|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 Belgrade. Dave
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
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 www.isb.co.yu.
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
In October, the family flew to Montenegro
to spend a long weekend in Budva
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
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 www.stutzfamily.com.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!
Susan, Dave, Alea and Breck
(go to the pictures)