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!!!