Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Happy Halloween!!! If anybody wants to become my favorite person, please go to the nearest grocery store and pick up as much candy corn and those little candy pumpkins you can, and send them to me here in Sarajevo. I got nuttin', honey.
So tonight, after a trip to the grocery store, Wiley and I came home and attempted to make popcorn. On the stove. The "old-fashioned" way. You'd think this is fairly easy, as I did.
First batch: burned.
Second batch: perfect until the lid to my seasoned salt fell off, making the popcorn look like Pompei after Mt. Vesuvius erupted (the seasoned salt here looks like pepper, though thankfully, doesn't taste like it).
Third batch: burned.
The fourth batch turned out to be the charm. Now my belly is full of lentil soup, popcorn, and chocolate milk, and my teeth are full of hulls. Excuse me while I release them from their holds.
Why is it that whenever you're otherwise engaged in the restroom, that's when the bugs come out? Yesterday it was a spider in the tub; today, a silverfish at my feet. Yick.
On to other news: I may be helping someone with their English skills! This could be quite comical, as his skills are rusty and my Bosnian skills are as of yet nonexistent. Could be a lot of hand gestures and grunting involved. Hee hee.
So then I read on:
With classroom sizes increasing on many campuses and the job market becoming more competitive, students are increasingly concerned with their grades. How do you handle a case where you feel that your grade did not reflect your performance?
- Determine if you have a basis to ask your professor for a grade review. You have to understand things from the professor's point of view when it comes to grades. The professor has to do his or her best to treat everybody equally when it comes to grading. If a professor reads an exam or paper again, that is giving that paper or exam extra consideration which others in the class will not have. Therefore you really must have a good, solid reason for the professor to give you extra consideration.
- Make sure that you followed the instructions in the syllabus or on the assignment correctly. If you are asked to answer an essay question on a test and you do not even address the points that are needed in the essay, you do not have a basis to ask for your grade to be reconsidered.
- Make sure you read the professor's comments carefully. Often times confusion over grades comes from a lack of communication or a lack of understanding about the reasoning for a grade.
- Make sure that you followed the instructions in the syllabus or on the assignment correctly. If you are asked to answer an essay question on a test and you do not even address the points that are needed in the essay, you do not have a basis to ask for your grade to be reconsidered.
- Consider whether the change in your grade is worth the risks involved. Unless the injustice is truly profound, you might be better off accepting that, just as the candy machine sometimes steals your quarter, then later gives you two Mars Bars for the price of one, you probably have the GPA you deserve, even if you are occasionally docked a point or two on a particular score.
- Think about the overall context of the grade. If you are challenging two points on an exam that is worth 100 points and the exam is worth 30% of your final grade, is it really worth to go through this hassle? Before you make a decision about challenging a grade, think about the bigger picture: How much do you really gain in the final analysis? If the answer is potentially a substantial amount, then go for it. If it is literally, hundredths of a point, then you may want to rethink your strategy.
- If you challenge your grade, you will probably not be remembered fondly if you ask that professor for a recommendation, even if you're in the right. Especially if you're in the right. Professors are people--some are humble, but many take pride in their life's work and don't appreciate having their judgment questioned. No, no, that can't be right. They may not directly trash you on the recommendation letter, but you'll probably never get that glowing praise you were otherwise aiming for.
- More damaging is the potential reputation for grade-grubbing that you will earn as your professor tells colleagues about your protest. This is especially likely if you're challenging a grade in your major, where a reputation for pettiness could cost you support and opportunity.
- Ask to make an appointment with the professor or assistant to discuss how you got the grade and how you may be able to avoid getting that type of grade on the next assignments. Professors generally will look favorably upon students who are putting a concerted effort into their course and doing their best to improve.
- If the grade was made by a teaching assistant, do not bypass the teaching assistant in the process. Ask to make an appointment with the teaching assistant to discuss the matter. Bypassing the teaching assistant may make the assistant feel slighted, as you go over his or her head without even discussing it first. Likewise, most professors who have teaching assistants should tell you to discuss the matter with the assistant first.
- Prepare for the meeting. If the instructor has taken points off that you thought you deserved, go back into your lecture notes and text books and make a list of supporting evidence to have with you for the meeting. Be able to show the professor that you were not just making up the information, that you know the material well and that you were prepared. But remember, in using your evidence, this is not a trial. Use the evidence as a basis for asking the professor or assistant to reconcile it with what he or she wanted or were looking for in the paper or exam.
- Be courteous and professional in the meeting with the assistant or professor.
- Do not be accusatory -- avoid phrases like "I don't think that you like me," or "I think I'm being treated unfairly." I always thought that worked. Tell the instructor that you are a bit concerned about the grade you received and you were hoping that they could take a few moments to go over the exam or paper with you.
- Make sure you don't claim "I deserve a better grade." There is nothing that will draw the ire of a professor more than a student who is learning about a subject for the first time telling a professor, who has been studying a subject for years, that they should have gotten a better grade. Right, must remember that tidbit.
- Do not approach a professor with the line "I did the same thing my friends did in the class and got a lower grade." First, most often, confidentiality rules will prevent a professor from discussing other students' grades. Second, each person's paper or exam is going to be different in some way; otherwise, there is going to be suspicion raised.
- Emphasize that you want to make sure you want to catch any problems before the next exam or paper is due. It will show the professor that you are not there just to complain and you have an interest in the subject matter. However, don't pretend to care about improving future performance if all you really want is a better grade now. Your professor will rightly conclude that you think he or she is a bit thick, which won't win you any consideration. For every professor fooled by such an act, ten will see right through you.
- Highlight specific areas of concern and ask for an explanation as to what went wrong in those areas (instead of asking him or her to reread the paper or exam). Your instructor should demonstrate clearly where you went wrong. If the answer doesn't jive with lecture notes or the textbook from which you got your information, then ask for clarification with the information. "Professor X, I think I understand what you have said, but I'm a bit confused because I thought from your lecture on (whatever subject or date) you said _____." or "I think I understand what you've said, but in the textbook, it seems to be saying something different and this is how I understood it."
- If the professor is clearly in the wrong and a mistake was made, most often the professor will concede.
- If the professor makes her or his point and it is consistent with all the information you have written, point out to the professor the consistency between the lectures, books, and the information you just received in the discussion. Let the professor try to elaborate on any information that you may be missing or let her or him justify the grade in light of that information.
- If you show that there is strong consistency with your learning materials (lectures and notes) and what you wrote, then ask the professor if they will reconsider reducing the point deduction or the grade itself.
- Take it to a higher level as a last resort. If all else fails, most departments have processes in place to appeal grades to committees. This process usually starts with the Undergraduate Director or Chair of the Department. Keep in mind, it is rare that other professors will overturn another professor's grade. However, if there clearly is a miscarriage of justice, a good compromise can often be worked out, or a committee hearing can be scheduled to review the grade complaint. Just remember if you go down this road, you are entering a political process. Make sure you are absolutely convinced that you have been wronged and that there is evidence for it. The best outcome is that the situation is resolved amicably and all parties are happy; the worst is that you will feel uncomfortable taking courses with that professor again and that professor may not appreciate the challenge to his or her teaching and grading. Again, weigh the costs against the benefits and decide if this is something worth doing.
- Distinguish between objective and subjective errors. If you are, say, in freshman biology and definitely got a multiple choice question right, that is very different from an essay exam. Even if you clearly will pick up a few points on the exam, it may not make a difference in your grade. The first thing to do is to meet with the professor (Don't just wander in; either make an appointment or come during office hours.) and say something along the lines of "I think I got a few questions right that were marked wrong. But it may not make a difference in my class grade. Is there a time limit to report these? I don't want to waste your time if it doesn't make a difference in my grade." Note the solicitude that you show for your professor's time (and they never have enough of it). On an essay or short answer exam or paper, always start with something like "I must not understand this as well as I thought I did. But I reviewed it against my notes and the textbook/readings (note: here you are pointing out that you already did the footwork to try and understand) but I still can't figure out what my problem is. Can you help me with the material?" Then as the professor goes over it with you, you can suggest that maybe the points taken off were excessive. Regardless of how thing go, be sure to thank the professor for his or her time. The very worst thing that will happen is that your professor now thinks you are better mannered than the average student and want to learn his or her material more than the average student. That is no small achievement even if you get no better grade.
- Some professors will ask you to write out your reasons for challenging the grade. Professors are doing this so that they do not spend hours on end with students debating grades. The issue is in front of them and they judge it on its merits. This procedure can discourage students from challenging their grade without good reason, but it also gives students who have valid challenges the opportunity to present their cases clearly.
- Understand that each discipline has its own way of doing things. Writing an English paper is very different than writing a paper for Economics or Political Science. Don't approach your professor and tell her or him that they do it another way in some other discipline; it is your responsibility to adapt to the requirements of this professor and department.
- Many elite colleges and universities forbid the changing of final grades, except in cases of "computational error." The reason for this prohibition is that disputes over grades are an enormous waste of faculty time.
- Professors have very little time to devote to grade disputes and most will not be happy to have to regrade your exam. Be organized, efficient and be able to make a good case for yourself.
- Sadly, every once in a while, you have to be the adult, and the professor acts immaturely. If a situation like this persists, then find another professor to talk to, if possible in the same department. First, describe what is going on as objectively as possible. Then ask how this professor feels about the situation (and be sure to mention that you may not be describing it objectively, even though you are trying to do so). Also, ask for advice. The advice might be to "just suck it up" or to drop the class. If it is serious then this professor may be able to either talk to the 'bad' professor or initiate disciplinary action. It probably will not help you directly however.
- Some professors will have a policy that if they review your test or paper, they will not review just the information that you want them to review; instead, the entire exam or paper is up for reevaluation. This can have its positives and negatives. The positives are obvious, but the negatives can outweigh the positives because a professor can then find other things wrong with the paper or exam and use it as a basis to lower your grade further. You have to think about how serious the grade change is to you in this case.
- Do not act like you're the boss of the professor just because you pay tuition. This will not fly well.
- Do not get your parents to call or threaten to have your parents call. This shows the professor that you can't stand up for yourself and will reflect poorly on your reputation and credibility. Federal privacy law prohibits professors from discussing grades with anyone but the student.
- Do not make the mistake of thinking that all instructors will grade your work fairly. For example, if you write a paper knocking the writing of someone your instructor idolizes, expect at least a one letter grade deduction for your impertinence. That's the bad news. The good news is that such an instructor may also be fearful that you will take a complaint to someone higher up the food chain -- and raise your grade as soon as you point out the inequity rather than take a chance. Just be sure you have standing for your complaint.
- You may have to simply accept the grade the professor gives you. You can talk to them about it, but do not expect them to change it unless they made an error. Keep your own grading records so you have documentation if you need to challenge something, but asking to have a grade changed will not go over well at any institution. The best idea is to speak to the professor about what you can do to improve in the future. Find out why you missed the points that you did and where you fell short. You have to do substantially more work to earn an "A" in college than you might have in high school.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Ok. So enter Thursday morning. Wiley and I pack a suitcase and head out to the bus station. Bus ride is pretty uneventful save for the mom and daughter in front of us who recline into our space...perfectly their right, you'd say, and normally you'd be right, except I was the one behind them. I hate doing that to people, so I notice when it's done to me. And I wish I had my camera at the ready because in Republika Srpska (Serp-skah), we drove through the most gorgeous landscape. The road was carved out of the hillside. The hills were on fire with yellow, red and orange leaves. Below was a river with crystal waters in parts (and was kinda dirty in others). And it was the only time it was sunny on the bus. Alas, I have no pictures to show you of that. We arrived in Graz, Austria, around 8:15, about 45 minutes later than we were supposed to...which is what happens when you cross the border into Slovenia, then leave Slovenia and get questioned as to why you're passing through Slovenia, and oh, you live in Bosnia? Can you show us your residence permit, please? No matter that it's 35 degrees outside - everyone else can wait. Board bus again, pass through Croatia, then finally get into Austria. Wiley's friends were meeting us at the train station (right next to the bus stop), and Wiley tried to send a text message, to no avail. But have no fear! The Graz train station is connected - not only do they have trains, they have a bookstore, a McDonald's (and no, I didn't go once), a grocery store, and an internet cafe. So Wiley checks his email to make sure the number was correct, and then tried another friend whose number he knew was right. Nothing. This was when we realized that our cell phones, since they're now prepaid, don't let you use them outside of Bosnia. But we can receive phone calls and text messages...we just can't call out or send our own. Coming to grips with this, Wiley goes into mild panic mode, which is somewhat funny because usually I'm the one who panics, and he's mild-mannered. This time, he's combing his fingers through his hair at a frantic rate, while I say casually, "Well, I'll go see if I can find your friends," and walk around the train station. No luck. I come back in, and Wiley's still-frantic fingers are typing and running through hair, when I turn around, and out of the corner of my eye, see the back braid of who I think is Wiley's female friend. So, rather than create a scene, I stalk. Very quickly, I follow this chick (who I've met once, back in May) to the grocery store, and I watch her. I have a sack full of food that we brought with us, so I'm not about to step foot in the busiest grocery store in Graz right before closing time. She is standing there, trying to get someone's attention in line. Just when I think that this isn't who I'm looking for, I spot Wiley's guy friend, who is very easy to recognize, in line, and I go screaming into the grocery store, sack full of food be damned. When I called out Chick's name, she turned around to see some crazy woman with her arms outstretched, speaking a mix of German and English a mile a minute. Then she realized who I was and reciprocated the hug. I ran to get Wiley, who was in line paying for the internet and phone usage, and then he went into the grocery store to get a little food - Friday was an Austrian holiday, so EVERTHING except what's at the train station is closed. Wiley's poor friends had been there since 7:30, waiting for us to show up. We finally got out of the station around nine and headed over to the apartment Wiley's friends graciously offered us for our stay.
And let me just say that the next time we go abroad, we're living in Graz and we're renting this apartment. It was perfect. Dark bedroom, not on a busy street, only a floor up, big kitchen by European standards, nice hallway, a spare room and a living room, all decorated to coordinate beautifully.
The weather all weekend was awful. We went to Riegersburg castle. Lovely castle. Cold. I used to really really like castles, but they're so cold, so forget it. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside, so all I have are outside pictures.
Autumn in Austria is the best I've seen so far. You'll see when you view the pictures when I get them uploaded. After the castle, we had lunch at the equivalent of a winery. I had some hot chocolate and some sturm, which is wine made out of the first picked grapes of the season and sugar is added to it. So to me, it's perfect, but I'm told you'll get the runs if you drink too much. We had a potato that was fried and shaped like a teardrop on top of lettuce and turkey strips. Wiley and I intended to split, but I didn't like the potato thing that much, so he let me eat the turkey strips which were breaded in pumpkin seeds. So now I have a new recipe to try!! Wiley's friend drove us around the countryside more, and then dropped us off at our apartment.
Saturday was a day of shopping. I got some new Ecco walking shoes, which so far, are great, though I wish there was a slight heel. I feel so short all the time now. We also looked for a new winter coat for me, as well as some sweaters, but I didn't find one damn thing. Not one. Turns out leggings are in, long, light sweaters are in, and military-style jackets are in. The double-breast is big this year. For people who have a shelf, the double-breast is not the best look. Guess whose jacket is in before it was popular? Yours truly. So I'm looking for a wool coat that's single-breasted and cuts off right at the knee or just above (like an inch), preferably with a hood. Think I could find it? Close, but no cigar. The sweaters I found that I liked had no shape, as in they hung from the shoulders so anyone could look like a linebacker. I also tried to find slippers and a replacement earring, to no avail. However, I did find yarn, so I have a whole bunch to use for crochet. And we found an American grocery store, where I found microwave popcorn. We had some soup - pumpkin for Wiley, which was great, and schilcherwine soup for me, which is made from grapes that only grow on volcanic soil. Also tasty. Dinner consisted of french fries and a turkey cutlet breaded in pumpkin seeds!! In a non-smoking part of a restaurant, no less.
Sunday found us going out with Wiley's friend that took us to the castle Friday. We stayed at her apartment in May while she was in the US, visiting New York and South Dakota with her students. The apartments in Graz are so darling. I've found two I could easily live in. We had lunch at a place nearby, where I had a pork cutlet breaded in the pumpkin seeds...it was a weekend of fries and pumpkin seeds! Then we had dessert at this little gelateria. It's cold outside, and I want ice cream. Don't ask me why. But it's darn good. Then we walked around a bit, found a cha cha class taking place. All we heard was, "Eins, zwei, cha cha cha," but we thought maybe it was coming from the Kunsthaus (art house), so all three of our faces are plastered against the glass, looking in, and all we see are people at computers. Then I looked up and saw people dancing on the second floor of a building. Think "Shall We Dance?" Seriously. That gave Wiley and me the idea to find a dance class in Sarajevo. "Jedan, dva, cha cha cha." I can just imagine not understanding dancing commands. But that'll make me a stronger follower. Sunday night we met another friend for a quick drink at a little wine bar and then ate pizza with the ones who picked us up from the airport, which is always fun because there's limited English knowledge. I can work on understanding German...which I understand fairly well, though when Wiley's friend said something about Protestants, I thought he said in addition to the boarders being Protestant, he was, so he took them to church, but he really just said that they were Protestant and he knew of a church they could go to so he told them about it...potato, pohtahto, I say.
And on Monday, we finally got some stinkin' sun, so I was a photographin' fool. Since I've taken lots of pictures of Graz before, back in May, this time I didn't focus so much on the town, but more on the leaves around town. So if you were looking for street photos or pictures of buildings, don't click on the link. You'll only be disappointed. We had a turkey kebap, which I think is one of God's greatest inventions, then went home to clean the apartment and headed to the train station to board an overnight bus. Today, I feel good - nose seems to be improved, no pain in feet, stomach is happy with M&Ms that were bought in Graz. Now we go grocery shopping.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Tonight, 8 pm Central time: CNN: Planet in Peril with Anderson Cooper, Jeff Corwin and Sanjay Gupta reporting. You saw the wonder of our world with Planet Earth - now see the rest of the story. We're screwing over our world, people. It's past time to give a damn.
If I ever sent a postcard into Frank over at Post Secret, it would be this:
Last night I killed a spider, and as I moved the paper towel, it fell into the toaster. I think I dumped it out, but I don't really know. Who can tell a bread crumb from a crumpled up spider?
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
It's been over a month now that I've been catless. Not furless, mind you - I still have fur stuck on my coat and just picked up some angora yarn today, and it sheds about as much as Dixie - but no little lovey four-legged creatures. I have ants, and silverfish, and the occasional spider, though I think they may all be dead thanks to the snow (they were HUGE and made very nice, complicated webs on my windows that I peer out of in the mornings), but no little paws padding around the apartment. No heads butting my chin. No bodies fighting to get into my lap for warmth and some rubbing. I get my updates from two of my foster slaves, but I consistently have to email the ex to see what's going on with my problem child. There are lots of cats here, all in varying stages of growth, though none look to be older than a few years, which saddens me. I miss my furballs.
With all the carving to be done during Halloween season, why not make a healthy, delicious and seasonal snack from the leftovers? It's easy to roast pumpkin seeds, and they make a yummy end to a pumpkin carving session.
- pumpkin's stringy insides out of the pumpkin and into a bowl.
- Place the seeds in a strainer or colander and discard the rest.
- Rinse the seeds under cold water. Make sure all the pumpkin meat and strings is off the seeds; it will burn in the oven.
- Soak the seeds (optional).
- Fill a large bowl about 2/3 with water.
- Add salt to the water until it is saturated.
- Place seeds in the salt-water solution and let soak for 8 to 48 hours.
- Dump all of the water out of the bowl.
- Dry the seeds with paper towels.
- Season the seeds. This is where you can get as creative as you want. Here are some ideas:
- sprinkle with additional salt
- toss every cup of seeds with 1 tbsp of vegetable, olive or canola oil until the seeds are coated; it will help additional seasonings stick
- substitute melted butter for the oil
- season with old bay/crab seasoning, chili powder, garlic powder, cajun seasoning, and/or other strong flavors for a savory snack
- season with sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg for a sweet snack
- toss the seeds in sauce like hot sauce, soy sauce, Worchestershire sauce, etc.
- Roast the seeds. There are several ways to do this:
- Preheat your oven to the "Broil" setting, so only the top element is activated. Place the sheet into the preheated oven. Watch carefully, as different ovens broil at a variety of temperatures. This should usually take no more than 10 minutes. When the top of the seeds has turned brown, you can do one of two things based on your texture preferences: (a) Remove the pan now for a slightly crispy and nutty texture, or (b) remove the pan and flip the seeds over. Replace back in the oven and toast another 10 minutes, or until brown. This yields a very crispy and salty seed.
- Bake - Preheat the oven to 150º C or 300º F and leave the pumpkin seeds in there until browned (45 - 55 minutes), shaking them around every 5-10 minutes to prevent burning.
- Microwave - Put the seeds in the microwave for 2 minutes. Take them out, stir, and put them back in for 1 minute. Keep stirring them after every minute in the microwave until they're crispy enough.
- Set them aside to cool. Hot pumpkin seeds can burn your skin.
- Store seeds in an air-tight container and refrigerate them for up to two months.
A friend of mine used to season hers with Lawry's seasoning salt. Very tasty.
Monday, October 22, 2007
This one, however, has got to be one of my favorites, and I would love a little kitty like this one:
Brrrrrrrrrrr. Lesson learned: snow from the 6th floor, while inside and shielded, is very pretty. On the ground, outside, snow is very cold and wet.
I still didn't feel like my nose was getting back to normal on its own, so we called a doctor at 9 and they said to come in at 11. The doctor is in Dobrinje (Dough-brin-yay), which is a little ways out. So at 9:30, we began the journey of getting money and tickets for the bus/tram. On our way from the ATM to the bus stop, three buses/trams passed us. Then one stopped right by us, and let all its passengers off. It apparently didn't like the snow that was accumulating on the electric line, so it quit working. We watched as the driver unhooked the lines so the tram behind him could go, only that tram didn't wait long enough and decided to help out the driver by just pushing on, and then he lost power until they got his line connected again. Finally, a tram came along, and as we always have to get in the front to stamp our tickets, the wait was just a bit long - long enough that Wiley got on with our tickets and the door started to close as I was on the first step. The driver started yelling something, but as I don't speak the language, I just crossly looked at him and pushed the door back so I could get on.
Wouldn't have made any difference: we went for a few blocks and the tram died. We waited on the tram for about 20 minutes before deciding to get off and trek it until we could find a taxi. We called the doctor's office and told them what happened, and they said so long as we were there by 12:30, it wasn't a problem. So off we schlepped, me in my hiking boots, wool coat, wet gloves, and umbrella - yes, I looked more European today than any other day because of my shoes and the fact that I used an umbrella like the locals do - and Wiley in his crocheted hat and scarf, gloves, his winter coat, and tennis-type shoes. We saw lots of people sliding around, saw a few accidents, found the prosecutor's office should we ever need it, and then found a taxi stand, where we stood for about 5 minutes until we were rescued by a little blue Jetta. The driver was ticked at all the other drivers for not having their snow tires on. "I don't know why people are surprised," he said in Bosnian. "It was in the forecast." Touche, pussycat. So he drives us out to Dobrinje, and I'm only 25 minutes late for my appointment.
The doctor's office had tons of plants: jade, ivy, lily, cactus, and a few I didn't know. We waited about 10 or 15 minutes and then were seen by an ENT specialist. Wiley had to translate. Doc stuck a silver instrument up my nose and asked if I'd ever had any problems before. I said no. He said that my nose seems to be a bit deviated, so it looks like that's what was causing a sinus infection. My nose is crooked, but I've never had problems with it. He then felt my lymph nodes, made me say "Ah", gagged me with a mirror to look in the back of my throat while he pinched my tongue, and said we were treating it appropriately by using the humidifier, keeping it moist and taking the myrtle oil pills (which they give to children). He gave me a prescription for nasal spray, more myrtle oil pills, and an antibiotic, erythromycin, and said to come back in a week for a checkup. No questions re: insurance at all, just my name, age, address, phone number, and allergies, and we were out in about 25 minutes (including the wait time!). After getting my prescriptions, all told, we spent about $50, which I think is wonderful, but I will reserve judgment until next week when I return to see if I'm cured.
After we filled the script, we went in search of a taxi, found a tram, and clambered on. It wasn't too full, and after about 15 minutes, we got off. We were both hungry, and right by the stop was a place that advertised hamburgers and fries. After Hamby King's burgers, I wasn't in the mood for that, but fries sounded good, so we went in. Of course, they weren't serving anything but burek and cevapi (chev-AH-pee), so I had apple juice while Wiley had burek, and then we started walking through all the puddles of slush to get to the grocery store on our way home. We finally get home, only to realize that the microwave popcorn bag didn't make its way into the grocery sack, so the grocery store has 1.30 KM extra thanks to us. Our gloves are soaked and are hopefully drying near the radiators, and our jeans are on the drying rack, the bottom 6 or so inches completely wet. I can see winter is going to present a few problems, such as me not wanting to go out
Sunday, October 21, 2007
And I tried to take a picture of the tree just outside our window to show that the snow is accumulating, but all I got were these big flakes! What did I tell you? BIG FLAKES! Mother Nature's not fooling around. I'll be breaking out the footie pajamas tonight.
I made this with my own two hands, a skein of yarn, a crochet hook, and a Happy Hooker book that teaches you how to crochet. It's a shrug! I got tired of just reading how to crochet after learning a few new stitches, so I decided to try making something other than a scarf, hat, afghan, or shawl. So Wiley and I went to a really small yarn shop and picked up the biggest skein of yarn they had. When the lady asked me what I was making, Wiley told her, and she said I probably didn't have enough yarn. I asked Wiley to tell her I had holes in it, but he had trouble remembering the word, so I picked up a ball of yarn and pointed to the hole. She laughed, said I did a good job explaining, and said I should be fine. My Happy Hooker book had a pattern for a shrug, and while parts of it didn't make sense to me, and they said do not pass go if you don't make a test swatch and figure out your gauge (how many stitches are in an inch), I forged ahead anyway, and I made something that not only is a bit trendy, but it actually looks how it's supposed to! And I still have some yarn left, though that's more to not following part of the pattern because I was getting frustrated with the edging. I have tried for years to crochet...I can't tell you how many afghans I've started and left because something didn't look right or I wasn't sure how to do something. So I'm pretty happy that I could make something to wear that actually looks like something one could wear!!! I wonder if I could sell this stuff here....so, now you know what the Sicko has done all weekend: crocheted, watched The Zoo, and slept. The nose feels better today but the humidifier we got smells kinda plasticy, so I quit running it because I started feeling sick to my stomach. The myrtle oil pills seem to be helping a bit, as well as the humidifier last night, but I will likely try to go to the doctor this week to see exactly what's wrong with me and how to prevent it from happening again. I felt just like Marcia Brady when she got hit in the face with a football, and I really just hate that feeling.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Friday, October 19, 2007
Lookie there - snow. On October 19. We went outside in search of drugs for my nose (now the other side is squishing and starting to hurt), groceries and a humidifier. It's chilly. Score one for the drugs, though I haven't taken them yet, and the groceries, but of course, no humidifier, and the lady didn't know where we could get one. How incredibly helpful! It would be quite a concept if the store that supposedly has everything actually did.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Besides having shows on animals, National Geo has this show called "I Didn't Know That". Rather than being the beginning of a joke, like "What you don't know could fill the size of Guam..." they explain some interesting facts. Today, I learned that you cannot shatter glass just by singing - glass is just made too well these days. But if the glass is somehow flawed, such as chipped, then you have a shot of shattering it. If it's perfect, it ain't gonna happen. So you can stop wasting your breath.
The other thing I learned about was escalators. You know how you always tell little kids to jump at the end so their laces don't get caught in the stair as it goes flat? Well, the mechanism is designed to not be able to pull anything down, so if a shoelace is untied, then it's just untied and is not supposed to get caught. In the event that something goes awry and it does get caught, the mechanism automatically stops so people aren't sucked down. Neat, huh? The longest escalator is in Washington DC, and the shortest is in China, at 83 cm.
I also learned that the less you put in your washer, the quieter it washes. Our washing machine here is a beast. We really need these in the States. It spins your clothes so fast, they're just barely wet when you take them out. This is to facilitate faster drying on the line outside. Well, a few times, the washer started making this thumping noise, kinda like our washers in the States when the load is unbalanced. Unfortunately, once you shut that door, it's locked until the cycle is over. So you can forget about helping out the washer. It sounded just awful, and once the washer even started moving across the floor, so I've been worried about washing clothes. We have yet to find a laundromat near us, and our landlord didn't seem to be in a hurry to fix our toilet, so I can't imagine him being in any hurry to fix a washer should it break. So today, grudgingly, we did laundry...put in smaller amounts of clothes, and lo and behold, after two loads, it didn't make any thumping noises at all! Yay!!!!!!! It's the little things that help one stay sane.
My nose is still bothering me...well, actually, just the left side. I finally broke down and took an Advil Cold and Sinus tablet, and while it's cleared, it's still very tender. I have no idea what the deal is. I can press on it and it makes a squishy noise, like there's a bubble in there. How odd. I didn't have sinus problems in the States, no allergies....sometimes getting used to a new place really makes your body go through the motions. Ah, well, that which doesn't kill us makes us stronger.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
We met another American today. He and his wife live on the other side of the river from us, and they've been here 8 years. Imagine my surprise when we're in the grocery store, looking for juice, when this guy says, "Hey, you're speaking English. What are you doing here?" We chatted briefly inside, and after informing us that they have donuts, he left, then we left, then we met up again outside. Technically, we stalked him. It seemed presumptuous to ask him what he was doing in Sarajevo in the store, but I mustered up the courage to ask him outside after Wiley and I discussed it and he said it would be ok and not strange. They've been here eight years. It boggles my mind, absolutely astounds me, that people can live outside the US for years and be ok with it. I don't know why. Billions live outside the US and are ok with it!
And the more I think about it, the more I'm ok with it.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Ok - so at 9:15, we're picked up at a bus stop near our apartment, where we meet Lawrence, our guide, and a character. In our troupe, we had a total of eight people, one from Holland, one from Norway, one from New York, one from Switzerland, and I don't know where Lawrence and his other guide was from - I assume here, but that may not be so. Everyone was really nice, and we found out NY was a playwright as well as an ad writer (and she stayed at Halvat House, where we stayed our first four days here), and Holland and Norway were both journalists. So we start the trek out of town in our bus - held 9 people very comfortably, and was not a huge beast of a machine - US, take note! It's really hard to describe the experience. We had fields of gold, a beautiful day, a couple dalliances with rocks that didn't want to hold under our feet, a lovely lunch on a little cliff (my cookies were a hit, especially with Lawrence), my hiking boots didn't hurt my feet and in fact my feet didn't hurt once all day (so I'm now wearing them all the time in the house, hee hee), some silences where it's just you and the world, a traffic jam with sheep...sometimes it really felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. We did not see the river that flowed through the canyon, but we got to see the canyon, and if you want, you can view some of the pictures I uploaded here. It's hard to believe that this landscape is really about a half-hour out of the city hustle and bustle. The company that sponsored this tour is Green Visions. They have lots of other tours too, so it wouldn't surprise me if we go on more of these tours, especially if we can get Lawrence! You can check them out at www.greenvisions.ba .
Monday, October 15, 2007
And Wiley can get American football sometimes at night - last night, he got to watch my fantasy football defense, the Patriots, cream his favorite team, the Cowboys, at 10:30 pm.
Our landlord is here right now fixing our toilet. I think he's on the phone with someone. I hope that doesn't bode ill for us. After he's done, we're going to the outdoor market to see if we can get some apples and eggplant. It's a good thing it's not too far because my right foot is giving me some problems...I know, if it's not one thing, it's another, but I swear I haven't always been like this. I tried looking up what the problem might be, and of course, I found nothing because it doesn't feel like plantar fasciitis - it's not on the ball of my foot, but square in the middle of my foot. The closest thing I can find is metatarsalgia, which doesn't seem quite right. Oh well. Musn't overdo it, and it should heal on its own. Ooh, I think he's done!
Sunday, October 14, 2007
UPDATE: I did it!!! The vanilla here is a bit too bitter, so I'll be using less of that, and the brown sugar isn't packed, so I added a quarter cup more, but I buttered and floured the sheet and they turned out pretty well! Next time, I need to add more chocolate, as the chunks were big and I cut the amount I normally use to make sure they didn't disintegrate in chocolate. They taste just a bit different, kinda like a sugar cookie, and the last dozen or so I tamped down instead of just letting them deflate on their own (which, with butter, they don't deflate much). These cookies were a labor of love, I tell you: the butter had to be pushed down into the measuring cup by hand and the chocolate was broken up by hand. My poor little hands have no moisture left from being washed so much! But they're a success, and this will be my way of meeting my upstairs neighbors.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
In Sarajevo, you do not want for cake. All the slaticarnas (slast-ee-char-nahs), which are sweet shops, have lots and lots of delicious cakes, all ready to be sampled. So why did I dream of cake? Partly because the cakes here are wonderful, but none of them have the whipped icing that I'm now used to, and I miss it. I can't help it, it's what I love...although I really love the cakes here. You simply have to try them out if you come to Eastern Europe.
Today we're going to get our bus tickets to travel to Austria at the end of the month. It'll take, oh, maybe 14 hours to get there, and upon our return, we have to take a night bus. See, know how some people in the States say they live in the nation's armpit because it's hot and it takes forever to travel somewhere else? Well, that's Sarajevo minus the heat at the moment. It's way far south and they don't have the money for upkeep. I didn't like the train - the single, solitary train that takes 9 hours just to get you to Zagreb, Croatia, that is accessible by a 4- or 5-hour car ride. The train that is packed with people smoking, that makes unscheduled stops to let children off or to let old men on, that stops four or five times to change locomotives because we're traveling through Republika Srpska (Serp-skah), and that is currently on strike. So, instead, we're busing it. Flying would've cost over $500 per person, and we simply don't have the cash for that. I'm excited to go - we get to see a few of Wiley's friends, maybe do a little wine-tasting in the country, and even maybe go to a castle (I really hope we can see it)!! And THEN, we get to shop!!!!!! At H&M!!!!! That means nice clothes on the cheap!!!!!!
Friday, October 12, 2007
Here's a picture of our promenade, taken with my first digital camera that seems to be on its last leg. I don't know why "ERA" is spray-painted on the tree trunk, but there's a lot of graffiti around the city. We walked around today for a little over an hour, following the river for part of it. I found a medical office near us, so we have the number for that now should either of us need medical care, and also some pizzerias and auto parts stores and sports centers and massage parlors. Amazing what you can find when you stop staring at the sidewalk to see what muck your feet are stepping in.
Today's words are numbers.
1 = jedan (yay-dahn)
2 = dva (dvah)
3 = tri (tree, and try to trill the r a bit)
4 = ceteri (the c should have a full carot over it, making it a "ch" like church - so CHET-airy)
5 = pet
6 = sest (again, a carot should be over the first s, making it a "sh" sound, like should - so shest)
7 = sedam (SAY-dam)
8 = osam (O-sahm)
9 = devet (dev-ette)
10 = deset (dess-ette)
I think I can get all the way to 100, which is sto (stow). And pol (poll) means half. Do you know what this means, Dear Reader? Dread on my part - I'm going to have to venture the store alone and try to understand what is said to me! *musters up courage and hikes up jeans*
Space is another thing not to be taken for granted. Our fridge:
See the olives front and center? Mmmmm. Needless to say, it cannot hold a ton of food, so we have to go to the grocery store more frequently than we do in the US - usually every other day. So far, I only really like shopping at the big big big grocery store that reminds me of Wal-Mart - the aisles are big enough that you don't run into scowling, scurrying people. It's a bit far for the big stuff though, so I have to resign myself to the fact that I have to go to a smaller grocery store closer to home.
We also picked up a DVD player...Wiley's computer was doing a good job, but if there are any other noises, he can't hear it, so we found one for around $30 and it works beautifully. Not that we're sitting around all the time watching TV...we were out for quite awhile yesterday! But it's hard to get out when it's rainy and you technically don't have to. *grins broadly*
This morning also brought a visitor to our door. Normally I'm friendly, but in the past week, a beggar got into our building with her child and rang the doorbells asking for handouts. Today, I figured, was more of the same, so when I looked out the peephole and didn't recognize the lady or her child, I didn't answer the door. My suspicions were correct when I peeked my head out our kitchen window and saw said lady and child with two other young women - possibly teens - walking away toward the city center. Part of me is outraged - you can be accosted on the street by any number of beggars - unfortunately, it is commonplace here - but to get into my apartment building that requires a key to gain access? That has a security guard outside to make sure dear Judge is safe?? That makes me most unhappy, especially because they seem to come in at all hours - today it was morning, but last time it was 1 pm, when I was sick and taking a nap. And, being the worrier that I am, if they gain access, like maybe they have a key because they used to live here, how do I know someone doesn't have a key to my apartment and can gain access while we're away? Wiley says I'm a chronic worrier. Yeah, well, so be it, I guess. It's unnerving!
Thursday, October 11, 2007
THEN, just to look around town a little more, we found something akin to a mall. A mall!!!! Inside was the biggest grocery/allinone store that had a Wal-Mart feel to it, as well as a shoe store where I looked for shoes to walk in as well as hiking boots (struck out on both), and a sports store, and several clothing stores (but I'm holding out for Austria). After finding Kellogg's cereal (and not buying it), as well as Barilla pasta (and not buying that, either), and green olives in a jar (those I did buy), not to mention the cutest dinner plates, plants and air fresheners, I feel I am in a normal city again, and Sarajevo has redeemed itself, even though the weather has been crappy the last several days and it's made me sick.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Looks tasty, eh? Not too shabby, but next time, we need more and bigger potatoes. And we've decided to cook some more American food, like lasagna or my fettucine alfredo, instead of just pasta with whatever sauce. It gets a little old, and I haven't been here long enough for things to get old!!
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Ain't she pretty? After we got it up, I sang, "It's not easy being green," since the light from outside cast a small green tinge on the room. The room is dark. The room is now a sleeping haven...or so I hope. I'm so tired of wearing my little eye mask. Wiley makes fun of it since it's now part of my evening ritual...get into bed, put in ear plugs and don eye mask before picking up a book to read. "Why don't you just wear it around the apartment?" he asks. If I've never told you before, sometimes he can be a smarta**. I'm very pleased with the curtains, though they're a bit long and I need to get some Stitch Witchery so they don't puddle on the floor. I hate that.
First of all, Sarajevo is the first European town I've lived in that doesn't have a McDonalds. They have tons of fast food, but it all has a distinctly Bosnian flavor (mostly Burek and Cevapcici). So, we were very surprised to see what we thought was a Burger King when we moved in. It has the right colors and the logo looks very similar. However, upon closer inspection, it is a Hamby King. There are three Hamby Kings in Sarajevo.
So, we went to Hamby King today. I ordered the Cheeseburger Value Meal and Melinda had the Hamburger. There was a Whopper on the menu (I'm sure the BK people love that) as well as some Bosnian dishes. The first major difference was that we had to wait 10 ten minutes for our food. That's right folks, they actually cooked them to order! The big surprise, however, was when Melinda opened her burger and cabbage fell out. Cabbage!!! There was meat, tomato, lettuce, thousand island sauce, ketchup and cabbage. The bread was better than what we would get in the states. The ratio of meat to cabbage was about 1 to 2, not to mention the other stuff that was on it. If they'd taken out the cabbage and doubled the size of the meat, then it would be the best burger I've had in Europe. As it stands, I bet we go back for the fries.
I'm sure tons of you will rush right out to get a cellulite-reducer that you can take to the beach and strap yourselves into in front of complete strangers so they can watch your bikini (which makes perfect sense to wear when using one of these things, dontcha think?) hike up and up and up due to the movement. If you want to see more pictures, click here.
Monday, October 8, 2007
Today’s dream was one for the books. I had a dream that I went to
The one thing I really miss about the States is that if you want to do some real shopping, you go to a mall, and everything you could possibly want is right there. That’s not the case here. We’ve had to stop people on the street to ask where things are – the curtain shop, for example, was to our west, in the bottom of a brown 12-story apartment building. We never would’ve found it if we hadn’t asked. When trying to find paper for the printer, the owner of the curtain shop told us to walk to the main street and take a right. So we did, and never found anything. It was only on our way back on the other side of the street that we found it. I have been searching for a purse since the day I got here, to no avail. I wanted a nice little black purse, and I found exactly what I want in a sky blue. The whole reason I left my purse at home was because I thought it was too conspicuous, and then I get here, and the only purse I find that I like comes in blue or canary yellow! Sigh. The leather is good here, but expensive. In the bascarcija, one black purse was 90 KM…I usually don’t pay more than $20 for my purses back home, so I’m really reluctant to part with so much money for something…but the time is growing nearer when I need one. Wiley will only hold my wallet for so long, and when we travel to
And one thing you should all know is that yes, Americans tend to be on the pudgier side than their European counterparts, but I’ve seen more than one woman bigger than me. And they also don’t always dress so well. On the whole, the women (and men) are done up very nicely – they wear a lot of suit jackets – but the whole “only Americans wear white tennis shoes” couldn’t be farther from the truth. I’ve seen lots of Sarajevians with white Nikes or white Skechers on their feet. They do seem to have a lot of shoes, and a lot of women walk around in heels…I don’t know if they’re walking six miles a day, or just around town, or what, but they always match their shoes to their jackets or purses. This morning, a lady with a short-waisted red trench was walking on the sidewalk, and she had red shoes to match. I turned to Wiley, reminded him of the five pairs of shoes I brought (he brought four), and told him I never wanted him to tell me I had too many shoes again. I don’t have hardly any shoes, even at home, compared to what people have here. They also like the skinny jean, which, I’m sorry, but even if you’re a stick, doesn’t look good on you. It reminds me of the 80s, and there really are some things we should leave behind. One thing I do want to get while I’m here is some good mascara. Every single chickie wears it. When I wear it, I call myself “getting whored up” because I usually only wear it when I’m going out to dinner or dancing and I feel a little ridiculous wearing so much makeup during the day. But they wear it here, everyday, all the time, and their lashes are beautiful and long, which mine aren’t. So now I’m whoring it up everyday. Sorry, but every so often, I have to cave to pressure to appear to be alike. My hair gives me away, but I can at least do my makeup the same. I just wonder if it’ll ever fully come off.
One good thing about coming here (there are several, but this one is particularly important to me), is that since I don’t know the language, and I look like a foreigner, a lot of people stare at me (and Wiley, for that matter), and I’m sure they’re judging the way I look, but since I don’t understand what they’re saying, it’s really easy to brush off and not care. I would like to look a bit more European and blend in a bit. It’s not like I stick out like a sore thumb that much…there are other blondes….it’s just that their eyeshadow is sometimes blue and their skin is olive-toned and their black roots show….so in a way, it’s not all that different from living in the States….but since my skin has pink and blue undertones, it could be a bit difficult to blend in completely, even if I colored my hair red or dark brown or black. You might think that you’d be proud to stand out, but there are times when it gets to me, like at the grocery store….I suppose in a small way, it’s like being a celebrity. I luckily still have my privacy at home, but since my hair is short, I walk differently and don’t swivel my hips in a come-hither fashion, and have different clothes, and since I’m next to Wiley, who is not wiry like most men, the stares come. It’s only been a week, so I’m sure I’ll get used to it, but for now, it just makes me a little more nonchalant about what others think about me. I’m not here to impress anyone (at least not until I look for a job!). I’m just here to live. And I’m picking up some words for things, like Koliko costa (koliko koh-shtah), which is, “How much does that cost?” and the words for some fruits, and I don’t care, and No problem. There are beggars here, so I’ve learned to say no. There was a little girl who approached us as we were eating in the bascarcija, and we told her no (though we both felt like heels for doing it), and the shop keeper watched us, and she ran in and he gave her food, and not ten minutes later, one of his employees came in and said she was selling his food down the street. So it’s hard to know when to give in and buy them something or when to just ignore them.