Friday, August 22, 2014

Out and About

The kids have their second day (and first full day) of school today, making it my first official day out in Sarajevo in a very different way! I met up with another new spouse - she got here one week ago so is just getting over jet lag and excited about paying attention to her surroundings.

What a wonderful thing, to just head out and take time looking at shops and sites, not worrying about the next meal or potty breaks. Of course I love our kids, but it has been a little trying exploring anything with them - and that's IF I can get them to leave the apartment. But now they are happily at school, and I get to figure things out as a curious, baggage-free adult. 

First of all, Sarajevo is just so freaking cool. 

Don't get me wrong - there have been hard parts about living here (or, more accurately, living somewhere so new), and those can get me down in my own selfish, insular ways. But when I get to pause and think about the here and now, and go out like today and really relish in my vibrant new surroundings, I love it.

I wasn't fast enough to get a closeup, but seeing that tiny garbage truck made me laugh! It zipped past me and up a "tiny Europe" small street, just going about its day of picking up trash. 

The Merkale market. This is very close to where we live. I've walked here twice now and am always amazed at the heaping piles of fresh, organic vegetables. You hear a lot of "from this morning", which I assume means they were picked a few hours before and trucked in from surrounding family farms. Every vendor I've interacted with has been warm and kind, always ready with a piece of fruit or vegetable to try before purchase. Since my grandmother passed away, I wasn't sure I'd ever again taste tomatoes or cucumbers like the ones from her garden. Every tomato and cucumber I've tried here could be one of Grandma's! I mean, to have a tomato that actually tastes like….a tomato. The cucumbers are even slightly prickly and fuzzy - like they've just been on the vine. You know that waxy mess on thick peeling you often have in the States? Ugh. Not here, baby!

On a side note, one thing that I just don't know what to do with yet is how locals have a way of mentioning the horrific recent war in casual conversation. For example, on the ride from the airport, I noted how beautiful the surrounding mountains and hills are. Our Bosnian driver said something like, "Yes. That is where the Serbian snipers stayed while they shot at the people in Sarajevo trying to buy bread." So far my response has been a quiet, "Oh…" Do they want to talk about the war? What sorts of taboo territory will I find myself in if I even open that conversation? I'm too new, too uninformed, and too nervous to find out just yet. Another example was someone explaining where the Merkale market was to me. "It's the outdoor market where all those people were savagely murdered. They have the freshest produce - it's really delicious."


In the Baščaršija district we came across a group of locals playing what looked like a community game of chess. I looked it up afterwards and apparently this board has been in use since 1998, and a game is going on during any and all day light hours. 

Baščaršija, by the way, came about in the 15th century. We like to walk to buy bread at a local "Pekara" (bakery). While we were out one time, N was telling the kids that the marketplace filled with so many streets of nooks and crannies of shops has been around since the mid 1400s. When he said that, visions of America's history flashed in my mind. To think that these little shops with their copper wares and fabric and woven shoes, had been going about daily life for centuries prior to the founding of the United States! I don't know. Being here really makes you realize how young the US is, relatively speaking. 

So much of the green space in the city is filled with grave markers. If you look at the death dates on them, a majority are in the early to mid 90s. I can't even fathom what it must've been like, but there is something palpable still in the air - an emotional undercurrent directly linked to the war. It is hard to put my finger on it, but I am aware of it. 

Today I bought fresh figs, which are simply delicious. I also got fresh raspberries and plums. Plums are hugely popular here. My friend bought some homemade plum jam which was made without sugar. We ate it with homemade cheese on crusty bread for lunch. Wow.

Eggs are sold here room temperature, just like in Mexico. And so far I've only ever seen brown eggs. Now I know that the process eggs go through from chicken to market is what determines their need of refrigeration. Some eggs in the market still have slight chicken gunk on them, which makes me feel more aware of where my food comes from. It's a good thing! These I bought today had tiny feathers stuck to them, which I tried to capture in my picture. The yolks are the brightest yellow imaginable. Deevie and Cubby really enjoy boiled eggs for breakfast.

Captain Consumer

When I was 12, I sent Goody hair products a hand written note along with two hair ties that were mistakenly linked together. I said something like, "I just wanted to alert you of this mistake so you can look into any machines that may be malfunctioning." A few weeks later I got a huge box from Goody with a ton of new products - brushes, hair accessories, etc. Can you just imagine how psyched 12 year old me was?? I learned a powerful message back then. It pays to be an involved consumer.

Following in this vein, I just wrote our bank to tell them how shocked I was about the over $40 in ATM transaction fees that have hit our account since arriving in Bosnia, and nicely requested advice on how to avoid this in the future. I never want to complain just to complain or to try to milk the system, but I know there are other options for us out there. Anyway, I'm happy to say our bank has refunded that amount, and gave us guidance on how to avoid fees from now on.

Don't forget your power as a consumer!

(Also, I am a huge nerd and proud of it.)