Saturday, December 6, 2008

Still Thankful

I must admit it's taken a while to feel like the holidays. The trees are still losing their leaves, it's raining instead of snowing, in the mornings it's warm enough to go without a coat, and there is a noticeable lack of holiday decorations. Oh, and of course we have end of term examinations...I've got my Maths in 10 minutes. :) But I've sung a few Christmas songs, eaten a little holiday food, and I must say that this Thanksgiving was my best ever. It began with a very cold hour of working in the greenhouse. The hose is mysteriously broken in about a dozen places, so we had to get creative (and wet) with our watering techniques. As we were warming our hands by the heater inside Velic house, one of our administrators started yelling in the administrative office and said, “Oh my gosh! STAY HERE! Don't go to the gymnasia!” We had no idea what was going on, but within five minutes hundreds of people were pouring out of the gymnasia and onto the street. I leaned out the window and yelled out at Michelle and Isa to find out what was going on...turns out there was a bomb threat, so our classes were canceled for the day. It was mass chaos and we were SO ecstatic!! I never dreamed that I would actually get Thanksgiving off of school!

I called Tessa to tell her the news and then went to Musala to wait for breakfast. It was really amusing to see the ways people reacted to the bomb threat, from some of the Western Europeans being near tears to the Iraqis cracking jokes and trying to figure out what the heck was wrong with the Westerners. Amid the general confusion, the day was declared a holiday...Bomb Day, and I was hugged and kissed many times and wished a Happy Thanksgiving!

Tessa and I were in general high spirits since we had the whole day free, so after breakfast we went for a walk and to the store for last minute supplies. At Susac, we made some peanut butter cookie dough and tried to make craft roses out of maple leaves (I StumbledUpon a website with instructions.) After gathering all the Thanksgiving supplies together, we caught a ride to Musala with the landlord. But from there, we had to carry everything to my English prof Namal's house, where the dinner was to be held. It's only about half a mile, but we must have looked quite a site carrying a turkey, 4 loaves of stuffing, cranberry sauce, cookie dough, 2 pumpkin pies, a bowl of potatoes, a pot of gravy, and various pots and pans through the center of Eastern Mostar! Unfortunately Namal was sick, but I had already done most of the cooking so Tessa and I stuck the turkey in the oven and settled down for a chat. I am convinced that Namal has the most wonderful house in Mostar...standing under the wooden ceiling beams and looking out the panoramic window, you can see a waterfall of the river, the old bridge, the cross on the hill, several mosques, the cathedral bell tower, and a whole assortment of beautiful buildings. It's really stunning, and it was a beautiful afternoon exceeded only by the beautiful evening! In the end there were 17 of us in the “family” including Namal, Tessa, and Jordanka, my maths teacher, as well as us three Americans and 11 other students. The food turned out better than I could have hoped, the conversation was lovely, the company perfect...it was incredible! It was a blast explaining where the holidays and the food come from, as it was most people's first Thanksgiving ever! Namal and Alberto did the honors for us by carving the turkey, Michael made mashed potatoes, and Tanja a lovely salad. We kept the traditions of breaking the wishbone and saying things we're thankful for before eating...it was hard to choose...there's so much!

I warned everyone ahead of time about the sedative effects of a real Thanksgiving dinner, but I don't think they believed me until we all collapsed in a lethargic state as if we had been drugged. :) The evening was finished off with some tea and a walk back to Susac. I really didn't want it to end.

Over the next couple of days our lives got pretty crazy, but for that night at least, we had peace and companionship and life was beautiful. I have so much to be thankful for.


Align Center
"Hiding" from the bomb during a very chaotic and improvised breakfast in Musala.

Breaking the wishbone and carving the turkey.

The aftermath of the dinner.

Our Thanksgiving family...sorry it turned out dark!



Monday, November 17, 2008

Roma and Reconciliation

Hello everyone, and happy Monday!
I had every intention of typing out a couple of blog posts this weekend, but in the end I spent a lot of the weekend being lazy and trying to fight off a cold. It worked, but as a result I have even MORE assignments to catch up on, and since it looks like I may not get a proper blog post in until next weekend, I'd like to direct you to the blogs of a couple fellow foreigners here in Mostar. It's been an exciting couple of weeks...last week was Roma Awareness Week, organized by students here in the college. Although I'm a bit useless because of the language barrier, I am a part of the service that works with Roma (gypsy) children each Friday. My co-year Andy has written a bit about the Roma week at at
http://andy-uwc.blogspot.com/
if you're interested. Also, this was an INCREDIBLE weekend at Centar II church! I'll let you read about it on Matt and Rowan's blog. They're a couple from the UK who just moved here to work with an organization called Novi Most, and they've done a great job writing about the weekend's events.
http://wedoadventure.blogspot.com/2008/11/what-does-reconcilation-look-like.html
So, Matt, Rowan, and Andy...forgive me for stealing your words. And to everyone, I want you to hear about the cool things that are happening, and I will really try to get some of my own thoughts together and posted soon!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Vive les week-ends!

I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate the universal truth that weekends rock. Maybe not the most eloquent way of putting it, but we all know we couldn't live without them. Have a look at nearly a month of lovely weekends:
A few weeks ago, I overslept on Saturday morning and missed yoga, but as a result I went to duimovic (supermarket), organized my things, and actually found a free machine to do laundry! And the day got even more exciting when Dzana and I pulled our suitcases down off the wardrobe to put some summer clothes away. I discovered that in the confusion of my first few days here, I didn't manage to unpack everything! To my amazement, I discovered a collapsible laundry basket, four pairs of socks, a pair of shoes, a book, my slippers, and a couple of t shirts. It was almost better than Christmas. In the afternoon, I went to Musala for “the funniest hour of our lives,” organized by some of the second years to relieve the tension that's been building the past couple of weeks. It was incredibly fun to act idiotic and just have fun for a while. After that, some of the girls and I went for coffee by the river...Maria from Spain has made friends with the waiter, and he brought us a bunch of whipped cream, free of charge, which we ate out of our cups. Then, we proceeded to the pancake bar for some more fun and went to abrasevic for a Spanish movie, which I understood about 90% less of than I had hoped. (aka- I need to work on my Spanish!) On Sunday, I finally visited a church with Matt and Rowan! (No worries...there will be a separate entry about this soon!!) All in all, two excellent days.
The next weekend was just as good or better...Saturday was Dzana's birthday, and I tried to make brownies after check-in so they'd be ready at midnight, but I got rushed and did my F to C calculations wrong and burnt them. We sang to Dzana at midnight and ate them anyway. :) I was lazy on Saturday morning then had Chinese lessons and bought the green pumpkin on Saturday night. Sunday, I was an hour early for church because I had no idea the time changed. I was planning to go to a football match with Mirja, Matt, and Rowan, but it turns out the match was Saturday, so we took Novi Most's old van to a really fancy restaurant on the outskirts of town in celebration of Matt's birthday.

Last week, we had a four-day weekend for All Saints, and I went to Nina's house in Bugojno. Here family is excellent, I loved the home cooked food, and the scenery was incredible!! We travelled around to visit her grandparents, walked in the foothills of the mountains, visited her favorite coffee shops, and her mom even showed me how to make sirnica, a delicious traditional Bosnian dish. The ingredients are pretty much available in the States, so you call all try it when I make it at Christmas! :)
And that brings me to this weekend. I felt cold, wet, and sick after a long week, and since it was still raining I skipped the Halloween party. Our housemum Ivana noticed the irony of the American who's been awaiting Halloween for weeks skipping the party, but I had a nice evening watching Evan Almighty with Michelle and Milana. Actually, we were so tired that we stopped and went to bed early...and I got 10 hours of sleep, which has not happened since I came here and I guarentee will never happen again. Today, there was a short international cooking session, meetings in Musala, and an amazing long coffee with Tessa, our lovely Scottish volunteer. Milana, Una, and I just finished Armageddon, and perhaps I'll do some studying now or type some emails. Or maybe I'll just give in to my inherent laziness and go to bed...........
Happy Saturday everyone!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween Comes to Mostar







I have missed seeing the leaves changing colors this year, and I was a little surprised to find that Halloween isn't much of an occasion here in Europe. And yet...at a shop by the bridge to Musala, Michelle, Tessa, and I found a pumpkin! It's green on the outside, which led to some confusion about whether it might be a late watermelon or a bloated squash. In the end, we discovered that it IS a pumpkin, just a different variety. And it's still orange on the inside. It's the only one I've found, and I was prepared to pay pretty exorbitant prices for it, but in the end it was only 2 and a half KM! That's about half what it would cost in the States. At my house, it's been a tradition for as long as I can remember to carve jack-o-lanterns and cook the pumpkin seeds, so I decided to give it a shot. On Wednesday, Lejla and I took some time away from studying for biology exams to scoop the gunk out of the pumpkin and wash the seeds. It generated some interest among my housemates and the housemums...apparently this whole pumpkin thing is a very American tradition! Turns out Lejla is a much more dedicated seed-cleaner than I am! Everyone wanted to know what to do with the fibers...I've always considered them trash, but Michelle from Hong Kong informed me that you can dry them and make them into loofahs! I wasn't ambitious enough to attempt that, but Una was brave enough to taste it.
On Thursday, my second year Michael came from Musala and we carved the pumpkin, along with Ahmed. Without thinking, I drew a funny face one it...turns out Europeans are convinced that EVERYTHING associated with Halloween is suppossed to be scary. It was a fun time, and even though I burned the seeds, it was nice to have a little touch of home.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Donkey and Elephants and Flags...Oh My!

Hello to all my American friends!
As the elections loom ever nearer, I've been thinking about you guys more than usual. BBC news online is my main source of information since there's no TV in our residence, and the "America's" front page has had only three topics on it for the last few weeks: 1) the economic crisis 2) the war in Iraq 3) the ELECTIONS. I was interested to hear from our headteacher, who is British, that Americans get a lot more access to and information about candidates than Brits do about their politicians. So I guess all this news might be a good thing, but the constant coverage is wearing me out!
Anyway, I wanted to give you something to think about before the polls open. You may be unaware of it, but it's not just US news covering the elections. The whole world is watching, and everyone has an opinion! The most common question I've been asked when people find out I'm American is, "Oh, so who are you supporting?" Even our landlord had Una translate for us so he could ask all about my politics. :) This general interest doesn't surprise me as much as the extent to which people care about the results of the election. As my friend Nina said, "When we vote, things don't change that much. We usually already know who's going to win. But when America elects a new president, it can change the way the world works. You don't know how much you affect us. " Wow...just something to think about. :)
I won't go into all the details of my or others' opinions here...my point is not to offend anybody. If you're really interested to know, shoot me a message. ;) The point is that believe it or not, you are voting for much more than a new leader or a set of policies in the United States. In a way, Nina is right...you're voting for how the world works. That's a pretty big thing, and I would encourage you to inform yourself and remember that even people on the other side of the world are waiting in anticipation, frustration, and maybe even a little fear for the decision. After all, doesn't it make you a little nervous that someone as imperfect as a human being is coming into so much power?
Whether all this means you vote Democrat, Republican, or put your faith somewhere else entirely, may everyone have the wisdom to make the best choice.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My Room

This is just a short post dedicated to my room in Susac (Sue-shots) house. As I mentioned, we had our monthly house wide cleaning this weekend. I though I'd better take pictures because the room won't look this good again until next month's cleaning.



Here are some views of my corner of the room. Nothing fancy, but it's home. You can see one of our two windows, the door to our tiny little bathroom, and our kitchenette (which by the way, we are not allowed to use for cooking). The table serves as a place to eat, a storage space, and theoretically as a study space for four people.
Ah...this is our lovely little shower. We're one of the few rooms in the house that doesn't at least have some sort of tub. I wouldn't mind except that the water stands on the ground and makes our room SMELL. Girls' rooms aren't supposed to smell!


Ok, these are really bad pictures and the room is not clean, but they show the view from my bed. Lovely, isn't it? :) The first shows the wardrobe where Una and I attempt to fit our clothes, Una's bed in the middle, and Isabelle's bed on the far right. There's our "front door" in the second one, as well as Dzana's bed (pronounced something close to Dj-AH-nuh).Before Bajram, I discovered that the little shops on the streets sell fresh flowers as well as silk ones. One day I brought some home and although I didn't find a vase, Dzana came up with a creative solution. And it's these simple things, that make this crazy, crowded house a home.




Sunday, October 12, 2008

Dancing Through Life

Ninety-degrees-step, one-two-three, one-two-three, one-two-three...Ah, if only the rest of my life was as calm and orderly as the steps of the English waltz we learned today in ballroom dance. Alas, the waltz of life is starting to spin out of control! But, as Mr. Museve, my Rwandan Biology professor, says, “We told you it was going to be difficult. Nobody lied to you. So just keep going and keep going and you're going to be alright.” So far so good.
Last Thursday, I went on a little adventure and ended up meeting Matt and Rowan, a couple from the UK who just moved to Mostar! I had seen their blog online (there aren't many blogs about Mostar written in English!) and after emailing them a couple of times, they told me about a youth club called Novi Most where they hang out. I was determined to find it on Thursday, but I got home late, inhaled my supper, and had to find someone to accompany me. The club is about 40 minutes away by foot, and I wasn't too keen on walking it alone and at night. My roommate Isa agreed to come with me, and after 15 minutes of running around the house with Seb and Srdjan (SIR-john) trying to find her a bike, we set out! It wouldn't have been a big deal except that I haven't ridden a bike since I was in grade school, and the traffic is a little scary here in Mostar. We had to stop and ask for directions, but the first woman we asked was a university student who spoke fluent English. She helped us find the club, and we were introduced to more friendly English speakers than I've seen in one place since I came here. :) Matt and Rowan moved to Mostar just a few weeks before I did, and they'll be here for at least three years. They're working with Novi Most, which was started during the war to provide aid and support to children. It's purpose is still to work with youth, and it's “volunteers” are both local and international. It was so great to talk about some of the things we foreigners have to come to terms with upon moving here, and to swap stories about the crazy things we've heard, seen, and done. I love UWCiM, but we can get trapped in the bubble of our own world...it was good for me to break out and meet people who are fully living in Mostar! Matt and Rowan have even found a church, and I can't wait to visit next week! It was a pretty spontaneous and rushed meeting (we had to get back for curfew and homework, of course!), but hopefully it'll be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. If nothing else, I found out I won't kill myself next time I get on a bike...haha!
By the weekend, I was sick of exams and schoolwork and ready to relax. On Saturday I started the day with yoga and then tried the pancake bar with Tanja, Ruth, and Andy...my new favorite place! I got a new scarf, and then spent a couple of hours reading in Spanish square. It's almost impossible to be alone when you live with 120 people, and I needed that time to be introverted and just soak up the sun and the city. On Sunday, I had my third EVER hike, and it was a MUCH better experience than the last one! We actually saw some trees, complete with fall colors, and after about 3 hours we reached a meadow plateau that was just as picturesque as any photo you could imagine! After lunch, the 20 of us somehow got into a hilarious discussion about the different slang terms we have for things in our countries. My favorite is a long Croatian word for toilet that means literally “around-the-butt-crap-swallower.” After that foolishness, we napped in the meadow. We were joined on the hike by some of our teachers as well as Ken, an American who works for an institutional reform organization in Mostar. He was really cool, and even thinks he might be able to get us a turkey for Thanksgiving...how cool would that be? The only catch is that it's handpicked and slaughtered in front of you...that might be fun. :) The scenery was gorgeous, the weather perfect, the company and conversation grand, and we got out of compulsory residence cleaning...a perfect day if you ask me. :)
Now, it's back to the grind, and it was DEFINITELY a Monday. Somehow my brain thought it was still the weekend, so I was terribly disappointed when my alarm clock rang at 7. At least it did go off! In class, we were reminded that we have exams this week as there's a grading session soon, and we had the usual college meetings. Unfortunately, I was locked out of one because I got out of class late and then had to go to the toilet. Half our class didn't make it to the meeting before they shut the doors, and as they took our names down I'm sure there's a lecture coming. Honestly, though, I'm more upset about missing the guest speaker...we're all late sometimes.
On the bright side, I believe I have FINALLY worked my classes out, and they look like this: Higher Level English A1, Economics, and Biology. Standard Level Maths, French ab initio, and Geography. Nina says I must be insane to have changed subjects so many times, but I'll be stuck with them for 2 years so they'd better be ones I enjoy at least a little! With this schedule, my university options are pretty open except that I can't study law or medicine in the UK. But I think I can live with that. :)

















Really, it was as close as it gets to a perfect day!





































A little glimpse of autumn...the views were so idyllic.










And for your amusement, some random craziness from last week with Ana and Katarina in the Spanish Room. We were "studying."

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A beautiful day in the neighborhood

I'm sitting alone in my room right now...and it feels SO strange! I didn't have a class during the last block today, so after lunch I went to my favorite park with Una. The weather is perfect, so I decided to stay and read my script for "The Investigation," the play I'm doing as an extracurricular. We have our first readthrough later tonight, so I'm at home planning to nap and do some homework before I go to Musala.
The "new" feeling is starting to wear off this experience, and Mostar is beginning to be home. Now that we're staring to settle into some sort of crazy, hectic "normal" I'm beginning to think about who I'll be and what I'll do here. I'm so captivated by some of our second years and the things they have invested themselves in. Watching them makes me want to do and be something more than just another crazy UWC student.
I realize this is all a bit vague, but there are a lot of topics I wanna discuss as new developments come. Now that Bajram is over, our lives have kicked into high gear and there's a lot of new stuff on my plate. Let's see, ballroom dance, college council, theatre, yoga, greenhouse, Chinese, Roma Neretva (a service with with local Roma people), and schoolwork, just to name a few. ;) As my body moves from activity to activity, so does my mind, and hopefully so will my blogs. Can't make any promises...I'm not very consistent. But the plan is to share some little snippets of life, as they come.
Gotta go...Una's sharing some milk and homemade cake from Kosovo! Love to all!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bajram-yeah!

We've had some beautiful, sunny days in Mostar, so all the walking is more than bearable. I've just come from a meeting with Paul Reagan, our Headteacher, and I'm feeling a lot more enthusiastic and optimistic about life in general.
Time is passing so fast...there are never enough hours in the day!! Last weekend our room got a thorough cleaning. We moved the furniture and everything, and there were lots of disgusting little souvenirs from last year. We have permanent hot water now, but the plumbing to our toilet I backed up, with is both gross and inconvenient. Ah, well...that's Bosnia! Last Saturday was the first Open Mike party at abrasevic, and my roommate Una did all of our makeup for us. When I got home, there was a visitor in our room...a scorpion, right in the middle of the floor! I didn't think those even existed here!!
I've had my first IB exams this week, and classes have been made more complicated by the fact that so many people are ill. Now, it is Bajram, a Muslim holiday at the end of Ramadan. We have a week off of school, and tomorrow I'm heading here to Italy! I have so much more to share, but for now, I'll just say “ciao,” and I hope you all are well!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

More pictures

And this is one of my favorite pictures. It was taken before we went to the South African/American theatre presentation under the bridge last Friday. Oh, and the people are (going clockwise): me, Amitai from Israel, Dzana (my roommate) from BiH, Karolina from the Czech Republic, Srdjan from BiH, and Kalle from Finland.
This one is for Chris and Jessica...the men in the park are playing bocci! Every day there are tons of elderly men in their old-fashioned suits playing bocci here...usually more than are in the picture. It's so fun to watch how much they enjoy it, and it always makes me think of you guys!
Here is one of the main streets in Mostar...it's one of our favorites because you must cross it on the way to school, and it's full of cafes, bakeries banks, and malls. It's like a very long, narrow version of Walmart.
Some things are the same in every country...the graffiti on this sign says, "You are gay."
Ah, now these are the endless stairs on the way to Susac house. (pronounced Sue-shots) There are 112 of them, and they are deadly after a long day at school, but you can often find someone you know resting at the top. :)

Official Apology

Ok, guys. I obviously have some work to do figuring out how this blog thing works. I'm really not sure why the pictures are looking so awful and not all of the text is showing up. All I can say is that the internet comes and goes so fast that I panic and try to get everything into a post before all the work is lost! So, feel free to play mix and match with the pictures posted and what I wrote...I'll try to get this worked out next time!

Pictures!

Ok, only sometimes will the server let me upload pictures, but I'll try to get some on here. I know they're small, but you can click on them and see a BIG version. Here are the castle ruins we hiked to in Blagaj (pronounced Blah-guy. The castle belonged to a duke and was abandoned when his family fled the Turks.
Here's the river that was such a relief after the hike...
...and the cave it flows from.
I think this is a cool picture of a traditional Bosnian house next to the river.
This park near the school is one of my favorite places in Mostar! It's so peaceful...it's almost like another world.


alt=""id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5249659392860112226" /> As much as Mostar as recovered, I'll never get used to seeing the ruins.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


I'm having some trouble publishing pictures on the blog, so this one's a test run. This is a picture I took on my way to school...I live in the house with the blue roof.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Two weeks down!

Well, the winds and rains have come, and I'm told they'll be around for the rest of the winter. It's a nice change from the heat we did have, and no camera can capture the surreal beauty of the clouds around the mountains. A week ago Sunday was the hottest day we had, and it also happened to be the day of our compulsory hike. The trip was led by Namal, my English teacher, and some other staff. Namal is a Sri Lanka with a British accent; he has a candid manner and was wearing a tshirt with a picture of Native Americans that said, “Homeland Security: Fighting Terrorism since 1492.” I liked him immediately. We took a bus to the nearby town of Blagaj and then hiked up the first ridge to the ruins of a castle which belonged to a duke in ages past. That was a real treat for me; I loved eating lunch in the shadow of the walls and imagining the people who used to walk the same paths. This was my first hike, and I was exhausted after the first ridge, but we continued on up a rocky ridge to an old watch tower. By that point, most of us were out of water. Namal was disappointed in us I think, but he let most of us cut the hike short and go down to the town of Blagaj. There is a famous river there that runs out of a cave. It's so cold that people often die from immersing themselves in it too quickly, and it's so blue that tourists have been known to ask what the locals use to color the water. Resting by the cliffs and dipping our feet into the water was an awesome way to end the day!
Our classes started the next day, but we've still managed to have some fun! We broke the ice with a gender confusion party, where they guys dressed up as girls and vice versa. It was pretty crazy, but running around the house finding clothes to borrow was a great way to get to know everyone. The second years also put on a variety show for us, which included skits making fun of every aspect of UWC life from teachers to dating to what it's like to go back home. They also performed Ka Mate, a school tradition. It's a tribal dance from New Zealand that is now a part of most school functions, and it's pretty much the most intimidating thing you can imagine, complete with black clothing and war paint.
Aside from the planned events, I've also enjoyed some time getting to know people and discovering Mostar. Last Saturday I went shopping with Dzana (my roommate) and Maya (my neighbor). We got caught in the rain but still had fun looking at shops. There was a football (aka soccer) game that night, the first big one since I've been here. This one was expecially big because Mostar's “Croatian” team was playing Mostar's “Bosnian” team, and the rivalry between them is really intense. In fact, there is often some violence and chaos as a result of these games, so the city was swarming with 450 extra police officers, and we weren't allowed to go out on the town that night...not that I would want to! Instead, we stayed in and I showed some friends how to make sloppy joes. We had a blast and everyone loved trying the American food.
I've changed my classes about 5 times this week, but I think I've finally settled on Higher Level English A1, Biology, and Economics and Standard Level Maths, French ab initio, and Chemistry. We also started CAS (Creativity, Action, Service) this week. My action is yoga, and I had my first class on Wednesday. It's SO relaxing, and a great workout, but I'm thinking about taking up ballroom dance as well. My service is working in the school greenhouse, which is really new to me, but I love it so far! Still, since one of the main reasons I came to this college was to be able to work with the local people, I'm going to talk with the CAS coordinator and add a second service, possibly at a refugee camp. And if that isn't enough on my schedule, I have several Creativities including Arabic lessons, Chinese lessons, and Links Group where we get in touch with people at other UWCs and talk about issues they've had and how they've resolved problems on their campuses. Oh, and I'm trying to organize a group of international students who want to learn the local language and find a tutor to give us lessons. It promises to be a productive term.
I should probably get some sleep now, so I'll stop. In the future, I'll try to post shorter, more frequent posts rather than these occasional monsters. I think about ya'll A LOT and hope everyone is well, but to prove that I am enjoying myself here, I've stared a new list. So enjoy!
Things I like about BiH
1.The ice cream...it's fresh and at 1 KM a pop, it's irresistable.
2.The taxis...pile 6 or 7 people into one and you can go across town for 1 KM each (by the way, that's less than $1 US.
3.The bread...it's incredibly cheap (about 1 KM for a loaf) and won't be more than a few hours old when you buy it. We even have a building by our house that looks deserted by day, but by night is full of people baking bread which they will sell to you extra cheap!
4.Wild figs and pomegranates picked straight off the tree...I've never tasted anything so sweet. (Are you noticing a theme here?? The food is great, and I think I'm gaining weight despite all the walking. But I don't mind saying my weight in kilograms because the number is half as much as it would be in pounds.) ;)
5.The hospitality...Bosnians are very affectionate, and it's nice to be randomly hugged, touched, or kissed on the head or cheek. It's hard not to feel loved.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A new way to remember

Hey.
As all of my American friends know, today is September 11. I got to commemorate the anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks in a pretty unique way that I'd like to take a minute to share with you.
Over the past few days, I've made friends from Afghanistan, Iraq, and every corner of Europe, so an outburst of American nationalism hardly seemed appropriate. Instead, my co-year Andy took the initiative and had everyone meet around 9:30 pm at “the Circle,” a sort of stone amphitheater where we like to hang out. Andy spoke about his memories of what happened on that day in 2001, about how we mourned the loss of businesspeople, firefighters, family, and friends, and about how our young minds began to ask questions about hatred, patriotism, and our own safety. He also focused on how much hope it's brought him to come here to a UWC where we can love without borders...if only our countries could do the same! After that, we joined hands and I said a prayer that the families still hurting from that day would be able to go on, that the civilians suffering from war in Afghanistan and Iraq would see peace and an end to the destruction SOON, that politicians from every country would forget their plots and plans and remember their humanity and the people they represent, and that we as students would have hearts of compassion and be willing to do whatever it takes to have peace among ourselves and among our countries. Then, we took a moment to reflect on the tragedies our various countries have suffered while Andy reloaded the batteries in his flashlight. :) He played a revised version of “Sing” by the Dresden Dolls on his guitar. One of the lines of the song is, “There is thing keeping everyone's lungs and lips locked. It is called fear and it's seeing a great renaissance.” But tonight, there was no fear, just hope, hugs and kisses, and maybe a few tears. I have to be honest...in the past few days there have been times I've wanted to give up on this whole UWC thing and head home. It may never be easy, but the unity I had a taste of tonight is worth great sacrifices! It gives me courage to dream about how far we can go with some determination and humility. And I can't think of a better way to pay tribute.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The adventure continues...in Mostar!

Hi everyone! I'm here in Mostar, and it's absolutely a STUNNING city. The mountains around it are much larger and more dominating than you would guess from the pictures; looking up and seeing peaks all around is a new experience for me. You feel like you're cradled in the city because you can see at exactly what point on the mountain the buildings end.
I got to Croatia with no further delays (although I did get chosen for the additional security screening in Washington, and they forgot to give me back my bag of liquids.) I was in Zurich for only a couple of hours, but I'm in love with Switzerland! It's the most healthy, natural, and idyllic looking place you could imagine, and the security people are exceedingly friendly! I was met by a driver in Croatia where my bags were actually rerouted and arrived on time! He didn't speak English, and I was shocked by how different Croatia and Bosnia look. It's like elements of Italy (villas and grapevines everywhere) created in a sandy, scrub environment. The way the buildings and everything are actually reminds me a ton of Ecuador. My experience there is SO helpful...I think I would be REALLY freaked out if I didn't have those memories to draw on.
Anyway, I couldn't sleep at all on the flight to Zurich so I could hardly keep my eyes open in the car to Mostar. I think the driver was laughing at me. When I got here, I had a Coke with a couple of 2nd years while I waited for my roommates to arrive and open the door. My roomies are all blonde-haired and blue-eyed, but Europeans say that means we're smart. :) Isabelle is from Holland, Una is from Kosovo, and Deana (pronounced dj-AH-na) is from BiH. Una is more outgoing than the rest of us, but we get along great. The room is nice with a bathroom (though the shower is just a ceramic spot on the floor with no curtain), wardrobes, tables, and a little kitchen. We are in the process of choosing classes, getting to know the city, and also being initiated by the 2nd years.
Today, I visited the school for the first time. The exterior of the building is being completely renovated, so it's hidden by scaffolding, but the inside is nice. When the gymnasium (the school) was built, it was the most prestigious gymnasium in the Balkans. Today, I chose my classes (English, French, Economics, Visual Arts, Biology, and Math). Some of the courses I wanted aren't offered, but I'm satisfied.
Having to walk so much in this heat has made me realize how out of shape I am. For instance, yesterday, we walked to school in the morning, had 2-hour walking tours of Mostar, walked to lunch, walked around shopping (and got lost, which means more walking), walked back home, walked to school, and walked/ran around the city for 3 ½ hours on a scavenger hunt set up by our 2nd years. And then we walked back home. I've calculated it, and I spent about 7 hours actually, physically walking from place to place. I was away from home for about 10 or 11 hours. I couldn't believe this, so I calculated it again and it's true. I'm understanding the Biblical practice of washing feet in a very real way. :)
I've now been to the famous Stari Most bridge, several mosques, the Turkish house, a cathedral, the tourist markets (there were some US troops shopping there, which was unexpected), and several other historical places. They're even more beautiful and interesting than in the pictures. I've tried the famous coffee here; it's good, but very strong. I mean seriously, it's just coffee, none of that cream and flavoring stuff. I've started to learn the language, but I'm having trouble remembering words (not to mention names!) I just finished dinner, which was a local dish that tastes like hamburger and came with fries and ketchup. Today, I went to a merkator where they have Levi jeans, Dove, Suave, and Pantene conditioner, Pepsi and Mountain Dew, Orbit Gum, Nike and Puma shoes, AIR CONDITIONING, and all sorts of things that make me feel at home. I also had my first gelato today-it's great, but not as good as the “real” thing in Italy, I'm told. We are free tonight, and some students are going to a party at an abrasevic, but I'm staying in to clean my room, watch a movie with some friends, and REST! In the next few days, I will try to put some pictures up so you can see a little of my new life! Please keep my fellow students and me in your thoughts and prayers—we are very happy to be here, but the homesickness is starting to hit and we are realizing that two years is a long time to spend in this unfamiliar place. In closing, here's a short list I've started of things I've learned so far. I love and miss you all!!

1.Sandwiches shouldn't be skimpy. Make them using a whole loaf of bread.
2.Screw speed limits. Just go until there's something to slow down for.
3.That gunshot at night doesn't mean the war's started again. It just means that the Muslims fasting for Ramadan are allowed to eat dinner.
4.Shower curtains are quite unnecessary (maybe this is just in our house; I don't know).
5.As my friend Nina says, Bosnians don't have a lot of taboos. You can talk about anything with anyone, and it's good to make jokes about things. Also, Bosnian culture is very relaxed. Every minute doesn't have to be planned out, and lingering over a hike or a meal is good...more time to enjoy it!
6.In some countries, students are paid to go to school.
7.Too many leaders equals too little accomplished.
8. Arrogance is ridiculous...you always have a lot to learn. :)

PS- I know some of you wondered about a mailing address. The safest thing is to send both letters and packages to the school. Because it is a prominent institution, the mail is more likely to be delivered and not tampered with. The address is:

United World College in Mostar
Gymnazija Mostar
Ċ panjolski trg 1
88000 Mostar
Bosnia and Herzegovina

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Great Adventure (and by great I mean I wish it hadn't happened)

Hey everyone,

Yesterday was quite a day! The crew didn't show up for my flight out of St. Louis, so the flight was delayed while they found a replacement. Well, because of this I missed my flight to Munich, and now I'm sitting in a hotel in Washington, D.C. It's quite an adventure trying to re-book a plane ticket, and it involves a lot of walking and several hours of waiting. But it's done now! I'm heading to the airport in a few hours and catching a flight to Zurich, and then on to Split, Croatia and Mostar just one day late.

I'm actually kind of glad I got to spend the night in a bed, shower, and rest up a little. I just wish I could have seen a little more of the capital... I had a voucher for the hotel restaurant, where I got the most scrumptious fish and chips ever. I'm enjoying a little quiet time here in my room before heading back to the airport in a couple of hours. Don't know for sure when I'll have an internet connection again, but probably not for a few days. I know I didn't get to say goodbye to everyone I would have liked to, and I apologize for that, and I hope to be in contact soon.

With love,
Leah

Saturday, August 30, 2008

What's the "BiH" all about??

Hey everyone!

Just a quick note to explain the blog title...BiH is an abbreviation for Bosnia-Herzegovina, where I'll be spending the next two years. Thank you, Jessica Rupprecht for inspiring the title. You probably don't remember it, but you said in a voicemail that I was Bosnia-bound. Guess the phrase stuck. :P