Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Let It Snow!

   This is more of a frivolous post. Not one to give people insight to exchange or Bosnia, but more of a little something that made me really, really happy. Are you ready?
   IT SNOWED. And not just that light, little fluff that melts away in a few hours like Oregon. It snowed and it's been sticking. Perhaps I shouldn't be too excited about snow like this, because it means that I have to wrap myself in scarves, hats, sweaters, gloves, and coats in order to leave the house. But snow also means curling up with tea or hot chocolate and the beauty of a world in white. It also means my birthday (four more months, but still). Snow equals winter and I just really love winter. Back home, the majority of winter was rain. Cold, wet, dreary rain. Snow can still mean sunshine! I was raised in Canada. I love snow. When it started snowing on Monday, Anna (who's from Wisconsin) started jumping around and demanded we go outside and frolic. Savannah, who's from Arizona, was a little more weary of the cold. But we braved the cool weather in our totally inappropriate clothes for winter.
   Anna instantly began running around, declaring to all of Sarajevo how much she loves snow, while I just laughed, pulled out my camera and started snapping pictures and Savannah hugged herself to keep warm. She did that until Anna grabbed her arm and started twirling her around in the snow. We were practically dancing around the park behind our school, looking like lunatics to anyone inside. Passerby's with their umbrellas and coat collars turned up against the wind, questioned our sanity with mere cardigans and summer scarves, jumping around the field.
   When our fingers became too frigid, we headed inside, snowflakes melting on our hair and we sat on the stairs inside to dry off and get warm. Some teachers passed us on the steps and started exclaiming in rapid Bosnian and we were all laughing, until a girl sitting on one of the benches in the foyer said, "She's talking about the concrete! You're sitting on concrete and your hair is wet!" We all started laughing again, because it's something we've all come to love about Bosnia. You never sit on concrete or else you're ovaries will fall out and you never go outside with wet hair or else you'll catch the draft.
   We then had a discussion about our names and Anna, Savannah, and I discovered our middle and last name initials are all the same and we just felt more like triplets than ever. And we realized that if Savannah were to marry a certain person, her initials could become ridiculously hilarious.

   Anyway, that was just a nice day in a nutshell. I bought my winter coat and gloves and hat and I am officially prepared for winter. Nizama loaded me with thicker socks for the house and two extremely heavy winter coats for when the weather becomes unbearable.

   Until more splendid days,


    I thought a creative, somewhat witty title wouldn't do Bajram justice. So this, my friends, is all about a day called Bajram! Bajram is also known as Eid al-Adha which is the Feast of the Sacrifice, honoring the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his own son. As my friend, Charity, compared it to, "Muslim Thanksgiving."

    Bajram is mainly a day for family and friends. And my experience was exactly what I expected Bajram to be. We left early Friday morning for Tuzla, a city about two to three hours away from Sarajevo. The drive was gorgeous, even if the fog did cover the majority of the scenery. Three hours later, we arrived at Granny's house (Nizama's mom)! Also there were Nizama's brother, his wife, and two kids. The beginning was very relaxing. We watched some TV, we ate lunch, and we talked. Then everyone changed into nicer clothes and we took off for the house where the ox was going to be killed. We arrived at the house, where we were ushered into a room with other people who we were going to share the ox with. Within five minutes of sitting in that room, food and coffee were set out on the small coffee table as we waited for the ox.
    Eventually, Irfan said that we were going to go to a small town about twenty minutes away from Tuzla. So he, myself, Nizama, and her sister-in-law piled into the car and took off. We walked down a lovely street, all the stores closed because of Bajram - except the cafés, of course - and enjoyed a little fresh air and company, grabbed some lunch, and then headed back for, what I thought, the sacrifice.

    But it was not to be! We missed the killing by a few minutes and the men were already hacking the carcass away, separating meat. I looked at the ox and thought, "Ok, it's not so bad when it's all skinned. It just looks like meat." Then Irfan points to the corner of the yard where there lay the head of the ox, upside down, jugular flapping in the wind. I think the most horrifying part of that, was that the only reason I found that entire thing gross, was because of that white jugular. Sorry to give you a visual, but it was part of the experience and it's something you should know about Bajram! Just be happy I'm not including a picture!

   We were then brought back into the friend's house where we talked to some other people and I was congratulated on my basic Bosnian, because someone told them I didn't know any Bosnian. But when a girl's mom walked in, she walked over and introduced herself and asked if I wanted to have coffee and before anyone could say anything, I immediately responded with my name and that I didn't want coffee. The girl looked over at me and exclaimed that my language skills were good and I could feel myself blushing. 
Host cousin and Nizama's sister in law
    After a little while of talking, supper was brought in (my stomach was about to explode, I swear) which was pita, burek, and a stew of the fresh meat. When our meal was cleared, they brought out cake and baklava. One thing you should keep in mind if you intend to visit Bosnia: They are extremely hospitable and they will feed you until you are rolling around on the floor. And I love them for it!

   Night eventually came and we loaded back into the car with enough meat and food to last us a week. At least. The ride was silent as everyone curled into their own little corner and fell asleep. Well. Except for Esad naturally. Because he was driving.

  All in all, Bajram was just a day of friends, family, talking, and - most importantly - eating. And it was wonderful to be a part of and witness!

  Anyway, it's time for me to do some college apps!

  Until there's more news to share,

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Crisper Days

     Fall is starting to end here. Now, you must be thinking that that's absurd. It's only part way through October, how is it almost over? Well, in case you forgot, I live in Sarajevo. And in Sarajevo last year, they received two meters of snow. I am expecting snow within the next month. The days are getting shorter, the nights and mornings colder, and with all this beautiful season changing comes some other equally fantastic things.

   Two weekends ago, after volunteering at an adorable orphanage (cutest kids EVER), Anna and I decided on an impromptu hipster photo shoot across Baščaršija. It was completely random, but it felt exciting to do something spontaneous. If you know me at all, I'm not the spontaneous type really. I like plans. But running across Sarajevo taking pictures and being completely silly made me feel like I knew the city well enough to navigate the confusing, winding streets with a friend being absolutely ridiculous.
So serious.
So hipster.
lol jk
It's a long way down to freezing water.
    Fast forward to the next weekend, and it's time to volunteer at the orphanage again. We were separated into two groups; one for the toddler group and one for the early primary school kids. Helena and I were ushered into the room with the primary school kids and instantly we began playing Barbies and building things with Lego (evil, painful Lego) while practicing our Bosnian and the kids practiced their English.
   After an hour of playing, we were lined up to go downstairs to be on TV because the orphanage was auctioning art to fundraise. They had kid dancers put on a performance and two tiny children sing a Bosnian song dressed in traditional wear. They were adorable! I'm sorry I have no pictures, but it's a legal issue; one I'd rather not interfere with :) When the TV filming was done, we were dismissed and took off for college apps (oh the joys of being a Senior in need of scholarships)!
    While I was upstairs, all of a sudden I hear, "KATIE. DOÐIDOÐI KATIE!" I bolted down the stairs as I see Nizama in front of the TV smiling as she said, "Ti si na televiziji (you are on TV)." I look at the TV and see a commercial as I look back at Nizama. "At the orphanage! You were on TV." We waited for the commercial to pass, but it turned out that it was showing the auction part of the show, so Nizama told me to come outside and stand on the terrace with her. The sun blinded me as we walked out and we tried small talk, something and Nizama and I haven't really been able to do with my lack of language skills. Every sentence I was able to construct about the cat on the post or the inevitable snow that was bound to come soon (I was not actually able to say "the inevitable snow is bound to come soon), Nizama would congratulate me on that minor success, but to us, having a conversation was big. We both haven't been able to do it for so long and it was just nice. We then headed back inside where they showed the orphanage again, and sure enough, there we all were in the back with the kids. The only reason, I'm sure, that Nizama spotted me, was because that day I decided to wear hot pink. But that just lead to Nizama saying she loved that color on me and her telling me that when she noticed me it was like, "HELLO KATIE!" Not to mention my host mom is just plain awesome and she buys me scarves and tights for absolutely no reason other than she thinks I'd like it. 
Scarf from my host mom!
    Anyway, this upcoming week-end is Bajram and we're going to Tuzla which I am extremely excited for! Lots of pictures and a definite blog post will follow :)

   Until then,

Friday, October 12, 2012

Simply Sweet Days

    Remember how I said the past couple of weeks were extremely uneventful? I'm glad to announce that these past few days have changed that! Yay for doing things!

    Monday was supposed to be pretty uneventful. I just came home, slumped on my bed, and started Skyping my parents for Canadian Thanksgiving. Then Medina came in and asked if I'd like to attend Fashion Week in Sarajevo which was Monday through Wednesday night. Excited to be doing something, I quickly got ready in my classiest clothes and set off. The fashion show was held in an old hall that used to be used for military. I fell completely in love with the old architecture and paintings and  decided that this was where my wedding was going to be held. Medina and I found our way past doormen, security guards, and hosts until we found two seats and then the lights dimmed, the music started and the first model started strutting.

    The fashion show was amazing and feeling rich and classy (even though in reality I'm a poor high school student) was priceless. After the designers came out and everyone applauded, the guests were invited for an after-party down below. Medina and I made our way down as we found a table and watched people stream in and out of the room, grabbing drinks and nibbling on weird cheese. Photographers from TV stations and newspapers were circling the room and a few took our picture. Not going to lie, I felt like a celebrity even if absolutely no one in that room except Medina knew me.

    Then Medina's cousin called to meet up for coffee so we met outside and took off for Baščaršija (but not before taking a few model poses ourself, of course).
    After meandering through Old Town, we found a cute café to sit in, grabbed some cake, and talked until Medina thought it best we go home. I did have school in the morning!

    Tuesday was very possibly one of the best days ever. Not because anything extraordinary happened, it was just pleasant beyond words. I began simply enough with classes, one of which I made a terrible (luckily people found it funny) mistake where a spider was in the class and I began yelling "KILL IT" as the majority of the class voted on saving the spider and taking it outside. When I was confused why no one killed it, one of my friends, Zuki, leaned over and said, "it's against the Muslim religion to kill a spider." I felt instantly humiliated and awful for yelling in the middle of class to kill the spider, but everyone found it hilarious, which I was grateful for. Let's hope I never make that mistake near a mosque...
    After a few classes and then lunch, I was then left with a few empty blocks. Anna then revealed that she brought her frisbee along because she is in love with ultimate frisbee and intended on making us all play. However, we were not on her level, so we decided that for the first day we would simply throw it around. The sun was warm and the weather actually perfect for simple sports, we made our way outside and started tossing the frisbee.
    It started off just four of us girls, tossing it nonchalantly while talking. Then one guy joined us. Then another girl. Then more guys. We soon had this giant group on the other side of the park, tossing the frisbee over trees and trying out weird throws that Anna had taught us (hammer throw is a little weird, however I'm getting very good at the forehand).

    Eventually, everyone had other classes except Emma and I. So we remained outside, she finishing essays and I wrote letters. When it started getting chilly, Emma and I headed out to Metropolis (only our new favorite café) and grabbed some coffee and food where we waited until the girls were done because next thing on the list was... Medresa!

Access class!
Part of the Access class that took us on the tour :)
    Medresa is a school in Sarajevo much alike to a Catholic boarding school, except instead of Catholicism, they teach all about Islam! When we arrived at the school, they told us we didn't need to wear headscarves, but by doing so, we stuck out like a sore thumb. Everyone in the school instantly knew who we were as we made our way to the Access class. Access is a class which focuses on English and that day's topic was politics, but not before the initial introductions and questions. But, much to my happiness, we got to ask the class questions too. We asked them about their insane school schedule (classes and prayer pretty much all day. They have fifteen-sixteen
classes a day. SIXTEEN.) and their life in general. We then had a tour of the school from the students and then returned for our mock political parties getting questioned by journalists thing! We were separated into groups and the teacher came around to tell each group what they were doing. She arrived at our table and said, "You are the winning politicians and you have to let us know what you have planned for a project to change something in the city." Our big plan to change Sarajevo? Animal shelters! My group worked really well together and they were the nicest people. Because of the cramped room, I was kneeling at their table and a girl continued to insist that I take her chair. I told her the floor was fine, but eventually they all squished together so we could fit. When the class was over, a group of them invited us all out for late night coffee.

l-r Haris, Anna, myself, and Ajdin. I look evil, I know...
    Late night coffee was so much fun. Beyond fun. I suppose looking back all we did was drink espressos (worst idea ever at 9pm) and talk about music and cultures and just everything, but it turned out to be an evening of making new friends (however cheesy that sounds). We exchanged band names and songs we should try out and we all talked like we had been friends forever. When it was time to leave, everyone insisted that we'd have to do it again sometime and I could honestly say that I hope this happens. All of these kids were definitely some of the nicest kids I've met. They were pleasant and talkative and we were all equally interested in each other. All I can say really, is that Tuesday these past couple weeks just keep getting better. New things to do and new friends and every day here just makes this experience more enriching.

    Anyway, I better be off. Volunteering in the morning!

    Until more sweet days,

P.S. The video is an Arabic reading of the Qu'ran by one of the Access students. She only read for five seconds until I shoved the camera in her face :) Sorry!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Adventurous Adventures in the Land of Wells

    The past three weeks haven't been very eventful, unfortunately. Mainly, the routine of wake up, eat, school, coffee, school, home, homework, Internet, sleep. But in the past few days, I have been on some adventures! And I am excited :)

Race for the Cure!
   Last Saturday was the Race for the Cure. Skye, our coordinator from DC, was visiting/working and she was here for the weekend! We met up by the National Museum where people set up booths with free snacks, drinks (especially coffee), and music. They had a ZUMBA team up on stage for about twenty minutes doing routines and we all joined in for 'Moves Like Jagger', but we were laughing too hard to really concentrate. After about a half hour or so of wandering, we thought the race started and we accidentally missed it. So we started walking down the river, talking and "catching up" to the race.
What happens when you have the road to yourself :)
     Well we never came across another group of walkers for the Race for the Cure and eventually we looped around and were back at the start. Just as we crossed the finish line on the other side of the river, we heard the gunshot and everyone took of running down. We all looked at each other and laughed at our mistake and decided we could do something else.

    Anna, Helena, Savannah, and I then became tour guides for Skye and we took her up to the White Fort way up on a mountain. We tracked down a taxi that would take us up there and soon we were at the beautiful mountaintop. We were all talking loudly of course, until a man came around the corner and started hissing at us in Bosnian. All of us turned wide-eyed and looked around to see a camera crew. Filming a movie in Bosnia? Say wha...? We pointed to the fort, as if asking permission to go in. The man nodded and we silently made our way inside. Just then we see this:

    Those are two ninjas climbing the fort. Day = made.

    After silently touring the fort, we decided to climb down the hill through a steep, beaten path. Skye was being extremely cautious because her shoes were slippery. As Skye successfully made her way down, I began to say, "That was so entertaining watching you go down so careful-" and just as I am finishing my word, I slipped on a rock and fell straight on my bum. Helena and Skye started laughing hysterically and, at the moment, all I could say was, "That was really ironic." and I began to laugh. Helena breaks from laughing to say, "No, that was karma." Oh karma. Sometimes I really hate you.
    After looking around a bit more, we then headed back down the hill eventually landing in Baščaršija. We stopped for ćevapi and then went shopping with Skye, showing her the area we have become so familiar with (except we still get lost in Baščaršija. So confusing).
    Fast forward a week, and it's Friday! We had no school on Friday because of World Teacher's Day (Dear Teachers who have taught me these past 12 years of school - you are awesome and I couldn't have gotten here without you. Thank you so much.). I met up with Andrea from school who told me about a youth conference her church was attending. She heard me saying once that I was looking for a church and so she invited me to come along. After a quick coffee (anarchy in Bosnia!) and all the information I needed, I took off to meet up with Helena. We went shopping around Baščaršija, looking for gifts and I bought a few. Making a dent in gift buying early! So, you're welcome Char, Grace, Es, Soph, Ash, Anna, and Mom. I got you presents! And I mailed my postcards and letters, I was definitely feeling accomplished.

     We met up with Anna and had lunch (a delicious vegetarian pizza, if anyone was wondering) and another coffee, this time we took our dear sweet time. Helena then had to go home, so Anna and I explored Baščaršija some more and we came upon a secret section! It's really hidden away, but it had the coolest stores where I bought two of my gifts (and bound to buy more) and Anna bought her now favorite (and only) ring. Anna and I then practiced our Bosnian smiles :)

    A few hours later, I headed off to the youth conference! In short, it was a fabulous weekend full of awesome worship (American songs in Bosnian. And I thought life couldn't get any better) and meeting all sorts of people. I stayed up probably way too late and definitely regretted it when I'd have to get up in the morning and drag myself back to the other side of the city. When I told Nizama about the conference, she was so happy that I found something to do and was going to church again. I forgot how much I love church and worship. And because of my new friends, I have plenty of places to go to with friends already there. Goal = accomplished.

    Anyway, I leave you with a taste of Bosnian worship music. Enjoy :D

    Until more adventures,