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[Comments] (1) Email from BA:

Dear MS RICHARDSON, With less than a week before your journey begins[...]
Sorry I have been so MIA lately. I am still bitter with my computer and I think my subconscious way of dealing with it is to spend as little time with it as possible. Today is a lovely day, surprise surprise, which is great luck as I've planned a picnic on Hampstead Heath with my palsies. Rumour has it there will be kites involved. Afterwards I am meeting up with an old friend from UCLA days. I can't believe it's almost time for me to go to Serbia and I have to admit I'm feeling rather ambivalent about it as London is turning out to be such fun now that the weather is nice. Oh well. Serbia will be fun too and at least there will be good, fresh, cheap produce there!

[Comments] (1) Hello to all that: Sooo... here I am. Apologies for lack of communication skills. I will try to do better, especially now that I am living in what my sister calls a "third world country." so here is the dealio:

I have returned to Novi Sad for what amounts to 9 weeks of Serbian classes with a two week break. By the end of it I hope to be really really good. yay. I flew in yesterday from London on a BA flight. The flight was ridiculously early, so after packing up my crap on Saturday with the help of the lovely Jenn, I headed out to my friend Molly's and her husband John took me to Heathrow on his way to work (he was really early for work.) What amazing friends I have! Unfortunately I am saying goodbye to some of them as they are returning to states etc, which made me very sad. I will also miss my friendies and future flatmates very much but at least a few of them are coming out. It was really weird for me not to be uber excited about coming to Serbia because I have been every other time, leaving Bakersfield, but I suppose it is good as it does me that my life in London is great & happy. Hopefully everyone doesn't forget about me! And even though I was so sore about leaving now I am glad I'm hear.

I got into Beograd about noon and Novi Sad an hour later, since I didn't want to deal with bus-train/bus-bus so I splurged on a car to pick me up. only £27! (Serbia is still cheap, even if not as cheap, what with the dinar rising against the dollar (I know right?!) and all prices being quoted in euros.) My friend Kent, who I met at Azbukum previously, had been here all year and just vacated his flat which worked out really well for me (although I was sad not to see him again) so I took it over. Which means no old Serbian ladies who hate me and won't let me do laundry! It has internet and everything! And, perhaps, more importantly, air conditioning. It is hot, hot, hot here, about Bakersfield hot, but with the constant house-car-store-pool air conditioning. Oh well. I am used to it -- right? buck up, California girl. the flat is about 15-20 min walk from the nicest parts of novi sad and about 30 min from the language school. I am thinking about a bicycle if I can get one cheaply. There are bike lanes on all the big roads so it is pretty safe.

There are I think about 5 other students at Azbukum this week. I have met one and seen two others, and the one I met said he is living with an American history student. Imagine! Right now, however, I am the only one at my level, which is means I get private lessons, at least for this week because a bunch of students are coming next week. Awesome! That makes it 3 hours a day instead of 4 for the same price, but I think it works out favorably. I will be having the same two teachers as last year which is great as I really like them and am comfy with them. Today I had a little test which I did ok on and then a lesson. It's great to see how quickly the language is coming back to me because I was afraid it wouldn't, but I really did learn a lot last year.

U Novom Sadu: Today was my third Serbian lesson and I am improving by leaps and bounds. I am able to follow the second level book which really pleases me as actually it's pretty advanced. three times during the lesson my teacher said what a good student I am, she could see how quickly I am learning. This is great, sometimes I feel like there is so much I don't know and it's going very slow, but in fact I have made huge progress in just three days so I'm really pleased. I never thought I was good at languages, I always struggled so much with French and when I first started to learn Serbia. But maybe I wasn't applying myself. Or maybe, contrary to all the rumors, grad school does make you smarter!

Well that's a record: Day 4 in Serbia and my shoulders are now pink. YES I am wearing sunscreen.

Zurka: Finally I met the other students at Azbukum. Until today I had only met one. There are four others in total, two Americans, a Brit and a German. They are all about my age except for the American girl. She is 16. 16! This seems crazy to me. I can't imagine my mother letting me go off to Serbia for a month alone when I was 16, and my mother was pretty liberal about what she let me do when I was 16 (probably because I didn't get up to much!). Also NATO was bombing Serbia when I was 16, but that's beside the point. Maybe she has family here.

After a very difficult class where I had to fill in the correctly declined pronoun in sentences, I had a game class with the others. They are all beginners so I was the most advanced, which was pretty surreal! Anyway I invited them all over to my flat, since I am lucky enough to live along, for a bit of a party. They seemed quite keen so we'll see if anyone shows up. This weekend I am going to work on winning the hearts and minds of the local population. Hopefully I'll meet up with the best friends of Kent fame, plus some other peeps. I'll keep you updated on how it goes.


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