Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Bureaudyssey 2007

Deadlines have came and gone, but my bureaucratic adventures continue. Slowly, results of my arduous work are becoming visible and the road to New York, though paved with paperwork, is starting to open up.

The big break that brought me back from the brink of a nervous break down came recently when instead of the usual “Your application is being processed, please allow up to 6/ 10/ 743 weeks for more information” the kind voice of the automated answering machine told me “You have been accepted… Please allow even more weeks for bla bla...” OK, OK, but I got in! Basically, I will be going back to school. Something I wanted to do for a while, but now have the opportunity and good reasons to do.

Previously, I collected the necessary paperwork; I prepared official translations and certified copies. I had to plead for additional stamps on my documents to the woman from my former high-school who passionately explained how what is being asked of me is another proof of American imperialism imposing its rules and regulations on the rest of the world. I waited for hours in front of an office at my old university, while the lady at the desk looked absently through me while chatting about her grandchildren on the phone. Eventually, when she decided to start working, she finished what I needed in a matter of minutes. I desperately went form bank to bank in an attempt to find a way to send a check from Serbia, which in order to prevent money leaving the country is generally not allowed. I managed to avoid filling out internet forms which do not allow my international phone number to be entered due to a surplus of digits. I am still waiting to provide financial guaranties and fill out visa forms and provide documents testifying that I am neither terrorist nor criminal, sick or poor. Hopefully then I will be able to delve into the really amusing aspects of bureaucracy or how to open a bank account or get a cell phone in the US. Weeee.

I’ve also learned something. I’m no longer setting deadlines.
All I know is that autumn in New York seems increasingly real.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Be Nice

There’s an old woman I see from time to time as I walk home along King Alexander Boulevard. I don’t know whether she’s homeless but she does beg for money.
Probably about three months ago, I was walking into a supermarket. She stood outside the store and asked if I could get her a packet of Smoki (peanut snacks). I have to admit that I don’t fall for sad stories and rarely give people money but I couldn’t refuse such a genuine request? I bought one and handed it to the woman who shook my hand, thanked her heart out and in a couple of sentences told me her family history. She called me a knight. I went on with my business, and never gave it another thought.
Yesterday, as I was again walking home from work, I ran into the same woman. I was about to pass her by, but she was delighted to see me – she didn’t ask for anything, just shook my hand again, said I was still her knight. Three months later. For a small bag of salty snacks.
I was deeply moved. Something I did without thinking or acknowledging it, meant so much to someone I do not even know. I was amazed at how even our smallest actions can make a difference for someone.
The smallest act of kindness can really make someone’s day, so be nice to people.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Will & Grace

Will and Grace are over. A year late, the last episode was finally aired in Serbia this week.
I loved this show. I remember watching the first episode years ago on Studio B, thinking: wait, did I get this right? I remember so many subsequent episodes that I watched while on the phone with my own red-haired best friend. It somehow marked a very important time for me and become a significant part of my life. It was fun to identify and reluctantly laugh at our sitcom characteristics - from her talent to find crazy men to my obsession with gift-wrapping.
Towards the end I do feel the show lost some of its appeal. There was a period when it wasn’t all that funny any more, and the small quirks that made the characters real and likeably neurotic turned into rather annoying caricatures.
I got quite upset after the last episode. I found it depressing. It’s as if they decided to kill off the characters by robbing them of some 20 years of their lives. Bit too harsh and concrete for my taste. It would have been far better to give some hints and leave endings open so everyone could have their own ideas, and hope.
I don’t think it’s good to know how things end in the long run.
My own Will and Grace friendship has been suffering from lack of time and incompatible schedules, but I’m hoping it won’t take a few decades and a couple of kids to get back on track.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Good Riddance

After nine months, the “army” is finally over and I’m no longer indebted to my country for all the joy and happiness it has provided over the years. I admit I was lucky and the whole experience was not too disruptive of my life, but I still believe it is a disgraceful and hypocritical favor to ask of the men in Serbia.

Thursday, June 07, 2007


This is what I call good PR. The government of Kosovo has announced a competition for new state symbols. The underlying context is: breaking away from the past, a new country - new symbols. I’m sorry Serbia missed such an opportunity recently and opted for its dated crowned emblems.
Whatever the future of Kosovo may be, and I’m not too optimistic about its democratic and multiethnic capacity, I found this task quite inspirational.
Where to start?
The territory’s past and present are dominated by two nations – the Albanians and the Serbs, so their existing symbols are a logical starting point for new ones.
What do they have in common?
In terms of color, the mutual element is red, but I’ve deliberately left it out as it is too aggressive. The Albanian flag though very iconic and powerful is a bit too scary for my taste. And then we have the two-headed eagle. Both nations have one, although they are complete opposites – one is white, the other is black. Now the two-headed eagle itself is a strange animal. It looks quite hostile but also a bit schizophrenic and seems in conflict with itself.

I started with an image of a dignified and peaceful eagle and decided to use the traditional two heads – one black and one white, but this time they are both facing in the same direction – symbolically looking into the future. Then I added another color – blue, which represents peace. It is also the color of international cooperation, of Europe, and in that sense the future of the region.
Combining these elements in form of a slightly twisted tricolor flag creates a simple yet recognizable design – based on traditional and historic elements, but yet distinct enough to be acceptable for all.
And I stress, these are just symbols. Whether what they stand for can really become reality is a completely different matter. What do you think?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Serbian Open

It’s a funny sight. Wherever you go people watch or talk about tennis. Unable to watch the games at work, some of my colleagues watch the constantly updating scoreboard at the Roland Garros website and get as excited as if they were looking at the real thing.
With 3 players now in the semifinals of the French Open and another in both the men’s and mixed doubles semis, Serbia seems to have suddenly risen to incredible heights in a sport where previously it was almost invisible. Personally, I would love Novak to win and Jelena to beat Ana in the final but regardless of whether any of them go through to the next round or the title, it’s an amazing success.
So how did this happen? Does it have something to do with enriched uranium or kryptonite that gave rise to some strange new generations? And how did we switch from our traditional team sports, like basketball or water-polo to tennis? I have no idea.
The important thing is that we have some new young, likeable and very positive role models; that people have something good to celebrate. If tennis is the number one topic in Serbia then it is certainly a wonderful step forward.