Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Fall back in Bosnia

So, there was a time change over the weekend. Did you know that?

I didn't. Where was the memo?

What this means is that I have been an hour off for the past two days. Well, there's one of us in ever crowd. And in this crowd that one is me.

Damn my husband's selfish hyde for being in the States. Generally, the two of us pass the torch of cluelessness back and forth to one another. When one of us drops the ball, the other one catches it. Usually. I'm almost fairly certain that, maybe, one of us would have remembered to turn the clocks back. Monday morning's conversation would have been,"Dude, why are you up so early?" "I'm going to work." "Now? The time changed, fool." "Oh."

If we had that conversation yesterday, I wouldn't have shown up an hour early for pilates class today. Bastard. So there I was, alone at the scarily deserted gym at Zetra, and, later, after I had reasoned things through, wandering around this park. Pretty, no? In the distance, you can see Zetra and the Olympic tower from the 1984 Games. I was literally under the tower when I realized the rest of the world remembered to fall back except me.

What this minor debacle also signals to me, if not to you, is that I need a job. If I was employed, a co-worker would have saved me from myself Monday morning.

Sarajevo, hire me.


Jesus Loves You (but only as a friend)

Before returning to our regularly scheduled program, I want to shamelessly promote the t-shirts at One Horse Shy and threadless. I needed a laugh, and they happily obliged.
Now, where was I...?

Monday, October 30, 2006

I don't understand turbofolk, and I really don't understand Ceca. Svetlana Ceca Ražnatović, that is.

I think I may be horrified. At the very least, I think I'm confused...

And I know I'm going to open the proverbial bag of worms with this one, so I'm struggling with how to begin. I guess I'll take on turbofolk first, as this is the potentially least threatening subject of the two. Maybe.

I've always been a little lost as to the popularity of this music, but I accept that this may be a cultural thing. If I had been born here, maybe I'd be listening to the pop/folk ululations of those fantastically thin and beautiful women. Really, what's the difference between Madonna and
Christina and, say...Ceca?

Well. Off the top of my head, I would say the first two weren't married to wanted war criminals, but that's just off the top of my head...

Bag of worms. Bag of worms.

I had known of Ceca's existence for quite some time as she was married to the Serbian paramilitary leader (and, if I may editorialize, murdering opportunistic extremist) Željko Ražnatović, commonly known as Arkan. His paramilitary fighters were the stuff nasty is made of. See here http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/1347218.stm and here http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/605266.stm.

Oh, he was also facing charges of ethnic cleansing by the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Until he was shot, that is...

From all I gather, Ceca remains devoted to her husband's memory and continues to defend him absolutely--despite all that pesky "war crimes" hearsay.

Yet, she remains popular in Bosnia. Mwah?

According to the good folks at Wikipedia...

Ceca's popularity in Bosnia and Herzegovina and especially Croatia (where popularity of this genre of music is a new phenomenon, yet Ceca is not aired on any major stations), also caused certain controversies. She has been attacked by many Bosnian and Croatian public figures because of her involvement with Arkan and has even been called a war criminal herself. She has said publicly that she loves and greets all of her fans, but that she will never perform in either Zagreb or Sarajevo.
So, why am I in a tizzy?

I just came back from a friend's house, where Ceca was playing seemingly non-stop. My friend, a lovely woman with two children, is Bosniak (which means Bosnian Muslim for those not in the know) who experienced MANY BAD THINGS during the war. Really, any Sarajevan in Sarajevo during the seize has equally ugly stories, just bear this in mind...Anyway, I turned to the television, thinking, "Is that Ceca? No..."

Me: Hey, A. is that..is that Ceca?
A: Oh yes, she's a very popular Serbian singer.
Me: Oh, yeah, I know. Um, wasn't she married to, you know...?
A: Oh yes. Oh my. Bad man.
Me: Right. Right.

I should have followed right up on this, but what was I supposed to say? "Don't you think that's a little like letting your kids watch Eva Braun?" And, no, I don't think that's too harsh a comparison. Why support someone with this history? Someone who has remained openly unapologetic despite evidence to the contrary? (There are pictures and letters...It's not like documentary evidence is unavailable.) I can't get behind that.

How can you?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Welcome to the world, baby girl...

After months of waffling, I decided to take the plunge and buy a pair of black high-top Converse sneaks.

Aww...Aren't they cute?

The hubs has always been partial to the Chuck Taylor's. In fact, when I first admired his cute little frame from afar, I couldn't help also noticing his stylin' footwear.

He couldn't help noticing my ass, but that's another story entirely.

Now, they live side-by-side in domestic harmony. Sometimes.

I bought this precious number at the mall in Skenderija. For all of you Sarajevans in the house, am I the only one who finds this underground maze creepy? While there are always a fair number of people drinking coffee at the indoor cafes, there is virtually no one shopping. And I mean shopping shopping and window shopping. Yes, there is the occasional German EUFOR brigade, but where are the Bosnians? I don't think the prices are much different from the outdoor markets...Maybe, I'm there at the wrong times.

Anyway, I am very satisfied and am now considering adopting a second pair. Mayhaps, pink?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Savvy urban hipster or tragic fashion victim? You decide.

Sarajevo has changed the way I think about style.


I'm more of an accessory hound than I ever was in the States, and it's interesting to see this evolution. A year ago, I was the kind of girl who favored petite silver earrings and delicate silver bracelets. Now? Let's take a look at some recent purchases...

I'm am absolutely addicted, full stop, to the cheap, the plastic, and...the ugly? Chunky wooden bracelets on sale? Where? Faux pearls and glass gemstones? Bring it on, baby.

But. If I start incorporating Bosnian hooch into my wardrobe, stop me. If I were sane, there is no way I would do this to myself...

The boots over the tight pants? Always in style in Sarajevo. While I'm proud of my tight pilates ass, there are lines that must be drawn. Lines, people!

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Day I Blundered into the Islamic Faculty

There are many sounds you become accustomed to in Sarajevo: tram bells, screeching tires, adhan...Where it was once fascinating to hear the calls to prayer (adhan), it has now become part of the background noise of my day. However. When you're delivering a belated Bajram gift to your husband's Arabic teacher, you really need to be more aware of your environment.

Carrying the obligatory Bajram pressie of Rahat lokum (Turkish delight), I toodled on over to the Islamic Faculty. After ringing the bell to the offices, I was kindly showed in by the secretary, who then took me to Z.'s office. Typical blunderbutt that I am, I flung open the door with a cheery, "Dobar dan. Kako si, Z.," only to find Z. methodically going through her salat (one of the five daily ritual prayers in Islam). She was totally absorbed and didn't hear me at all.

My brain froze. Then, it unfroze and unhelpfully thought the following things: 1) Wow, how can she be so into praying that she doesn't hear me? 2) Uh-oh. I don't know the rules here. Stay? Go? 3) Am I just a culturally insensitive asshole? Was there a call to prayer? When? When?

Playing it ever so casual, I backed out of the office, handed her secretary the gift, and hightailed it out of there.

Crazy girl.

Of course, she saw me. Her prayer rug was pointed toward Mecca, and her office door is right in front of the prayer rug. She called me, we went out to lunch, and we had a good laugh. I said something like, "I'm so sorry. I wasn't paying attention to the time. I didn't hear the call to prayer," yada, yada and so forth.

So, no hard feelings, but I find myself wondering why I was so flustered by the whole encounter. I spent four months at the Islamic Faculty learning about Islam. Salat should come as no surprise. And it doesn't. Yet...

Seeing her devotion transported me back fifteen years to my hometown and my church. On Sunday mornings, my mother would come into our pew and spend a few minutes on her knees praying. It was a generally understood rule that you did not bother her while she was praying, and that you did not ask her what she was praying about. As an agnostic, it's been a long time since I've been in church, and, maybe, an equally long time since I've been so near someone actually communing with God. Blundering into her office as I did...It was almost like I was intruding on her sacred space, and it felt weird, voyeuristic, and wrong.

So. There's no real ending or resolution to this story. I just thought I would just send it out as an offering to the blogosphere. File it under, "Religious Experiences Gone Awry."

Tuesday, October 24, 2006



How We Drove to the Top of a Very Big Mountain, Got Lost in Fog, and Almost Died.

The lovely ski area of Jahorina kicked our collective butts last Sunday when we tried to off-road at sunset. The fog should have served as a warning, but no-ooo...And so this happened.

Luckily, we had a friend with us who wasn't afraid to get her hands dirty.

Note, Lauren's resourceful use of The Stick.

(Lots of fun things happen when friends and family come to visit us. This could be you.)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Just Another Rainy Day at the Shakira Store

Old Town, Sarajevo

Yeah, um...huh. After a long day of shopping for Bosnian carpets and coffee sets, pick up your very own Shakira-inspired sequined top with matching hoochie pants. Umbrella not included.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Bajram, Sarajevo, 2006

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Alas, zima has arrived. Early.


Where have you gone, autumn? Come back.

At least, I get to snuggle into my very own handmade sock/slippers.

This cozy yellow number was made by the lovely Amela. Being camera shy, you will just have to take my word that Amela is lovely. And patient. One fateful morn, she decided to show me that knitting-was-not-that-hard. Pah. I believe there were one (or two) choice words lobbed at the knitting needles, much to her and her children's surprise. I wisely put the needles aside.

For super cold days, I find this crazy red number works well. These were made courtesy of this woman (see below). Well, not so much courtesy. I paid 20 BAM, about 10 euros. Definitely worth the price. Everything is done by hand, from the dyeing of the wool, to well, everything. Pretty remarkable. And warm. But you must go to the village of Lukomir first. That's the tricky part. Bring your Dramamine.

And now for some hot peppermint tea with honey. Lots of honey.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Post-trip reflections

Settling back into the daily grind after nine days of intense activity...

10 minutes later...

Oops. Sidetracked for a moment. Just watched a David Hasselhoff video on German MTV. Shudder. What is it with this man, or, should I say, "The Hoff?" Is it the German last name? (It is German, no?) This man is the definition of cheese wiz. And, while we're on the subject, what is it with my addiction to German MTV? I feel as though I must return to this subject every few months. The answer still eludes me.

So, where was I? Oh, yes, The Grind. Traveling is such an intense experience, and, truly, one of the reasons I love being abroad. I'm an adrenaline junkie to the extent that Xanax does not need to be involved, (i.e., please no bungee jumping or confinement in tight, closed spaces, not like the latter has ever been an issue). Even in if you're dropped in a very westernized country like Germany, it's always a trick finding your way around. All of your five senses are on alert.

(Sight) "Oh, fuck, was that my stop?"
(Hearing) "Oh, fuck, did they just announce my stop?"
(Touch) "Oh, fuck, the doors aren't opening." (In Germany, you have to press a button to open train doors, at least, in Stuttgart).
(Smell) "Oh-hh. Is that...pastry?"
(Taste) "Oh, yeah. That's good pastry."

Now that I'm back, I find myself pacing and procrastinating on various and sundry projects, my mind still occupied by people and places...So, some last thoughts before I force myself to concentrate on THINGS THAT NEED TO BE DONE.

1. If you're in Stuttgart, you must take the train out to the truly lovely town of Esslingen: http://www.esslingen.de/servlet/PB/menu/-1_l2/index.html. Gads, I want to go to the Christmas markets there.

2. Salzburg. Oh, Salzburg, how did I forget to blog about thee? Actually, I was completely smitten by (with?) Ljubljana, so when I came into the Guccified city, I was, dare I say, disappointed? I know, shame! The glut of tourists, chocolate Mozart balls, and high-end stores must have put me off. It really is beautiful, folks, so don't listen to me. And. The city is great for runners, especially those of us coming from the Balkans where the car is king and drivers would sooner run you over than stop for you, even if there is a pedestrian walkway. Here, the cars...stop. If you're even a speck in the distance, they stop. And wait. Magic.

3. Austria. Apparently, these religious tableaus (for lack of a better word, feel free to help me out here) are popular in Austria and are visited by school children throughout the land. There was a group of 4 year-olds making the rounds while I was there. Does anyone else find the graphic detail of Christ's torture, well, off-putting and potentially scarring to kiddies?

Now, I really must get back to my regularly scheduled program, as it were.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

9 Day Road Trip Over/Infrastructure Needed

Oh my God.

We're back. Hooah.

Head Colds: 1. Me.

Cities Visited: Hmm. 4, if you count actual tourist destinations. 6, if you count motel stop-overs. The final tally: Ljubljana, Slovenia/Salzburg, Austria/Stuttgart, Germany/Vicenza, Italy (stop-over)/Venice, Italy/Karlovac, Croatia (stop-over).

Car Defects: 5. Driver-side window remains nonfunctional as do both backdoors. (This proved somewhat tricky during border crossings and bathroom breaks). The gas lid thing fell off somewhere in Germany and the clutch remains faulty.

General Observation: Bosnia needs better roads. This would not only increase tourism (man, your highways rock, Croatia) but prevent acrobatic driving and the accidents which result. Example: Hmm. Mountain road. Many curves. Maybe, I can push my 10-year old Volkswagen past three cars and a truck before I get to that tunnel. Let's try, shall we?

Otherwise, it's good to be home. Now, where's my Emergen-C?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

One American too many...

Well, obviously, Venice is spectacular.

And, since the internet is way crazy pricey, I will just say this:

Are Americans only allowed in Venice during the middle of October?

Really, there is a convention of us. Freaky. You need to disperse, people. And just don't automatically assume that because I'm an American, we will immediately bond. You're just too friendly, and it's scaring me.

I need a drink. Još jedno crno vino!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Traveling funnies and other roadside humor

1) Bi*ch. Somewhere in Austria. Check out the tag.

2) Lost in translation. Germany, Austria?
"Lady Bag?" That's a knee slapper. And, what is up with the pistol?

3) McDonald's. Brenner Pass, between Austria and Italy. Scenic, and, um, delicious?

4) Hunchbackedly. Karlovac, Croatia.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

It's a C-O-N-spiracy....

I am immediately dating myself there. I love you In Living Color.

So. The conspiracy. We are on Day 2 of absolutely no air conditioning in our room and are being slowly roasted alive by the relentless sun. Can't open the window because of the blasted highway below. Can't get comfortable. And the hotel staff refuses to admit that the building's air conditioning was turned of sometime in September. Granted, I have no proof of this, but I am willing to throw down a bet or two.

And, it seems as if all the Americans are staying on the side of the building where the mid-day sun does its absolute worst damage. Rooms 961, 761, 461...Hmm...Coincidence? I think not.


So, back to bigger, better, and more important cultural things. Between Ljubljana and Stuttgart, I bought 9 rings (photo forthcoming). My husband says this expense is both frivolous and unneccessary. If you agree, I can only say this:

Judge not lest ye be judged.

And I will also say this. Thanks to the fine Slovenian Sunday markets and the European equivalent of the $1 store, no ring cost more than 6 euros and most were, meh, only 2-3 euros. Can you say bargain? I can, and did. 9 times.

Oh, and the Modern Art Museum of Stuttgart was very nice indeed. (I just didn't shop for cheap-ass rings. Sheesh).

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Quickly, a note from Stuttgart

I am just racing, racing to post this before my time runs out. Joyous blissful ecstasy, our hotel that charged us out the bunghole for a room also charges out the bunghole for virtually every amenity: internet service, fitness room (20 euros a day, I don't this so). Well. That leaves me fending for myself at a very pricey internet cafe at the SI Centrum in Stuttgart.

And while I'm on the rant. Do not stay at the Millennium Hotel in Stuttgart. No way. You can do better for your money.

I promised Ljubljana next, meaning this post. But. I cannot load images as there is no port thingy for my memory stick. You need to see the pics. It is that beautiful, so stay tuned.

I spent the day winging it in Stuttgart. No map. No German. But things always work out in the end. I find that most strangers are pretty kind and that you can rely on them. Most of the time. So, danka, danka, danka, strangers.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Why I love Ljubljana and why you must go

1) It's this pretty. Really.

2) Skiing at great prices, if you're into that. Look, mountains!

3) Take-away coffee! Sarajevo, it can be done.

4) The Sunday market...

yoke anyone?

donald has always been my favorite...

um, hmm, insert quaint saying here...

books, books, and more books!

Druže Tito mi ti se kunemo, Comrade Tito, We Swear by You
Okay. Pointless purchase, yes, but, still...Pretty cool.

5) Endless number of cafes, galleries, street musicians, and funky shops.

And that's why I love Ljubljana.

That, and it's cheap.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Expat Perk #8: Tagging along on spouse's business trip

1 Week. 6 Countries.

Mode of transport: Renault Menage with faulty clutch and non-fuctioning driver's side window.

The Accomplices: Hubby, Hubby's Colleague, Moi

Backseat Companions: Cheetos, Pretzels, Orangina, Diet Coke, Tums

And in the category of things-we-needed-but-did not-have and things-we-had-but-did-not-need: #1: Road map. #2: Cooking Light Magazine.

Day 1: Sarajevo, BiH, Croatia (Slavonia), Ljubljana, Slovenia

Leg 1 complete.

Number of accidents witnessed in Bosnia: 4

Number of driving delays: 4

Basically, hairpin turns, sudden stops, mountain roads, and overall bad driving makes Bosnia a navigational disaster. Witness...

Flat tire. We are so-ooo not going 60.

Truck down. One lane open. No police. Aggressive drivers. Enough said.

Next time: Ljubljana, Slovenia

Friday, October 06, 2006

I think I'm developing a blog-related hump

I should have seen this coming.

A month ago at pilates class, my instructor touched the slope of my shoulders and asked whether or not I worked with computers.

Um, no-ooo...Not as such.

And, dang-nabbit, I thought my posture was pretty good. I do pilates. I do yoga. I danced (and still do in the privacy of my living room).

Not good, my friends.

The problem is proportion. Blogging is fine if kept in proportion to other things, like, daily dietary requirements, fresh air, sleep...But I sit down in front of this computer and I slip right into a black hole. I begin at 9pm, and, can that be right? Is it, no...1 in the morning?

The further problem, as I see it, (and, if I may place the blame squarely on the shoulders of others so that I may be resolved of any responsibility) are those witty mommy bloggers. (Although I believe the term, "mommy blogger" may be politically incorrect as there are an equally witty number of daddy bloggers). They are an impressive and hard act to follow.

In my innocence, back in the dark ages of 2005, I thought it a convenient way to communicate with family friends. One post would save me the hassle of all those individual emails.

Well, bless my little heart.

I can't remember exactly who popped my blogging cherry. It was a mommy blogger, I know that much. But it was all those bloggy button things in the side panels that really blew my mind...Blogrolls and ads and site counters and links and more ads. Wow. Blogging was business.

So. I may have fallen down the rabbit hole, but I will find my way out long enough to work on my posture. After I add this link. And that link. And this button thingie...

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Life Lesson #143

If you find your bottle of anxiety meds. running low, fight the urge to go to your local German military hospital.

If in Sarajevo, that would be Rajlovac. R-A-J-L-O-V-A-C.

Foolishly (hindsight being 20-20), I thought I could slip into a first world hospital (or so I thought) and grab me a brand spanking-new refill of my drug of choice. FYI: If you go overseas to a place like, say, BOSNIA, understand you will need to come armed with a truckload of your own medication OR be prepared to go blackmarket and order online from Canada OR search for a Bosnian doctor that has knowledge of western medication. Certain drugs are not yet found in Bosnia or have funky Slovenian equivalents. Oh, add to that, the field of mental health is still in its infancy. Please take this into consideration.

But, I repeat, DO NOT go to RAJLOVAC.

Anyhoo. I had high expectations as we drove up to base that fateful morn, not so long ago. I readied myself for the thorough inspection of the Albanian guards at the front gate. They take their work seriously (and how). My hub and I sailed through with our very own German escort, and we soon found ourselves sitting in a crowded waiting room full of internationals: embassy folk, soldiers, various and assorted NATO/EUFOR personnel. You see, apart from the Bosnian hospital, Kosevo, they're the only game in town. So. I sat down with my book (I am Charlotte Simmons--underrated, I think) and prepared for the hour-long wait. When I heard my name called 30 minutes later, I cheerily toodled off to the doctor's office, singing I'm getting my refill, my refill, la-la-la-la-la.

For privacy's sake, I won't go into extended detail, but here is a snapshot of the horror that was to come.

Doctor: So, you are, eh, ze manic?
Me: Oh, no. No! I'm not manic.
Doctor: Aha...
Me: You see, I have a bottle of Celexa. I forgot to bring it, wouldn't you know...I was just hoping for a refill.
Doctor: (Look of great consternation. Sound of crickets).
Me: Okay...Maybe, you don't have Celexa. Perhaps, there is an equivalent? Something German? I probably should have just got the refill when I was back in the States, but I thought I could get it here...
Doctor: Eh, are you, eh, suicidal?
Me: No! No. I just want a refill.
Doctor: You are not suicidal. This is good. I will call the psychologist.
Me: Um, sure.
Doctor: You wait outside. I call you.

Now, I'm back in the waiting room, utterly shaken, and and I'm trying to convey all of this to hubby with a minimal shaking of hands and raised voices. "They think I'm crazy! Let's blow this joint." It was at this precise moment that a large, very imposing, German military officer with a huge PSYCHOLOGIST patch on his uniform strides into the waiting room and says, "I am the psychologist. You need to see me, I think." Hello, discretion? It was internationally embarrassing. Greek, Italian, and German soldiers look up, the people from the American embassy look over, united in looks of pity and curiosity.

And when you think things can't get worse. Imagine being escorted by this person into a conference room. Imagine big windows and no curtains (perfect for privacy). Imagine this person leaving the door open. Imagine being told that, if you're even on this medication in the first place, you are SICK. Imagine being told that a person is either SICK or NOT SICK and that you (me) are definitely NOT WELL.


I am sure there was a lot lost in translation, and he wasn't a bad man. Of course, for the sake of speeding-things-along, I left out the comforting words and the genuinely well-meant advice. This is what stayed with me, though. The well/not well dichotomy. I have never defined myself as "sick" and to suddenly have that, that label, thrust upon me. Well. Well. No fucking way, mister.

Oh, and I didn't get my refill.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Sarajevo Graffiti

It took the threat of winter to kick my ass in gear and take these pics. Two are courtesy of G.P., I believe. You know who you are.

Downtown Sarajevo (Right)

Image 1: Black Panter's (Interesting...)

Bridge over Bentbasa (Below)

Image 2: War for Territory
Image 3: Nothing Else Matters
Image 4: Sad But True

Skenderija (Below,Left)
Image 5: Why?
Sarajevo (Below, Right)
Image 6: Aida Volim Te (I love you)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Campaigning Sarajevo Style...

Posters! Billboards! And Flags! Oh my.

And for your consideration...http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/10/02/news/bosnia.php. 2 Ethnic Parties Dominate Bosnian Elections.

Unity, division, tentative cooperation? Can't we all just get along?

Childishly simplistic, maybe, but hope springs eternal.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Is that...Tito?

Oh dear. Who left Tito out in the rain? (That is Tito, right?) Weird, weird...