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...