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-