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.