunday Ruth helped me make pizza crust and after it rose, put the toppings on (I made a second, bigger pizza for Steve and me). She said it was a smiley face.
Yesterday was Steve's birthday, so after I had measured all the ingredients in to separate little bowls, the girls came in and helped me pour them into the big mixing bowl and stir up the batter. I think it turned out pretty good. Tastes good, too.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Views On A Funeral

We were honored to be able to attend a funeral here yesterday. The deceased was the mother of a friend of ours. The family is Orthodox from Kosovo, and so the traditions were somewhat different from a Serbian or Montenegrin Orthodox funeral.
Prior to burial, there was a condolence time where the guests expressed their sympathies to the family of the decedent. This took place at a small chapel located within the cemetery. The female relatives (by blood or marriage) stand in a receiving line inside the chapel along the wall, the casket is in the center of the room, but elevated, so this is not a "viewing," you do not see inside. The male blood relatives stand in a line outside the chapel door. If there are no male relations by blood, in-laws stand there.
We entered with a group of friends, men going first, and shook hands with each family member, offering condolences to each, even if we didn't know them. After the visitors have filed out of the chapel, a priest comes and chants something-I didn't understand what he said. Then someone delivered a eulogy of sorts. I was able to pick up the titles the woman held in life, such as aunt, mother, grandmother, etc. and the names of her parents, siblings, children, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, great grands...
The casket is brought out and put on a cart and wheeled to the grave site. Women bring the memorial flowers. Family plots are large concrete or marble tombs that hold several caskets, and are closed by concrete or marble slabs.
At the grave site, the coffin was opened, the priest poured some wine into the casket by the head, and at the feet over a burial cloth. He also poured some into the open tomb (our Serbian friends said this is something unique to Kosovan Orthodox tradition). He then delivered a sermon. Then each of the daughters of the deceased woman kissed her and said goodbye. The burial cloth was draped over the whole body, and the coffin lid was put back on and locked. Then the coffin was lowered into the tomb. Some family members took handfuls of dirt and sprinkled them over the casket. The concrete slabs were put back in place, and all the flowers were arranged on top.

Since this was not an appropriate place for a camera, I have no pictures to attach.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Doing Things Differently

Obviously things are done differently in different countries because of preference, culture, tradition, etc. In the past month or so, we have experienced some of the differences for the first time, or been reminded of them. There was an minor earthquake here in mid December. In the states, I believe it is common during drills or actual quakes to get under doorways, or desks or similar. Here everybody tries to get outside and out from under balconies because the ceilings are concrete and you really don't want that coming down on you.
In this region a decorated evergreen is really more for New Year's, just like Santa, and the tree involved in Orthodox Christmas celebration is a branch cut from an oak tree, retaining it's withered brown leaves. We saw several people selling these on Christmas Eve (January 6th). People display these (undecorated) outside the entrance to their homes, some even fasten small ones to the grill or mirror of their car. Then late that night the tradition is to take them to the church where they are burned in a bonfire. I believe it has something to do with protection from evil throughout the year. We did notice that some people just toss theirs in the trash though.
Fireworks and crackers are set of starting in the beginning of December and are especially prevelent at midnight or December 31st, January 6th and January 13th(the 14th is Orthodox New Year). Hopefully they are all done now for awhile. On the plus side they taught Esther a new word' "bang!"
They don't really do "toddler beds" here either. You graduate from a crib to a twin bed with no rails. I believe they stay in the crib for awhile. We choose to use crib mattresses on the floor so that if the girls do roll out, the don't have far to go. We surround the wall with foam puzzle pieces to keep them from bumping their heads on it.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Getting To Know Montenegro

First, apologies that it's been so long since I made a post.

Now here is are some random "did you know?"s about Montenegro
Montenegro is the Latin name for the country, but the people here call it Crna Gora (which also means black mountain).
Montenegro was an independent kingdom early last century, though some parts of it's modern territory were ruled by the Ottoman and Austrian empires
Around the first world war Serbia incorporated MNE into it's domain. The royal family was exiled to France where they still live.
After the second world war it was part of Yugoslavia
When Yugoslavia was dismantled, it remained with Serbia until 2006, when it became an independent nation again.

The official language is Montenegrin, which is closely related to Serbian, Bosnian and Croatian (just think of the differences between the English spoken in US, Great Britain and Australia for example).
According to Wikipedia, only about 45% of the population is actually Montenegrin and about 29% is Serbian. Just under 9% is from Bosnia.
The population is just under 630,000 as of the 2011 census. 
The size of the country is 5019 square miles (just a bit smaller that Connecticut, whose population is over 3 1/2 million).
Here is an approximate breakdown of the religious affiliations of the people here: 60% Orthodox Christian, 30% Muslim, 8% Catholic Christian. The remainder includes Mormons, Jehovah's Witness, Seventh Day Adventists, and "other." Evangelical Protestant Christian makes up less than one tenth of one percent-about 200 total.
Since the majority of population is Orthodox, that is the calendar that is followed, so today, January 7th is actually Christmas.
And as a fun fact, Santa (here called Deda Mraz-Grandfather Frost) is associated with New Year's rather than Christmas-this is common in some former communist countries.