Today started out nice, calm, and normal. I rode my bike to class at a leisurely pace, ate a calm relaxing lunch, and enjoyed a very interesting and thought provoking intercultural relations class. It's so interesting learning about ones own culture when learning about the culture of others; it's essential really. Simple things like the tone of your voice, which is completely subconscious to us, can be so easily misinterpreted by other cultures. After class, I make my way over to the train station to buy tickets for Eastern Europe; well I can't, great...Ok, no big deal, I'll just buy them while I'm there. So I get my crap together and leave for the airport an hour before the flight was to leave. I get to the train station and see delays across the board...crap. Well, 30 minutes later, a liter of sweat, and five gray hairs later; I arrive at the airport. I sprint up three flights of stairs, get my ticket out of machine, and sprint to security. I notice that the five people in front of me still have 45 minutes to catch their flight, so I ask politely and pleadingly to cut in front of them; nope
. Definitely not. I show them my ticket, try to grovel, but they're stone cold bastards. Well, it took an agonizing twenty-five minutes to get through that. If you're keeping track then I have, yup, five minutes to catch my plane. So I sprint down to the international terminal, and am stopped three times to show my ticket and passport. As I reach the final desk, the last transport bus pulls up. I sprint out there at light speed and pretty much cartwheel into the door. Somehow it takes the bus ten minutes to reach my plane, which is parked 300 meters from the nearest structure. This is strange. The second my ass hits the seat of the plane, I stop sweating, and my 53rd gray hair of the day stopped transforming. Halfway through the flight, I notice that the guy next to me has a computer in English, so I strike up a conversation with him. He's actually from Belgrade and just is returning from a two-week vacation in Holland. (Side note: He uses electronics in English because it's easier to understand than electronics translated into Serbian). Anyways, this exemplified how Europeans travel, a week or more in one country; I'm going to three countries in three days. He eventually offers to show me how to get to my hostel; we had to take the same streetcars to get there. Nice guy; I'd absolutely never get that in northern Germany. As we land in Belgrade, my first impression is that the airport is very modern; until I notice a farm tractor being used as a luggage puller. I make it through customs just fine. As Nikoli and I are leaving the airport, his father greats him and they offer to give me a ride to my hostel
! I accept, they are both very sincere, nice people, so I climb into a twenty year old, crazy Russian station wagon. Fifteen minutes of the most insane and aggressive parking lot jostling and we're on our way. After we ere underway, I really started wishing the backseat had a seatbelt. Serbians are CRAZY drivers, my god. Thankfully we weren't on the freeway for too long. As we're traveling through the city, Nikoli is giving me all sorts of hints on where to visit, new construction, and other important buildings. One significant thing he pointed out was the scattered bombed out buildings located on Government row, and a roadway containing many NATO embassies. The buildings serve as a reminder to NATO on what they did to the country and to the government and people on what war brings. I can't comprehend this; and of course, Nikoli was alive during the conflict, which makes it even more interesting. They drop me off, and Nikoli actually walks me to t my hostel...these people are amazing. Interesting...I have to get buzzed in to enter the hostel. Well, I wander around in a complex of progressively deteriorating buildings; this can't be right, can it? So I go back to the buzzer and fin out the hostel I actually on the second floor. Well, when I checked online, this place had vacancy; not anymore. Damn. So I get directions to a new hostel and hop onto what I hoped is the correct bus. After getting off, I wander around trying to find a street sign, any street sign; they don't exist. The woman at the hostel told me to ask somebody where the street was; now I know why
. So I finally ask three different people and get three different answers on where the street is..Finally, on the fourth attempt, I ask a woman sitting in a coffee shop with her friends. She actually gets up and guides me to the hostel. Everyone is just so helpful and friendly; such a stark comparison from Cologne. It's amazing how a recent, devastation civil war failed to break down these people spirit. I get buzzed into this new hostel and take the sketchiest elevator of all time to the top. Immediately I am greeted by an eccentric, very friendly Serb, "Hello, my name is Mladen, just like bin Laden." He probably knew that I wasn't in the mood of looking for more hostels and could have easily jacked up the price-but he still only charged 12 Euros (1000 dinars). Seeing as I had no money for food, and really didn't wanna wander the streets looking for an ATM, I decided to skip out on dinner tonight. After getting settled in, I joined four other guests out in the tiny, crazy common area. One girl from Spain, her coworker from France, a guy from Canada, and a man in his late 30's from Ohio. The generic face conundrum continues for me; the girl from Spain thought that I was from Spain and the Canadian thought I was Eastern European. Crazy. We all talked for a good three hours; all while Mladen played a crazy mix of music and served us wine.