Before I arrived in Serbia, I was unsure how it would be to teach writing to non-English speakers. That’s not actually accurate—almost all Europeans are multilingual, many speaking multiple languages, and since English is one of the first languages people learn after their mother tongue, the majority of my workshop participants understand and speak English, obviously some more than others. There are several woman in our group who don’t understand any English at all. And I speak none of their languages. I hate being a monolingual American, but unfortunately, that’s what I am. Languages have never been my forte. I wasn’t really worried about having my spoken English understood. I knew I’d have a translator, though the only model I had for that was watching UN committee meetings on TV. I’d ... [Continue Reading]
On one of our breaks yesterday, Maja from the Incest Trauma Center handed me a small gift. It was a set of four square coasters, with rounded corners, illustrated and written in Serbian, a thin paper wrapper binding them together. The two of us sat down on the steps of our meeting room, while the women around us smoked, drank coffee, shot pool, played foosball, and rocked out to a playlist created by Ivana #1. This was unlike any break I’d ever experienced at one of my workshops before, but when in Serbia, do as the Serbians do. I was learning to flow with the variations in this culture. Hopefully by tomorrow, I’ll be a lot more flexible about our start times and the length of our breaks.
Relaxing over dinner and wine on the deck. Happy. ... [Continue Reading]
When I walked into the dining room after an early morning sauna at the hotel’s opulent spa, the huge restaurant was mostly empty. There was one table in use by four members of our group, but since it was already full, I sat down at a new table nearby. I set down my things and went to explore the breakfast buffet. As at my previous hotel, breakfast was plentiful, rich with foods both familiar and unfamiliar. Although the multitude of pastries were tempting, I was more delighted to find oatmeal, laden with goodies—pumpkin seeds, raisins and what looked like cut-up dried cherries. I added a handful or walnuts and a couple of prunes, what’s known in the workshop business as "the retreat attendees best friend.” I’ve never been to a retreat center anywhere in the world that didn’t feature prunes ... [Continue Reading]