Hey gang. I’m happy to report I have successfully completed a whole week of school here in Banja Luka. And I’m sure y’all are just ITCHING to hear all about it.
On the first day when I walked in, the only thing I knew was my classroom number. I wandered into the wrong hall on the wrong floor and two kind ladies saw me blundering about and asked me what I was looking for. Or at least I assume that’s what they said because when managed to stutter out a “21” in Serbian they turned me around, and sent me on my way.
I found classroom 21 and charged in with the confidence that I built off of correctly saying “21”. A room full of foreign faces stuck on foreign heads whipped around and stared directly at me. Determined to not make my first impression an awkward disaster I said
“Hello!” They continued to stare blankly.
“I’m the American.” That did not appear to ring a bell for anyone like I hoped it would. It did however lead them to speak to me in English and we were able to puzzle together the important stuff.
- My name is Kelton, not Kevin.
- I am from Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Home to Camel cigarettes which I found they all chain-smoke.
- I will be with them for a whole year.
- And no I don’t speak Serbian.
My social interactions only improved from there on out. Everyone was eager to meet the new student and I was invited to coffee after school. We went to a coffee shop nearby once school got out and small crowd gathered around my little table interested to hear my opinions on various topics like 21 Savage, Donald Trump and their local selection of meat. They were all big fans of all three while I was two for three. They collectively and unconsciously decided that I was just cool enough to be a part of the class. I then went with a friend to yet another coffee shop to meet some more people. I went home that day absolutely hyped off caffeine and new friends.
Anyhow, it’s story time. When I was a wee first grader I lived in Vienna, Austria for a semester. I attended Austrian school for a small part of that period and that was the beginning of a long list of uncomfortable experiences in foreign schools. The capstone of awkwardness in Austrian school was the first day of gym class. A letter had been sent home to my parents informing them that I had gym class on such and such day and I was required to bring gym clothes. Due to the fact that neither I nor my parents spoke a lick of German I was completely unawares of the gym uniform.
When gym class rolled around I noticed everyone was changing clothes and I approached my teacher and told her that I didn’t have any gym clothes. I was expecting to either be told to play in my corduroy pantaloons or just sit out. However my teacher pulled an audible and choose the unknown option C.
“You can just play in your underwear. They are the same as shorts.” She said in her comically thick German accent. I then found myself running around the gym in my tightey whiteys.
This is relevant now because I only narrowly avoided the same situation twelve years later in a massive cosmic practical joke. On the first day of school here in Banja Luka there was another unknown gym class that I was ill-prepared for. When we were in the locker room and everyone started changing I was plagued with scarring flashbacks seen through my own six-year-old eyes. Memories I had repressed for over a decade came bubbling back to the surface.
Luckily I was allowed to play basketball in my khakis and salvage my endangered first impression. The rest of the week went smoothly.
I sincerely apologize for the lack of pictures in this post and I do not blame you if you skimmed because I would 100% do the same.