How to Not Speak Bosnian (Without Even Trying!)

In the week since the New Year, quite a lot has happened.  First of all, I have no school for a month.  I also went sledding, bowling, got a birthday package (eep! so excited), and had the weekly embarrassing encounter (whether it is cultural, lingual, or just me being socially awkward, I always seem to have quite an excess of these).  We’ll begin with the embarrassing event.  I know you’re dying to hear it.

For some background, I’ve gotten proficient enough in Bosnian to be able to understand and speak to people in stores, at shops, at the trolleybus stop, and in most other emergency situations.  However, not much could have prepared me for today.  Lesson number one while being abroad: don’t be afraid to take risks.  Lesson number two: when answering the doorbell, the person on the other side probably won’t speak English.  This is classified as a high-risk situation.  Lesson number three: don’t take these kinds of risks.

However, when I heard the doorbell ring I thought my host mom might have forgotten her keys, or that the mailman needed to deliver something.  Unfortunately, it was someone who needed to… (and I’m not entirely sure I understood it right) check the water.  We have this mysterious manhole cover in the back of our house, and I think there is running water or something underneath it.  The only reason I know this is because it has happened to me before.  I didn’t understand him at first.  I tried to get him to come back later by saying, “Sorry, my host mom isn’t here, she’ll be back in half an hour,”  but he couldn’t decipher the hint underneath my stumbles and stutters.  Finally, I figured out that the man with the clipboard speaking rapid-fire Bosnian to me wanted to check the water.  At this point, I tried to open our back door to the manhole cover, but I couldn’t turn the key and neither could he.  My initial terror which had frozen my mind and disabled the Bosnian part of my brain had ebbed away, and I held a small conversation with him as he wrote down the company’s phone number.  He asked me where I was from, because “obviously I wasn’t from Bosnia.”   “America,” I replied in a resigned tone.  “Ah, nice,” he responded.   “Be sure to have someone call me.  Afterwards, I went upstairs, flopped down on my couch, and laughed for twenty minutes.

I’ve had other, more exciting adventures!  Last Wednesday, Savannah, her host sister Ena, and I took the bus to Bjelašnica mountain and went SLEDDING!  Skiing is on the agenda for next weekend.  We picked out wooden runner sleds and for most of the day went up and down the slopes.  I turned into a little kid and got a surge of energy: I was able to pull Savannah up the hill on her sled.  We also rode the ski lift up and down to see the gorgeous view.  At the end of the day, I was cold, wet, so bruised that it hurt to walk, exhausted, and completely happy.  I felt like a puppy after a long day of fetch.

I just got back from bowling tonight!  All of SHAKE went, along with some YES alumni who live in Sarajevo.  It was excellent, and I’m not revealing my score.  All that matters is that the second time around, I beat Savannah Wooten.  Actually, that doesn’t matter at all.  The most important thing was the great time we had and the enjoyment of spending time with friends.

Among other things, I have also been sleeping in, taking an online single-variable calculus course with U Penn for free (so much excitement!), and pondering my future.  I’ll get back to everyone on that last one when I can stick to one idea for more than three days.  Well, it’s off to enjoy my week!

All my love,


One comment

  1. Anna, I love reading your blog and like your fearless approach to so many things.
    Thanks for keeping us updated on your life in Sarajevo. Uncle David.

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