Christmas 2003

Season's greetings from Serbia
(jump right to the pre-Christmas pictures)
(jump right to the Christmas pictures)

This edition of the annual Stutz review finds us living in Belgrade, Serbia.  We moved here in August after interviewing in February for positions at the International School of BelgradeDave is teaching math 6-9 and Susan is with a pre-k 4 class.  Alea is reaping the benefits of a fabulous team-teaching set in 1st grade and Breck is an active part of Susan's 4-year-old class.  Our language of instruction is English, though Alea also takes Serbian and starts French next year.  The school is on two campuses; lower school is in a lovely restored villa that was built in the 1800's.  The upper school is also in a villa, though it is newer and more reminiscent of the 1920's.  Both have beautiful gardens and facilities. My classroom is full of new stuff as this is the school's first year to offer pre-k.  We have a nice play area with a bike track and a lovely gazebo for playing hide and seek.  Dave's campus has an outdoor deck that overlooks the Hippodrome.  We have watched horse races from there after school.  The school has grown from 58 students last year to more than 130 currently enrolled.  The school just got a new webpage, so you can check it out at

We have a lovely home in a shady residential suburb of Belgrade.  It is huge and the yard provides plenty of fun for the kids. There is a great deck off the back of the house and a patio area where Dave immediately dug a fire pit.  Dave and kids also assembled a playhouse with random materials pulled out of the garage.  We have all the amenities of a home in America: washer, dryer, dishwasher, microwave, oven/stove etc…  Our appliances are smaller than those in the USA, but that isn't an issue.  The only thing we 'miss' is a real freezer (as in one large enough to hold something other than one ice-cube tray).  We have to buy everything fresh as we have no freezer space.  We have a little C market (mom and pop place) right up the street, and we do most our shopping there.  There are two 'warehouse' style grocery stores in Belgrade and we make weekly trips there for stock-up/cupboard items.  There is an open-air green market within a ten-minute walk of the house, so we go there every Saturday morning for all our fruits and veggies.  A little kiosk-style café serves amazing meat and pepper raznicze (sandwiches).  They have become a staple for us on Saturdays. 

We just bought a new car - a snazzy red Skoda sedan, so we are able to better explore our new home.   Belgrade is an old city that dates back to pre-Roman times.  Ruins around the main citadel - Kalamegdan - offer great opportunities for the kids to climb and play archeologist.  The old town has beautiful architecture from the Turkish and Austro-Hungarian Empires.  There are signs of NATO bombing in the newer parts of Belgrade.  Many of the collapsed buildings are still there.  Rumor has it there are still live bombs in them, so folks are nervous about getting too close.  Old Belgrade is on the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers.  Novi Beograd sprawls out to the west.  It is row after row of concrete apartments arranged in nice communist grids.  Each grid has a shopping area, public school and medical facility.  All the up and coming malls are in this part of town.  The newest is Mercator - which is like walking into Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City.  In contrast, the Roma (gypsy) camps are cardboard shacks littered around abandoned plots of land.  The discrepancy in wealth and social class is not nearly what we saw in Honduras or Pakistan, but it is still a jolt to see old tires holding down cardboard roofs. 

In October, the family flew to Montenegro to spend a long weekend in Budva and Kotor.  It was an amazing trip.  Both places have walled old cities that date back to the 9th century.  They are still working towns, so you walk around ancient buildings on streets that are three feet wide and straight up.  We felt just like knights and princesses.  The kids had a blast walking the outer defense walls and climbing turrets.  The atmosphere was simply overwhelming.  Kotor was especially moving.  There is a huge fortified wall running up the entire side of the mountain behind the city.  A monastery sits at the very top.  We made it half way up before our legs called it quits.  The views of Kotor Bay (the largest in Europe outside of Norway) from the mountain were stunning.   Not least of all was the most amazing pizza we have eaten in Europe - which we had for three days straight (though Dave imbibed in full seafood fare the first night).  We have not had any other time to travel - there was a full 16 weeks of school with only two days off.  However, we have three wonderful weeks for the holidays and we plan on driving through Macedonia and Greece during this time.  Dave's mother's family hails from the Peloponnese, so we will drive there via Lake Ohrid, Mt. Olympus, Athens and Sparta.  We also have a week off in February and another in April.  We would like to visit Slovenia during February (Dave wants to go skiing) and do the Dalmatian coast of Croatia during April break.  Our school ends June 19 and we will be back in the USA shortly thereafter.  We have a two-year contract here and will be happy to return sometime in August. 

The kids are enjoying their new lives in Belgrade.  Alea has a class of 19 with 15 boys and 4 girls.  She has team teachers - Mrs. Bayer, an American whose husband is here with US Steel, and Mrs. K, who is Scottish married to a Serb.   Mrs. K has that wonderful bottle-red/purple hair that can only be found in Europe.  Both her teachers are dynamite and Alea looks forward to school every day.  She is in the top math and reading groups and we are very very proud of her.  She enjoys swimming lessons once a week at a local pool.  It is nothing like the YMCA, however.  It is an Olympic-size pool with cooold water because all the water polo teams practice there.  She is a trooper, though, and is doing well.   She also takes Serbian class after school.  She is quite the socialite and visits the homes of friends at least twice a week.  She attended a birthday party last weekend at PufPuf, a McDonalds-like play space just for kids and parties.  Breck has been there twice, as well (with another birthday this Saturday!).  Breck is adjusting to having his mom also be his teacher.  We have some issues, but usually do pretty well.  He loves the trikes and the bike path and can go across the monkey bars all by himself.  PE is his all-time favorite. Cat and Mouse and Pesty Wants a Home are his favorite PE games.  He wants us to play them at home all the time by using couch cushions on our living room floor.  He loves reading and has recently discovered the I Spy books.  There are five American Embassy, UN or NGO families in my class, so Breck has lots of playmates and after-school play dates.  He is insisting on horseback riding lessons because three friends take them.  Santa may have to negotiate that one…

We hope this holiday season finds everyone as happy and feeling as blessed as we do.  Serbia has had a turbulent history, but the future looks exciting and we are glad to be a part of building something good for a lot of people.  We have been welcomed to our new home by a very gracious people.  Serbs have been generous with their time, helpful to the extreme and supportive of our efforts to provide great education for their - and other - kids.   As always, you can check out our latest news and pictures on our webpage

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year! 

Susan, Dave, Alea and Breck 

(go to the pictures)

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