Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Bosnian Merry Christmas!

Up to this year, all of my holiday seasons have looked like what most of yours will probably look like this year: being serenaded by Christmas music ALL the time, expressing disgust at how Walmart puts Christmas trees out earlier every year, playing Sleigh Ride by heart for multiple Christmas concerts (for all you musicians), promising yourself you'll never wait till the last second to buy gifts again, and enjoying more than enough egg nog, pumpkin bread, fudge, pumpkin spice lattes, and gingerbread cookies to last me for the rest of the year. Yumm.

It probably goes without saying that this Christmas is VASTLY different than any I’ve had before! Not only is this Christmas being spent away from family, it is being spent in a city that’s 95% Muslim, which means a city that doesn’t celebrate Christmas.

(disclaimer: There is a small population of those of the orthodox faith here, but they don’t celebrate Christmas until January. More information on their customs, beliefs, etc. can be found in various references.)

Here are some tangible differences: just like all government offices, the post office will be open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (I’m grateful since I’m anticipating a few packages!! Woo hoo!). The only way to make anything pumpkin related is to smash and bake the pumpkin yourself. (There's also no semi-sweet chocolate chips!) There’s just ONE public place that’s been airing Christmas music: the most expensive café in town and even THEY don’t do it all the time. You CAN actually find a few places with Christmas decorations, but they are the exception, not the rule. (5 years ago, you wouldn’t have found ANYTHING!) When you see them, you feel compelled to shamelessly take awkward-look-at-me-I’m-a-foreigner pictures in the middle of supermarkets. Like… this one:

I really wish I could have also taken a picture of the look the woman gave me after I took that picture, but I was too slow with the draw. (A lot of Bosnians have this thing about hating to have their picture taken! I guess I wouldn't be happy about it either is some foreigner starting taking random pictures of me.)

You can also play the game where you pretend that all the New Years decorations are for Christmas. Like… this one!

Did you know that Happy New Year actually means Merry Christmas in English? At least, I'm pretty sure it does.

And of course, the weather is vastly different. While I had gotten used to checking for school closings at the first sign of one measly snowflake, it snowed 8 days straight here with 8 inches falling on just the first night! You can get a taste of that from my picture below. This was in Budapest last weekend.

I'd like to point out the weather was -16 (F) by the time we got back to the hostel. We were troopers! J

I wasn’t sure how this Christmas season was going to be for me. I’ve heard horror stories from others living overseas at how hard it is during the holidays. I knew I was going to miss my family and friends- but how bad was it going to be?

To answer your question, yes, of course, I miss my family and friends, and I anticipate missing them even more over the next few days. I miss being surrounded by the Christmas atmosphere. (Part of the reason we chose to go specifically to Budapest was because they celebrate Christmas) I also specifically have missed being a part of a Christmas concert- whether that be conducting or performing.

But, even with all of that, I’m thankful to be spending my Christmas here in Sarajevo! I have some major hesitations in writing that statement because I don’t want to minimize how much I miss my family. But really, I've already learned so much from celebrating here and am grateful to be here (and grateful for Skype!)! Here the biggest changes/observations from me:

1. Making a conscious choice to celebrate Christmas, instead of doing it just because you are supposed to and are surrounded by it, carries incredible significance.

2. All of a sudden, I’m not celebrating Jesus’ birth because its Christmas time. I’m celebrating Christmas because now is specifically a time to celebrate Jesus’ birth. (Even though, really, we could do this all year!)

3. Seeing the lack of understanding about Christmas has been yet another encouragement to live a life of intentionality.

4. Christmas carols I've heard a million times have taken new meaning as I intentionally focus and reflect on the words. Who knew things I've sang since elementary school had so much depth???

O Holy Night and O Come All Ye Faithful have become my new favorite Christmas carols: the former because it beautifully tells the impact of Jesus' birth and the latter because it tells us what we should be actively doing during this season.

I'll post a FEW verses from each that have been particularly meaningful to me. I'd encourage you to read the words without trying to sing along- at least the first time!

O Holy Night

Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn...

The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger.

Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise HIs holy name.

(check out this fantastic blog for more background on this and other carols:

O Come All Ye Faithful

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Sretan Božić!!! (Merry Christmas!)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Visa Application

This picture is my attempt to give an excuse for my blogging absence over the past few weeks. Now that all the paperwork for my visa is ready (woo hoo!), I hope to post more thoughts to blogging world shortly! Till then, I'm leaving you with a fantastic quote I stumbled upon:  

We do NOT need the grace of God to withstand crises- human nature
and pride are sufficient for us to face the stress and strain magnificently.
But it DOES require the supernatural grace of God to
live twenty-four hours of every day as a saint, 
going through drudgery, and living an ordinary, unnoticed,
and ignored existence as a disciple of Jesus.

It is ingrained in us that we have to do exceptional things for God-
but we do not.
We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things of life,
and holy on the ordinary streets,
among ordinary people- and this is not learned in five minutes."

-Oswald Chambers "My Utmost for His Highest" -Oct 21 entry
By the way, if you don't have this book, GET IT!!! Right now, for under $5!!! Go, Go, Go! 

Merry Christmas!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Giving Thanks in Sarajevo

I definitely couldn't let Thanksgiving pass without a blog post. My first thanksgiving overseas definitely included a fair share of "cultural" moments! In an attempt to help you visualize what it was all like, I've put it all in a timeline with LOTS of pictures. Enjoy. :)

Tuesday, November 25th: Your job? Buy groceries so you can make green bean casserole and deviled eggs. Easy, right? Well.. except you find out that there aren't any canned green beans..soo.... now we're up for Broccoli and Cheddar casserole! Wait.. but there's no cheddar. Okay...  We'll do a random broccoli and carrot with white cheese casserole. Start feeling a bit cranky after running all all around town looking for ingredients, feel convicted about it after watching THIS!!!!!! at ESL that night. 

Later Tuesday, November 24th: After going out for coffee with a people from the ESL class, you come home to find your water has been turned off. Start obsessing on whether or not there are any bills you didn't pay, and wonder how it will be turned on when all the businesses are closed tomorrow??? Thank the Lord for both bottled water and minty gum, and think through how to handle tomorrow's adventures in trying to get it turned back on. 

Wednesday, November 25th-Bosnia and Hercegovina's Independence Day.  Wake up early, have your needed coffee intake, regret not taking a shower Monday night (eww...), COAT on the deodorant, and study new Bosnian phrases to communicate with your building manager about the water. Talk with the building manager and find out you're an idiot because all of Grbavica (your neighborhood) is without water. But still take a moment to have a mental party that you were able to communicate with the landlady.  Buy a few huge bottles of bottled water to last you. Get the realization that people lived in this city, specifically in YOUR apartment, for 3 years during the war without running water OR electricity (except for brief glimpses of it). Running water just turned into something else for you to give thanks for. The water comes on later that afternoon. 

Thursday Morning, November 26th: Big decision time. Do you go to the gym for a needed pre-thanksgiving workout? Or is it ANOTHER trip to the post office to see if the package your dad sent has finally arrived? You go to the post office. You find that it indeed HAS ARRIVED and freak out! In it contains your new camera, instant food mixes, chai tea, jeans, and measuring cups! Among other things, you tell the post office worker "I'm excited! My father sent this to me!" a few times and once again have a mental party for remembering the words for it. Realize 10 minutes later that you were actually saying "I'm looking! My father sent this! I'm looking!" instead. Oops. No wonder they looked so confused. Egh. Who cares? The care package arrived! Next challenge? Figure out the best way to transport the very hot and very much need-to-be-flat casserole among packed bus rides and long walks across town. 

Thursday Afternoon, November 26th:  Spend Thanksgiving lunch/afternoon at the Eberle's homey apartment. Great food and great fellowship! Enjoy the fact that EVERYTHING is from scratch- including the pumpkin pie and pumpkin cheesecake! Yum! 

You walk home feeling grateful for such great people and a great Thanksgiving meal, but you also start to miss your family more. 1 Thess 5:17-18 comes to your mind: "Pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks..."  You start naming off things you are thankful for and decide to write down a list when you get home. This is what you end up with...

You head to a friend's apartment to play a few games before heading back to skype with the fam later that night.

Friday, November 27th:  Wake up early to the sound of a city full of gun shots, fireworks, and a few shrieking animals. Forget black Friday,  you'll call it Red Friday! Its Kurban Bayram, the Muslim holiday where you sacrifice an animal (here its usually a lamb). Praise the Lord Jesus for being the sacrificial lamb that takes away the sins of the world. Jump out of bed to take a few pictures...

The pijacas, usually packed with fruit vendors, are almost completely bare except for the many flower vendors...

Look! A marching band! Well.. sorta....

You get closer to get a better picture (and give the trumpet player a few coins). The baritone player on the far left reminds you of a baritone player you had in one of your bands...

Start feeling sick to your stomach after walking around a few more minutes and head back to your apartment to rest and get recharged.  Get an overwhelming urge to pray over the city and head to the best lookout you know.

Meet a few beautiful, friendly, and English speaking young Turkish women... (who don't speak Bosnian, by the way...)

Ask them to take a picture of you too! Play with the effects later...

Decide to have lunch together, but only after they take time to do their prayers at the mosque...

Enjoy some burek, zeljanica, or krompirusa at a local buregdzinica.

Exchange contact info and plan on getting together again soon. Take more pictures around town...

Finish the day skyping with an old friend!

(Kristen, please don't hate me for posting this! haha!)

You finish the week off feeling spiritually and physically drained, but at the same time overwhelmingly grateful to have the opportunity to be doing what you are doing and for having the support that you have.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!!!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

"Falling" Into Change

Whew. What a couple of weeks! More language study, more culture immersion, more challenges, and more and more rewards! 

Before getting too far, I'm going to give further proof that I have the cutest nephews and niece in the entire world. Don't kid yourself in trying to argue because you can't win. 

(Don't you just want to hug them? I for one think they should wear their Halloween costumes all the time...)

Alright, now that I've gotten that out of my system, on to this week's post! 

I've had a few people ask me how I've changed since being here, and I thought it would be a great question to address for this blog.  I don't know if I've really changed that much (its only been 7 weeks!), but I know a few of my normal activities have. So... without further ado, to this week's post:

Changes in the (chilly) air....

 My homemade tortilla tribute to balloon boy...

Yumm for cheap market fresh vegetables!!!

Cooking Can Be.. Fun??? Gasp!!! Lets be honest. I always counted cooking as a waste of time. I was fine with eating the same thing every day as long as it was healthy, fast, and cheap. If it required more than 3 steps, I'd just go to a restaurant.  Due to a combination of reasons (no instant mixes, cheap fast food = unhealthy food, wanting to learn how to practice hospitality..), I'm cooking a LOT more and actually enjoying it? Who saw that coming?

Sleep is Important... Who Knew?  For the first time since high school, I'm averaging 7-8 hours of sleep a night. It didn't take me long to figure out that language learning was futile on less than that! I must say, it amazes me at how much different I feel (and even look) now as opposed to when I was averaging less than that. 

TV Choice  Watching TV is a GREAT way to learn the language! It is so useful, in fact, that it is covered in my monthly business expense reports. One thing that you might find amusing is WHAT I'm spending my time watching.... I've found the most productive things for me to watch right now are soap operas (they are VERY expressive and tend to talk slower) and kid's shows (smaller words). Someone grab the bon bons. 

Appreciating the Little Things... My forced slower pace of life has helped me to better appreciate the small things, and I'm growing more and more convinced this is the biblical way to live your life. I walk slower, take in the sights and smells (when I'm not surrounded by cigarette smoke), have never been more appreciative of sunny days, and love those days in which I have no set plans! 

Bigger Belief in the Power of Prayer...To be completely honest (maybe too honest?!?), as someone who believes strongly in the sovereignty of God and His concern and involvement over big and small things, I've never fully understood prayer.  Why pray if God already has a pre-ordained plan anyway? Is it mostly to put your perspective in the correct place?  I always knew it made a difference, and that it somehow made an impact, but I rarely knew how or rarely could point to specific ways in which I was CONVINCED it made a difference. Here, that is VERY different. I feel an almost constant dependance on prayer, have FELT when people are praying for me, and have seen incredible answers to prayer that would otherwise be unexplainable. This had made me pray more often, more specifically, more personally/specific, and with bigger requests.

Fluctuating Dress Code....  I guess I'll be honest about this one too. In the states, I didn't really care what was "in." (that won't shock anyone!) I wore what was inexpensive, comfortable, and what I liked! If it didn't fit those three requirements, I didn't wear it. Well... here.. because I want to stick out less as a foreigner, I've been more sensitive to what is most popular. In addition to constantly wearing  a dressier black coat, I also occasionally sport the skinny jeans + black boots on the outside thing. ( I know, I know...) One thing I won't adhere to? The whole "wear heels all the time thing." I really don't know how they do it- even on the snow and ice?!?

Adhering to a Sabbath... Honestly (again, maybe too honest?), before coming here, I had always treated the Sabbath as something else I was supposed to "do" but rarely did. It became the forgotten commandment.  I DEFINITELY don't see it that way here- the sabbath is something that I desperately need. It's a day (yes, an entire day, and rarely Sunday for me) that is devoted to resting spiritually, emotionally, culturally, and physically.  And in case you were wondering, it is not because I have more time on my hands! Even on the weeks where I fall behind on my language learning and other responsibilities (such as this week), it remains a top priority because I know it is so needed.  In Mark 2:27, Jesus said that "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath." My goal is that no matter how crazy busy my life becomes, I will always remember to have a day for remembering the Sabbath and the need I have for it. 

I'm sure there are other ways, but that should give you a pretty good idea on some basic ways in which my normal behaviors/mindset have changed since being here. Maybe next time I'll mention a few things that HAVEN'T changed. (And for all you faithful blog checkers out there, let me know if YOU have an idea for a post I can write about!)

Thanks for continuing to check in. Till next time-

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Month Come and Gone!!

If you can believe it, I have officially lived in Sarajevo for a month. The transition has been smoother than I was expecting, no doubt due in part to all the support I've had at home and abroad. So, THANK YOU for all your prayers, support and encouragement!

In light of the one month anniversary, I'm resorting to my standard bullet points to help organize my thoughts and this post.

First off, some announcements: 

  • WEEKLY POSTS? HAH!!! I'm taking the pressure off of myself to update this blog on consistent weekly basis. Depending on the week, here are my reasons:
    • I have too many things to write about and can't pick one.
    • I can't formulate even ONE clear thought or story to write on. 
    • I don't have time to make a thoughtful post and want to make sure I only post well-thought and edited posts.
            I still plan to update it on a regular basis, but it will better without me feeling like I have to have it done at a specific time every week. I really enjoy using this as an outlet and communication device.

  • CAMERA CASUALITY!  During a recent excursion through Bascarjia, my camera went for a dive that even my Kat-like reflexes couldn't prevent. BUT- I'm excited to let you know that Woodmen of the World Life Insurance had already decided to send me a GENEROUS care package of whatever I wanted. So..... guess what I'll be using it for?? :) In the meantime, I'll be taking advantage of the pictures I had taken previously and ones I find on the internet.
Without further ado... a month's worth of reflections and randomness!! 

  • BAKERY AWESOMENESS!!!! It will be a feat in itself if I make through this year without gaining the "freshman 15." In a 5 minute walk, I can pick up a freshly baked loaf of bread from scratch for the equivalent of 60 cents. I'm sorry to say that my beloved Panera has nothin' on these bread-making fool's.
  • SIMPLE PLEASURES ARE THE BEST!!! Here are the things I have been the MOST excited about in the last month: being given index cards (you can't find them here), finding a few ziplock baggies (also not found here), replacing rain-soaked jeans with comfy fleece pajama pants,  seeing my one of my nephews  (Nolan) walk for the first time through Skype, hearing a sermon all in English (thank you Lord for podcasts), and successfully navigating myself in taxi rides (this would include knowing when they try the LONG way). 
  • THE MIS-USE OF THE WORD "NEED"! Okay, I'm not living in Africa or anything, but there are a few things that I don't have and would have felt lost without in the states: a dryer, PAM, a microwave, toaster, Walmart, instant mixes of anything, measuring cups in.. cups (not liters, grams, etc),  and a car. It really hasn't been that big of a deal, although I would love to find some of those measuring cups. :)
  • FITTING IN? I know the chances of me getting to where I can fit in are slim (especially when I need to open my mouth), but I have found some clues to not get me stared at as a foreigner when walking on the street: wear dark colors, NO open toed shoes, walk slowly, and dress up. 
  • TIRED!!! Apparently adjusting to a new culture is exhausting, even when you do a good job of resting. Your brain is constantly at work digesting the language and culture, not to mention the spiritual pressure of constantly being on guard amongst such a dry culture. I've been especially tired the last few days and have taken a few hours to "veg out" on episodes of 24 to give my brain a rest! 
  • LAUGHTER IS THE BEST MEDICINE!  I'm finding the ability to laugh at myself is one of my most important qualities here, especially amongst my various cooking mishaps and during my adventures out practicing my "Bonglish" (Bosnian-English).
  • APPARENTLY I KNOW... UHH... NOTHING.  I've found this to be true on multiple levels: teaching English grammer to an advanced English language student (past present continuos? past perfect continues? Huh??), cooking (I've always depended on instant stuff and whatever was the fastest...), spending time with other various colleagues that live here, and trying to understand even a taste of what these people have gone through during their lifetimes. 
  • ABOUT THAT LANGUAGE THING... It doesn't take a genius to learn a new language. It takes time, perseverance, patience, motivation, and practice (all of which I hope I have an increasing amount of in the next year and covet your prayers regarding...). Yes, some find it easier than others, some learn a lot quicker than others, and some are able to grasp it at a higher level than others who work just as hard, but what I previously thought as being crazy hard ends up just requiring a LOT of elbow grease and commitment. 
  • WORLD AWARENESS. While living in the states, it can be very easy to ignore the needs of the rest of the world, even if you don't mean to. I wish more energy was spent on world news than just filling up time with random local stories and celebrity gossip. I have been shocked at how much more plugged into world affairs I am now without even trying to be.  I recently found a cnn website that is trying to help with this:
  • THE TRAGIC BEAUTY.  As I've been struck by the overlooked beauty of this culture (see previous post), my heart has also been increasingly burdened by the spiritual needs of this city. My prayer is that God would make known his GREAT desire to bring reconciliation and redemption through Jesus to all the people here, and that He would show me how He wants me to play a part in what He's already at work doing.  "For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting,and His faithfulness to all generations." Psalm 100:5
In Closing....

  • Just as I don't know what the future holds, I don't have any idea what direction this blog will go! I look forward to continuing to share my experiences with you all and LOVE hearing your feedback. Please let me know if there is anything you would like to hear my experiences on or impressions of, or really anything else. I can't thank you for all the support throughout this process! 

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Tidbits of a Beautiful City and a Few Shots of a Great Apartment!

2 days after posting this, I found a link that describes more of Bosnia's overlooked beauty. Take a gander if you are interested:
Now to the original post! 

Okay, before we get to the post, I want you to do me a favor. Will you do that for me? No, really! I want you to take a personal quiz (yes, forgive me, for the teacher in me is coming out).  Tell me 5 positives that you know about the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Seriously. Take a moment and think about it... Okay.. don't know 5?  That's okay. How about.... 3? 1???

As I've reflected on what to write about this week, one of the things that has troubled me is  the small amount of information that people know about Sarajevo! I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've heard "Is it safe? Are you scared? What about those land mines?!?" While I appreciate everyone's concerns (I really, really do!), it has troubled me to think about how little people know about what this city is like NOW. 

 Let me ask you something. The last pictures you saw of Sarajevo, were they pictures from the festive 84 Olympics? Or maybe some pictures of beautiful downtown Bascarsija, where it is like stepping back into the 1500's? Of Sarajevo's beautiful parks? Pictures of people, displaying its beautiful cultural diversity? Probably not. If my assumptions are correct, they are of burning buildings from the war that ravaged the city over 15 years ago. While the war has left a huge imprint here, there is much more to this city and to this country!  I hope that this blog will be, among other things, a good reflection of the beauty of this city 
and the people in it.
Okay, now to the pictures. The first picture was taken from the balcony on my apartment (yeah.. I know! Pretty sweet that I get to wake up to that every day, huh?! More on that later.) The second picture is taken from the streets in the middle of downtown Sarajevo, in the midst of the walking street. Everyday this street fills up with people walking arm in arm, talking, shopping, and looking for their favorite coffee shop or ice cream place. The best is on the weekends when they are filled with some very unique vendors. (I'll try to capture some of them by photos for a later post!).

This picture is a shot of Vilsonove Setaliste, aka "Wilsons Walk." President Wilson helped orchestrate this and it is named after him. Every weekday at 5:30 P.M. and all day every weekend, this street, located directly next to the Miljacka River, closes down for strollers, runners, rollerbladers, bikers, etc. I LOVE having a comfortable, beautiful, and popular place to go running in the evenings. I'm actually eyeing Sarajevo's fall 2010 marathon if I can find some female Bosnian running mates to run it with me (and if my knees can hold up)! Running can be such a great way to get to know people and it takes too much time to train for a marathon on your own! 

This is a picture of my apartment building. If you look really close, you MIGHT be able to find where I live.....

I thought all you Sooners out there would appreciate me representin' in Sarajevo. And for all you haters out there, no, this isn't on my balcony all the time (But it did happen to be out on GAMEDAY! ha!). I actually had to clean it. Apparently it wasn't the brightest idea to ship over liquid versions of Dayquil and Nyquil... not sure what I was thinking there! Lesson learned!

I got a GREAT deal on my apartment. It was a total God thing. Not only do I have more space than I imagined having here, it is more space than I ever had on my own in the states! And, its far underneath my budget! Even though I'm only paying for a one bedroom, I have the space of a 2 bedroom, without the second bedroom (my landlord, who is a Bosnian living in Canada, keeps the other bedroom door locked so she can keep some of her stuff here). I love the views from the windows, the space, and the location: a 3 minute walk from Wilson's Walk, a lot of young people live in this area, and it is much quieter than living in downtown.  It is fully furnished, and I am currently in the process of decorating and making it feel more home-y! 

Some of you may think I'm weird for this, but I would rather deal with a squatty potty than a weak shower. I know this is a bit of a selfish request, but as I was praying about where to go, I specifically prayed that for wherever it is and whatever I was doing, I would be able to have a shower with great water pressure! (pray for all types of requests, right?) Guess what? My prayers were answered!  Its great, and, if my previous experiences in the city are correct, a LOT of apartments in this area have weak showers! So, praise the Lord for that! 

Here is a view of my living room with my office to the left. You can also see the balcony with my jeans drying off after I got caught in the rain on a long walk! I love all the space and all the great windows! The random pink post it notes are vocab words as I'm trying to learn language.
In this picture, my kitchen is behind me, and you can see my dining room and office. I can't even tell you how thankful I am to be living in this apartment- the space, the windows, the shower, the neighborhood, and all under my budget! Woo hoo! Praise the Lord!

This is me, on my balcony, inviting you to be my first coffee date. There will be a prize for whoever makes it over here first! I might even make Turkish coffee for you, if that's your style. :) 

As I'm sure you can imagine, this is only the tip of the iceberg.  I'm trying to NOT make this the longest post ever, so I'll wait to post more pictures later! I also hope to have a lot of pictures posted on facebook very soon.

As always, I can't thank you enough for all your prayers, support, encouragement, and every other way that you, in your own way, are playing a vital part in this. PLEASE let me know if you have some ideas on posts for this blog! It is always a work in progress (just like me), and I am always trying to figure out the best use for this! 

Till next time- Kat

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The First Week's Impressions!

Hello all!!! Thanks for continuing to check in! I've been looking forward to updating this blog this week!

This post is a collection of some random thoughts I've had after spending a week in Bosnia. There are more, but I've tried to condense. Hope you enjoy. :)

- I went apartment hunting this week. Have you ever wondered where those avocado green and peach colored furniture and appliances went after their hayday in the U.S.? Well, in this excursion, I got to find out. (By the way, I hope to have pictures of my apartment in the next post!)

- Immersing yourself in a different culture is an extremely humbling event. Even though all my limbs and mental capacity are working strong (at least I think they are), I act and have to be treated like a child. I read no faster than a 1st grader sounding out all the letters, I have to be taught how to run a dishwasher (its different here), and I can't have anything close to a resemblance of an intellectual conversation! Plus, the fact that I'm a hot-shot coed softball player (or anything else you want to be proud of) doesn't matter- I'm just a foreigner who can't tell the difference between flour and sugar at the supermarket!

- Surprising to me, I feel more connected to the world now than before I moved here. Because I'm spending so much time learning the language, I'm spending a lot of time with my computer language software. When I need a mental break, I check my email, cnn, facebook, twitter, and other websites (usually in that order).

- I have a theory on why Europeans supposedly don't shower as often as those in the US. The showers here aren't nearly as refreshing as in the states... The water pressure is WEAK and the water is HARD. And, in case you were wondering, the two don't balance each other out!

- This would be a lot harder if I weren't joining a team here. Their help in finding an apartment, getting my white card (equivalent to a green card in the states), fighting off the urge to do too much at the beginning, and getting situated to the city has been invaluable. It makes me very appreciative of them and even more respectful of those that have moved to places not knowing anyone!

-There is a fascination here for red hair- you wouldn't believe all the different shades of red hair color I've seen (I have yet to see another natural redhead...) If it wasn't so incredibly obvious to other people that I'm a foreigner, I would probably enjoy this more. :)

- There's only been one time that I've felt overwhelmed, and that is when I was reflecting on how much support I have at home. To all my friends, supporters, family members, and others that have played a role in this, know that I am incredibly grateful for each of you and pray that you know your vital part in this.

- Last night, I had the privilege to watch a Bosnian accept Jesus as her Lord and Savior (this, my blogging friend, sadly, has not been a common event!!). First off, I was struck by how much this person was giving up in order to make this decision. All of her family and the majority of her friends are Muslim or staunchly non-religious. While she doesn't have to face the pressures others face in parts of the world (MANY Christians lives become immediately in danger), she made the decision knowing full well that there WILL be ramifications from her friends and family. She counted the cost, had a time of decision making, and then decided that Jesus was TRUE and worth it. As someone who became a Christian in bible belt of the US, where it is basically weird to NOT be a Christian, I have nothing to compare this to, and I fear that the normalcy of these decisions has caused a bit of apathy in the states. Often times we don't grasp how BIG of a decision this is- with what you give up, the change of life it leads you to live, and what you get in return.

Which led me to my second reaction: thinking about some of the incredible rewards that she inherited: freedom from slavery, inexplainable peace, complete forgiveness, an invitation to an intimate friendship/ relationship with the maker of the universe, untamed power at work inside of her, the ability to have joy in all circumanstances, and eternal life. May we (me especially), never forget what we've been saved from and what we've been saved to!

"Stagnant faith comes from knowing what you've been saved from, but not knowing what you've been saved to." Matt Chandler

Much, much more to come! Till next time...