Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Things I shall Miss About Sarajevo

Just a few of the things I'll miss about Sarajevo:
1. The people, all the wonderful people in our lives (Jelena our nanny, the flower lady, the old vegetable couple, all the local staff at the Embassy, our friends made through the Garden House, Jasna my language teacher, the flower store ladies who always gave Eyshie a free flower, the sweet shop ladies in the store next to our apartment, our egg lady, the cashiers at Mercator who started to recognize me and were nice.

2. The kindness of strangers, all the time I was pregnant with my second, whenever I rode the tram, without fail, in a second, someone would get up for me to sit down. That never happened the entire time I was riding the DC metro.

3. The beauty of the land, just lovely, rolling green hills, vibrant colors everywhere.

4. The ease of life here - small city that fit my tiny family perfectly, I loved that you could be walking up the street and meet a dozen people you know on your way home.

5. The history, a deep and varied history courses through the veins of this place.

6. The fact that most Bosnians love Americans - rare in this day and age to go to a country where they like us, they really like us.

7. The family friendly attitude of everyone here. We could take baby anywhere and no one ever asked us to leave, even when he was in full temper tantrum mood. Actually what was even better, they would take the baby and play with him, calm him down. So amazing!

8. The daughter's pre-school, she really thrived there and the teachers were so loving, we will miss that!

9. Cost of services, from hair to taxis to nails, all very cheap and of the highest quality!

10. The kindess and warmth of everyone we meet here, be it a five minute interaction or for the entire two years, everyone was also welcoming.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Books as a Luxury

There is this adorable little bookstore down the street from where we live here in Sarajevo. The family and I visit it if we are walking into town on a Saturday or Sunday. There use to be two employees that we would always see and as I walk home I would see them nearly daily and wave a hello as I passed the store.
Last Saturday we went into the bookstore (has a surprisingly large collection of books in English) and I asked the lady about the other person, the guy who was there a lot but I hadn't seen in months. She told me she had to let him go (thankfully he found another job) because the store doesn't make that much money. As she said it, books are a luxury. That made me so sad, still does.
Society here is quite educated but owning a book is expensive, unemployment is rampant, when one has to make a decision on what to spend money on the necessities win. I know they have libraries here but I'm not sure of how easy or not it is to get books.
I firmly believe the access to books, to reading, literature is important, nay vital to a society's growth and development.
After hearing her say that I bought a couple of children's books to give to the family I volunteer with, so hopefully they will have more books around the house, to encourage reading and learning.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Marijin Dvor


This is a picture of the Marijin Dvor - this particular main street was Sniper Alley during the Bosnian war. This picture was taken after the war, as they started to clean up. I am amazed at this picture because of how much has changed. I think this pic was taken in the early 2000s. I wanted to find a picture of this exact spot from today but have had no luck.  It looks very different, now there is a mall where the two trucks are sitting and there is a mall across the street - caddy corner from those trucks. The tall white stripped building is still there, its the Parliment building, but the city is so much more built up now.   Now you would see billboards and tons of cars on this street, it is the main thoroughfare of Sarajevo.  Goodness how times have changed!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Bosnian Language

I was given a year of Bosnian language in the United States and then continued to take classes while here in Sarajevo - so roughly a total of 3 years formal training. You would think I would be fluent, wrong! In fact since moving to Bosnia my language skills have gone backwards. I think the problem is that in this metropolis, you don't really need to know Bosnian all that well. Nearly everyone speaks some English and of course I work at the Embassy, where English is spoken all day, everywhere. It got me to thinking of my Uncle in Florida. He has lived in America for nearly 40 years and yet his English is abysmal!

I think the idea of immersion as language training is only useful if you are forced to use the language you are trying to learn. In my Uncle's case, he worked from home and has mostly friends who speak the same language (Punjabi) as he does, so his English interaction is limited at best. That is the same in my situation while living here in Bosnia. While I want to learn the language and use it, I'm not being forced too and so get lazy and don't practice and my skills go downhill. When I was in the States in language training we had to use it for 5 hours (and let me tell you that is a particular form of hell, taking language training for 5 hours a day, 5 days a week, your brain is fried by hour 2). But over here, I barely speak maybe a 1/2 hour in total all day, of Bosnian. Not enough to keep it up.

This leads me to wonder - you could plausibly move to another country where there are enough people who speak your language that you would never really have to be fluent in the native language of that country, no? I saw this when I studied in Denmark. People who had lived there for 5+ years still speaking broken to little Danish.

I know if I continued to live in Bosnia and Herzegovina I would want to speak better, but in order to do that I would have to force myself to study more and use the language, not rely on people knowing English. I think it would be a shame to live in another country for years on end and not become somewhat fluent (I would do it just for the cool factor, impress family when they come to visit and speak in the native language :) ).

Monday, May 11, 2015

Sarajevo Times

I've decided to take on a new writing gig - I hope temporarily; as copy editor to the Sarajevo Times. The Sarajevo Times is the English only newspaper here in Sarajevo. It actually is only published online, no hard copies. The stories range from economic issues to top 10 restaurant lists.

I have been reading the Sarajevo Times since my arrival in May 2013. It lets me learn about what is going on the city I call home (as my Bosnian is pretty crappy and trying to read in the local language is sure to be a minefield of mistaken interpretations). I like most of the articles but I have noticed they tend to have very obvious English grammar mistakes; things that can easily be fixed by a native English speaker.

After 2 years, I decided to email the newspaper and ask if I could help out, doing it pro bono. They accepted! My co-workers say I am crazy to be taking on this job but the articles are small and they only send me one a day. It is relatively easy to edit, the errors are quite apparent upon first read. Actually editing these articles for proper English would be great practice for anyone getting ready for the SAT's or AP English exam.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Mother's Day: History Was Made by Great People's "Mama" | Pampers







Thank you Pampers for just the cutest video for mother's day!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bosnian Labor Day

Tomorrow is Bosnian Labor day - May 1, most of my fellow Americans will be out of town, road tripping through the country to get to the coast. Not us. I have never been a fan of road trips even in the USA but in Bosnia its 100 times worse. There are no major highways to speak of in the country (someone told me this was done purposely by Tito so it would be harder for the Soviets to invade) thus a driving road trip in this mountainous country requires mostly driving on two lane windy paths, up and down mountainsides with no safety railings and often in between two big trucks. I hate it. Its long and tiring and the kids and I soon get bored. If you get stuck behind someone slow, you often have to go many miles before you get a stretch of road where you can pass on the left (into incoming traffic) I'm not even brave enough to drive - make my husband do it.

I would love to get to the final destination of some beautiful beach town, but I don't relish the journey. I'm always amazed at how many of my fellow Americans do do the road trip, some nearly every weekend. It is the only way to explore this country and the countryside of Bosnia and Herzegovina is beautiful, like one big national park. Maybe in the future when the kids are older or hopefully when Bosnia develops and builds major highways. Tell than, I'm Sarajevo bound.