Been going to the same astrology conferences year after year? It’s time to get out of the same old routine! Astrology-a field of study that is rapidly gaining interest-needs good quality schools that students can be proud of.
The International Balkan Astrology Conference takes place every March in Belgrade. Since 2001, organisers Aleksander Imsiragic, President of ISAR (which is an affiliate sponsor of IVC), and medical doctor, author and astrologer Lea Imsiragic have been inviting astrologers from all over the world to present their lectures to the students of their affiliated school, the Johannes Kepler Institute. Lea is also the coordinator for the Global Student Lecture Competition which will be taking place in Kolkata at the IVC Conference in 2020. 1st prize is $1,500 so it’s worth the while to get astrology students involved.
But back to the Balkans. . .
This conference was a beautiful event attended by truly enthusiastic astrology pupils. Most currencies are strong against the Serbian Dinar (Euros were not accepted in early 2018). The translation process was consecutive and as a speaker, I found this very easy to cope with. The food was good and there was lots to see in the city. The audience was exceptionally young and dynamic and if I were an astrology student, I wouldn’t hesitate in getting involved with the Kepler Institute. I’m at the stage in my astrology career when I’ve been to a lot of astrology conferences and have seen a lot of astrology schools. Serbia is blessed indeed to have the Imsiragics.
I loved this conference for lots of reasons. Lest these genuine reasons become confused with my circumstances before visiting Belgrade, let me explain a little background.
I had been staying in Kolkata India organising, planning and then de-briefing the IVC conference. I love India but after nearly four months there, I was feeling a little lost.
My English had become very simplified and was punctuated by intricate gesticulations (not to be confused with Mudras) and peppered with badly pronounced Bengali. I was having serious doubts that I was going to be able to string English sentences together. By March, the weather in India was definitely getting too hot for me. It was dry, dusty and as much as I loved the work I was doing, I was experiencing food cravings that were just not going to be satisfied in India. I was even dreaming about this particular food group. If anyone had suggested to me before this long sojourn that I might daydream about these food items, I would have scoffed. Whether it’s my blood type or if there was some vital vitamin lacking in my Indian diet or if it was the impossibility of obtaining the object of my food lust that was driving me so insane is a matter for debate. I can however confirm that all the cows in India were safe from me.
This was not the case in Belgrade.
I landed at Nikola Tesla airport (how cool is that?) and was warmly (!) welcomed by customs. I collected my luggage without drama and was cheerfully collected by the lovely Karlina Imsiragic at 7am (!).
We stepped outside and I inhaled the cold air. And I felt like my whole body had been purified. It was a beautiful sensation. After the dust and heat of Kolkata, I could feel every cell quiver with contentment. I’m sure Karlina thought I was nuts.
In the car, to my relief, I had no trouble holding up a conversation in English. In fact, there were several points in the journey from airport to hotel that I felt a little sorry for Karlina. Fancy being stuck with a babbling, deep-breathing, jet-lagged astrologer at 7am! She was very sweet about it all.
To my surprise, I was allowed to check into my hotel room at this early hour. I was in need of a shower and a catch up on all that sleep I missed out on during the long flight.
But there was a little thing I had to take care of first.
I reached for the phone and then stared at it, remembering that I could not speak a word of Serbian. It is my habit to ensure I can speak a few essential phrases wherever I go. To me, it’s a matter of showing good manners. But this time I had forgotten. So here I was in Belgrade, tongue-tied and desperate for something I couldn’t get in India.
I got over concern about my rudeness and my shaky English and called room service and said: “May I please have a beef burger with bacon and cheese?”
I had forgotten it wasn’t even 9am yet. This didn’t seem to matter to the hotel. The food arrived shortly afterwards and was delivered by a very sweet girl who did not mind at all she was delivering this strange breakfast item to a drooling crazy lady.
I won’t linger on my food indignity. But I will say that, for all these aforementioned reasons, the International Balkan Astrology Conference gets my “Warmest Welcome” award!
And the conference hadn’t even started.
Freshly showered, my craving sated, my lectures prepared, my body temperature restored to something resembling normality (for someone born in Michigan and residing in London), I put my jammies on. I think I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.
And there were no dreams of me chasing cows through the streets of Kolkata in the hope of sinking my teeth into filet mignon.
A fews hours later, I awoke refreshed and ready to greet Belgrade. I was particularly looking forward to seeing the fabulous Nadiya Shah (her interview with me is on the front page of this website) and David and Fei Cochran. As I made my way to the conference room, I was warmly welcomed by Aleks and Lea’s students. I was sincerely touched.
We were treated to one of Aleks’ introductory videos. It shouldn’t be so thrilling to see one’s self on screen but. . .Moon in Leo.
Lea said she expected each speaker to sing or dance as an introduction to the audience. I don’t think she was kidding. As I grew up in the Salvation Army, I have no particular fear of singing in public. Even in lessons, my pupils don act surprised when I belt out something.
But as I waited to introduce myself to the audience, my fear of not being able to string a sentence together returned. I wanted to sing something by Janis Joplin, my karaoke standby “Bobby McGee”. But could I think of the lyrics? I was so irritated. Was I really going to have to pass up the opportunity to sing in front of such a huge (and sober) audience?
Alas, the best I could do when it was my turn was crack a few jokes about how tired I was of lentils.
I found David and Fei but as I looked for Nadiya, I bumped straight into Branka Stamenkovic, not only a brilliant astrologer but a brilliant Serbian politician. I hadn’t expected to see her as it had been over 13 years since we last met. But that didn’t matter at all, we found the bar. . .and eventually I found Nadiya. The three of us chatted, laughed and hatched plans. So much for my worry about not being able to speak in English. Alecks joined us and he and Branka helped me get over my monoglot guilt by teaching me a few words in Serbian. That’s what I call a great night.
In the morning, there was a different feel to the atmosphere. The outside sounds were different, the light
was odd. When I opened the curtains to see what was going on, I discovered it was snowing! I love snow. Snow reminds me of my childhood in Michigan. It wasn’t enough snow to require boots but it was enough to do my impression of a crazy person by trying to catch flakes on my tongue.
After snowflake appetisers, I had a great chat over breakfast with David and Fei. I’m a huge admirer of David’s research but I wasn’t so familiar with Fei’s. Wow. What a duo they are. My own lecture was warmly received and I enjoyed several conversations on the topic of astrology and education with audience members. It really is wonderful to appreciated–and I sold all my books. It was also magical to connect with Felicia Yiang from China (more on our Belgrade adventures a bit later) who I hope to be working with through IVC speaker David Railey, director of the No Door Astrology School. And of course, Nadiya never disappoints.
The conference ended with a gong ceremony. I was skeptical but as it was a different experience, I let myself get in the spirit of things. Like the cold air I breathed in on arrival, the sound of the gong seemed to permeate spaces in my being that had not been previously stimulated. I could not imagine what this person was doing to make the sounds that were produced. It was an incredible, unique way to end a conference. I could still feel those sounds reverberating as we headed to our dinner at Kalemegdanska Terasa, a restaurant within Belgrade Fortress.
And yes, it snowed again.
I knew the Imsiragics were special but I honestly had no idea how elegant and creative they were! After a snowy but beautiful trek through Belgrade Fortress with Felicia, we met Aleks again for a tour of their school.
Located near the hotel, the school is within a pretty nondescript building that is part of a shopping mall. However, one thing I learned from India is that you can’t judge an interior from the exterior.
The desks of the school were covered by the beautiful astrology charts of important historical astrologers: Kepler, Newton, Paracelsus and many more. It was like walking back into history into an alchemical laboratory. There was an office with a receptionist too.
Just when I thought I couldn’t be more blown away, Aleks took us to Lea’s healing studio. I couldn’t believe it but I should not have been so surprised. It was top notch. Before I had a chance to recover, he took us to his office. He has a whole wall of homeopathic remedies from around the world. He demonstrated how he creates his remedies and chatted to us a bit about how he works as an astrologer. I’m not kidding when I say I was in awe. It was truly an inspirational visit to Belgrade as well as a lesson on how beautiful astrology schools can be.
Thank you Belgrade!