Tuesday, December 29, 2009

junk and stuff

did a run to croatia today.

got vaccinations for typhoid, etc. at a tropical medicine clinic in zagreb.  (thank you couchsurfer katarina from zagreb who answered my post and let me know about the clinic!)

you see, you can't get travel vaccinations in banja luka since not enough people here actually get to travel to warrant keeping vaccines here, so you either have to go to sarajevo, zagreb or belgrade.

also got z a tourist visa for thailand. there's no embassy in bosnia and, unlike american citizens who can just get a visa issued on arrival, citizens of bosnia have to get theirs issued in advance.

details, details....

anyway, there's nothing like a couple o' karlovacko (unless it's a nektar, but hey we're in croatia, not bosnia) to take way the sting of a few travel vaccinations and a long day of running around.  (those orange things are our international certificate of vaccination booklets.)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

the best christmas cookies in the world ever

every year for at least 47 years, my mom has made the best christmas cookies in the world (or at least my world) ever. this year, i attempted to make them for the first time.

although it was my first time attempting to make the cookies, and although i am a notorious non-cook, and although i had to convert cups to grams, and although i only had a giant poorly labeled container showing grams in increments of 100, and although they didn't have sugar sprinkles and i had to substitute the sprinkles for "jimmies", the cookies still managed to come out perfect! ha!!!!

q: how many of them do you think i can eat?

a: every single stinkin' last one of them!

Friday, December 25, 2009

all i want for christmas is my two front teeth, my two front... well actually, make that a full set of uppers.

z got his new teeth for christmas today. ok, so it's not actually christmas in the serbian orthodox tradition (january 7th is), but still...

sigh... i'm sure i'll get used to it, but right now, i really miss that most beautiful smile in the whole world ever.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

a dork all aglow

i am such a dork!

i'm so so so so excited!

you'd think i'd be used to couchsurfing by now.

i have an early morning flight from zagreb next month and decided i didn't want to trouble a couchsurfing host for one night just to take off super early the next morning, so i posted a question on the zagreb couchsurfing forum asking if anyone knew of a reasonably priced place to stay near the airport there.

within hours, i received an invitation to couchsurf at the home of someone who lives just 15 minutes away - by foot - from the airport. i checked out her profile and we also just happen to have some interesting things in common.

and now i'm all aglow and thrilled and giggly because i love couchsurfing and couchsurfers and the fact that there are so many really cool people out there in the world.

i am such a dork!

Monday, December 21, 2009

saying goodbye to the most beautiful smile in the whole world ever

in the last month, z has had 4 teeth pulled and 1 root canal. today he is having his 8 remaining top teeth prepped to get a permanent bridge that will replace the missing teeth.

i know that teeth are a good thing in general, but to me, this is the most beautiful smile in the whole world ever and i'm really sad to see it go.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

the nuances of drying laundry

icicles are not conducive to drying

heat is often a better choice

Saturday, December 19, 2009

screna (happy/lucky)
slava (celebration/feast)
sveti nikola (saint nicholas)!

got that?

today is st. nicholas day in the serbian orthodox tradition. we celebrated semi-traditionally.  pretty much everything but the priest.

tea teodora and vuki arriving

z's mom and brother

our teeny little dinner table

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

the season of endings

november 28th 2009
john and susan maloney, in their 40's, and their two children aiden, 8, and grace, 5 were killed instantly in a violent auto accident.  i knew them many years ago. i was at their wedding, their new year's eve parties. the last time i saw them was brief, when susan was pregnant with aiden.  they were genuine people.

december 9th 2009
a friend's elderly mother-in-law that she had cared for over many years as alzheimers slowly advanced peacefully passed away in her sleep.

today december 15th
i watched the body of a neighbor, whose life i really knew nothing about, being wheeled away in an anonymous black bag.

each of these endings, each so different, brought up different things for me. different bits of my past, distant and recent, some things long-forgotten and some just tucked away in the recesses and ignored; brought up things i once did, who i once was, and bits of who i am now that i hadn't given much conscious thought to.

each of these endings gave me the gift of the opportunity to initiate my own gentler endings; to say hello to and then let go of old images, ideas and emotions that no longer reflect who i am today, but that are hiding back there in the nooks and crannies of my mind, heart and soul quietly influencing me and taking up space that i could fill with the me i've grown into; gave me the opportunity to keep the smiles, let go of the rest, and fill the newly open spaces with lightness.

i have reams of things to say about all of these endings, but nowhere to begin.

Train Drops of Jupiter

Caedmon's Call Ten Thousand Angels

Monday, December 14, 2009

did i mention it was 5 degrees here?

that's 5 degrees fahrenheit ( or -15 celsius, which is the unit of measurement here). during the day. when it's warm.

my yard

outside my window

my neighbor's house. hope they have a better woodstove than me!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

i'm the firestarter, twisted firestarter

ok, maybe not exactly the firestarter, but definitely the firekeeper. definitely the firekeeper.

i've mastered the art of keeping this old, incredibly inefficient top-loading woodstove going all day with - and here's the important part - a minimum of smoke release into the room. that's not to say that i don't have black lung, but i have less black lung that i might were i not the firestarter!

The Prodigy Firestarter

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

we're drinking, my friend, to the end of a brief episode *

today, the final installment of the money that was stolen from me - well at least the last bit of the less than ½ of it that i was able to collect based on california contract law - arrived in my bank account.

it’s over and the fact it’s over is simultaneously a relief and is meaningless.

the relief is that the chapter of my life wherein i learned up-close and personal about the really shitty things people are capable of doing to others is closed.

the meaninglessness is that in many ways, that chapter was closed long ago and it’s been a lifetime – a good lifetime - since then and the last bit of cash arriving in my bank account is more symbolic than anything else, devoid of much emotional impact.

and yeah, bits of anger and sadness still come up, suddenly stimulated by a song, something on tv, the balance in my bank account…. but they do so far less frequently now.

the anger is mostly at myself. looking back (of course, it’s always upon looking back..) there were many times that i could have made a decision that would have kept every penny of my life savings out of the hands that it fell into. but i chose to trust instead.

and the sadness, well, it’s different now than it was then. it comes now when i find myself feeling distrustful of people who i’ve no reason to distrust. and how sad that is. that little bit of hardness in my heart that i keep bumping into.

so i guess it’s not really over yet. but i’m working on it.

Eddie Vedder Rise

such is the way of the world, you can never know
just where to put all your faith and how will it grow

gonna rise up, burning black holes in dark memories
gonna rise up, turning mistakes into gold

such is the passage of time, too fast to fold
suddenly swallowed by signs, low and behold

gonna rise up, find my direction magnetically
gonna rise up, throw down my ace in the hole

- eddie vedder

* post heading quote from johnny mercer

Sunday, November 29, 2009

it’s not so much that i want more, it’s that i don’t want not-enough.

i have my own definition of not-enough. my not-enough is likely far less than that of most people in industrialized countries, and likely far more than that of most people in so-called developing countries. nevertheless, it is my own personal definition of not-enough and i fear it and i resist it (not the definition, the actual state of not-enoughness).

today, while hiking in the mountains of bosnia – a hike filled, by the way, with ample enoughness - i realized that i have been bound to not-enough through my resistance to it my entire life.

over the years, i have made thousands of decisions, big and small, that shaped the form and quality of my life - all based on my fear of and resistance to not-enough. the career that i disliked and let slowly drain me until i was simultaneously desperately unhappy and a numb empty shell. the experiences i missed, choosing instead to work hard and “save” that money for later instead of living life more fully in the now because i needed to have that money waiting in the background ready to jump into action to beat down the not-enough when it threatened to come around. thousands of choices out of fear of the not-enough.

you get what you resist and sure enough i found myself facing down not-enough awhile back. i have far less in terms of money and material things today than i did a couple of years back, but in losing those things, i gained a fullness of life that i had chosen to forgo while trying to protect myself against the not-enough. in the process, i thought that i had left the fight against not-enough behind.

but today in the mountains, i found it lurking around again. thinking things like i can’t afford to buy expensive food like cheese and broccoli when i go to the market today, because if i do, well, soon enough i’ll be facing not-enough.

today in the mountains i also realized that until i give up that struggle, until i stop resisting not-enough, until i make friends with not-enough, it will continue to play out in one form or another in my life.

so i bought broccoli when i got home. no cheese. one step at a time.

Paula Cole Me

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"rat" = war
"bendova" = bands
rat bendova: bosnia's battle of the bands

so for the last few weeks or so, i've been watching rat bendova, a battle of the bands tv show out of sarajevo. you know the drill. a bunch of bands perform each week, and somebody gets eliminated at the end of the show.

amongst the usual array of bands that have been playing clubs for a few years, there's a trio of kids that i love. and i mean kids. the santos brothers lead guitarist is 16, the bass player is 14, and the drummer is 12. check 'em out doing a little jimmie:

Santos Brothers

Sunday, November 22, 2009

exercise for india, training for thailand

where z and i hike above banja luka in prep for southeast asia

Friday, November 20, 2009

it ain't over 'til it's over,
but i hear tell it's almost over...

so, i got news that the last bit of legal paperwork required to finish off the little mess i found myself in just over 2 years ago was finally filed today in the states today.

it took this long because the paperwork couldn't be filed until the, uh, person, on the other end of the contract actually fulfilled the contract, and that is something that the, uh, person, failed to do until recently.

the reason i can't say it's over yet is because i still haven't seen the last bit of cash that fulfilled the contract appear in my bank account, and until i see it, it's not actually over.

so..... on this, the eve of the almost over, looking back on the events of the last 2 years, if i had known it would have taken this long and i'd get so little of my life savings back from the uh, person, i would have just gone straight to court day 1 without mucking about.

wait, i take that back, i just wouldn't have trusted that the, uh, person, was a man of his word in the first place.

but hey, you live and learn. 

and boy have i lived and learned since then... so although i am now life-changingly poorer in pocketbook, i'm also life-changingly richer in heart and soul - and for that, i'm grateful.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

you chop 80 kilo of cabbage and what do you get?

cabbage, salt, water, a giant barrel and a little time'll get you all the sauerkraut you can eat - and more...

Monday, November 16, 2009

banja luka living: how i dry my clothes and heat my flat

and lately when drying my clothes and heating my flat, i like to listen to a little of this:

Dino Dvornik Hypnotiziran

Thursday, November 12, 2009

yeah, but can your barista do this?

a gorilla sitting on a rock reading a book.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

cheese in a can? cheese in a can?

try pâté in a squeezy bag...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

the simplest things....

...are not always so simple.  internet access has been, well, let's say, a bit of a challenge.  i'm good.  i'm in bosnia.  i'm just not all hooked up in the whole hey-look-at-me,-i'm-in-touch-with-the-whole-world kinda way....  i'm sitting in a cafe/bar at the moment, blissed out by the fact that 1) one of the employees here could not only speak english but 2) also knew about computer/router/internet stuff and so, 3) i was actually able to get an internet connection after only 45 minutes of rebooting the establishment's equipment and dicking around with my nic settings (and spending as much on beer for the "free" internet connection that i would have spent for an entire month of unlimited internet access at home), and 4) after all of that, convincing the employees to let me plug in my laptop (only plug in the place is behind the bar) since my battery can barely hold a charge anymore....

now, completely soused and satisfied with my tiny victory, i say "screw the spellcheck, i'm just gonna post!"  i'll try and get some photos and other stuff up within the next week...


my brain, my pusher
or after the low, the high

did i say i sang the praises of kajmak?  forget kajmak, i sing the praises of my all powerful brain. 

after the flood of chemicals (was it something i ate?) that laid me low, that led me through rapid cycling ups and downs and downs... and downs over the last week…  as fast as it came, it lifted.

and today, i am basking in the wonderment of sitting in the midst of men, big men, smoking drinking scary men, hard men, negotiating car deals, arranging official papers with an off-duty border agent.

it is what it is, and what it should be.  perfect in the moment.  once again.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

my little flat and the first snow

we found a great little furnished 1 room flat in ½ of the upstairs of a 2 storey house and moved in on the 1st.
we got our first snow 2 days later.

it comes with a kitty that sits outside our window sometimes

pondering the snow in my backyard

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

the power of my tantrums or, i’m always in a good mood when you are

after 2 weeks in bosnia i find myself having a bit of a, shall we say challenge, adjusting to the abrupt change from summer in budva to winter in bosnia, sharing a teeny room with z’s mom and brother while we try to find a semi-affordable flat, not being able to get the food that makes my body feel good, and coming to terms with the difficulty in getting basic things – like medical attention for z - taken care of. so much of a challenge that i’ve thrown a temper tantrum or two after a series of particularly frustrating events.

so today, feeling unusually happy despite the fact that we are on a very long walk to an m:tel customer call center after our second day of spending all day trying to find someone to help me get internet access after the usb internet modem I recently bought stopped working after just 10 minutes, i looked up at z, who looked a bit pained and asked him “are you in a bad mood?” “what is a mood?” “you know, like happy, sad, nervous…” and with the softest eyes and most beautiful smile in the world, he said “i’m always in a good mood when you are.”

Monday, October 26, 2009

i sing the praises of kajmak

kajmak (pronounced kai-mak), the yummiest cheese ever in the world. z’s mom likes to buy lots of whatever kind of food that he tells her i like (and she happens to remember) when she goes to the market. this time it was kajmak. it looks slightly like small curd cottage cheese, but tastes more like england’s clotted cream. for those of you who have had clotted cream, you know what i'm saying!   mmmmm……

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

got my mind on my money and my money on my mind

the currency in bosnia is the convertible mark. the currency in montenegro is the euro. the currency of my country of origin – and thus firmly ensconced in my head as the measure of what i’m “really” spending - is the american dollar.

one of my many mini-theories is that if you’re always converting the local currency to your currency of origin, it sets up a dynamic where you’re always a visitor. so i stopped thinking long ago about what the cost of bread in montenegro, or the cost of eggs in bosnia “really” was in us dollars. so now i just think of 1 as 1. euro, mark, dollar – whatever – it’s just 1 monetary unit.

ok, so maybe in terms of the impact on my finances in absolute reality, that “a monetary unit is a monetary unit” thing didn’t work out so well for me in montenegro where 1 euro was "really" around 1.6 american dollars, but here in bosnia, where 1 mark is currently about 80 american cents, my theory works out really well.

and i definitely don’t feel like a visitor.

get yer ya-ya’s on!

the serbian world for egg is jaja, pronounced yaw-yaw. makes me giggle every time I hear it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

day tripping in bar, montenegro

bar, your basic centuries-old walled, fortressed city in the mountains
(i'm tired. it looks like it's going to rain.  do you think it's going to rain?  do we really have to climb around up there today?  i'm hungry.  i have to pee.  hey, are you taking a picture of me?..)

montenegro has had some pretty big earthquakes...

did i mention the mountains?

Monday, October 5, 2009

is that a vanillice in your pocket?

sweets from my sweet this mornng.  i wake up to a crackling noise.  z's just come back from his morning walk and he's pulling a small bag out of the pocket of his jacket. "hey what this? how get here? someone must put in when i walking by pekara*."

* that would be the the local bakery that makes amazing treats the likes of which i've never tasted in the states...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

the winding down

sigh. it's winding down. the angle of the sun, the ever so slight cooling of the water. and the grapes. look at them. they were once so full and fat and vibrant. now they're, well... winding down. sigh.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

brunch before beach in budva

fuel for frogging around in the adriatic all day

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

you're never too old to rock the adriatic!

- uh, and no, that's not me. yeah, thanks.
photo by nico and/or chris

Sunday, September 20, 2009

i am exhausted

i mean, really, bobbing around in the adriatic all day, every day is simply exhausting. it's all i can do to drag my butt back home and eat whatever fabulous meal zeljko has prepared for me.

Friday, September 18, 2009

the last 4

why host just 1 or 2 couchsurfers at a time when you can host 4 at a time?

seriously though, it really is much more fun to have a houseful. well, at least for me. maybe not so much for the surfers who have to sleep on the floor...

anyway, joining agata - and then swapping out agata for lucia - to make the end of our hosting season in budva especially crunchy and mellow:

nicolas, from the french speaking part of belgium,
and who is not a fascist

chris, also from the french speaking part of belgium,
also clearly not a fascist

and lucia from uruguay (although most recently dublin, ireland),
a hitchhiking, spanish-teaching, dog-loving vegan (who added a few dishes to zeljko's repertoire),
and who, although we did not specifically discuss it,
i'm pretty sure is also not a fascist.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

agata of the couchsurfing, sailboat surfing variety

agata, immigrated from poland to the u.s. when she was 4, now back in poland on a fulbright scholarship.

agata, come and gone so quickly.  ok, maybe i pushed her out, but it was so she could take advantage of a free, yes free, croatian island hopping opportunity that had just dropped in her lap.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

andy and mau: our unintentional surfers

we met andy and mau (maureen) from england at the prince, our favorite pub/internet cafe in budva. they were vacationing north of budva and had bused here for the day to check out stari grad and enjoy the beach. we immediately hit it off, so we plied them with beer, they plied us with beer, and after much mutual plying - we lured them back to our place with promises of the best balcony in budva, pasta bolognese, and more beer. many, many hours later, after the last bus back to their place was long gone, we had our next batch of couchsurfers. i think that there's nothing better than couchsurfing, except maybe for spontaneous couchsurfing...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

romancing the worm. ringworm, that is.

texas tea. black gold.  ok, never mind.  guess you had to be there. 

look, it climbed up on my lap, made biscuits, then promptly fell asleep.  what was i gonna do?  well, what i didn't do was touch it, despite my overwhelming desire to do so, lest this happen to me again.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

stari grad (old town) in kotor monenegro

i could live on this street

or this street

or here

or here (even though it's not actually in stari grad...)

Monday, September 7, 2009

the migration patterns of the happily disillusioned

so i had a little issue come up the other day. i had to get out of montenegro since the 90 days i could legally be here on just a passport were about up.

the great thing about montenegro - since it's not a member of the infamous schengen gang - is that once you exit, you can just re-enter and the 90 day clock starts over. not true with those schengen thugs whose 25 (damn you switzerland for joining them in 2008!) member countries who, unless you manage to wrangle a temporary residence permit out of them, only allow you to stay a total of 90 days within any 180 day period. that's not 90 days in each country. that's 90 days cumulative across all the member countries.

so anyway, the point is that i had to get out of montenegro for a bit. and you know what that meant? roadtrip!!!!

after 3 months, yes 3 (hello!) friggin' months in one place, i was finally on the road again! ok, indulge me. it was only for a couple days, but it... was.... the.... road!!!!!

hitchhiking from montenegro to croatia was glorious! and when i say glorious, i don't say it, i sing it - glorrrrr-iiiiiii-usssssssss!

and i finally got to hitch a taxi!!!!

ok, it's hard to explain it, but i was glowing when z and i had to walk the 1.2 kilometers (uphill, mind you) of no-man's land between the montenegrin border crossing exit and the croatian border crossing entry. glowing! i know it seems a bit silly, but for some reason, there’s just something fun about walking a border crossing, about “pulling up” to the border crossing guard booth on foot.

now, if you're wondering why hitchhikers end up walking across border crossings, well, sometimes drivers go out of their way to take you all the way to the border crossing even though they're not crossing the border themselves. and sometimes drivers who would normally love to give you a ride decide they don’t want to have to explain to a border guard why they have an international criminal in the back of their car, if indeed you turn out to be an international criminal... in this particular case, our lovely just-gone-off-duty montenegrin taxi driver couldn't take his employer-owned taxi over the border.

so anyway, i wasn't glowing just because i walked another border crossing. i was glowing because i was on the road and there were very few cars on that road, and it was getting dark, and dubrovnik was still a long way away. who would be our next ride and when would they come? (ok, so it turns out our next ride picked us up just steps after the croatian border crossing guards allowed us entry, but it could have taken longer…)

but the point is that z and i were on the road together on our first long distance hitch. he was in thongs. cheap little rubber thongs and he was walking the border crossing with me - at dusk!. and it as okay with him! z was okay with it all!

i was ecstatic in the moment. i thought about alex and bruno from aix-en-provence now on foot in southeast asia. i thought about vincent and marie from paris - the "delighted caravan" heading to india. i thought about the last group of couchsurfers we had just hosted, all of them solo hitchhikers who happened to converge on our place at the same time, all of them from different parts of the world and all of them heading to different parts of the world.

i thought about all of us, all of us disillusioned with the trappings of conventional life and, all of us following our own migration patterns across the globe and happily - ecstatically - finding meaning in the places and people and moments along the way.

Friday, September 4, 2009

30 couchsurfers in 60 days

i tried to write about it - specifically the last 10 days of non-stop hosting - but i'm still too tired.  it'll just have to wait until i've had enough "me" time and feel like sorting through my thoughts and photos and stuff and junk.  until then, this'll have to do:

david, our australian marine biologist

florian, the german didjeri dude
and environmental conservation student

james, our international relations student

and danielle, our molecular biologist

Sunday, August 23, 2009

the delighted caravan lands on our doorstep

our most recent couchsurfers, marie and vincent, collectively
"the delighted caravan", landed on our doorstep last night. both are engineers in paris, and in late june they climbed into a camper van and left their jobs and home behind in france to travel for one year. they should hit greece by september and then they'll leave the van behind and head out on foot to india. yep, that means trekking through turkey, iran and pakistan on foot.

so we talked through most of the night about work, life, travel, language, couchsurfing, politics and all that stuff. and they taught us a great line - "j'en ai ras le cul les couchsurfers" - to use with our next french couchsurfers. well it's great assuming they have a sense of humor and don't get offended easily... oh, you can try the free online translators on this one, but they don't quite reveal the poetry of it.