Davis' blog about study abroad

Home again!

Tamara brought it to my attention yesterday that I haven’t even told my subscribers that I am home.  I hope to write more about my journey and the last few weeks in Bosnia soon.  Now all I have is a post that I put in the class blog:

“When I left Sarajevo I could sense that I was both anxious to come home but at the same time not completely happy to be leaving.  There are so many things in Bosnia that were left for me to do, and by coming home I feel I am cutting my adventure off short.  I cant quite put a finger on what these things are that I would have done had I had more time.  They are, I think, the unknown adventures that I know would have happened had I had more time, and they would help to complete my experience there.

Being home has been a giant relief and a huge stress all at the same time.  This past week I was bouncing around from house to house and city to city saying hello to all of my family and friends, giving gifts, and exchanging stories.  I enjoyed that a lot but because of all of this activity I was unable to reflect on my summer experience fully.  Now that most of my friends are off to school now or gone abroad I have some time finally to slow things down and just begin to think about where I was, where I am now, where I will be, and how these all affect one another.

Since I have been home I’ve noticed that even though everything feels normal they all stand out as being slightly different.  Subtle things like the taste of food, the flavor of the water, the dryness of the air, size of the streets, the cars and the traffic, the sound of the music on the radio, the overwhelmingness of the supermarket, and easily being able to communicate with those around me all bring back memories of Bosnia.  As I’m watching the news Libya suddenly seems less exotic and violent to me as the camera angle pans out to reveal a friendly minaret on the skyline.  Walking in the foothills doesn’t seem so different now from hiking to the old fort in Sarajevo.  RMNP suddenly looks a lot like Herzegovina.  Seeing live music at Red Rocks brings back memories of TBF and Two Cellos.  Cinema takes me back to the Film Festival.

As these memories come back I want to share them with the people around me, and all of my friends and family have been very patient with me and listen with interest whenever I bring them up.  Right now though all I can do is prepare for the next adventure, which is just around the corner, and look forward to the day when I can return to Sarajevo and complete that one.”



Change of Internship, Soccer, Film Festival, and Music

Since the last organization I was with has not been able to supply me with much work over the past few weeks I have decided to take on responsibilities at another organization.  I am now working at Wings of Hope which is an NGO that does therapy for people, has education projects for young adults, and has an employability program for people who never got a complete education because of the war and are now having trouble finding jobs.  My new supervisor is great but she complains that I don’t have enough facial expressions for her and is concerned because I eat burek with a spoon.

Last weekend some of the group went to Slovenia for the weekend but I stayed in Sarajevo and enjoyed a quieter weekend here.  I went to a conference on Friday and Saturday that some of my fellow students helped put together which was interesting.  Now everyone is back though and we are preparing to see a soccer game tonight.  We’re going to see FK Sarajevo play a Swedish team.  Hopefully Sarajevo wins and I will make sure to wear the proper colors.

Starting this weekend is the Sarajevo Film Festival.  This is one of the biggest film festivals in the region and many famous actors and film directors from all over the world come to Sarajevo during the week and a half that it is showing.  I bought six movies tickets already and they were all really cheap even though this is such a big event!

I went to see a popular band here from Split, Croatia called “The Beat Fleat” on Tuesday night.  Check out some of their music.

The Bosnia Moment

From the Project BiH blog:

“What is a Bosnia moment?

It is an incredible view of the countries natural beauty.  It is when you realize that your beloved šladoled is actually sladoled.  It is when you are renting a car, given the keys, and not told where or when to return it.  It is when you are ordering your food from the restaurant’s menu and them not having the first two things that you order or getting back change in KM, Euro, Kuna, or Finnish money.  It is being told to come back to work in a week and a half.  It is meeting the principal for a school for blind children, who works tirelessly against all the odds with hardly enough funding, to get his pupils everything that he can, casually swearing in front of potential contributers, and mentioning in passing that we stood on the spot where a tank stood and was destroying his least favorite building.  It is getting lunch for a couple of cents at a pekara.  A glimpse of red on the pavement as you hurry on to get to work on time.  The internet working for only 10 minutes at a time.  The water running freely out of the many drinking fountains around the city.  Being caught off guard when the answer to the inquiry “govorite li engleski” is ne.  Walking out of the store with a two-liter of Sarajevsko in each hand.  It is pissing off your hostess by not eating enough of her food.

The Bosnian moment is all of this and more.  The list is endless and you encounter them every single day in Bosnia.  Sometimes they amuse you and sometimes they make you homesick but they are things that we have become accustomed to here at Project Bosnia.”

Good morning Denver!


More Adventures in Narnia

As part of Project Bosnia our class goes on field trips once a week on Fridays.  Our field trip last Friday was a long one to a town in Herzegovina called Mostar.  It was a two hour drive from Sarajevo but, everything being on Bosnia time, we got there an hour late.  On the bus ride I got to practice my Russian language skills with Jadranka, our professor’s tutor and guide in Bosnia.  When we arrived we were given a very rushed tour of the old down town area and then had some leisurely time to enjoy the city.  Like Sarajevo Mostar was devastated during the war but unlike Sarajevo has not recovered as quickly.  The city is divided in two by a river with the two residing ethnic groups occupying opposite sides.  A very famous bridge over the river was very symbolically destroyed during the conflict but was rebuilt in 2004.  During our free time in the city I took a tour of a mosque and got to go up into a minaret!  Mostar is a very beautiful city, but then again so is all of Bosnia.  The river is a very clean and pristine color and the bridge frames it beautifully in a Turkish style arch.

After we were done in Mostar we went to Međugorje and then to Počitelj.  Međugorje is the second largest pilgrimage site in the world.  In 1981 a couple of teenagers were hiking there and saw an image of the madonna, making the area a huge destination for pilgrims.  Since then the area, at one time remote, has been highly developed and now has a large facility with a statue of Jesus, a cathedral, and many shops for the pilgrims and tourists.  The statue of Jesus is rather abstract (in my opinion) compared to most Catholic art.  He is standing with his arms out as if on the cross but the cross is laying on the ground behind him.  People gather around the foot of the statue and collect water droplets that condense on its knees for good luck.  Međugorje was kind of a bust for the group.  Most people were disappointed by it, and I personally thought it was cool but also underwhelming.

After Međugorje we went to an artist colony called Počitelj.  This place was pretty cool and even though it was empty at the time we were there we were kept entertained by exploring an old castle in the town.  The view from the town was impressive and I can easily understand why artist would want to go there.

Kyra, Krista, Danielle and I had previously decided to spend the night in Mostar that night so the bus driver dropped us off and, since he personally knew the owners, negotiated for us an apartment to stay in for the price of a hostel.  We spent the rest of the evening trying to figure out how we would get to the Kravica waterfalls, which included a very comical interaction with the lady at the Mostar bus station who didn’t speak any English.  Giving up at the bus station we went to the downtown touristy areas thinking we could ask a local what to do but by then it was very late and all of the shops were closed.  We decided to figure that out in the morning and had dinner instead.  We had a very unpleasant dinner experience at a restaurant that didn’t have half the things on the menu and were served by a super rude waiter who, at the end of the meal, tried to give us our change back in kuna (Croatian currency).  We then had a very anti-Bosnia moment (my first one of the trip) but that was made up for by a much nicer man at bakery (we went to get more to eat since our food was so bad).

That night we went to Club Cave, which as its name suggests is a club… in a cave.  Club Cave is a total riot.  It is literally a cave that a bar has been set up in with a dance floor, lights, and a super heavy speaker system.  No one really showed up until just before midnight when they all seemed to come in at once.  The music was a hilarious mix of European and American dance music and the cave was packed full of drunk euro-trash.  We had missed the memo that the theme for that night was a whiteout and I stood out a lot in my red tshirt I had chosen to wear.  We didn’t get out of there until one in the morning and went straight to bed after a long day.

The next day –

When we woke up the room was a mess.  Everything was strewn across the room, there was a tiger in our bathroom, a naked man in the trunk of the car, and we were missing Krista.

Just kidding

Everything was normal when we woke up.  We walked into town and tried to figure out from a tourist agency how we were going to get to Kravica.  We soon learnt that there were no buses there, that a taxi or private driver was beyond our budget, and it was too far to hike to.  So we rented a car for the day, and since I was the only one there who could drive stick I rented it and got to drive it.

I would like to take this opportunity to announce to the world that I am very grateful to my father for insisting that I learn how to drive a stick shift, otherwise I would never have gotten to see these amazing waterfalls.  After we returned from the falls we went to a small medieval town called Blagaj which is built up against a cliff.  As if by magic a very large river comes straight out of the base of the cliff and flows out towards the valley on its way to the Adriatic.

We took the six o’clock bus out of Mostar and finally made it home, exhausted, at 9:30.

New Project Bosnia Blog

Our professor has begun a blog for the entire class to which I will be contributing.  You can read it at <;.  It includes posts from all of the students as well as my professor.  Here is what I wrote in it today:

“Since I am far too nice of a person so I will keep this post simple so as not to risk upstaging Kristi’s beautiful blogging skills ;)

I am going to Moscow in the Fall for an academic year abroad so Sarajevo was really only one relatively small part of one big whole as I finished off my Sophomore year at DU.  But now that I am here and am surrounded by the sights, the sounds, and the smells (including the smell of pirates, which I don’t fully understand) of the city I wonder how there can be anything else quite like this anywhere in the world.   Sarajevo is vibrant with life and energy and I find that I am hooked on it.

The people here are so incredibly friendly and patient with my strange American habits (such as getting to work on time, eating while working, not drinking coffee seven times a day, and not speaking at least four other languages).  Even the lady at the supermarket tried so hard to have a conversation with me, despite her Engeski being only so-so.  Just this morning one of our hosts at the hostel we are staying at caught me eating a little bit bread by myself after breakfast and she dragged me down to the dining area and insisted that she make me coffee.  I don’t drink coffee so despite my protests she pored me a glass of orange juice (delicious, but I had already had one) and she stood there and watched me drink it before she left me alone.  I had to run to get to work on time after that.

Many of my friends know that I am definitely one for scenery and the outdoors.  Sarajevo has been fantastic for that  since the city is so beautiful!  The mountains remind me of my home in Colorado, but the lush countryside is like nothing I have ever seen in the Rockies.  I have been given the warning many times that the hills are unsafe do to mining, but they are still incredible to look at.

This city has something for everyone, whether you like history, culture, people, anthropology, nature, religion, film, food, languages, or Ann’s great sense of humor.  What was initially only a small part of a big whole is turning into the experience of a life time for me.  We still have six and a half weeks though, and I am most definitely high in the honeymoon stage of study abroad right now, so things may change, but I most definitely will no longer think of Sarajevo as I used to.”

You are all invited to read this other blog as well and get some different opinions and further info from my classmates!


First Days of Work!

I started working yesterday at my internship.  So far I haven’t done very much and it seems that the Bosnians are having trouble figuring out what to do with me.  A word for “Intern” doesn’t exist in their language and the concept does really translate well either.  So far all I have done is edit some of their English documents and haven’t really worked long hours.  Today I got to work at 10 and ran a letter through google translate and then edited it so that it all of the grammar was accurate.  I then went out to get lunch and when I got back and asked for something to do my supervisor said “go get some rest.”  Seeing as how it was 1 o’clock, I hadn’t done much work, and I’m pretty much completely recovered from jet lag I was a bit disappointed.  It seems like everyone has been a little frustrated with their work as well and they all are having similar problems.

The place where I work is attempting to document all of the former concentration camp detainees, their experiences, their details, and how they are doing now after surviving the experience 15 years latter.  My boss and the founder, Murat, was a detainee himself during the war and so was his father in WWII.  Yesterday I edited a general grant proposal for the project and got to learn all about the NGO that way.  It is only about a five minute walk away on the top floor of a rather old run down building.  Pictures coming soon.

One week in Bosnia

It’s been extremely busy.  The first day here we went on a tour of the old city and I got to see the place where Francis Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated.  Considering how big a historical event this was and how well known Sarajevo is for this the place is surprisingly unimpressive.  There is just a small museum at the corner of the intersection where it occurred and the remnants of an old Austrian monument.  Most of the monument has been moved somewhere else for safe keeping.

Thursday I went for a hike up to an old Turkish fort that overlooks the city.  The hike took about two hours and I got some great footage of the city.  That afternoon I had my first meeting at Cheers (the pub across the street and out adopted “office”) with my contact for the organization that I intern for (more on this in a bit).  That night we hit up the night life at a bar in the old city and then came back for some fun at Cheers.  People here stay up late and go out almost every night of the week and enjoy a cold “Sarajevsko pivo,” the local beer.  We’ve been going out a lot too and are already very loyal to Sarajevsko.  Being able to buy alcohol is definitely something I could get used to.

Friday we went on the tunnel tour.  The tunnel was one of the ways that Sarajevo survived the siege.  The tour included a drive around the downtown area and was a effective recap of the war for us.  It included a video of actual footage during the war and we got to go down into the tunnel and walk a ways in it.  Afterwards we went to a Mexican restaurant that had some not so Mexican Mexican food.  The rest of the day was casual and I got to walk around the city a bit more.  It is hard to get bored here because when ever I do all I have to do is go for a walk in the city.  By now I’ve gotten to know our neighbor hood pretty well.

I went for an awesome hike on Saturday with three of the girls in my group to the largest continuous water fall in Bosnia.  We had to take the bus for about 15 min out of the city and then we had a rather strenuous 2 hour and 15 min walk up and around a mountain but it was really worth it.  The waterfall went over a several thousand foot cliff.  We got up really close to it and took some sweet pictures, some of which are on the BiH page.

Sunday I went looking for a adventure at an “antikapitalizam” rally but couldn’t find it so I gave up and watched movies back at the hostel.  That night we watched “Brides Maids” in a theater in English but with Bosnian subtitles.

Made it!

I’m finally here!  After a mini road trip, three flights, and a total of about 25 hours in transition, I have finally arrived safely in Sarajevo.  Sleep was caught mostly on the car and the various air plane flights I was on.  I was so tiered though when we took off for the last time from Munich to Sarajevo that I passed out during the flight and missed lunch and had to be shaken awake so I could put my chair up in preparation for landing.  As of 9pm local time only about seven of our group have arrived.  Two of them had difficulty with their flights and one is scheduled to arrive latter tonight.  I got here at about 2pm and was picked up along with the three other students on that flight from the airport by our professor.

Even though I have only been here for 7 hours it feels like much longer.  In that time I have landed, unpacked, gone exploring, had a drink with my classmates, gone out for dinner, explored again and had local ice-cream, and most importantly showered.  The landing was incredible and I had a window seat so I could enjoy the view all the way into the city.  The drive through the city was amazing (and exhilarating, a local Bosnian was driving the van we were picked up in quite aggressively).  I also got to see a Muslim call to mass this afternoon which was an incredible thing to experience.

The hostel we are at is right in the heart of downtown Sarajevo and the city is overflowing with life and energy!  Right now I can hear the noises from the street below through my window.  The sound is of music and crowds of people bustling to meet someone or enjoy an espresso, locally brewed pivo (beer), or dinner with friends.  The energy and good will that everyone shares is hard to resist and I am excited to get up early tomorrow to have an appropriate tour of the city.  Pictures will be coming soon.


Less than two weeks

With less than two weeks to go I have much to do.  I need to finish packing and figure out what all I still need to buy for Bosnia and see as many of my friends as possible to say good-bye.  Fortunately I realized yesterday that I leave for Branson on the 16th and not the 14th like I had previously thought so I have a little more time to do all these things.

In the midst of all the excitement with finals I was unable to update this blog with two important things; that I bought my airline tickets to Russian about a week ago and that that I have finally accepted an internship in Sarajevo.  The internship is with the Association of Concentration Camp Detainees.  It’s not completely clear to me what all I will be doing but I know it will involve some editing and grant writing for the organization.  I’m lucky to have this position since I accidentally completely blew off my interview with the coordinator two weeks ago (the whole finals thing will do that to you).

The BiH section of this blog will be updated shortly with new information so check that out if you get a chance.  Otherwise the next post I make may very well be from Sarajevo!



Pre-Departure Orientation

I had the pre-departure orientation for Russia yesterday which was quite interesting.  We talked about a lot of things but there were a few interesting ones that I’d enjoy sharing.  The first is that apparently Russians keep mirrors all over the place inside the entrances to homes and stores which are used so that in the Winter when it is minus 30 degrees C you can check your face to make sure you haven’t had contact frostbite.  Another fun fact was that night clubs in Russia lock you in the club until like six in the morning.  It was also quite fun learning about fashion in Russian.  They dress in “high fashion” every single day and “true Russian men” wear business suits all the time.  The best though was learning the proper way to give a bribe to a Russian officer!

Thanks for reading!