Wednesday, October 21, 2015


I know that it's been a (long) while since my last blog post. Sorry. Much has happened since then. Both girls are now in pre-school, so you'd think I should have more time to post.
Today's topic is once again on our bus system. We depend on it a lot when our car is not working, or just one of us needs to get somewhere, and the girls would like it if we took the bus all the time everywhere.

Here are a few more discoveries I've made recently about how "things work" here versus my experience with public transportation elsewhere:
Bus times are not consistent. Some drivers leave the Starting station (the only one with an official departure time) a minute or two early, others a minute or two late.
Bus routes are not consistent. For awhile is seemed an additional loop was added on to the end of the rout, but not every driver took it, some just followed the original route.
Drivers make personal stops. I may have mentioned before that we've had drivers stop at sports gambling shops, I can only guess to place a quick bet. I've also had a driver stop to purchase cigarettes from a person who stands on the sidewalk and keeps her stock in her backyard.
Routes are subject to change without notice. For a few weeks, a two block section of one main street was closed. The first time I rode the bus after this closure (which I was unaware of), I was surprised to have my bus veer off it's normal course and take me farther away from where I had planned on debussing. Since it wasn't the regular route, people would signal that they wanted to get off where ever, and the driver would comply. There was no informing signage either at the bus stop or on the bus about this change. Perhaps online or in the paper, but not everyone checks those. It seemed that towards the end of the detouring period (I believe the street is reopened), the route was constantly changing-improving I guess, but it kept you on your toes. Where is the closest place this bus stops to my intended destination? Where can I wait to ensure I can catch a bus back home?
Bus rules are not consistent. On two separate mornings (of two different weeks) when I was taking the girls to school, a bus driver (different one each time) told me that it was a free ride to take children to pre-school. The morning after the second time, Steve took the girls, and even though it was the same driver as the day before, he had to pay. The following day, same driver, so did I. And we haven't heard it since. Perhaps it was a limited time offer, or the bus company felt like they were losing too much money. Just seemed pretty random to us.
I know all of these sound like grumbling, but overall, I am well pleased with the bus which gives us some freedom to get our children to school or us to other destinations even when we can't (or don't want to) take the car.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

In The Swim of Things

A nearby hotel just built a beautiful swimming pool with three different depths, including a kiddie pool only half a meter deep (about 18 inches).
The kiddie pool also has some great waterslides which the girls really enjoyed.
They offer a family package where the whole family can swim from 10am to 8pm for 14€. They have a café/restaurant in the pool area (and a bar IN the deep pool that you can swim up to, order and drink!), and nifty waterproof wristbands that you swipe and at the end of your time, you give it to the entrance/exit personnel and they charge you for your purchases. Great not to have to worry about keeping your wallet dry! And there were lots of places to sit, lounge chairs, bean bags, and hammocks. They even provide towels!
We went for about 3 1/2 hours, ate lunch there and really enjoyed our time.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Low Budget Kids' Stuff

In the past week we have taken two opportunities to fight the cabin fever of cowering in the one air conditioned room in our house to escape from the 102° heat. There is an exhibit of dinosaur fossils from Patagonia, Argentina, on display in Budva. The best part is that it is inexpensive (€5 per person, children under 5 are free), and very geared toward children. There is a place for digging up "fossils."
There are places to color, do "rubbings" of a dinosaur etching, play games on computer, put a giant puzzle together, even little egg-shaped chairs that close so your child can pretend to be a baby dino about to hatch.
Two of the girls' favorite things were the dinosaur they could "ride"
and the "insert your face here" picture.
We were also invited to a birthday party at a "mini zoo" which had some ponies, a pig, goats and rabbits that you could pet
 ducks, geese, a turkey and a peacock.

There was also a giant trampoline, slide, swings, seesaws and concession stand. And no entrance fee! You did pay €1 for 15 minutes on the trampoline, and I presume if you ride the ponies it costs something too, but a nice and inexpensive experience for sure.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Rich and Poor Languages

"War doesn't determine who's right, but who's left." This is a truism in English that plays on the fact that both "right" and "left" have two different meanings. So I thought I'd present a few of the words in Serbian/Montenegrin which have multiple meanings.

For example vreme means both time and weather, sat is both hour and watch/clock. The only way you can have a simile is with kao since it is like and as.  They use the same verb igrati for to dance and to play (a game or with a toy). The verb slušati is to listen and also to obey. Nositi means to carry and also to wear. Brinuti se is to both worry about and to take care of. Računar is a computer and a calculator. The word for world is svet but that is also the word for holy and saint. Milost is both grace and mercy.

But they also have some words we don't. They have two words for garden: bašta grows edible produce while vrt is floral. There are three different words for aunt (and uncle) depending on how you are related. Tetka is your mother or father's sister (her husband is tetak). Your mother's brother is ujak and his wife is ujna. Your father's brother is stric and his wife is strina. Another word they have that I know of no English equivalent is krmelj -those little crusty things that build around your eyes when you're sleeping.

And just for fun, I'll include a cute picture of Ruth and Esther in a "tent" they built in our living room.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Montenegro Medical

I know it's been over month since my last post. One major reason has been dealing with health issues. While always a bummer, it has given us a first-hand look at some of the differences (both good and bad) between health care here versus in the USA.
Good news, healthcare is much cheaper here. In the course of two weeks there was a visit to a hemotologist, neurologist (with eeg), pulmonary specialist, and chest x-ray and the total cost for all of this was about what one regular check-up would be stateside. And this was the "private" sector. Public healthcare here is free to those with national insurance (read citizens), though not all forms of care are available, and usually the wait is significant.
On the darker side, at least to Western minds, the health provider community seems to be in the mindset of 20-30 years ago by American standards. Many seem to think that sickness is caused by exposure to draft as much if not more than by germs. The IV medication (and even most OTCs) still come in glass bottles, a mother who has a spinal before a c-section is required to lay flat on her back for the next 24 hours (we learned that from a friend). Some doctors prescribe tea as a medication. One aquaintance broke one finger and they casted his whole hand rather than just splinting it and taping it to a neighboring finger. I think as the "old guard" retire and younger doctors take their places there will be a modernization here. Of course many lay-people also believe some of the "old-wives tales".
Ruth did enjoy getting to use her doctor's kit on Daddy.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Ruth started preschool in November. She is the only native English speaker there.
Most days she is excited to go to school. She learns letters and numbers in both Serbian and English. She has also learned some other words like "majka" (pronounced like the English name Micah, it means "mother")and "tata" (daddy). She now addresses us this way :)
And sometimes she asks us what a word she heard in school means.

Here is a picture of the building her school, called a vrtić (little garden), is in. There is a small playground outside for when warm weather comes.
This past week she came home, very happy with her nails polished. She said the teacher had painted them. I thought this was cute, but wondered what might be the repercussions in America if a preschool teacher painted students' nails without parental consent.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

All Through The Town

We feel fortunate to have a bus stop near our house. The route goes right by Ruth's pre-school and has a stop a few meters away from it. It also has a stop near one of the main shopping centers we frequent. So if our car's not working well, or we don't feel like driving, or we need to meet up somewhere, the bus is a viable option. The cost is 70 euro cents per adult, children ride free. The girls love to ride the bus, much more than a taxi, sometimes more than our car.

Esther is sitting by herself, but later moves to my lap.
Some of the bus tickets we get.

There are some differences between city buses here and those we've experienced elsewhere. Most of the buses we've ridden in are "hand-me-downs" from a German speaking country. They still have the instructional signs in German. The bus stops only have the schedule for when a bus starts from it's original station, not when it will reach that stop. If no one is waiting at a stop and no one is standing on the bus (to indicate they want to get off), the bus doesn't stop. It seems to ensure that the driver knows you want to get off, you should stand as soon as the bus leaves/passes the preceding stop. Sometimes the bus leaves the starting point early (the stop near our house is the starting point and once I was on a bus that left 10 minutes earlier than the stated time). Sometimes the driver will stop the bus for a personal errand (We have both experienced drivers stopping at a sports betting store to presumable place a wager on a sporting event).

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Knock It Off

There are very few copyright or trademark infringement laws here, leading to many knock-offs of well known brands (we found house slippers branded "File" instead of "Fila"). But I was rather amused the other day when I found these dolls for the girls.

It's very obvious that they are to resemble Elsa and Anna from Disney's Frozen. But instead of being made of the sturdy rubber and plastic like the "real" ones, these are made from very thin, hollow, plastic. They sing, but instead of singing a song from the movie, they sing a high-speed, Chipmunk-style blurb from the late nineties song "I'm a Barbie Girl."
The packaging seems to have been a photocopy of the original Disney with words changed.
Please note that "Beautiful" is in the traditional Disney font, and Fashion is in the Frozen font. What cracks me up the most are the comments written under that. "I have a lovely doll, His name is 'small cute'. She has a pair of big eyes, Round face, A cherry small mouth, long legs, Clever" (Verbatim, capitalization and punctuation).
The girls don't know the difference and have had lots of fun playing with them. The only problems arise when limbs fall off (they just pop back on) and when the clothing needs mending (I needed to reattach something to both dresses on the first day!). The Elsa doll did have her signature braid, but Ruth likes to comb her dolls' hair, so that came out.
For the most part, actual Disney authorized Frozen toys are not available here. At Christmas we did find licensed plush of some of the characters, and a few figurines. It doesn't really bother us though. The girls are by no means hurting for playthings. :) And if the stores don't have it, we can't be pestered into buying it :)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Comparing Cultures

Most of the time, living in Montenegro is very much the same as living in America. Or the difference is minimal. But occasionally the contrasts stick are more noticeable. For instance, here yogurt is a drink and hot chocolate is thick enough you need to eat it with a spoon.

Or the French make car (Renault), you purchased in a Serbian speaking nation comes with instruction manuals in Italian.
But we recently attended a wedding here, and the differences to what we've experienced in America were quite interesting. First, religious leaders do not have the legal authority to marry people. Neither Orthodox or Catholic priests, Protestant pastors or Muslim Imams can formally join two people in the bonds of matrimony. A couple wishing to wed must go to the special government office created for that purpose.
The bride and groom get one attendant/witness each, called the kuma and kum respectively (this is also the title "godmother" and "godfather"). The official reads out the Montenegrin "laws of marriage" which include that the husband and wife are equal, and they must agree on where to live but are independent in choosing where they work. They promise to abide by these rules, "take" one another as spouse, exchange rings, kiss, and sign the marriage register.
If the couple chooses, they may then have a religious ceremony at the church or mosque of their faith. Our friends did, and the religious ceremony included the more familiar vows involving "in sickness and health", and" 'til death do us part." Then there was a reception with an amazing variety of wonderful food, singing, dancing (Balkan style line dances, not ballroom style), and blessings for the couple. With the two ceremonies and the reception, the wedding lasted about 6 hours.