Figured it was about time to update the blog, I tend to put off blogging at this point because I don’t know where to start. I thought about it, and figured that perhaps it would be easier if I just kept to a couple topics at a time, so as not to overwhelm you with information. So here we go.
There are a couple different parts of the city, with TOTALLY different atmospheres. The portion I’ve only really explored so far is Bascarsija. One certain street, Ferhadija, is for pedestrians only and is lined with shops, cafes, gelato stands and huge historic places of worship. (Fun fact: you can find a Synagogue, Mosque, Catholic church and a Orthodox church all within a two block radius. Sarajevo is sometimes referred to as the Jerusalem of Europe by people other than me.
The further you walk down Ferhadija, the more Turkish the surroundings become, and you find yourself surrounded by cobblestones, copper and crafts. (Alliteration….oh yes.)
I have every intention of buying a Bosnian rug and some copper pieces, but am taking my time because apparently it’s really easy to overpay and get mass-produced stuff…I’m holding out for something awesome. Found a couple very expensive glass Turkish lamps that I need to own immediately. I like strolling around the area, and feel very safe doing so.
I live within walking distance of the Embassy, and walking in that direction is a whole other world. I want to touch on that at a later date, once I’ve taken a proper tour of the area. It’s the part of the city that was heavily affected during the war, and I want to give that neighborhood the proper summary it deserves. For now I simply marvel at the bullet holes remaining in buildings, numerous memorials for the fallen, entire pieces of the sidewalk missing from explosions and never ending graffiti.
I actually feel pretty good about working at the Embassy, I have a great boss who’s looking out for me, and coworkers who have answered every question imaginable. The hardest thing is just getting used to the daily tasks, and the norms that are expected from my office. The technical stuff actually seems very well run and easy to maintain, the hard part is remembering how to get around the building. And all of the combos I’ve been forced to memorize in a short amount of time. The locals working at the Embassy are quite honestly fantastic. Many of them have worked there for 15+ years, are total experts in their field, and have a tremendous amount to teach me. Most of my interaction has been with the IT staff, and they’re awesome and I am thrilled I get to work with them for 2 years. They do have difficult names for me to pronounce, and so far I’ve only called one person by the wrong name. (I confused Sepy with Sasa, and felt awful about it. You must admit their names are similar.) I apologized to Sasa and he forgave me.
So, everyone here keeps telling me “Ohhhh everyone speaks English” and I’m sorry but that is NOT THE CASE. The people all speak English within the Embassy but once I leave those walls, I’ve literally not met a single person who speaks English. (And why should they? If I was a Bosnian I wouldn’t have learned English either.) German, however, is common enough, so I’ve been getting by with my broken German and plenty of hand gestures. And smiling. Smiling helps quite a bit. The Embassy is offering a “Survival Bosnian” course that I plan to take, that will help me with things like shopping, talking to cab drivers, and things like Hello, Goodbye, and Do you speak English? Grocery shopping has only been possible because of my limited German, most of the labels are in Bosnian and German. And as always, photos are very helpful, and even just the shape of the container itself. I could find sour cream just based on the shape of the plastic tub. Perhaps that means I spend too much time studying sour cream?
The Food and Drink:
In short, the food here is not the healthiest thing I’ve ever seen. Lots of meat, cheese, bread, and creamy sauces. Salads exist, but the dressings here are not my favorite, so I’m excited for my latest Amazon order to get here so I can mix up some Italian dressing. Grocery stores have just about anything you’d need, but the produce left something to be desired. The best looking produce appears to be sold in the open air markets that I haven’t gotten around to visiting yet. I miss baby carrots, green beans, broccoli, and spinach. I haven’t found any of those yet, and am genuinely sad about it.
One of the iconic Bosnian dishes is Ćevapi, little sausages served in delicious bread, served with onions and sometimes kajmak, my new favorite condiment.
My coworkers took me to Mrkva, a local chain that offers delivery (heyooooo) and who’s name means carrot, apparently. I got the smallest size they offered (5 pieces), and it was delicious. You rip up the bread, cut off a chunk of sausage with your fork, dunk the thing in the kajmak and onions, and eat with your hands. Apparently the fork is not to be used except to cut things up, and knives are right out. It was greasy and delicious, and several hours later I am still full. I look forward to trying different versions around the city.
I’ve been able to get certain things at the Embassy itself, things that Bosnia doesn’t seem to understand. Things like peanut butter, Sweet Baby Ray’s, Club crackers, salsa, and microwave popcorn. Eventually I might be able to live without them, but for now I’m taking comfort in having a few familiar things around. I placed a massive Amazon Pantry order to stock up on Asian food ingredients, because I miss Thai food already.
That’s all for now! Looking forward to a three day weekend, and more chances to explore Bosnia! Missing all of you, find me on WhatsApp and let’s text, mmmkay?