Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

    I would like to take this post to say, Merry Christmas to everyone! I hope your holiday has been bright and special, full of family and friends, no matter where on this planet you are.

    My Christmas has been successful and beautiful. Simple, maybe, but I rather enjoyed it. There was the Christmas concert at church which was lovely, the teen group Christmas party where we played some great games and met lots of new people (alongside classic American apple cider and brownies. Perfection), then there was the American Councils Christmas party where we ended up laughing at Youtube videos (aka Christmas Sweats). 
Just ignore the fact that you cannot see my eyes in this picture...
    The funny thing with Christmas this year was that we had to go to school on Christmas Eve. Not your typical holiday festivities. But once that class was over, I headed home to get ready for Christmas Eve! Back home, Christmas Eve was always classiness to the max, so I got all dressed up, got my cards and hostess gift together, grabbed a taxi and headed off to Anna's house.
    Anna's house was lovely and every feeling you should have at Christmas Eve was present. The Christmas tree was in the corner, full of lights and ornaments, presents stacked underneath, the table set with Christmas napkins, and the smell of cooking food wafting from kitchen. Everything felt like Christmas Eve and I was finally getting that giddy Christmas feeling. When all the guests arrived, we talked, we played cards, we exchanged our Christmas traditions, we ate some absolutely delicious food (fish, if anyone was wondering. BUT IT WAS SO GOOD.) and exchanged our cards and gifts. Anna got me these absolutely lovely earrings and Savannah made a mixed tape of Christmas songs (which I love! I was seriously lacking in Christmas songs this season) and some cute trinkets from Arizona. After a few games of Egyptian Rat Screw, Hi Jack, and Cheat, we packed up and headed out to the church for midnight mass.

    The mass was lovely, and although I couldn't understand much except for the occasional "Jesus" or "Bethlehem" or "Christmas", it was still very pretty with a nice choir up above. And at 1:30 in the morning, we took our taxis home and fell into a really-excited-night-before-Christmas sleep. AKA Not actually sleeping.

    Early this morning, I woke up and Skyped my family back home where together we all opened our Christmas presents. Keeping Christmas tradition more or less, with a few tweaks. My mom played "It's the Most Wonderful Time" as she carried me down the stairs, just like it always used to be and then "sat  me down" where I could see the entire living room. Then we began the rotation of everyone opening a gift at a time and it felt like I had never really left. It was just like every other Christmas I had ever known, and it was fantastic.
    Then, the last present for me came along, the only wrapped present in my stocking (Thank you Mom for sending me my stocking!) and I unwrapped it eagerly. Inside? A gorgeous, new, purple camera. Fact of the day: my favorite color is purple. My mom then explained how she had e-mailed all of SHAKE, telling them to convince me to not buy a new camera until after Christmas, so I could use my stipend on it. It's absolutely perfect and I am enjoying it very, very much.

    The rest of Christmas was pretty much watching Christmas movies, drinking peppermint hot chocolate, and padding around the house with my new fuzzy slippers. Lots of Merry Christmas greetings over Twitter and Facebook and two over Skype, but overall, Christmas was a success. From my little Christmas tree, to the Santa hanging on my wall, to my host parents greeting me with a really happy "Sretan Božić!" Even the small, entirely Bosnian conversation I had today was a complete success, so Bosnian Christmas was wonderful.

    Anyway, I actually have school tomorrow, so I had better be off.

    Until the next holiday, aka NEW YEARS,

P.S. Some parting thoughts:

Friday, December 21, 2012

Not the End of the World?

     Pretty much this is just to say... it's 11:11pm (MAKE A WISH) on Friday, December 21, 2012 and we are all not dead. No giant apocalypse, no rapture, we're all still here.

    Well that was disappointing. Gettin' us all worked up over nothin' ya crazy Mayans.

     Anyway, guess it's time for bed. I got Christmas stuff to prepare for now that we're all going to have our big Christmas celebration.

     Until perhaps the real end of the world,

P.S. So tempted to post this... I think I will...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas Spirit

    When I first decided to spend an entire year abroad, I had to realize that included Christmas. Christmas away from my friends and family and in a country where it's not as widely spread. It's not as commercialized, it's not so easy to find every store decked out with greenery, holly, Santa Clause, and blasting Christmas music from its radio.
    Thankfully, here in Bosnia, Christmas is a little more common than most significantly Muslim countries. Some stores have Christmas trees (however here they are called New Years trees) and Santa Clauses in their windows, one store even had Michael Bublé's Christmas CD playing. Let's just say I wandered in that store for an hour just listening to it.

     Now, my host family is Muslim. Therefore, every day I wake up to a house stripped of lights, decorations, Christmas music, and the lot. No "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" on replay downstairs, no garland stringing the railing (if we had a railing), and most definitely, no giant Christmas tree in the corner of our living room. The snow here has completely taken over Sarajevo and the view from my house is simply a blanket of white. If you can even see the city, because sometimes all the smoke from wood stoves fill the valley and all I see is grey and white.

    Therefore, this Christmas season, I have made it my mission to spread a little Christmas spirit. I started off with blasting Christmas carols from my laptop. Yes, Irfan thinks I'm strange, but it had to happen. I played my music, made my Christmas cards, and drank my hot chocolate. After phase one was complete, next step was the hardest thing to manage at first. The search for a Christmas tree.
     I didn't want a big tree. Just a little one to go on my desk that Medina could place my Christmas presents under that my mom wrapped and packed for me to bring. My mom suggested chopping one down from my backyard, my coordinators suggested buying a branch from a supermarket, other suggested a wreath instead. But I was determined on my little Christmas tree. It has been a tradition for me, for the past five years, to bring my little, pink, artificial tree with it's pink lights and gold ornaments, into my room. That's the way it's been and I wanted to keep that up. Even if it wasn't a little pink Christmas tree. So I embarked on my mission, determined to find that little tree.
     Yesterday, however, Medina took me to town to buy me a new pair of proper winter boots because Nizama didn't believe the boots that I had brought were sufficient for Bosnian winters. And perhaps she was totally right. On our way down, I asked Medina where I could buy my little tree. She remembers that I've now mentioned several times that Christmas is my favorite holiday and I wanted a tree. A few minutes after I ask her, we trek over to the other side of the street to a small store where I see the most beautiful sight. LITTLE CHRISTMAS TREES. I hope you can understand my glee as I purchased my little tree (intentional rhyme. I'm feeling like Dr. Seuss here) and ornaments and then had to carry it around until I headed back home. However, arriving to History class with a Christmas tree was pretty fun as SHAKE grew jealous of how awesome it was.

My beautiful Christmas tree!
    Also, when I returned home, my new winter boots were now purchased and sitting in my room. Today was the test run and they were fabulous. Thank you Esad and Nizama for my new boots! They are perfect!

    And now we go to today's news. I'll pass over school because there lies no Christmas spirit. Just a bunch of tests and essays, wrapping up the semester. However, when the final school bell rang, I headed over to the church I've been attending where they were holding their Christmas concert. The church has been fabulous and I've loved attending. The people are so nice and already I feel like I belong there. I love that sense of comfortability. I met up with Jovana, Selma, and Nadja, three girls from youth group who I have become friends with, as we waited for it to start. I then took a seat beside Jovana (who is also the pastor's daughter. I told her she was the Bosnian version of me.) as the first people headed up the stage to start.
    There were four acts altogether. A duet with a clarinet and a violin, a mandolin group (I think that's what that instrument was...), the American group, and the Bosnian group. They played traditional songs like Silent Night (Tiha Noć) and Auld Lang Syne (Svjetla u noći), but there were also traditional Bosnian songs (ones I'm not entirely sure what they were about...). By the end of the evening, it was just a lot of fun and a lot of Christmas. Something I definitely enjoy. The girls were so fun to hang out with and I am proud to say I'm making new friends.
     And I'm sorry for no pictures. I lost my camera, remember? However, Jovana took plenty, so when she puts them on Facebook, I will borrow a few :)

    When the Christmas concert was over and I returned home, I expected a quick "Hello, I'm alive, I have volunteering in the morning." type exchange with the host family before I headed off to bed (clearly that didn't happen because it's passed midnight and I'm still writing this never-ending post.), but instead I was ushered into the living room where Nizama then pulled out a little heap out of nowhere. First thing she pulls out was a tiny little Santa Clause on a swing. I started giggling and smiling at the present and was especially happy how Nizama noticed that I was going a little Christmas-happy. She then pulls out a little heart basket and tells me I can put letters from my friends (*cough* IF I HAD ANY *cough*) in there. When I think that's the last of the gifts, Nizama, with a huge smile crossing her face, opens a shopping bag and pulls out this gorgeous dark purple shawl, kind of to be used as a house coat or an extra layer. You can't really see the shawl in the picture, but you can see my scarf which Nizama bought for me in Travnik.
 Esad then pipes in that while they were down in Baščaršija, Nizama kept seeing stuff and would say, "Katie would like this. Let's get this for Katie." Can I just say this right here and now that I absolutely adore my host parents? They are so awesome. I just love them so much and feel so blessed to call them my host parents.

    Anyway, within the next two weeks, I will be attending our church's youth Christmas party with tree decorating and music and all sorts of fun, Christmas-y stuff that I am used to, as well as Christmas eve at Anna's house where we will be attending midnight mass. And then, Christmas morning, I Skype the parents for unwrapping gifts all together, just like it used to be. I just really love Christmas and I am showing people how a typical American (I'm not exactly "typical" though, am I?) spends their holiday.

    Until more Christmas adventures,

Monday, December 3, 2012

Winter Has Fallen

    Alright, so I guess it's time I announce the bad news.

    I officially lost my camera. It fell out of my bag somewhere between the tram, the French School for the Diplomatic Winter Bazaar, and going to school. That's a lot of ground to cover and not necessarily worth it. That camera was very old, so I suppose that's some sort of consolation. The downside is that I have to purchase my new camera and camera's are quite expensive here. Here goes the next month and half's stipend...

    In other news, on Saturday we volunteered for the Diplomatic Winter Bazaar (Dimplomatski Zimski Bazar) and that was great, but crowded, afternoon full of eating other nations foods (Switzerland, your gingerbread house looked INCREDIBLE) and viewing handmade trinkets and gifts. It was nice to see Christmas trees sprawled all around the building and it made me very, very excited. I'm even more excited that it snowed last night and Sarajevo is now a winter wonderland. It made me laugh though when I walked downstairs for breakfast and Nizama was staring outside intently.
     "Dobro jutro." I said, sitting down with my cereal.
     "Vidi, Katie. Snijeg." ("Look Katie. Snow.") She pointed outside, to the world covered in white.
     "Da! Znam!" ("Yes! I know!") I spoke, cheerily. I love snow. This day was awesome!
     "Ja ne volim snijeg." Nizama made a pouty face as she told me how she dislikes it. Seems like it's only Anna and I who appreciate snow... oh well.
    To top off another day of snow, Emma, Savannah, Anna, and I had a mini snowball fight in the street. It's sticky snow! You know what that means? Best. Snowballs. Ever.

     As for now, Christmas cards are sent and I'm going to be buying a mini Christmas tree or wreath soon and some Christmas lights to make my room a little more spirited. Irfan doesn't understand my love of Christmas, so I'm blasting some Christmas music right now to get him to understand. We'll see how that goes...

    Here are some pictures that I stole from my friend for what Sarajevo looks like right now. Winter in Bosnia!

    Also, today on the bus, an older lady sat beside me and had to squeeze some of her shopping bags between the two of us and she made sure that I was still comfortable and asked when my stop was. At first, unfortunately, I didn't understand her, but asked her to repeat. However, after still not understanding I had to regretfully bring out the horrible, "I'm sorry, I don't understand. I'm American" line (Izvinite, ne razumijem. Ja sam amerikanka if anyone was wondering). Instead of giving me the pitiful look and turning away, she simply spoke slower and clearer and used a few more actions to help me understand. So, lady on the bus, thank you for that. You didn't make me feel as incompetent as I think I am sometimes.

    I've also been regularly attending church (be proud, parents. Somehow I'm able to drag myself out of bed to go there on my own). Church has been fantastic for me because there's a little American corner with a whole other group of Americans who either moved there or this is their mission field. While most people would think that this would prevent me from learning Bosnian, I'm happy to say that you are wrong. The Americans there are some of the most helpful people and instead of coming up to me in English, they come up to me with some basic Bosnian and each week it's increased a little more. Plus, my friend and I had a small conversation entirely in Bosnian of why I love snow. Small successes each week!

    Anyway, I better go start my French homework... or my History paper... or my Bio write up... or something productive in general. Gotta love homework. *coughNOTcough*

    Until more Christmas things,