Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My First 3 Days...

Wow! I have only been in Montenegro for three days and I feel like I could write a novel. Don't worry. I promise not too. First, you have to know that Podgorica is literally overflowing in endless beauty. As our Montenegro Airlines flight neared the Podgorica Aerodrome (airport in Montenegrin) I glanced out my window, and immediately I saw incredible cascading mountains, captivating Mediterranean red roofs, and rivers nestled into canyons of various sizes.

I am so happy to call Podgorica my home for the next year.

I mean this city is fantastic. The weather is 95+ degrees from 7AM to 9AM at night. The heat even stays with us throughout most of the night. The sky is crystal clear and the sun shines vibrantly. I love it! The moon is so bright and siting on top of Podgorica's Millennium Bridge, gazing up at the sky after a wonderful Montenegrin meal, just feels incredible.

Thankfully all of my baggage arrived (two suitcases at 50 pounds each). A young man by the name of Luka greeted and picked me up from the airport. Luka is Aleksandra's younger brother. Aleksandra is one of the faculty members I have been communicating with at the Universitet Crne Gore prior to my arrival. She is wonderful. Luka was in charge of arranging apartments for me to see in Podgorica. He speaks good English. As soon as we left the airport, it was apartment shopping time. The first apartment Luka showed me was unbelievable. I mean this place ROCKS! It's very modern, fully furnished, huge balcony, bright colored walls, and spacious. My apartment is in the heart of the city, and the Universitet Crne Gore Niksic bus stop is a two minute walk from my front door. I knew this was the right place for me. So I took it! I am going to take a few pictures of my apartment and post them on here for everyone to see.

The last two days have been busy. Lots to do. Lots to learn. I have spent time exploring various parts of the city and getting to know the neighborhood I am living in. I did venture over to Universitet Crne Gore Podgorica. This part of my university is where the President's Office is located and the Technology and Science departments. It's a neat looking building.

However, today was perhaps my favorite day so far. I met with Aleksandra at a cafe called "Masha." It's named after the owner's daughter. It was nice to officially meet her in person and talk about the semester that lay ahead of us. Aleksandra brought her mother, her youngest son (his name is Wolf, he's 5 years old), and her youngest brother Alex. It was a pleasure to meet all of them. We had a great conversation and I got to ask a lot of questions. Her family is outstanding, so welcoming, friendly, and they speak excellent English. I am definitely going to be teaching a number of courses, but I will know more about what I am teaching and when after Monday. I am meeting with the Department Chair at Niksic then to finalize everything. I have proposed to teach an American Culture and History Course, Public Speaking, and Creative Writing. This is in addition to the English Language courses. They loved the idea.

After our coffee, Aleksandra's brother, Alex, who is also the same age as me (23), took me on a great walking tour. He is officially my first Montenegrin friend. We have a ton in common. He helped me get a great deal on a Mobile phone to use in Montenegro, he introduced me to a delicious, famous Montenegrin food called "Borek." It's the most amazing bread you can imagine (I'd compare the bread to a cherry turnover) and filled with meat and onions. DELICIOUS! DELICIOUS! DELICIOUS! He showed me the grass market where I can buy fresh produce, the pakara (bakery), apoteka (pharmacy), and other general goods. We talked about music, university structure, his program of study, films, our families, Hollywood celebrities, hobbies, pets, etc. EH is very bright. I showed him the YouTube Video of Storming of the Arch. He definitely thinks I should use this in my courses to teach about American Culture. I think it might just be a great idea.

I studied the language as much as possible before I left the USA. I am very proud of what I have learned so far. I am able to communicate with those who speak no English whatsoever very well. Of course, it is very basic. I have probably built my vocabulary up to about 15 or 20 words since my arrival. With time, I will get better and the U.S. Embassy is planning to get a tutor or course lined up for me. I am very eager to learn the language. Just being here makes it so much easier to learn.

My day ended on a superb note. Danielle, my Fulbright partner in crime, and I had great dinner at a restaurant called "Opera." We shared a big bottle of Montenegrin Cabernet Red Wine and feasted on magnificent food. I am really surprised at how cheap it is to eat at restaurants here in Podgorica. Coffee is inexpensive too. Even places that are up-scale are extremely affordable. I am sure I will have many more food stories to share with you.

Well, it is about 1:20AM here in Podgorica. It's time to shut down the computer and go to sleep. Tomorrow Danielle and I have our security briefing with the Public Affairs Officer. More to come soon.


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