Have you ever felt like you’re on a movie set? That somehow you’ve been “beamed up by Scotty”? Just to be clear, I’m not a Trekkie – but that’s exactly how I felt as Will and I sat on bales of hay in a horse-drawn carriage driven by an enthusiastic coachman a few weeks ago. And to top it off, we were being followed by a film crew shooting another TV show episode about us living in the rural Serbian village. Definitely movie set material.
When my new friend and colleague Róbert, the mayor, invited us to the Harvest Day celebration, we had no idea what to expect. We pulled into a freshly mown field and instantly saw smoke rising from hundreds of caldrons in a cooking contest; competitors hoping to snag the winning prize. It was like we’d been transported back to a time before electricity when cooking al fresco was the norm.
Being loaded in the back of the carriage and sitting on hay bales seemed a little precarious to me at first… And when we were handed bottles of pálinka (a very strong fruit brandy), I knew we were in for an interesting ride.
So off we went, prancing through the village streets with me waving to no one in particular as if I was in a Tournament of Roses parade float. (I’ve never been in a parade, but somehow I knew what to do). I was taken aback at our first stop when we were approached by two ladies with a laundry basket full of freshly baked rolls. I asked Róbert’s wife, Isabella (our appointed interrupter), how much the rolls were and she said they were free. Amazing! So there we sat at our first stop in front of the Panda store, with the other “villagers”, eating fresh rolls and watching traditional Hungarian dancers do their thing. It was so inspiring to see the kids, teens, and adults embracing their heritage. We were part of the community.
I know this sounds strange but that was missing for me: to be part of a community. Of course I have amazing friends, and I do consider them my community, but we all pretty much share the same values, ideas, and interests… which I love, but I was hungry to live someplace where – like the Cheers song – everybody knows your name; where people talk about you and what you’re up to. And believe me we have that in spades here in Serbia. (The most interesting theory is that we’re here to spy on a villager who received some money from the U.S. Why they would pick us to be spies is beyond me).
There’s a lot to be said for small village living, where people always say hello (or “dobro jutro”). It feels really good to be a part of this, and here’s the cool thing: we can’t participate in the town gossip because we don’t know what the locals are saying!
After two more Harvest Day Festival bonding stops, we ended back where we started: the freshly mown field, now feeling part of a new community, giving thanks and celebrating the bounty of life.