Days 25 and 26: Winding down one week and winding up the next

The last two days have thankfully been much slower than the rest of the week. After a five day blitz, the most strenuous activity in which I have had to engage during the last 48 hours was hiking my belongings across town from Manga Hostel to Madness Hostel for the weekend. Unlike my previous temporary hostel, Madness is actually quite nice. Located in a cozy apartment flat near Studentski Trg and Strahinijca Bana street, it is very well situated to enjoy much of social life Belgrade has to offer. The accommodations themselves are not as nice as at Manga, but the staff is generous and welcoming, the beds are comfortable, and most of the guests are fairly social. In all, I’m happy with the move for now.

After getting situated in my new digs on Friday, I started making phone calls to arrange meetings for next week. My first call was to the Radical Party headquarters in Zemun. This time around, the woman on the phone was quite nice and gave me a mobile number for one of their MPs. While he has not yet answered his phone, I am hopefully that this contact will save me the trip to the suburbs when all is said and done.

Next I called up a few of Serbia’s major polling agencies to request data and appointments. So far, I have a tentative commitment for a meeting with one next week, and two requests for calls back later on. I also tried getting in touch with a professor at the University of Belgrade’s faculty of political science, but did not have much luck. I also followed up with my contacts at the National Democratic Institute who said that they too might be able to meet with me next week. I also got a phone number from them for the International Republican Institute, although I was warned they rarely grant personal interviews.

Later in the afternoon, I met a linguist friend for a late lunch and talked academia over Chinese food. It also turns out she knows a fair number of people in the Liberal Democratic Party. So should my meeting planned for next week fall through, I have a potential fallback! When I returned to the hostel, I had more opportunities to chat a bit with my fellow guests and discovered I was not the only one there for research. Another girl there had recently returned from Sarajevo where, as an ethnomusicologist, she was studying an annual music festival they hold there. She left later on Saturday to a town in western Serbia where she will be doing intensive language training. Given the amount of ground I have been able to cover already while in Serbia, I do not believe that acquiring proficiency in Serbian would help me much. Still, it is nice to know that kind of opportunity exists.

In the evening, the ethnomusicologist (who turned out to be Jewish) and I went to the Belgrade Synagogue for Shabbat services. This week was disappointing to say the least. It seems that everyone, the rabbi and chazan included, is on vacation, so very few people were there. I promised my colleague an interesting evening of nusach Sfard and Ladino; instead we had an older gentleman chanting like a High Holiday chazan. Oh well. Later on I joined a few of the guests at a local bar for a few drinks before heading back to the hostel to sleep.

This morning, I got up around 8:30 and walked over again to the Synagogue only to find that not a single congregant was in attendance. So much for me thinking that I was in the loop. From there, I went to one of the city’s many fresh markets to pick up some fruit for the weekend, and then stopped in at Everest Kafe, my favorite vegetarian spot in the city for lunch. While there, I caught up on email, put together an event invitation on Facebook to my discussion at the American Corner on Tuesday from 5 to 7 pm, and wrote this post. If you’d like to come, please swing by with or without an RSVP.

If I can muster the energy (and initiative), I will spend the rest of the afternoon working on my Fulbright application that has laid fallow since I left the United States over three weeks ago. I am still undecided whether I will go out this evening; it will probably depend on the weather. It has been very hot and muggy the last few days, which makes sitting in the hostel’s air-conditioned common room often feel like a preferable alternative. That’s all for now folks. Happy weekend.

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