Well, radio silence has been due to the fact we moved on from BiH and headed back to Scotland a couple of months ago. We’d been in Sarajevo for 18 months and Alister got a new job elsewhere in the Balkans so he headed that way and Emma and I headed back to Scotland to spend some time with family and friends.
After a long, long winter (seriously, HOW MUCH snow?), the weather in Sarajevo picked up beautifully before we left and I was pleased to leave as the city came back into bloom – it left me feeling much more benevolent towards Sarajevo after the winter tried to kill us . In the weeks before we left BiH, we made efforts to get round our favourite restaurants and spots, as a goodbye. Here is a photo blog of our efforts:
One last trip to Sarajevo Zoo, which we mainly went to for the park. For the incredibly cheap admission price, it’s well worth paying to use the excellent park and if so inclined, say hello to the animals.
Baby goat season apparently!
Emma gets brave
A loose … something. We never did quite ascertain what it was but it had escaped its enclosure and was happily being fed by everyone who passed. We told a zoo employee who shrugged and looked blank. “There’s a lion loose? Eh, go have a coffee.”
There’s something a little odd about the animals at Sarajevo Zoo. Your first hint is the man outside the gates selling bags and bags of the local delicacy – peanut flavoured corn crisps. Think Wotsits (for the UK folk) or Cheetos (for the Americans / Canadians) but foul tasting. They’re MAD about them here, you get about 20 different varieties of peanut (kiki riki) crisps and precious little else. Would it really kill you to make decent cheese and onion or bacon flavour, hmm?
Anyway, you think to yourself, this enterprising bloke is selling snacks for the kids. But nooooo… That’s not quite accurate. Instead, presumably through years of conditioning, the animals seem to weaned onto a diet of peanut snacks. Kids and adults arm themselves with bags of these revolting titbits and throw them liberally at the animals. All of them. Ducks, swans, ponies, goats, strange racoon like creatures we can’t quite identify. We took bread for the ducks and oh, how they laughed. If ducks could laugh, I suppose. They turned their beaks up, swished their fluffy little tails in our direction and ignored our offerings. Yet along comes a knowledgeable local, chucks in a peanut delicacy and whoosh, the duck is there, snapping eagerly. Go figure.
Randomly, same deal with the baby goats. Grass? Pah, no thanks. Your hand? Nope. So much for ‘goats will eat anything’. Peanut foulness? Yes please! More, more! They recognise the bright orange bag of these crisps and trot quickly to the fence, bleating urgently. Me, me! Throw me one of those things!
So there’s a tip. The animals in Sarajevo Zoo don’t eat normal animal food. Instead, arm yourselves with icky kiki riki snacks and get ready to be popular. Mind you, if we’d bought any, I think Emma would have eaten them. She truly assimilated, loving the peanut flavoured snacks to the extent she’ll exaggeratedly sniff the packet, lick her lips and then chomp them, pausing to huff her disgusting breath on us with malicious delight. At least you don’t get them in the UK .
We also went to Vrelo Bosna one last time. It’s so beautiful there, especially when the weather is favourable. The river and falls tend to run very fast due to the snow melting on the hills and mountains – the water is very cold too, as we found out when we dipped our hands in. We took bread again for the ducks and swans and they were a little more receptive but still, you could tell they were looking for kids approaching with bright orange kiki riki flavoured treats at which point they’d have abandoned us and our bready snacks for more heady delights.
Emma held a little going away party for her classmates at Bambi 2, one of her favourite soft plays in the Importanne Centre. We had around 18 kids attend and they seemed to have a good time, judging by the deafening noise and general hysteria. It was actually highly chaotic and I was a little afraid a Lord of the Flies scenario would emerge but eventually, after a couple of hours energetic play, the kids staggered home and we collapsed from exhaustion.
Emma and Sadžida
Em and Zarina
Em, Nera and Ismihan
Em and Esme – aren’t they cute?!
Joined by Azra
Em and Tajra, one of her very best friends
Emma was very, very lucky to receive some going away presents from her classmates and the teachers:
Opening her presents from Tajra, what could they be?
The present from her class – 3 new Yoohoo & Friends toys!!
She calls this her telephone but it’s a mini MP3 player from Vedad. We didn’t think she’d use it but she loves it, sticks the earphones in and howls along to the songs.
A fantastic map of Sarajevo from Tajra and her family. We’ll all treasure this as a great reminder of our time here.
Em and her growing Yoohoo / Fluffy family collection. One very happy little girl
Emma also received some extra special presents from her teachers, Amela and Senada. This is a memory folder, with lovely photos of her school, friends and the teachers. Really lovely.
We were especially touched by this and feel grateful Emma had the chance to go to kindergarten here and meet such lovely people. Her Bosnian language skills were no doubt greatly enhanced by being at a Bosnian speaking school too. Though she’s shy and won’t speak Bosnian to anyone but us, she is perfectly capable of conversing and understands everything her friends and teachers say to her. I know she’ll lose this ability when we leave but hopefully in the future she’ll learn another language.
Her class, a motley crew!
A folder of pictures some of the kids drew for Emma
Amela and Senada, our favourite teachers
It’s true, Emma didn’t nap in the day anymore much to the chagrin of her teachers. It was a pretty big cultural difference that Bosnian kids seem to sleep in the day up until 5/6pm and run riot all evening, going to bed quite late. This horrifies us, Emma stopped napping at 3 years and goes to bed at a decent hour. Equally, I think Bosnians are very perturbed and confused by this. As a compromise, Emma would lie down on a mat at nap time and try to be quiet but she was under strict instructions from me NOT to sleep, as I know she’d be awake until midnight and I couldn’t cope with that.
We got a folder of some of Emma’s work too. The kids here don’t start formal education until age 6 so they don’t actively learn much at kindergarten but it was nice to see some of Emma’s efforts. This seems to be a kind of growth chart, height, weight, eye colour, shoe size etc.
Er, I do believe this is me… Thanks, kid
As a thank you to the school, we made a collage for everyone and took in some presents: sweets for the kids, flowers and chocolates for the teachers. We also donated some toys Emma does not need which seemed to thrill the kids – I understand the hula hoop has been hidden by a teacher so perhaps there were some fights over it!
Emma helped me pack as we got ready to leave. Here she is squeezing the air out of her Space Hopper. A unique method.
Her suitcase full of toys and books, with all her soft toys vacuum packed into two bags. We’ve gotten rid of a lot of stuff but these are the important items that came with us.
We also tried to get to our favourite restaurants one last time, including Vappiano (great BBQ pizza – link), Piccolo Mondo (great, cheap pizza in general), Sushi San (amazing sushi, sooooo good – link), Dveri in the Baščaršija (link) and of course the lovely, incredibly cheap ice cream that’s on sale everywhere. I must admit the local food has not been one of my favourite things about living here, it’s not really to my taste or palate. I think Alister will miss the Ćevapi though and we’ll both miss the amazing choice and quality of fresh fruit and veg available in summer.
Things I’ll miss about BiH:
– The amazing, delicious fresh bread from the local bakeries. We are so spoiled for choice. There’s not much that tastes better than warm, fresh bread straight out of the oven .
– The fruit and veg markets. Fresh, cheap and amazing choice (when the seasons are right). Beats supermarket food by a long shot and we won’t get nearly the same choice for the same price at home.
– Spotting the blatant money laundering enterprises that pop up all over town – cafes, jewellery shops, even an apoteka (a chemist!). Made me laugh every time. We used to go into the suspect apoteka purely to see how low their stock standards were as they didn’t seem to supply anything remotely medical
– Cheap taxis – ok, you might take your life in your hands getting in one but they are cheap and quick.
– The glorious spring and summer weather (and the frequent ice cream cones!).
Things I will not miss:
– The pollution – really not good for anyone’s health and especially difficult in winter when the woodstoves are burning.
– The ants that were determined to take over our house. Fine, you win, have it!
– Buying food from the supermarkets, especially meat, and finding it’s gone off by the time you get it home. As Alister once pointed out, we should cook and eat it in the supermarket to avoid wasting our money and contracting food poisoning.
– The crazy driving standards. Well, I say standards but I mean the opposite thereof, whatever that might be. The incessant horn beeping – I think it’s illegal to drive here without beeping your horn every 20 yards – not to mention the blind overtaking and irrational aggression. Chill out people, you’ll get there, you don’t really need that five second advantage cutting me up and overtaking me on a red light gave you.
– The lack of car seats for kids. I saw this in Cayman a lot too – people blithely driving around with kids bouncing around the car, front seats, back seats, roof – whatever. Even babies being held in the passenger seat. Because we all know that’s the safest form of travel for a child, yes?
– The spitting and litter. Have some pride, people .
I guess there were been a lot of cultural differences to adjust to and we perhaps didn’t manage them all with total success but staying in BiH was interesting and fun, for the most part. We learned a lot about the region and did a little travelling and were ready for the next adventure. On that note, may I introduce the newest member of our family:
Harry, born in May this year .