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 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 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'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 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 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 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!