Monday, April 30, 2007

I Know... I'm a Bum

Hey. i know ive been really terrible about updating this blog. Ive never been much of a journal person. I was hoping i could do it for this trip, but that seems to have failed. So Belgrade is long gone. I am now in Mostar, Bosnia after spending a week in Dubrovnik Croatia. We leave tomorrow morning for Sarajevo, where we will be living for the remainder of the trip. Dubrovnik was beautiful, and Mostar has been an interesting experience as well. This trip has allowed me to learn and do so much that i would never be doing anywhere else. I dont think i can sufficiantly sun up the last three weeks in a single blog entry, and i also cannot figure out how to upload pictures onto blogspot, but if you would like to look at pictures:
Belgrade/ Serbia:


So those are what ive posted thus far. Ill try to get back on the horse and blog a little more regularly for the next month or so depending on internet connection. Hope all is well where you all are, things are great her.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

National Bank and Serbian Mexican Food

Apr 2

We keep getting to do the coolest things as a group while we are here. Today we were given a tour of the National Bank of Serbia. We started out by getting a lecture about Serbia’s economic status from Radovan Jelasic, the governor of the bank. He talked about Serbia’s chances of getting into the EU in the near future. He had a ton of economic graphs and statistics that I didn’t even half understand, but it was really cool because he is a hugely influential man in Serbia right now. After Jelasic’s lecture we were given a tour of the National Bank premise. It is a huge beautiful building. Our tour guide also took us to their museum of money. Serbia had one of the biggest inflation problems in world in the 1990s. They had the 500 billion dinar bills on display that they were using at the time. That’s some pretty bad inflation. We also got to get a 1 dinar note with our face on it which was pretty silly, but still fun! After the Bank we went to Que Pasa?, one of Serbia’s few Mexican food restaurants. It turned out there was only three Mexican food options on the menu, but I got some pretty delicious pasta. There wasn’t enough room for everyone at one table, so Bryan and I sat at our own table. It felt kind of like a weird date, but we had a really great conversation so it was ok. After Que Pasa? Matt, Levi and I bought some postcards from a street vendor (if you’re lucky you might get one!), and then headed back to their dorm. Matt went to the post office, and I fell asleep trying to read. I woke up with a start when Levi left the room. I thought that I was late for class, and was stressed out that I wasn’t in my own room, but then I realized it was four in the afternoon. It was a pretty unpleasant way to wake up. When Matt got back we all went over to the Speak Easy, our new favorite internet café and played cards. When we got hungry we decided to go over to a restaurant we walked by often, but never actually went into. The menu turned out not to be in English, and our waiter didn’t speak any English at all. Bryan and Levi ended up getting a kilo of lamb between the two of them, it was SO much food! It was a really great time. After that we tried to go back to their dorm to hang out, but the doorman wouldn’t let me go upstairs to hang out, so I just grabbed a bus home and went to sleep.


Sunday, April 8, 2007

Jat Klub

Apr 1

So the “Jat Klub” turned out to be some guy’s apartment on the third floor of some building downtown. We had to wander around quite a bit trying to find the place, but we finally found it and it turned out to be a really great time. When we first showed up there we were a little out of place. Everyone was pretty dressed up, and older. Mirit has been doing capoeria, a Brazilian martial art, with a group in Belgrade and a couple of them were there, which made things a little less awkward. When we heard that the party was going to be a dance spectacle we thought that it meant that we would be dancing a lot. We were all standing around kind of awkwardly, the only ones who were dancing, and a woman came and cleared a circle in the middle of the dance floor. We weren’t quite sure what was happening, but then 8 or so people came out into the circle and did a salsa dance routine. It was really cool. A little later on there was a capoeria demonstration as well. Mirit wasn’t prepared, but we made her perform as well. We hung out at the party for a while, met some cool guys from Montenegro. It was really fun. The weirdest thing was that everyone there spoke really great English. When we got sick of suffocating in everyone’s cigarette smoke we decided to go to a Salsa dancing club called Havana. When we got there it turned out that the club was going to close in about half an hour, so most of us just decided to call it a night. Scott, Kelly, and Andy went inside, but the rest of the group just hailed a cab and went home. It was a really fun night with some really great people. Last night was the first night I really got to hang out with any of the group that wasn’t Levi and Matt, and it was really great time. I’m so glad I did it. Today was just a day of recovery from being out late last night. I woke up late and hung out with Scott. He took me to go get a giant hamburger and then we went to the citadel to read for class tomorrow. It was a gorgeous day. I ended up lying in the sun, doing a little reading, but mostly napping and taking pretty pictures. Later, I met the Lola boys at their dorm and we went to a club where Bryan’s friend was DJing. It was interesting. After an hour or so there I decided to go home and get some sleep before class tomorrow.



Mar 31

Today Matt, Levi and I bummed around their dorm most of the day. We just hung out and read and recovered from being out so late the night before discussing the meaning of life. When they went over to an internet café to check their emails, I decided it was time to head back to my dorm for a shower. I cleaned up, took a nap, and then decided to see what everyone else was up to. Claire, one of the girls on our trip met a guy this morning at the internet café in our neighborhood and he invited her to a party at the “Jat Klub” tonight (Yacht Club). She put us all on the list, so a big group of us are going. Claire was told by the guy who invited her that it is going to be a “dance spectacle”. I’m excited to get out and hang out with the rest of the group. I hope its going to be a fun time!


The meaning of life??

Mar 30

Last night was a late night, but that was ok because we didn’t have class today. The discotheque was really fun. I didn’t meet very many Serbians, only a few, but I did have a fun time with our group. When we woke up we went downtown and met up with Milo and Matt, the other guys from the Lola dorm because they didn’t end up going out with us. We didn’t want to spend another day hanging around the room, and it was a gorgeous day, so we went out. We first got lunch at this nice place in one of the many parks in the area. It was my first real sit down meal since I think I’ve been here. After lunch we went to St. Mark’s, a big Orthodox church near the dorm. It is absolutely beautiful. Orthodox churches are all built in a very similar fashion with beehive-like ceilings. It makes for a very intimidating and grand place of worship. The park surrounding St. Mark’s is full of vendors selling things. I bought a jar of honey, which is the most popular thing to sell in the park. For good reason too, it’s the best honey I’ve ever had. I also bought a cool wool hat from a really old Serbian woman. There is a huge outdoor market very close to where we were, so we went and wandered around that. Both Bryan and Levi bought half a kilo of really good looking cheese. We went back to the boy’s dorm, and feasted on bread, cheese and special Serbian paprika spread. We went over to a small bar/club near their dorm that they frequent. We had a long in depth philosophical discussion, which was really interesting, and then went back to the dorms and went to sleep.


Monday, April 2, 2007

Serbian Football and Riot Police!!

Mar 29

Oh wow. The football game was so much fun. It was an amazing experience. About 10 of us ended up going. We all decided to meet the downtown boys at their dorm and head over to the stadium from there. The bus ride over to the boy’s dorm goes by the gypsy slums and bombed out buildings downtown that have not been rebuilt. Seeing this very different side of Belgrade made me realize that I am in fact in a very poor country that is recovering from a devastating war. It was definitely a reality check. People told us that we can just buy tickets at the door so that’s was the plan. We took a trolley from old town. Some Serbian guys on the bus asked us where we were from. When they finally understood that we were from “big Washington” they asked us where we were going. We told them we were going to see the game. One of the guys was so excited: “Oh I see, you are coming to the fight!!” As we approached the stadium things got a little more intimidating. There were riot police surrounding the area by about two blocks. They were in full riot gear. When we got off the bus we managed to lose half the group, but figured that they could figure it out. Out side of and surrounding the stadium there were mounted police, police with dogs, and of course many more riot police, which made me a little nervous to be honest. We were a little late, and just bought tickets from scalpers for face value which was a first. Levi, Matt and I stuck together. We ended up standing in the back during the whole game. It was still so much fun. Everyone yelled, and sang songs. The score was tied one to one, and I managed to film Serbia’s only goal on my camera! Super cool! We all met back up at the end and went home to sleep. Today we had class all day long. It was kind of painful, but I stuck it out by reminding myself that today was our Friday and we didn’t have class the next day. Our professors are quite susceptible to getting off track and going on a long tangent, which we have all lovingly named a “Whack Attack” (because the professors are Norman and Zurica Wacker). I am actually really excited for the literature class, but a little disappointed that we will only have it for an hour a week, once a week. When class was finally out, everyone hung out for a while and took naps. Then I went shopping downtown with two of the girls on the trip: Monika and Kelly. They are nice girls. There is apparently a thing at the student discotheque (club) on campus that everyone is planning on going to. I hope that it gives us a chance to talk to and meet some native Serbians our own age.



Serbia's Art Movement since WWII

Mar 28

The late start today was a nice break. I got to sleep in until 10 and take a nice shower. The guest speaker’s name was Aleksander Macašev. He is a popular Serbian graphic designer and contemporary artist. He told us the history of art in the region starting after WWII. It was really interesting. He was obviously very outspoken. Some people in the class thought that he was offensive, but I thought that he was really great. He also showed us some of his art, which if you are interested you can find on One of the projects that he did that I found particularly interesting was his Joseph Goebbles poster project. You can see it at It was a statement about the media and how anything can be bought or sold. I think that there were definite flaws in some of his arguments, but for the most part he was really inspirational and a really enthusiastic, fun speaker. Tonight is going to be really great. We have plans to go see the national Serbia team play soccer against Portugal. I’m really excited. Going to a European “football” game is going to be a really great time!


"We are closed becuase it is Tuesday!"

(Ok so now i have had an internet connection. Im just bad about updating. So here are some. Not completely up to date though!)

Mar 27

This morning was an early morning. We all met downstairs in the dorm and walked to the B92 headquarters. B92 is an independent Serbian media source in Belgrade, and we were fortunate enough to be given a tour of the building, and the company itself. Saša (pronounced Sasha), one of the original founders of B92 showed us around. We got to see everything: where the daily TV and radio shows were produced and filmed/aired, to the financial department. He told us the history of independent media in Serbia before, during and after the wars. It was really interesting, definitely made me want to be an independent journalist. Not only am I in an amazing part of the world, with a really rich history, but I am getting to do things like tour the premise of the one of the most popular TV/Radio stations in Serbia. The opportunities that our group is getting on this trip are incredible. The tour lasted 2 hours and then we were let go. Most of the group went out to lunch at a cafeteria that was right around the corner from the B92 building. After that we decided to check out the “Mercosur”: the biggest shopping mall in Belgrade. It has a grocery store so I bought some food and school supplies. After the Mercosur we all walked back to our dorms and hung out for a while. After that, Mirit, a friend from the program and I went back to the Lola dorms to meet the boys over there. We met two of them and decided to try and go clubbing. We wandered around a lot and got turned away from a couple clubs because it was Tuesday and nothing was happening. So we ended up wandering around, getting mildly lost, and then going to a couple of cafes. At the end of the night we ended up at a cool Arabic themed teahouse. It was like something from Arabian Nights. Mirit and I took a cab home (it costs only about $5 each to catch a cab from downtown back to Novi Beograd). We have a guest speaker in class tomorrow, but he doesn’t speak until 11, so I have some nice time to sleep in!



Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Crash Course in Belgrade

Mar 26

We had our first official day of class today. The professors handed out class syllabi for our three classes, and talked about what the course load would be like. Looks like we have to do a TON of reading, write a few short papers, and one or two bigger final papers. We went over the classes for about an hour and a half (both the professors often get off track and go on long tangents). I hear that Norman is an amazing professor though so I’m really excited for what his class has to offer. After the classes were outlined we had some time to kill so Matt, Levi, Brian, Milo and I threw around a Frisbee, and then the whole group headed down to old town for a tour from Liza and Molly. We split up when we got downtown and got lunch. Matt and Levi introduced me to a Serbian favorite that they had discovered the night before: hamburgers the size of my face (no exaggeration). It was the biggest hamburger I have ever eaten. It was some mix of pork and beef that was flattened into a huge patty and then cooked. Then they put toppings like yogurt, beets, pickles, and chili powder on it. It was pretty good, but really intense. It gave me a stomach ache. It’s funny how fast your body will get rid of enzymes that it doesn’t use: such as the ones used to digest meat. We all met back up and went on city tours, which were pretty useless. She walked us in a huge circle, we all got really disoriented, and then it was over. She did take us to the citadel which was pretty spectacular. The citadel is an old fort that dominates the North West part of the city. It has been turned into a huge city park. It is bordered on two sides by rivers: the Danube and the Sava River. The city is absolutely beautiful. One of the guide books said that Belgrade was an ugly thrown together city, but I disagree entirely. I love the atmosphere of the city, the layout and the buildings. After our tour they let us go off on our own. Matt and Levi showed me their downtown dorm (the one I was supposed to be living in). We found this really weird underground world by their dorms, of store after store full of computers used to play computer games on. Turns out the geeky computer guy translates across all cultures. It was very strange though. The area was down under an intersection, and it was about 10 of these rooms full of computers! We went up to their dorm after our discovery. The only thing that is better about their dorm is the fact that that it is downtown. Other then that it isn’t really that wonderful. Their rooms are smaller, the traffic noise is really bad, and the dorm is a lot older. We sat down to do some of the reading, and ended up all falling asleep for two and a half hours. When we all woke up we went back to one of the weird gaming stores and used the internet (no time to update this though!). We were all still pretty tired so we went and grabbed some food, and then they walked me back to the bus stop and I took the bus back to my dorm. My goal for tomorrow is to go to a produce stand and get some fruits and vegetables, maybe some yogurt. My body is really hurting from all the meat and deep fried foods that have been common fare since Madrid.


Belgrade FINALLY: After the Longest Night of my Life!

Mar 24-25 (It was all really one long day!)

Today we slept in late because we didn’t even get back from clubbing until 530 in the morning. It was a really great time though. I really like all of Eleanor’s friends. I encountered the strangest coincidence last night. I was talking to one of her friends named Terrick who is from Singapore. I told him as a joke that I knew someone from Singapore, who went to the American school. Terrick told me that went to the American school, and it turns out he knew the guy I was talking about! It was pretty crazy, it made the world feel really small. After we woke up, I packed and then we went over to the girl’s apartment to say goodbye and then Eleanor took me to the airport. Going to the airport was pretty uneventful. I made it with plenty of time to spare, checked in, said goodbye, and was off to Germany. Spending the night in the Cologne-Bonne airport was one of the most painful experiences of my life (maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but not by much). It’s hard to sleep in the airport, and I might have been ok if the layover had just been overnight, but it was actually 14 hours long. I desperately tried to sleep on the cold metal benches all night, got up at 9 am, watched the only movie on my computer for the fourth time, and got breakfast. Check in started earlier then usual so I was able to get rid of my huge backpack. When I got to the gate the benches were way better then the ones I had slept on all night, so I just slept for 3 hours straight, until my plane boarded. I was SO glad to be on the airplane and out of the airport!! The flight was pretty painless, everyone on the whole plane either spoke German, or Serbian. I was met at the airport by Liza and Molly; UW alumni who, after doing a short internship last year, have moved to Belgrade. (I found out when I got to the dorms that everyone else was on their own, and I was the only one who was picked up!) It turns out that Serbia uses a Cyrillic alphabet; which means that I cannot understand the people when they talk, or read labels, signs, etc. Its not Greek or Russian Cyrillic either, it’s a third alphabet! They took me over to the dorm. Turns out I am no longer living in the downtown dorm, which I am really disappointed about, especially since that is where my two friends are living. I got over it a little when I saw how nice the rooms are and it also helped that my roommate is really cool. We have two beds, a bathroom with a pretty tiny shower, two sinks, a hot plate, mini-fridge, and best of all a balcony with a clothesline! I threw my bag on the ground and slept until 830, when I finally got up to the sound of American voices. I hung out with the group and got to know some of the people better. Some people were not in the prep class so I got to meet them for the first time. The group seems like a really great group, and everyone is really different, which I think will make for good dynamics among us! I’m really excited for my upcoming adventure.


Goya and Clubbing

(I’ve been keeping a daily journal on word, and just now do I have the means to transfer them online, so here they are!)

Mar 23

Today I went to Museo Del Prado, which is Madrid’s most famous museum. It is full of mostly religious paintings and is dominated by the famous Spanish masters: Goya, Velasquez, and El Greco, as well as famous painters Rafael and Botticelli. One of my favorite pieces was “The Garden of Earthly Delights” by Bosch because it wass almost like a Dali painting from the 1800s. El Greco also does really moving pieces. I enjoyed his style, which is very angular with vivid colors. It was really cool to see the original paintings that I have seen time and time again in books and art classes. Some of the most famous paintings of Christ were in the museum. Eleanor came and met me downtown after her class, we wandered and got some food. We headed back to her girl friends’ apartment where we met up and then walked over to her school’s faculty vs. students soccer game. It was really fun to watch, and meet more of her friends. We all split up after and we have plans to meet back up to go out to Indian food, and clubbing. It’s Eleanor’s friend Ruth’s birthday so we’re going over there and then off to the clubs.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Madrid sola

Mar 22
Today i explored Madrid by myself while Eleanor was in class. Eleanor and I decided to get a good night’s sleep, so we didn’t end up going out. I dropped Eleanor off at school, we got coffee at the school snack bar, it was super strong. My first stop of the day was Centro De Arte Reina Sofia; Madrid's contemporary art museum. It was pretty awesome. I love modern art. The most famous piece there, and the main reason most people visit, is Picasso’s “Guernica”. There was room after room dedicated to only showing Picasso’s work. There was also a whole room full of Dali that I was really excited about because he is one of my favorite artists. The first thing I saw when I walked in was the signs to the temporary exhibits. This month’s exhibit was all Chuck Close, which was also really exciting because he is also another artist’s whose work I really respect and enjoy. There were also some Calder sculptures, which I thought was fun. At around 2 I got really hungry so I left the museum in search of food. I was too nervous to sit down and try to order something because I wasn’t sure how it was done. If I was supposed to order at the bar, and then sit, or sit and someone would come to me… and it was all made worse by the fact that I don’t speak Spanish. So I found a little grocery store type thing and got some snacky food, and ate it sitting outside the Reine Sofia. I went back in and wandered around for a while more, and explored the third and fourth floors. The third floor was just a bunch of weird TV related art. It was all very strange. The floor itself was called “movement and sound” so I expected moving sculptures and cool stuff like that, but it was tons of weird videos that people have made all being played at once, and recordings of performance art pieces. The fourth floor was all that weird modern art that is just a chunk of rock with a hole cut in it, or a video of a deer and a wolf in the same room. It was even a little too weird and too modern for me. After I was done with the museum I went and walked through this huge park called Parque del Buen Retiro. It used to be the grounds for a palace. It was really cool. They had this cool crystal palace, and a man made lake with a monument. One of my favorite things was this statue called El Angel Caido (The Fallen Angel). Which is actually a statue of the devil, and as Eleanor told me later, the only public art installation of Satan. I had to meet Eleanor at 630, so when I was done with the park, I started to make my way back to her apartment. We met up, hung out in the apartment for a while, and then went to her neighborhood bar “The Golden Cock”, for sangria, and traditional Spanish tapas. The sangria was really good. The kind we were drinking had Fanta Limon in it, apparently every place has its own recipe for sangria. For tapas we got “tortilla” and “Chorizo.” Tortilla is scrambled eggs mixed with thinly sliced potatoes, and onions. Chorizo is a kind of spicy sausage that was served with French fries on top. It was all very good. It seemed really greasy, but Eleanor reminded me that most everything you think is greasy, is actually cooked in olive oil, so its not, but it was still kind of a gut bomb. We ended up hanging out with her friends till about midnight, and then going home, not out which was fine. Tomorrow I have to entertain myself again while Eleanor is in class.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Madrid, finally

So ive now made it to Madrid, after a long and grueling day of traveling. I cant believe it was only yesterday that i got on a plane, what with the changing time zones and all i feel like it was days ago. The flights were pretty decent. I flew British Air, and let me tell you, they know how to do it up right! The food was good, there was a choice of like 5 movies, and the seats weren't completely horrendous. My flight left late, and then spent 30 min on the tarmac, so i had to run through the Heathrow airport in London to make my connecting flight, which also stayed on the runway for about 45 min, and was completely empty. There were only about 50 people on the whole plane.
Figuring out the metro in Madrid worked out pretty well. I ended up having to take a bus to the right terminal, then proceeded to take the metro one stop in the wrong direction. No one speaks english here, and i dont speak a lick of spanish, and speaking french totally doesnt do anygood. So thats kind of difficult. But i made it and im stitting in Eleanors room, while she's in class for an hour. I'm not actually sleeping here though. She said I'm staying at "the girls apartment". Im not sure what this means, but we'll find out. I'm sure it will all turn out great.
After class shes going to come back and we're going out to "the food of the gods", which is apparently kebobs. My rececently abandoned vegitarianism should enjoy this. It better be good. Tonight were going to go to "Bang" or "Bash" or something like that. Apparently its a fun place to go on a weds night, but not a full fledged club. Which I'm fine with. I'm trying to keep myself awake to adjust to the timezone, but even if i do take a nap, i dont think i'll have much problem sleeping tonight.
I dont think that it has quite sunk in in my mind where i am, and what im about to embark on: Im moving to the Balkans for three months. Wow. Guess it has to sink in here pretty soon, or im in for one serious shock!


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Packing? Who Me?

Alright. This is my first post. For all of you who are reading this and don't know, I'm about to leave for three months to study abroad in Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia. I am going with the CHID program of University of Washington. There are about 20 students on the trip, and 2 professors. We will be traveling to four different cities and taking 12 credits. We are taking a class called Conteporary Balkans, a Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian Literature Class, and a class called Cultural Communication in the Former Yugoslavia. We have classes about 6 hours a day, 4 days a week, which leaves us with a 3 day weekend every weekend, to do with what we please.
I picked the Balkans becuase it was a part of Europe that i have not yet been to. I also have some friends who are going on the trip, they told me about it and i applied. Scott, my friend from high school is also on the trip. This will be the third time I travel to Europe with him, which is a pretty strange coincedence!
I'm leaving for Madrid, Spain in two days, and I'm actually kind of nervous. I'm spending my spring break in Madrid with Eleanor, another friend from high school, who is actually attending the St. Louis School in Madrid. I'll be with her for four days before I meet up with the rest of the group in Belgrade, Serbia.
In Belgrade we are all staying in the University of Belgrade dorms. Most of the students will be staying in a dorm called "Studenski grad". It is where all our classes will be held. There was not room for everyone in that dorm so along with 4 other students I will be staying in the "Kralj Aleksander I", previously known as the LoLa dorm, in downtown Belgrade. I'm really excited to be right down town. The living arrangements for the first month seem great, especially since there is a possiblitiy that i might have a room all to myself. We'll be Belgrade from Mar 25 to April 14. After that we leave for Dubrovnik, Croatia.
In Dubrovnik i think we are staying in apartments. Dubrovnik is right on the Dalmation Coast, and is supposed to be really beautiful. We will be there from Apr 15 to Apr 23, give or take a day.
Mostar, Bosnia comes next. I don't know much about where we are staying, or what we are doing while we are there, but apparently the town is famous for their Sljevetiz (plum brandy). We will be in Mostar from Apr 24-Apr 30...or so.
After Mostar is Sarajevo, Bosnia. I believe we will be staying in the University of Sarajevo dorms there as well. We will be there the longest out of anywhere else: from May 1 to June 1.
Levi, Matt and I then are all flying out of Istanbul, Turkey on June 11th. We are not sure quite how we are getting from Sarajevo to Istanbul, but hey, thats the adventure right? We plan on stopping by Greece on our way.
I plan on hopefully updating once a day, but I dont know how reliable the internet will be over there. I have Skype if anyone wants to talk to me, my username is alicemj5. I also have aim: Sk8rchic582 (yeah i made it in middle school), and my email is Hope to hear from some of you!!!