For a substantial new post coming soon! And it's a doozy!
Friday, January 18, 2013
This post is dedicated to my good friends Kirk and Lisa!
How can I sum up the past 9 months for my faithful readers? There have been friendships formed, and major life events missed (two weddings in the past 9 months alone). Pounds lost, gray hairs found. I could count the number of miles I have driven back and forth over the mountain to Sarajevo (usually alone, blasting music and singing along loudly and off-key)-more than 12,000. There were also trips throughout Bosnia (and Herzegovina) to the Dalmatian coast, the Istrian coast, DC, London, Turkmenistan (via Turkey), Italy, and of course my beloved Belgrade (though not often enough). I have also hosted visitors in Banja Luka! Friends came from near and far (Belgrade, Sarajevo, Saudi Arabia, Kansas) to visit me and see this place I call home.
Fast forward to the end of 2012…I spent my birthday and New Year’s Day and several days beyond that sick, alone, and throwing myself a pity party in between coughing fits and naps.
But, 2013 is already looking up! I got exciting news last week… my next assignment will take me to Bogota, Columbia! It was my first choice, and I am so excited about it. I am also looking forward to spending several months in DC learning Spanish and easing the transition from one of the smallest posts in the world to one of the largest.
So, one of my mail goals for the year is to enjoy the time I have left here. To enjoy my 5 minute walk to work. To enjoy living in the heart of Europe. To enjoy being able to jump into my car and go….
Another goal? To write more.
Friday, March 23, 2012
Well, friends, it has been a long time, and so much has happened since my last post! My household items did arrive, as did my car. I am settled into my cute little apartment, and have met some cool people in Banja Luka.
Probably you heard about the insane snow storms that hit the region. I went to Sarajevo for a few days and got stuck there for 10! It is hard to believe that was only one month ago- it's been in the 70s for the past week. It may only be mid-March, but the outdoor cafes are open, the people are out en masse and life is beautiful.
Work is good. My colleagues here in Banja Luka are friendly and helpful, and it is fun to work with them. My colleagues in Sarajevo are also friendly and helpful, and love it when I visit. Luckily, spending 10 days in Anna's apartment didn't kill our budding friendship, but made it stronger. We have a pattern now, when I come down I make us delicious meals, and she provides coffee and wine and her guest bedroom. Everybody wins.
I spent a few days in Budapest with some of my classmates. I love that city! We had a great time enjoying the baths, exotic cuisine, and each other's company.
I am long overdue for a trip to Belgrade, but every time I plan one something comes up. I hope to get back in the next few weeks, as all of a sudden my spring and summer weekends are filling up. A girls' weekend on the Croatian coast next month. Dear friends are coming for a weekend in May. A wedding in Italy in June... there are certainly worse problems to have!
I am skipping over a lot here, silliness in Sarajevo, frustration with small town life, not understanding what my job is. But that is a lot to tackle on a beautiful Friday.
I will try to post more regularly, and more interesting updates. In between going to the gym, cooking (the lack of international cuisine and the less than robust social life have led to me cooking more and more!), and exploring my environs I am trying to take more pictures. So more from me soon.
Monday, January 16, 2012
I am currently staying at a hotel, until my furniture arrives. Fingers crossed this will happen within the next 10 days. For now I am getting to know the city, hoping to meet up with some of the people that I have been put in contact with soon, and trying not to count down the days to my next trip to Sarajevo... At least I have Internet now, and tomorrow will be my first day on the job. Good times.
Sunday, January 8, 2012
When I joined the Foreign Service, I committed to worldwide availability. I pictured myself in a Mexican border town. I pictured myself in a huge visa mill (at an embassy or consulate which processes hundreds of thousands of visas per year). I pictured myself in various scenarios, reminding myself that anything was possible. It wasn't until I saw the list of jobs that would be assigned to my class that it occurred to me I might be right back in the Balkans, in or near Belgrade, my home of nearly 5 years.
On flag day, when I was handed the flag of the Central African Republic (long story) but told I was going to Banja Luka (pronounced ban-ya loooka) Bosnia and Herzegovina I was confused. And conflicted. I was excited about being near dear friends. I was so excited about knowing the language and culture. But, I had expected something different. New. Exotic. I was nervous about the post. I wasn't going to an embassy or consulate, but a "branch office". With 2 American and half a dozen local staff. I would have to find my own housing. It didn't seem that different from what I just left, except that Banja Luka is no Belgrade, and I was going to have more rules and oversight than I was used to. I was worried about living in such a small town (my brother said I make it sound like I am going to a village, which I am not but it feels SMALL). I didn't doubt that the job would be interesting, but would I make friends?
Fast forward through 6 months of training and extreme bonding with many of the fantastic individuals who were in the 161st foreign service generalist class. Right before Christmas I arrived in Sarajevo to spend a few weeks getting to know the embassy and folks here. I got to spend Christmas and my birthday in Belgrade, which was fun but also sad (first time away from family). I started getting to know some of my colleagues in Sarajevo, and there are some amazing people here. People who promise to visit me in Banja Luka, and who have already welcomed me into their homes any time I visit Sarajevo. People who, when asked if they want to make a road trip to check out my new home not only say yes, but hell yes.
We set out at noon on January 1, 2012. Anna warned us that she drives like a grandmother and if the drive normally takes three hours we should plan on four. It took us closer to five but we laughed the whole way. The road is not that bad, but is curvy and mountainuous and two lane. I am sure the first few times I drive it I will also take it nice and easy.
We were joined in BL by my dear friend Megan. We visited Trappist monks, ate pork, sampled regional wine and the local beer (both of which are awesome). Checked out my new apartment (like BL tiny and cute). After about two hours I started recognizing people on the street, and could navigate the center as if I had lived there my whole life. I am confident there is a lot left to discover though. Just today I was searching online for gyms in BL and found three with working websites. I think one of them however, is not really my speed (link really not safe for work-or working out!). Well that won't work the way I want it to, but for shits and giggles please feel free to click on the gray bars that say wellness and fitness ( but again not at work).
This is probably a good stopping point, but I will leave you with some very basic information about Bosnia if your eyes haven't already glazed over reading the world's longest post:
Welcome! I am going to try this again. But since I am no longer in Serbia and I do not want to make a political statement with a personal blog, I am making a fresh start. I have no idea what this will become, but at the very least you will find occasional stories about my adventures and random photographs. Excerpts from my novel? Maybe. Links to thinks that amuse me? Likely. Check back soon.