Precious Times

Yesterday me and Anya started on a bit of an adventure together.  The only shame is that Rada is not with us to enjoy it.  But it is great to get some precious time with Anya.

We left Montenegro in the morning.  We got over the Montenegrin border with no problem having a laugh and a friendly greeting with the border guard as he was from the same village as Rada’s family.  Half a mile later and the Croatian border were not so friendly.  The border police didn’t take kindly to my not understanding the Croatian for ‘car registration documents’ and sent me off to empty the boot and one of the suitcases for Customs – first time that has happened to me – I was a bit nervous because I forgot to declare our bottle of Amaro Montenegro liquor but he didn’t find it.  Phew.

100km later and we were stood in a traffic jam for 45 minutes while a land mine up the road was disposed of.  Never fear, we had The Last Battle on audio book to keep us company.  Alas, environmentally conscious I had turned the engine off but kept the lights on and the CD player going.  Not an ounce of power came from the battery once the explosive ahead had been cleared.

I was just getting my trusty reflective triangle out to warn traffic behind that some egit was stuck in the middle of the road, and was about to don my high visibility vest, when a vehicle recovery van stopped by.  He didn’t have any jump leads but he pushed me to a layby with the help of a passing policeman and woman and then called his mate from the last town to come with the jump leads.  While we were waiting he was telling me how he hated Montenegrins because they burnt his house down during the war for no reason.  I obviously sympathised but felt a bit uncomfortable – so I quickly changed the subject to the successes and failures of Croatia footballers who’d played for Aston Villa.

Once the car was up and running again I tried to give them some money then tried to give them the Amaro Montenegro but they refused both and wished me well.  Anya and I arrived at the hotel just south of Split while it was still light, had a great walk up the beach and then stopped for a pizza and beer (Anya had cola).  A great day….looking forward to the rest of the trip home but wouldn’t complain if it was a little smoother.

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Fried food, beer and cheese…one of the keys to good preparation

Much of my time here is taken up with sermon prep.  There are endless distractions.  As can be seen.

No love lost here

Last week I took myself away to a restaurant by a lake and had a really productive (and tasty) few hours.  As can be seen.

I can't complain

I find that the key to getting on with a good sermon is applying the grace of God to self-discipline.  If I try and just get on with it in my own strength then I lose every time.  But God is strong in my own weakness.

Observations from a musical egit

Two Americans, a Serb and a young man from Uxbridge are playing live [*] music downstairs while I’m preparing my sermons for Sunday.  It is very good.

It reminds me that one of the things I love about being in Montenegro is that everything is interesting, unexpected and often has an international flavour.  For example, last night’s prayer meeting was attended by 4 Norwegians, 2 Brits, a Canadian, a Serb, a Macedonian, a Russian and, of course, 3 Montenegrins.  Today we did a drive to drop two guys at the airport then we went into Podgorica and into a bar – I had a beer and did sermon prep, Rada sat at the next table chatting with a friend.  Tomorrow night is a guitar concert at the university – hence the rehearsal that’s getting my feet tapping.

It is a privilege to be here.  And I am not taking it for granted.

[*]  INSERT GENRE OF YOUR CHOICE AS I AM A MUSICAL EGIT WHO CAN’T TELL THE DIFFERENCE BUT ONE WORD I THINK THAT COULD BE USED IS FUNKY AND IT HAS GOOD BASS

Glorious Saturday

Yesterday was one of those beautiful Saturdays…productive, fun, lazy, exciting, relaxing…

It began with a great morning, the highlight being driving along with Anya next to me in the front seat, her head out the window and her hair blowing all over like a film star in the sunny breeze.  We had a Greasy Spoon breakfast, got some shopping done, the sun shone, there was live football on telly and I had chance to enjoy a couple of beers.

Even the stuff that was hard work was good fun.  I spent the night finishing off my preach for this morning but I found the few hours of housework unexpectedly exciting too.  Add all that to the anticipation of a week off work and Rada returning from Italy this evening and I had a brilliant day.

There’s nothing quite like a hard week working to enjoy a day off.  God definitely had the right idea when he rested on the seventh day.  A sound principle if ever there was one!

Nathan’s adventures in Montenegro: Part 4

My projected aim and outcome for this blog is to take you, the reader, on a Rolla coaster ride of cultural adrenalin rushes to rival any thrill seekers experience to be found at the pleasure beaches of Blackpool, Cleethorpes or even Brighton.  I do not pretend, however, to give you such metaphorical heights, speeds and g-forces akin to a day out at Alton Towers…

 

Death rituals

Yesterday morning Rada’s dad’s uncle died at the family house 2 hours drive into the countryside.  By early afternoon his body was on display at the Kapela by the city crem and family and friends have travelled from all round to pay their respects by filing past the open coffin and giving condolences to the immediate family.  I am going later today so I am going to see my first ever real life dead body.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  The funeral is going to be tomorrow back at the family house.  They don’t hang around here.

 

i-Night

There is a ship in port in Montenegro called Logos II.  It is a Christian missions ship and there has been a team from the boat working with the church here in Rada’s town.  The culmination of their work was an evening of culture exhibitionism at the city hotel for any of the townsfolk who wished to watch.  I particularly enjoyed the Malaysian lady doing the Mexican frilly dress dance, three white men playing African drums, the life-story of a former US druggie and the top quality but highly Western dramas portraying humanity’s rejection and reconciliation with Christ.  I must admit the Korean Wave-Your-Fan-Around Royal Court dance was a bit of a let down.  Overall the crew hit the mark very well and after an impassioned preach from Pastor Stan it was obvious that quite a number of the onlookers were seriously challenged about what their lives were all about.

 

7.30-9.30am…everyday

If I hear one more smoker clearing their lungs out so they can breathe when they get up in the morning I really am going to pass out.

 

Wet hair and bare feet

If you ever come to Montenegro do not try and go anywhere if your hair is moist or your feet are without apparel.  It is believed that a cold wind on wet hair can lead to paralysis.  I have been subject to the wrath of disgusted Montenegrins far too often.  I now dry my hair. 

 

Birthday Cake

The cake made for me by Rada’s auntie consisted of boiled apples, sponge, cream and some sort of strawberry jelly.  It was gratefully appreciated.

 

Relatives from afar

A car-load of relatives have just turned up from Serbia for the death ceremonies.  They had travelled through the night since they hear the news.  All is going well and it is great for Rada to see them after so many years.  However, the houseful of people is a bit overwhelming for Anya and I think I kissed a man I shouldn’t have kissed.

 

A round of drinks

There is this beautiful tradition here that if the waiter/barman knows you he may buy you a round of drinks.  Well Rada, her friend Goca and I were in a bar the other night and the waiter paid for our first round of drinks despite Rada’s aggressive protestations.  A few minutes later a whole new round was served to out table!  And we were still less than halfway through the first drink when a third round appeared!  I had to make it look like I thought he had gone too far but to be honest I was in paradise.  There were six beers and three glasses of wine on the table and I knew Rada and Goca weren’t gonna have three each!  Unfortunately, Rada’s brother and two friends arrived and “helped” me finish them off. 

 

Anya

My daughter just passed wind for four seconds non-stop.

 

Ratko

Rada’s brother has asked me to arrange a fake marriage for him so that he can come and live in the UK.  If anybody wants to offer let me know.

 

Post-mortem of death rituals

As I said at the start of the blog I have just been to give my condolences to the family.  However, I was gutted to discover the coffin was unusually closed so I am yet to see a dead body.  Nevertheless it was weird.  The coffin was in tiny chapel by the crematorium.  I entered and went in turn to each member of the family, who spend the entire day stood around the coffin, and said “I’m sorry” and shook their hands.  Then we gathered outside and chatted for well over an hour.  The whole affair is very much a social occasion and I think this is good.

 

It appears that I cracked a good, and appropriate, joke when I said, “at least that’s one less relative to visit!”  Looking back that could have seriously backfired on me and I could have ended up dead myself.  As it happens everybody thought it was very funny.

Nathan’s adventures in Montenegro: Part 2

Thank you for the comments and messages people have left me it’s been a proper treat reading them this morning.

I had written a philosophical blog on the laptop a couple of days ago but hadn’t saved it on the memory stick and I just stumbled across an internet-cafe so I’ll just treat you to some exciting things that I have experienced or observed:

1. Last night I drank two bottles of beer the name of which translated means ‘Deer Beer’ and they had pictures of a stag on the label.

2. I have discovered a wonderful time here between 5.30-7.30pm where everyone just goes so chilled and the weather is gorgeous and the sun sets and its just lovely.

3. I have travelled to Herzegovina (Bosnia) to visit some of Rada’s relatives and spent last night sleeping in a one-bedroom house with 8 people.

4. A few nights a go an out of control JCB Digger careered down the steep hill that Rada’s house is on.  Fortunately it veered away from the house at a crucial moment ‘cus it took 15 metres of drystone wall to stop it. 

5. I just saw a Spanish UN soldier stood next to some graffiti that read, ‘NATO Fuck Off’.  Quite ironic.

6. I have not eaten an egg for four days.

7. I have eaten pickled cabbage for two days running.

8. I watched Catch The Pigeon this morning.

9. God told me to say some stuff to Rada’s family and pray with them last night but I bottled it and kept it to myself.  Sorry.

10. I played football with Rada’s brother, cousins and mates.  I thought I would be outclassed but I was just about as good as any of them which was good for my ego and confidence.

11.  I learnt that plateau has no ‘x’ at the end.

12.  That reminds me of something exciting I learnt in England just before I left.  It is that dock leaves are called ‘dock leaves’ and not ‘dot leaves’.  Incredible.

OK, I’ll write again in a few days.

Adios.

(That is goodbye in Spanish although I do think my Serbian is improving ok it just wouldn’t mean much to you if I wrote any.)

Drunkeness

I went to the pub last night with John, a blind man from my church who is turning into a bit of a hero for me.  We had a couple of pints and John commented how music begins to sound better after a few drinks.  I had to agree with him.  This got me thinking about other things that seem better after a few drinks; jokes, a bad mood, chatting with friends, watching football, my own opinion(!).  But – How much is too much?

I know that I have done some really stupid things after drinking that have had a negative impact on the rest of my life.  However, some of my best memories only had the chance to become great memories because alcohol helped me to relax.  How do we know when to stop drinking so that we don’t end up doing something we regret?  And does it depend who we are with?

I am looking forward to a tapesty of opinion from all of you.  Please don’t be shy about saying what you think, even if it is completely different to me!