After spending more time getting to the airport than I did sitting on the plane, I stood in Belgrade’s airport and took a final moment to wonder what I would experience in Serbia. Only weeks before my arrival I had watched on the BBC as people took to the streets surrounding a declaration of independence by Kosovo. Belgrade embodied the pattern of so many European cities in this region – there were old neglected structures giving way to new modernized buildings.
Exploring Belgrade revealed a city teeming with energy: people speak loudly and drivers maneuver their cars in ways that North American’s only wish we could get away with at speeds we fear. Just like New Yorker’s retreat to Central Park, Serb’s and foreigners alike make their way to Kalemegdan, sitting atop the banks of the Sava and Danube Rivers (pictured above). Though I saw very little armed presence in the city (and the American Embassy is now sporting a fresh coat of paint), I am not going to pretend that I grasp the complexity and volume of issues that fuel life in the former Yugoslavia.
We traveled to Kraljevo to meet with a local pastor who helps facilitate the leadership development conferences in Serbia. He is not someone you just meet, but rather experience. Though much shorter than I, he is bursting with life. There was work to be done, yet I feel as though my greatest learning came not via the execution of this work, but through observation and conversation. He took us to his small church (a really packed house) and showed us the window through which rioters had thrown a molotov cocktail. A visual lesson in itself.
3 buses, 1 plane and a 20 minute walk later I returned home to Amber. She greeted me with news of a bee she had trapped in the bedroom under her slipper which needed my immediate attention…yes, she loves me.