The rain falls in sheets, blowing into the doorway where I have taken shelter. My walk around Zemun, a suburb of Belgrade featuring historic Austro-Hungarian architecture, is not going to happen today.
I run across the street to the bus stop. If I get home soon I can go to bed early; I’m not feeling great today anyway. I don’t have an umbrella, and in the ten seconds it takes me to cross I become thoroughly soaked. As I huddle beneath the overhanging roof of a flower shop by the station, I see that the rest of the people waiting for the bus have gone into the building where it is dry. I push open the door and join them.
The people inside converse in Serbian; I introduce myself but don’t know enough of the language to join. One of them turns out to speak English and we strike up a conversation of our own. His name is Andrej and he is eighteen years old, about to take his final high school exams. I mention that I go to Duke and we talk about Zion Williamson and the NBA.
The proprietor of the shop kicks us all out. The rain is still falling, and Andrej invites me to come to a café to talk. We huddle side by side under his umbrella and speed-walk through the streets. At the café we sit and he orders each of us an espresso.
We talk for more than an hour. We discuss music, culture, politics. Andrej tells me that he plans to come to America next summer, to work in Chicago for four months and save some money to open a hookah bar. I tell him about DukeEngage and how I want to go into journalism. We agree on the greatness of Kanye West. One of Andrej’s friends joins us, and I introduce myself.
Finally I really do have to go home; we say our goodbyes and I promise to keep in touch over Instagram DM. I walk back to the bus stop in what is now a light drizzle. The sun comes out as I ride the bus over the Sava, and the city is beautiful in the light of the setting sun. I am okay with the fact that I will have to see Zemun another time. I have a feeling that I will remember this day long after the images of pretty Austrian-style houses have faded from my mind.