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Only in Serbia

by Laura on May 20th, 2013

“You don’t make any sense. You completely contradict yourself all the time.”

Good stuff. This sentiment insult I recently received pretty much encapsulates how I live my life. Most of the time. Maybe. … Why can’t I just make up my damn mind?

I call myself a patriotic American, but in A Friendly Letter from Home, I made fun of Big Brother the uppity American Embassy for constantly warning me about perceived dangers to my American health, safety and well-being.

I make fun of the Serb fear of promaja and the new trash bins around town, but I love the relaxed Don’t Freak Out mentality towards raising children.

So … whose side am I on? Why can’t I just pick a perspective, decide who or what I’m making fun of, and stick with it.

I don’t quite know what to call it. It’s not that “I call it like I see it.” I do have enough emotional intelligence not to blurt out the first thing that comes to mind.

Maybe I ought to change the title of my blog to

The Sarcastic Contrarian, or

The Genuine Hypocrite, or

The Inconsistent Witch-with-a-B.

You see, I like living here, but … it’s complicated.

And lest you think I’ve completely adjusted to living in Serbia and don’t notice stuff as an outsider any more, think again.

I’m sure I’m completely overreacting, and that all of this is perfectly f-i-n-e.

But I can’t resist. I have to point it out. Below is a photo of a new store that opened near our local elementary school.

You can’t quite see the main sign but suffice-it-to-say, it advertises: Pirotehnika. Hence the little flames surrounding the text.

Yep, it’s a close cognate, as in … pyrotechnics. And the word vatromet? I know, not a cognate. Vatromet means fireworks.

Also note the various signs warning: no smoking, no lit matches, no fires. Not that I haven’t seen the store owner smoking a cigarette right in front of the sign.

For me, no smoking, no lit matches, and no fires … are always good advice for storefronts. But then again, I am an uppity American mommy. It’s also good advice for a building next to a large elementary school.

What’s the big deal, you may wonder? If fireworks are legal, then why not have a store to sell them in? At least it’s safer than having fireworks sold on the street.

True, very true.

But let me zoom out a little.

A little bit more …

Have you been able to guess yet what’s wrong with this picture? Literally wrong, as in unsafe and hazardous?

Oh oh me! <<<pumps arm into the air>>> Pick me, I know!

Ah yes, the fireworks store is located in … Ding, ding, ding! You guessed it!

An apartment building! Where people live. They l-i-v-e there.

[Rant over.]

That is all.

*  *  *  *  *

If you wanna read some more contradictory, confusing stuff (and who doesn’t really?), check out my “spy thriller” cum memoir. It’s on sale this week for $2.99 over at Amazon.

If you’ve already read it and overcame your confusion somewhat … thank you! (Please … if you have a moment … click over and write a review about Adopted Reality on Amazon!)

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From → Expat Mommy

16 Comments
  1. Barbara Thavis permalink

    I think we are all a mixed bag. Any chance you could point out the danger to a (hahaha) zoning board. Okay so no zoning boards, then a government official? Any chance of getting a group of mothers concerned? The residents of the apartment building

    I can't stop my US head from spinning on how to right wrongs. Maybe there you're learning to just live in the ambiguity. I think you're doing a good job both living and enjoying all the laxness offers while sharing it with us on the blog. Thanks!

    • Barbara — I know, right? I don't even know if they have a zoning board, pursay — and anyhoo, my Serbian is not that strong!

      I think if the residents could care less, it's hard to put up a fight, so-to-speak. The mentality here is that there are a lot of worse things going on I think. Or–maybe the perception is that it's not that dangerous? I'm not 100% sure …

  2. Holy cow. I'd be freaking out if I lived in that building. I was going to say that having those fans or AC devices attached to the outside of the building where they could fall on the heads of innocent passersby was the "wrong" with the photo but your assessment is dead-on and I hope I don't mean that literally.

    One thing you can say for America, we've got safety issues in order. We have codes and standards for insuring the health and safety of our citizens. Granted there are still enough mishaps but at least we've outlawed firework stores below apartment dwellings.

    I think it's okay to be somewhat schizophrenic about it all. Each country has it's good and bad traits. Not having your mind made up one way or another is completely understandable. In fact wasn't it Einstein that said the true test of intelligence is knowing both sides of an issue?

    Have a great day.

    • Grace — YES. If I lived there, I would FREAK out. I would raise hell, but I'm not so sure there's anything I can really DO about it. I just don't know the system well enough, and I certainly don't speak/read Serbian to the degree I would need to to become an acutal community activist :)

      I love that quote from Einstein!

  3. zygotepariah permalink

    I wonder what it would actually take to set off fireworks. Is it nothing short of an actual flame? Being near to a heat source?

    Anyway, not sure it would help much here, but having been in a fire at university where a crisis was averted by having one, I always encourage people to give home fire extinguishers as gifts. Family members/friends don't want anything for Christmas or their birthday? Give one anyway. You might get a puzzled "um, thanks?" look, and hopefully you won't ever need it, but if you do, you'll be glad to have one.

    • I was thinking about that, too … surely they're in packages, right? But I'm trying not to think too hard … like, it's late at night; there's a gas leak in one of the pipes. The gas leak goes next to the warm/hot radiator … which is near the fireworks … which ignite AND EXPLODE.

      I love the fire extinguisher idea!

  4. Maybe you could open up a business and sell fire extinguishers (mentioned in above comment) in a store next door – might get attention. (That's the business owner in me thinking out loud.)

    • Eva — HA! That would be awesome. I'd hate to spend any extra time near that store, though!

  5. I think that, once you have lived for a few years in another country, you don't know where you belong anymore. Do you have a Serbian passport yet? As for safety issues, well, things vary from country to country, I suppose. Maybe they will have more stringent health & Safety rules eventually?

    • I truly have no idea … you know, I did learn that one of my girlfriends DID complain about the fireworks store. They told her everything is per the judge's code. So, yes, there is a need for an overhaul in the rules themselves.

  6. Marija Taraba permalink

    The thing is, you are all looking into this "store in the app building" from an American prospective, where fire spreads fast and easy. Laura, how many firehazards have you heard of since you lived in Belgrade? Have you ever heard a fire siren?? Probably not. Even though I do agree that it is NOT the best location for this type of store, probably nothing major will happen( if that fire ever starts!!) to the appartmants above, since building is built from solid bricks.

    But, yes you can definitly raise you concern in Opstina NOvi Beograd, there is even hot line number for anything that you may consider urgent as far as breaking of the building codes…

    • Marija — I get it, mostly the fire department is taking care of fires in Roma settlements, in New Belgrade, at least. I also get that buildings are made of brick and concrete, but it just doesn't seem like the best idea–my concern was more for the gas heating that runs through the building. If a firework set off, and caught onto a gas line or god forbid, a gas leak, then the entire building would be affected. I'd rather not picture the horrible scenarios!

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