Thursday, June 15, 2017

Week One at Home

I never thought I could experience culture shock in my own country.

When I arrived at JFK at 11 pm a little less than a week ago, though, there's no other word for what it felt like. Even though I strategically engineered a handful of post- co-op trips in progressively larger cities, it did nothing to prepare me for New York or for returning to life in America.

Still, most of the shocks were pleasant merely pleasant surprises.

For one thing, it's been nice to be living in a large-scale city again. Take JFK, for instance: you could fit about ten of the Belgrade airport inside it. I could understand all of the conversations going around me-- an unwelcome intrusion after months of little to no background noise. But more than anything I noticed how crowded it was because, after all, New York is a place that almost everyone wants to see.

Chelsea, New York
After a weekend of sleeping off some serious jet-lag I began my summer internship based in Manhattan which includes a commute not unlike the one I made in Belgrade- except for the underground set of the train, the ever present subway rats, and the undeniableevery-man-for-themself mentality.

In Belgrade, I rode a trolley car to work each day that cost 90 dinar (about 75 cents). People generally left one another alone, except when a senior citizen would board and half the train rose to offer a seat. The first morning I rode the 5 downtown in New York, it was a free-for-all, with pregnant women having to walk the train asking for a seat and elbows being thrown left and right.

I've followed nearly all of my morning subway rides this week with an iced coffee of varying kinds, a scarce commodity in Serbia where iced coffee is actually a latte with ice cream in it. While not unpleasant, like Serbia's need to put ketchup and mayonnaise on pizza, it gets disheartening after a while. Needless to say, I was overjoyed to be reunited with bagels, real pizza, and tons of other foods I didn't know I had missed.

As this week comes to a close I'm almost entirely reacquainted with my hometown, though you can still catch me saying hvala (thank you) or izvinite (excuse me) by accident at least once a day. I also miss Belgrade dearly, much more than I thought I could after such a short separation, but the nostalgia is a wonderful reminder of how much I enjoyed my time there.

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