Miracles do happen, every day. I am learning to see little happenings in my life like that as I grow older. Our second day in Bijeljina, and the day before we were leaving to take Vanja’s parents on our Balkan countryside trip, we had arrived home and just prepared lunch after a busy morning pitting cherries, having coffee, and shopping for the trip. Pava had made some chicken and potatoes to roast in the oven. I had made some tomato bruschetta with her garden tomatoes, garlic, basil, and even Tuzla salt! I had also just finished making an apricot crisp from the fruit of Pava’s trees. The afternoon ahead was simmering, and we were looking forward to our usual quiet and cool slumber through the heat of the day after lunch when little Vanja came running into our bedroom announcing that a very special visitor had arrived! Who could it be?
Waiting on the porch was Sosa, his daughter, Galina, and her friend, Helena. Sosa and is family are dearest family friends that live in Denmark. We have been planning to visit them there some day, and did not expect to see them until then and here they were! It is like that here. No one announces their coming, and everyone is welcome at anytime. Friends and family are more important than one’s life plans, and everything else takes a backseat to any unexpected guests. “œThis is what we live for; this is what life is about: each other. If we don’t stop to take time and celebrate a moment with one another when it happens to us, why else do we live?”
I had met Sosa, his wife, Branka, and his children, Stanko and Galina my first trip here, six years ago. Galina is on Facebook and she and I reconnected there, earlier this year. She is a doll! She is about to turn 15, and will be attending what we would call boarding school, here; however, in Denmark, there is a public school opportunity that students can take advantage of after elementary school (that’s where she is coming from there) and before high school, that is a transitional school. Most that go, attend it for two years, and then go back home and take high school. It is a very strict boarding school environment and the purpose of it is to prepare the students for life. Galina is not 15 yet, and speaks three languages fluently, and is also learning German. I am still in awe. That is not so unusual through western Europe.
Sosa is also a “œLugonja”, and a distant relative of Vanja’s family, but his parents and Vanja’s parents were close friends all their lives. Sosa was Igor’s best man and in this culture, that is like an adopted blood relative. Branka is a very successful glass sculpture artist and they built and own a massive studio and gallery of and for her work on their home property in the countryside near Copenhagen called St. Galla Studios. (Take some time to check out her web site. She is an extremely talented artist, and the studio is gorgeous!)
What do you do when people arrive unexpectedly? Put out the chicken and potatoes prepared earlier for lunch and add some extra tomatoes, more smoked meat, extra bread, and put out some of the special winter salads you have stored for occasions exactly like these. Get out your most prized home made juice and, of course, the sliva: home distilled plum brandy.
This is kolan. I discovered it just this trip. It is an absolutely scrumptious type of cured sausage that is, yes, fatty, but so flavourful with a smoky paprika taste.The chicken that was served was raised by Pava and Petar. They raised 55 chickens on their little property this spring, like they do every spring. It takes about 2 months from start to freezer. It is so much work for them. But, there is no chicken that I have every tasted as tasty. They give Igor and Lori some, and then keep the rest, except for whatÂ they give each neighbour they borrow freezer space from.
Good thing I had made an apricot crisp in the early morning. It was perfect to have a little something special for this occasion; though, it was nothing like the crisps we make at home as the ingredients are just so different here.Â The rolled oats much thicker, and quite hard. Not tough, but certainly not the powdery melt-in-your-mouth ones we buy at home. They had a real bite to them. The flavour was fantastic,Â just too “œhard” for a dessert. And then, brown sugar is not available anywhere. There is the kind of brown sugar we have at home for coffee: a light crystal. So many ingredients we take for granted as basic do not exist here, so making food the way I make it at home is not possible. But, then, I cannot walk out my door and pick the apricots, either!
Everyone still enjoyed it because the company made it taste good!
Such a perfect afternoon as this little miracle sparkled into our lives this afternoon. We reconnected with some dear friends, and I feel so blessed to be able to take all of this in as part of this family.
UNTIL we get to Denmark “¦”¦ XO