Istanbul

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So little brother Nate decided to book a trip to Europe, and we weren’t quite able to work Sarajevo into his itinerary this time.  Instead we looked at destinations where I could easily meet him for a few days, and we settled on Istanbul.  Such an enormous, ancient, historical place seemed like an excellent way to spend a few days, the shopping would just be the icing on the cake. I’d only been at post for about two months and felt a little funny trying to take off work already, but then sat down and thought about it…I haven’t taken any vacation days since December.  That is a long time.  So happily my boss agreed and I booked a short flight to see baby brudder!

We slowly started doing our respective research, and booked a room at the Cheers Hostel right in the heart of the Sultanahmet district.  I feel like I’m getting a little old/fussy for hostels, but this one had SUCH great reviews, had private rooms, and the location simply couldn’t be beat.  I was scheduled to arrive around noon on Sunday, Nate would arrive around 5 and we’d begin or exploration.

So the week before my trip hit, and I just started to feel like someone had let the air out of my tires.  I was exhausted, constantly bouncing between freezing cold and burning up, and no matter how much I slept I couldn’t seem to feel rested.  Unfortunately it was one of those weeks of work where calling in sick just wasn’t an option, so I quarantined myself into my office whenever possible, and looked a lot like this:

me at workThe weekend hit, and I was actually worse.  Had an official fever, nasty coughing, runny nose, the whole deal.  But DAMN IT this was my vacation!!  So I shut myself into the apartment all weekend (missing a trivia night and a good friend’s birthday party) and slept.  And kept sleeping.  And slept some more.  I woke up for the airport on Sunday morning and still had a nasty fever, but much like a frustrated parent might do to get their kid into daycare, I pumped my body full of Tylenol and decided yup, this was happening.  I hopped on a plane and promptly fell asleep, sleeping a solid two hours before touching down in Istanbul.  I grabbed the nearest cab, showed him my destination, and took in the lovely sights of the coast as we drove to the old part of the city towards my hostel.  We got a little lost along the way, and (despite what I’d heard about Turkish cab drivers) this guy was insanely kind and patient and called my hostel several times to get directions.  I could understand his confusion, the streets were bonkers.

I got to the hostel, checked in, walked up to my room on the 7th floor of a walkup (just shy of 100 curvy steps) and promptly slept for another 2 hours.  By this rate, this trip was going to prove pretty interesting.  I pulled myself together, showered, and dragged my poor pathetic self to the lobby to wait for Nate to arrive.  It was SO great to see him!!  We took his bag up to the room, and decided to wander around the city a bit before settling on dinner at Medusa, a lovely little outdoor patio with great Turkish food.  After a little more strolling around, I begged Nate to forgive me, and told him I needed to go to bed.  He was very kind, accompanied me back to the room, and I was asleep by around 8:00pm.  Quite the raging start to our vacation, to say the least.

***

I woke up Monday and felt like a new woman!  My energy was back, my fever had broken, and breathing was much easier.  Things were looking up, but just to be sure we made our way to the nearest Pharmacy and stocked up on the Turkish equivalent of Sudafed.  We ate our complimentary breakfast at the Hostel (typical fare: bread, jam, cheese, hard boiled eggs, fruits, veggies, tea and coffee.)  I ordered a coffee and promptly spilled about half of it making my way to the table…this is why I can’t have nice things.  (It embarrassed me so much I ordered tea the rest of the trip.)

Instead of listing all of the individual sights we saw, most of them with funny names and similar looking architecture, I’ll let you look at some gorgeous pictures of the things we saw!

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace

Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

Inside the Blue Mosque - my favorite shot of the trip

Inside the Blue Mosque – my favorite shot of the trip

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View from the Galata Tower

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Standard pensive shot (sorry, no “My Domain” arms, we were in close quarters)

Süleymaniye Mosque (The Magnificent!)

Süleymaniye Mosque (The Magnificent!)

Foot-washing station outside of the Süleymaniye Mosque

Foot-washing station outside of the Süleymaniye Mosque

One of the entrances to the Grand Bazaar (bonkers!!)

One of the entrances to the Grand Bazaar (bonkers!!)

Gorgeous view of the Blue Mosque from a nearby rooftop bar

Gorgeous view of the Blue Mosque from a nearby rooftop bar

Whirling Dervishes - men that get into a deep state of prayer and twirl around.  Actually more impressive than it sounds.

Whirling Dervishes – men that get into a deep state of prayer and twirl around. Actually more impressive than it sounds.

Overheard in Hagia Sofia -  Nate: "Well look at that hairy angel"

Overheard in Hagia Sofia – Nate: “Well look at that hairy angel”

Nate's fancy dinner, cooked in a flaming clay pot.  Kind of awesome!

Nate’s fancy dinner, cooked in a flaming clay pot. Kind of awesome!

 

 

 

Sorry, lots of pictures, hard to pick just a couple!  As far as shopping goes, I got VERRRRRRY tired of the aggressive salesmen and haggling.  Despite these drawbacks I still managed to take home a small prayer-sized Turkish rug, a scarf, and “Evil Eye” that will serve as my Turkish Christmas ornament.  We sampled doner kebaps (beef, lamb, and chicken), mixed grills, amazing hummus and bread, calamari, pasta, and while we did enjoy the food, I did find myself wishing for some more variety after a few days.  So we sought out a Thai restaurant named CokCok (awesome) and got our fix, sort of.  We were both hoping for noodle dishes and they seemed to specialize in rice, oh well.

As far as the atmosphere itself was concerned, the city was gorgeous and full of life.  Tourist from all over the globe were there, the streets were lined with colorful lamps and lanterns, delicious smells came from bakeries (baklava!) and from restaurants with glorious displays of rotating roasted meat.  and everywhere you looked people were having a great time.  It was interesting seeing all of the different types of tourists there, from Americans in their tennis shoes to those that were on spiritual pilgrimages.  Women in tank tops and shorts, women completely covered from head to toe (in black no less, in the hot sun!).  English was plentiful, and we had no trouble communicating with anyone.

One thing that really got on my nerves – cameras.  Nobody could simply take a couple of shots and then put their cameras down and take in their surroundings.  I was CONSTANTLY fighting with tourist shoving their SLRs into my face, blocking my view, cutting off my path, and basically making the experience less enjoyable for everyone.  Don’t even get me started on the selfies.  I will admit Nate and I took a few, we wanted a couple of pics together and I don’t know about you, but handing my phone/camera off to strangers tends to be hit or miss when it comes to quality.  But man, we were at the top of the Galata Tower, overlooking incredible views of Istanbul on all sides, and this chick in front of us took (not kidding) about 100 selfies total.  It was incredible, she wasn’t even changing her pose from shot to shot.  And she was doing it from an IPAD!!  AAAAAH!

***

So anyway, after bashing selfies I’ll leave you with one of my favorites from the trip.  Had a wonderful time catching up with Nate and seeing a new city.  Until the next adventure!

istanbul selfie

 

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I used to live within a few hours of Indiana Beach…this is a little different

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So Bosnia has treated me very well, and I’m settling in here nicely, but I was ready for a change of scenery.  My car isn’t here yet, so I posted on a Facebook site for expats that I needed some suggestions, stating that I was looking for a few tours I could do over Labor Day weekend.  Wouldn’t you know it, one of my awesome coworkers (I will call her C, I had literally met her only one time in the cafeteria…we probably spoke for all of 45 seconds at this point) offered me an amazing opportunity.  She was headed to Trogir, Croatia, and did I want a ride?  And did I want to stay in an inexpensive apartment with a view of the water?  And did I want to hang out with someone who actually spoke the language?

Um…yes.  A quick Google search confirmed it: Trogir was going to be awesome.

So we left on Saturday morning and started the 5ish hour drive to the coast.  On the way down, C wanted to stop in Mostar and I was happy to oblige.  This?  This is Mostar.

Nope, I didn't take this pic

Nope, I didn’t take this pic

The stones on the bridge are worn smooth, very slippery and kind of perilous

The stones on the bridge are worn smooth, very slippery and kind of perilous

Mostar is an amazing old town with an iconic bridge crossing the gorgeous green water of the Neretva River.  We wandered around a bit, had a coffee, visited some shops, and then decided it was time to get on the road, and make our way to the beach.  (I have every intention of returning for a longer visit.)  After many hours, C’s expert driving landed us in Trogir, making our way through the tiiiiiiiiny roads that would lead us to our apartment for the weekend, who belonged to C’s friend’s mother.  We arrived, shared a beer with our landlord for the weekend, and headed upstairs to be greeted by this view:

trogir apt

We changed, had a snack, and then took the opportunity to stretch our legs and head out exploring.  We wandered around on the beach, enjoyed dinner and the sunset, stocked up on a few groceries, and headed back to the apartment.  After some ice cream and red wine, we were spent for the day and decided to turn in.

The next morning we were on a mission : time to find a beach.  The main beach along the boardwalk was fine, but C got some advice on finding some off the beaten path.  After driving a few minutes to another part of the island, we found it.

trogir beach

Woa

So gorgeous (not just the water, amiright?)

So gorgeous (not just the water, amiright?)

We laid in the sun, enjoyed swimming in the crystal clear waters, relaxed, and generally just enjoyed the day.  After about as much sun as this ginger could stand, we headed back to the apartment for a shower, (and in my case, a quick nap), then headed into the old part of the city, a Unesco World Heritage Site!

trogir balcony trogir church trogir unesco

We wandered around the city (amazing architecture, so much to see!), enjoyed a Radler (half lemonade, half beer) in the town square, did some shopping, and enjoyed a most excellent seafood dinner at Restaurant Kamerlengo. I ordered shrimp scampi, and to my surprise, these were presented to me:

Well, this is awkward

Well, this is awkward

I’m sure there are parts of the world where serving entire shrimp to a person is completely normal.  Let me tell you, my Midwest upbringing did not prepare me for this.  C gave me some pointers on how to eat them, and I think I did an ok job.  (Was unsure what to do with the heads, I got creeped out so I left them untouched.)  At any point, regardless of the creep factor and the extra effort, the shrimp were crazy delicious.  I loved getting to watch the “kitchen” at work, basically an old Croatian dude standing in front of a wood burning grill, throwing on fresh seafood and chatting with customers.

We spent some more time walking around and taking in the city, caught this gorgeous sunset as we made out way back to the water taxi towards the apartment.

Bliss

Bliss

That night as I slept, a CRAZY thunderstorm rolled in, woke everyone up and took out our electricity.  (Took out the fan in my room and the AC unit in C’s room!)  The next morning, discouraged by the rainy weather headed our way, we begrudgingly made our way back to Bosnia.  Unfortunately we were not the only ones doing so, we got caught for nearly an hour crossing the bridge out of Trogir, stopped at the border crossing back into Bosnia, and were heavily delayed by crazy rainstorms that threatened our journey.  The drive home took WAAAAAY longer than it was supposed to, but the trip was so worth it.

BIG thanks to C for letting me tag along on your trip, thanks for showing me the ropes and how to make the most out of my time here in Bosnia.  Looking forward to many more trips during my tour here.

trogir feet

Settling in

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Dreadfully sorry that I haven’t updated the blog, since my last sad panda posting.  You are probably all out there thinking that I’m sitting around, clutching my American flag, rushing to McDonalds every chance I get, and slowly sobbing myself to sleep while browsing the photobook my sister made for me before I left.  Well, I am thrilled to announce that after one particularly low weekend, everything has changed.

I don’t know if it was simply admitting that I needed help, or just time working its magic, but I’ve found myself newly fascinated by this place, excited to explore, and ready to establish friendships with the expats in my community.  I’ve enjoyed movie nights with friends, backyard BBQs, bowling, house parties, sitting at cafes with a Coke, large amounts of window shopping at the expensive malls here, stocking up on groceries at the outdoor market, and a trip to the casino to witness an expat poker night.  (Oh and obviously, WORK!)  I’ve accepted every invitation that has come my way, which is both exhausting and exhilarating at the same time.  I have been keeping myself really busy, which is my favorite thing.  Overall let’s just say I’m feeling the love for Sarajevo once again, and I have my new friends here to thank for that.

***

Enough of that mushy stuff, let’s talk about the fact that I have most of my STUFF now!  So I’ve been living without my things since early February, living in hotels, furnished corporate apartments, and finally a large apartment in Sarajevo with a loaner welcome kit to get me by until my stuff arrives.  I’ve had access to about half of my clothes and shoes, my coffee maker, my good towels, and a few framed pictures that accompanied me from place to place.  I know it seems silly to miss material possessions that much, but I really, truly did miss my belongings!  My movie collection, framed pics from my travels, my favorite omelet pan, photo albums, and I think most of all: MY BEDDING.

So in the FS you get a couple different shipments, the first one you should receive is your UAB – unaccompanied air baggage.  Typically this is the first box you receive after arrival, and as a single I got 250 pounds.  I did just a HORRIBLE job packing up my UAB, completely miscalculated what I could and couldn’t buy here, and I’ll know better for next time.  The next shipment is your HHE – household effects, basically up to 7,000lbs of your personal belongings.  (Gotta love the government and their acronyms, amiright?)  Typically this can take anywhere from a couple weeks to several months to arrive, but luckily the staff here is ON POINT and are so insanely efficient that I was able to get my stuff to Sarajevo and cleared through customs within 3 weeks of arrival.  I’m blown away by the staff here and their ability to get. stuff. done.

So the movers showed up yesterday morning (around 6:30am), brought all the boxes upstairs (through the elevator, it is incredible how much easier life is with a damn elevator), unpacked, then took the packing materials away with them when they left.  They each got a hefty tip from me, I was blown away by their professionalism and efficiency.  So here I am, in my apartment, with all my stuff, and I’m suddenly wondering why I felt the need to bring my high school dance trophies with me.  Seemed like a valid decision at the time.

pivot

***

So my goal for the weekend is to get settled, this time not in an emotional sense, but a physical one.  Time to figure out how to fill a china cabinet, when you in fact, own zero pieces of china.  I’ve also got some wrestling to do with four chair slipcovers I purchased through Amazon, these things are enormous and look crazy sloppy, so I’ve got some tucking and pinning to do in order to get the look I’m going for.  Time for cleaning, and sorting, and picture frame placement.  Excited to have some familiarity back in my life, so if you’ll excuse me it’s time for a Friends marathon while I make this place look like my own 🙂

boxes boxes2

 

Culture Shock

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So I went back and forth on writing this post, because it’s never fun to expose a low point in your life, a moment of self-doubt and worry.  But I suppose this is likely a pretty crucial part of my expat experience, why not address it and share it with the people I miss the most?

So my first 10ish days here, I was on cloud nine.  I was so excited to see everything, experience the culture, learn Bosnian, buy all of the things, and completely immerse myself into everything that Sarajevo had to offer.  I would listen to nearby conversations and delight in being able to pick out a word here and there, and in general I was in awe of everything.

Late last week, something switched.  Work was great and busy and exciting, but the minute I got home from work, I couldn’t seem to bring myself to leave the apartment, except for a quick trip to the grocery store.  Whenever I was out walking around, the incessant Bosnian being spoken around me suddenly started to grate on me, and suddenly I was worried that everyone was talking about me and pointing how ridiculous I was.  I went to the big malls here to immerse myself in commercialism (a true Western tradition), and even then was frustrated with European sizing, and the chaos of waiting for a fitting room.

I got home yesterday, and quite frankly kind of lost it.  I started doubting this job, my ability to live here alone, started feeling deeply sorry for myself, and got incredibly homesick.

Sad panda

Sad panda

I spoke with a friend of mine who has been living abroad for years, and he told me this was normal…this was culture shock.

So like any good Gen-Y person might do, I Googled it.  And wouldn’t you know it, I found article after article describing the exact things I was experiencing, describing the stages of culture shock.  I will summarize the ones I found from a website called “Twenty-something Travel” because I can still claim that status for a few months, there are variations in the name but the themes are all the same:

  • Honemoon Stage:  Excitement, intrigue, everything is new and different and everything is awesome.  I was here for about 10 days.
  • Frustration/Rage Stage: Everything is stressful, you begin to realize that every action you take is a little bit harder than it was back home.  You’re afraid of offending people, afraid of making a fool of yourself.  You miss your family, your friends, familiar food, your country.  Your language.  **I am here, and I wish that the honeymoon stage had lasted a little longer**
  • Understanding Stage: Basically, being able to laugh at yourself.  Accepting your terrible language skills but trying anyway.  Allowing yourself to go to an unfamiliar restaurant and try something you’ve never heard of (what’s the worst that could happen?), realizing that yes, everything is different, but its no longer a scary thought.
  • Acclimation Stage:  Acceptance, plain and simple.  The most rewarding stage to be in, and my goal is to spend as much time in this stage as possible.

****

So, even knowing that what I’m feeling is normal has helped, as cheesy as it sounds.  I had assumed that because this was a European city with good running water  and wifi and plentiful groceries and a low amount of danger, that I would be able to avoid the frustration of culture shock, but it appears I’m no exception to the rule.  I plan to buckle down, get over myself and put myself out there, knowing that shutting myself in my apartment with Netflix is only going to make things harder in the long run.

My plan is to start small, and set simple goals.  Today I walk around with my good camera and take pictures.  And I’ll get ice cream.  Maybe I’ll go see a big summer blockbuster at the nearby theater.  Next weekend I’ll make plans to hang with some people from the Embassy and play, maybe go to some restaurants and bars.  And little by little, I know that my anxiety and homesickness will pass, and I’ll find myself fascinated and entertained by my life in Sarajevo once again.  All I have to do is keep trying.

chris-traeger-not-lonely

I didn’t write this to get anyone to feel sorry for me, really I didn’t.  Mostly I just want to let you all know that my life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows and perfect travel experiences and cool food and instagramed sunsets.  I struggle on a daily basis, and have to continue working to make this whole thing worthwhile.   I leave with you with my new mantra:

finish each day

Just Around the Riverbend

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Hoping that at least some of you recognized the Pocahontas song in the title, my family would frequently break into song while on canoe and rafting trips back in the day, that tended to be our song of choice.

I was thrilled to discover that the Embassy was organizing a rafting trip on the Neretva River, which flows through BiH and Croatia.  A quick google search turned up images of gorgeous emerald water, jagged cliffs and lovely scenery, so I signed up immediately.  Then I found out that a coworker of mine had already signed me up, he had a hunch I’d enjoy it so he went ahead and did it for me.   I like working with these people, they get me.

We started bright and early, meeting in Konjic.   I hitched a ride with our community liaison officer (CLO) who organized the trip, and she pointed out antique shops, furniture stores, and the stands along the side of the road selling honey, jams, and rakia (booze.)  I loved getting out of the city and out into the country, it’s clear that Bosnia has plenty to do and see during my tour here.

We met our guides and were served a fresh breakfast of coffee, local farm cheese, rolls, jam and ajvar (a roasted red pepper and eggplant relish – yum!)  We were given the option to grab a wetsuit, or take our chances and wear what we came in.  Based on the bright sun and the fact that I didn’t plan to do much swimming, I opted to risk it in what I wore.  (Side note, I was not well prepared as far as rafting clothes, but made it work with some workout capris and a tank top.  I hadn’t planned on doing much swimming here!)  We all loaded up into the double decker bus out front, and headed toward the village of Glavaticevo.

NO YELLING ON THE BUS

NO YELLING ON THE BUS

Our journey to the launch site was a treacherous one, with steep grades, sharp turns, and terrifying drop-offs.  I may have been clutching my Oh Shit handle for dear life the entire ride, though it was very clear that the drivers knew exactly what they were doing.  They drove this bus with amazing precision, narrowly missing guardrails and oncoming cars by what felt like millimeters, it’s not the driver’s fault that I kept picturing myself tumbling down the side of a mountain.

We loaded up into our respective rafts, and headed down the river.  This was my first time rafting (as opposed to floating) and I was told this was going to be Grade 1 (scale of 1-6).  A local sat in the front and served as the coxswain (really?  That’s what they call him?!) and was in charge of telling us when to paddle, and steering us away from things that might try to kill us.  He was the strong and silent type, his motion for us to row/not row was simply glancing back at us and either nodding or shaking his head.  He also had a delicate heart tattoo on his shoulder.  He did a great job though, and would warn us when we should expect an impact, when we should paddle, when we should STOP paddling, etc.  There were a couple times when we were asked to move to the middle of the raft, because we expected to rebound off a large rock during rapids.  He was always right, and none of us died.  Nice job, coxswain.

Why describe the scenery when I can just show it to you?

Emerald water

Emerald water

My coworker Will and me.

My coworker Will and me.

Calm and clear

Calm and clear

Some of the not so rapid rapids

Some of the not so rapid rapids

People jumped in here and floated down

People jumped in here and floated down

Cliff jumping!

Cliff jumping!

We stopped a couple times for drink/swimming/cliff jumping breaks, and I loved spending time with my coworkers in a social setting, away from work stress.  We ended our journey in the village Dzajici, where we loaded up the rafts and headed back to where we started.  Once we got back to Konjic, we changed into dry clothes and enjoyed a fresh lunch.  We were served fresh sausages, fish, bread, veggies, and fruit.  The rafting company took really good care of us, for anyone that plans to visit me in Bosnia during the summer, I’d be happy to do this again with you.

I’m off work today, to celebrate Ramazanski Bajram.  An interesting perk of the Foreign Service – we typically get off not only American holidays, but local ones as well (to a point.)  It makes sense, if none of the other businesses are open in town, we wouldn’t really be able to get anything done.  Plus it shows cultural sensitivity to the city we’re in.  I’m certainly not complaining.  Stocked up on grocery essentials yesterday since most things are closed, looking forward to a lazy day!

Da li govorite engleski (Do you speak English?)

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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.

The city:

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.  As for me, I guess I never realized Jerusalem wasn’t Europe….I’m not great with Geography  I have since looked it up and noted its location.  Moving on.)   

Great people watching here

Great people watching here

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.)

IMG_4618

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.

The Work:

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.

The Language:

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.

This was the smallest size available, and I only ate half

This was the smallest size available, and I only ate half

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?

 

 

 

 

Moja lebdjelica je puna jegulja

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Greetings from Sarajevo!  I apologize, I’ve taken very few photos since I’ve been here but hope to remedy that by the end of the day.  So far my time here has been spent doing things like unpacking, going grocery shopping, and meeting my coworkers, none of which I felt like documenting at the time.  Something I’ve already noticed here: nobody just sits around with their phone out all the time.  I plan to behave the same way.

So my flight from Munich to Sarajevo was uneventful, in fact I fell asleep for the whole trip.  We landed at the SJJ airport, where I was met by a local Embassy employee (holding a sign with my name on it, that’s like my favorite sight in the whole world for some reason), and he whisked me through the Diplomatic passport line where I gathered my first stamp on the thing (no visa required by the way, come visit!), and we gathered up my many pieces of luggage.  (1 massive overweight suitcase, another large suitcase, one carry-on and one backpack full of my electronics and important documents…and peanut butter M&Ms.)  I was glad to have help dragging this stuff around, I walked all of those pieces into the airport in DC and it was comical to say the least.

We went out into the lobby where I met my boss, who was easy to spot in his Hawaiian shirt (a Friday tradition.)  He drove me to my new apartment and showed me all of the different features.  I am 100% pleased with the place, it’s considerably larger than my apt back home, and while the couches aren’t my particular taste (green and gold jacquard!) I am not in the business of complaining about free things.  Free things are awesome because they are free, if I get tired of looking at them I will cover them up.  Boom. 

You are probably wanting to see pictures of my apartment, and I promise to post a few, but I am NOT posting any that will give away my specific location, or the specific security features of my apartment.  No pictures of doors, windows, alarm systems, furniture, etc.  So that really limits what you will see here, but that’s just what will make me more comfortable.  And keep me out of trouble.

View from a friend's balcony

View from a friend’s balcony

Favorite decor in the apartment, I love this kitchen!

Favorite decor in the apartment, I love this kitchen!

A close up of the kitchen floor, my favorite feature

A close up of the kitchen floor, my favorite feature

Massive closet!  A nice surprise

Massive closet! A nice surprise, there’s another half not shown here

Guest bath / laundry room.  Tiniest washer in the land.

Guest bath / laundry room. Tiniest washer in the land.

Enormous grey bathroom!  With no usable power outlets.  Damn you, Europe

Enormous grey bathroom! With no usable power outlets. Please notice the bizarre pink toilet paper.

Bath / shower combo.  The glass door swings outward to convert it into a normal bathtub.  Great water pressure!

Bath / shower combo. The glass door swings outward to convert it into a normal bathtub. Great water pressure!

On Saturday morning, my social sponsor took me grocery shopping to Mercator, a nearby superstore of sorts.  I stocked up on a new hair dryer (110v appliances can sometimes be converted to work on 220v, but hairdryers just seem to turn into flamethrowers.  I’d rather just buy a new one), cleaning supplies, and groceries, though I got home and realized I forgot to get a ton of things.  My first grocery trip was mildly stressful, as I forgot to bring my dictionary/phrasebook and wasn’t able to look up what certain words meant.  Overall I did ok, only because many of the labels were in German and I could figure it out.  I also learned the process to get receipts stamped/signed in order to reclaim my VAT (value added taxes) once I get my Diplomatic ID card.

That evening, my sponsor and I went to a BBQ at my boss’s house.  He fried up some wings (SO GOOD), smoked tons of chicken, ribs, and pulled pork, and I tried some local beer called Sarajevsko and a strong local liquor named rakija (tasted like moonshine, this one was pear flavored).  I met a bunch of my new coworkers (all of them super friendly and gave me great advice on what things to see in/around Sarajevo), and I received my first Hawaiian shirt, so I can join in on Aloha Fridays at the office.

Got home and promptly slept for 11 hours…I haven’t quite beat this jet lag yet but I’m getting close.  Today I’m off to go wander around Bašcaršija, the old part of town that’s right near my apartment.  If only I knew how to pronounce it.  So far so good!