Thursday, July 29, 2004

Bosnia Part II

Yes, today I am posting frequently to my blog. Lots of fun info about Bosnia.

The Lonely Planet guide tells me in its "off the beaten track" section for Bosnia (as if the whole country weren't "off the beaten track") that Banja Luka, where we will be going has the following attributes:

"This important crossroads on the Vrbas River in north-western Bosnia is now known to the world as the capital of the Republika Srpska. Never much of a tourist centre, in 1993 the local Serbs made sure it never would be by blowing up all 16 of the city's mosques. About the only things worth visiting are the 16th-century fort along the Vrbas and its overgrown amphitheatre - its benches were burned for fuel during the war. The presidential palace in the city centre has been the seat of Bosnian Serb government since January 1998."

Sounds excellent. Blown up mosques, burnt amphitheaters...just the kind of idyllic vacation spot we all look forward to spending time in. I can't wait.


Next week Tuesday, we are leaving for our grand tour of the Balkans. In preparation I opted to do some reading online. This is from the Lonely Planet guide:

"Travelling by car is again an option throughout most of Bosnia and Hercegovina, although some roads remain in poor repair from war damage, and there's a fair chance you'll experience a carjacking. To top it off, the locals aren't the world's most cautious drivers - drunk driving incidents are on the rise - and service stations are scarce outside the big cities. If all this doesn't deter you, your best bet is to convoy with other vehicles and do all your driving during daylight hours."

This sounds pretty fun to me. Carjacking, bad roads, drunk drivers. At least we won't be doing much more than driving to Banja Luka from Croatia and back.

Rain and food

It’s raining cats and dogs here. Today and yesterday, it’s been raining kittens and puppies, to be precise. A constant dripping stream. The day before yesterday, however, it rained panthers and wolfhounds all day, filling the gutters and making me very sleepy and very hungry.

I’m beginning to resemble an overinflated beach ball. Two plus weeks of rich, earthy Hungarian food have taken their toll. Mutton stew, venison stew, fried chicken, roast chicken, grilled steak, grilled ribs, salads made from mayonnaise and corn, salads made from mayonnaise and cabbage, salads made from mayonnaise and green beans, pastries, deep-fried dough, sausages, salamis, pork cracklings, goose cracklings, goose liver, meatless bacon grilled over an open fire dripped onto bread, sausage flavored potato chips, cheeses, sour cream – and that’s all just for breakfast.

You go to someone’s house for dinner or for lunch and there is never just one kind of meat. No, there has to be at the very least two kinds, or else that’s a poor offering. And at least three different ‘salads’, if mayonnaise laden dishes can be considered salads. The Hungarians even have a ‘hot dog salad’ (no joke) which consists of mayonnaise, hot dog slices and onions. There also has to be enough of each type of food on the table that everyone there can have at least seconds. It’s also impolite to refuse too much, so you find yourself eating ludicrous quantities of food. It’s like being at an all-you-can-eat buffet and being told that you have to eat it all.

Today we’re making deep-fried dough. I just finished my breakfast of leftover sour cream-cheese-ground pork-noodle casserole with some chocolate pastry as a starter. In a couple of hours, it will be time for deep-fried dough with garlic and/or sour cream and cheese on top. Then, we’re going to make a noodle dish for dinner, consisting of layers of poppy-seed filling, walnut filling, jam, cottage cheese and sour cream and sugar and whipped cream interspersed between layers of noodles. That’s just a light supper. Probably during the day I will eat some salami – a bite here and a bite there, or maybe a slice of fresh bread from the bakery with ground-up pork cracklings which is sold in the form of a crunchy spread, reminiscent of peanut butter, but oh so unhealthy.

I still haven’t figured out whether it would be good for an anorexic person to come to Hungary for treatment or bad. Part of me thinks that the Hungarian ability to concentrate calories into small-seeming items (known here as ‘calorie-bombs’) would make an anorexic gain weight. On the other hand, the girls here seem to have adopted the heroin chic look for their trend and all look like they’ve been starved for years. It must be part of the Hungarian depressive nature – they’re clearly gluttons for punishment if they can bypass all of the amazing food.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Metamorphosis of a Road Trip

Hungary is a beautiful, hot country. I haven't done much of anything since arriving except for sweat.

However, my summer does seem to be developing in unplanned ways.

Originally, I was supposed to go on a two week road trip with my mom, our friends and our chauffeur from Hungary to Barcelona, where I was going to clubbing with my friend Andrew who's studying there, and from Barcelona back to Hungary via France and Switzerland. Well, since our friends bailed and my mom didn't want to undertake such a long trip without extra backup, it seems that she and I will be going with the chauffeur to Bosnia instead.

Actually, we're going to Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia on one trip and then to Romania on another. I'm incredibly excited - particularly about visiting Bosnia which has a travel advisory out - watch out for demonstrations (they hate Americans) and unexploded land mines.

Ahhh Bosnia, the land of beauty and summer vacations...or not. We'll see. We're going to Banja Luka which has some Roman ruins and a coal mine.

So that's one change in my summer plans. The other change is less of a change and more of a very pleasant addition. Richard, my boyfriend, will be coming to visit me in Hungary. I guess my persuasive powers were sufficient to convince him that this is a really cool country. Or maybe he just wants to see me. Who knows.

Anyway, that's it from my end. I'm going to continue doing nothing until I have to go somewhere and do something. I feel that this is the right attitude to approach a summer vacation with.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Arrival to Hungary

I'm currently in Hungary, and as promised I'm posting to my blog for my faithful readers to enjoy.
Hungary is lovely, albeit warm. I haven't yet done much of anything except for walk around Budapest with my parents to buy such artifacts as toilet plungers and liquid plumber yesterday after I arrived.  I also drank a liter of wine last night, which enabled me to sleep like a baby.
Today is my dad's birthday. Happy birthday, dad!
Unfortunately, the fact that the laptop is on a chair and I'm on the floor in a rather uncomfortable position prohibits me from expressing my usual creativity. Therefore I will quit while I'm only slightly behind, and write more when the stroke of genius strikes me.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Leaving on a jet plane

It's 2:19 a.m. and I'm pretty much all packed and ready to go. Yes, at 5:30 p.m. today I finally leave for Hungary for a long and (I think) well deserved vacation.

I will have intermittent internet from now until September 6. For my devoted readers out there (I think there might be as many as three of you) - fear not - I will post to my blog whenever possible.

Hopefully this will be one heck of a summer - a two week road-trip (with my mom) around Europe, friends visiting, sunshine, pork cracklings and beer. Hopefully I will actually get some work done on my brilliant science fiction masterpiece that has been lingering in a dusty corner of my brain. Hopefully I'll also have exciting stories to tell everyone without having to put my life in serious danger. Finally, hopefully I will be able to relax, unwind and get some of those incredibly painful knots out of my back.

Anyway. To all my homies out there - enjoy your summer, drink too much, and nurse a few good ol' American hangovers for me. I in turn will nurse some good ol' Hungarian palinka-induced hangovers and will lovingly think of all my buddies slaving away at summer or permanent jobs.

So long suckers!

Tuesday, July 13, 2004


Cricket is one of those sports that I associate in my mind with colonialism, gin and tonics, and hot climates. I know very little about cricket, except that they play it in the former colonies and territories of the British Empire. Its rules escape me completely.

To me, cricket looks like some sort of school-related corporal punishment wherein people are paddled. I realize that smacking people on the bottom with the bats is NOT the purpose of the game, however I think that it might be a worthy addition to whatever rules already exist.

My boyfriend is a cricket fan. I think he actually understands what happens, because today he sent me this link, very excited about New Zealand winning something or another (he's from New Zealand - not some random New Zealandophile who also happens to be into cricket - that would just be odd). Now, I don't tend to get excited about things I don't understand, so I'm going to assume that he understands the game.

I have always abstractly understood that people get excited about cricket, but it seems very strange that real live people actually do. I guess people get excited about baseball as well, so I probably shouldn't make fun of sports involving people running around fields.

I decided to give the article a read, assuming it would be a fairly straightforward thing, written in clear, plain English. What I got was something quite different.

For example:
"Lara had made 30 when he was trapped plumb in front as he shuffled across to a ball that angled in to the stumps (105 for 4). And then Dwayne Bravo, whose unhappy sojourn in the middle had produced just 4 runs in 14 balls, flicked a delivery straight to Styris at midwicket."

Huh? What? Stumps? 105 for 4? 14 balls? Midwicket? There are a number of numbers that make it sound like my probability class in college - maybe cricket is really a statistical method of determining the odds of amputees getting drunk that night.

Another gem:

"New Zealand's innings had been built around a classy 67 from Stephen Fleming, and a first-wicket partnership of 120 with Nathan Astle (57). But they lost their way in the home stretch, losing their last seven wickets for just 49 runs. Sarwan was the unlikely bowling star, scalping 3 for 31 – including the wicket of Cairns – and Tino Best, who had taken fearful punishment in his opening spell, then came back to mop up the last vestiges of resistance."

So now this has turned into a bowling alley, where things are scalped (possibly the players?) and people are punished (presumably with the bats). But never fear - at least the 67 is classy (how numbers can be classy is beyond me). Since the innings were 'built' around this number, it seems like at least part of cricket operates like bingo where you start building from a starting number to form a row. There is also the wicket of Cairns, which sounds like a magical artifact that gives certain teams special powers ("With the wicket of Cairns in my possession - I now cast FIRE upon you!").

In short - cricket involves amputees, statistics, bowling, bingo, beatings, scalpings and possibly some magical artifacts. Hey - it doesn't sound half bad, now, does it?

Ann Arbor

Sometimes it takes a little distance to make you realize how great a place really is.

Today I drove to Ann Arbor. I hadn't been there in quite a while. It was a blitz visit, but while I was there I suddenly realized why I've been missing it so much recently.

Ann Arbor is a quintessential college town. Small, but with lots of restaurants and shops. Residential, but with transient college students. Lots of great music of all genres - folk, jazz, rock, and classical. Low crime rates. Academics everywhere. Basically, an ideal place to live.

Of course, it could just be massive doses of nostalgia tainting my vision with rosy colors. At the moment, however, I'd love to go back.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Sleep deprivation

Today is Sunday - a day of rest. At least for some. For me, this Sunday has started itself very poorly.

After going to bed slightly after 1 a.m., I quickly fell asleep, only to be woken up by my cell phone ringing. I have no reception here, so there was no point in picking it up. I was woken up again in the middle of the night by my parents' house phone ringing. Every night, the same person calls from a Flint phone number. No one picks it up anymore, but it is still rather distracting.

At 6:30 a.m., my parents' radio alarm went off. I woke up - listened to the news, and went back to sleep, too tired to get up and go to their bedroom to turn it off.

At 8:00 a.m. sharp, my parents called from Hungary. We spoke briefly, and then I decided to go back to sleep.

At 8:10 a.m., my parents' kitten Nixie decided it was time to rub her whiskers in my face, purr loudly, and sneeze a couple of times.

At that point I gave up. So I've been up since 8:00, desperately wishing I could go back to bed. I suppose I could. I probably will. But that doesn't stop me from being grumpy that my beauty sleep was interrupted so viciously so many times on a Saturday night.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Olympic rowing team

I just found out recently that one of my friends from high school, Art Samsonov, made the U.S. Olympic rowing team. This is very exciting - I don't know a lot of Olympians, particularly none my age.

I'll have to make sure to watch TV and see him row - he'll be rowing in the men's pair, according to the U.S. Olympic rowing team's website.

Go Art!

New toy

Yesterday I received my new toy in the mail:


This was my reward to myself for my LSAT score.

The iRiver iHP-140 is an mp3 player with tons of features and 40 gb of harddrive space. It's sleek, snazzy, and only slightly thicker than the ipod. Additionally, it's not manufactured by Apple, which makes it that much cooler.

So far, I'm loving it. Looks great, feels great, plays great. And definitely works better than my old clunker, which had a tendency to overheat.

I love gadgets. Getting a new toy like this right before my upcoming vacation really makes my day/week/month. Until I realize that there's a better model out.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Michigan - Transient in my parents' home

I've settled back into life at my parents' house. I was awoken at 7:00 AM by loud radios blasting classical music, people running around, and cats hissing. After arriving yesterday only to find that the fridge's main content was a lump of moldy cream cheese, some out of date whipping cream and a loaf of moldy bread, I finally managed to go grocery shopping today. Picked up plenty of potato chips and some Lebanese food.

I also cooked up a huge thing of chicken in the oven this morning. My parents don't know how to buy things in small quantities. Always in search of the best deal, they frequent Costco where they buy packages of meat in ten pound increments. I suppose this explains why I spent much of my childhood eating the same thing for weeks at a time.

The cats have been rather amusing - Nixie is a tiny little fleaspeck of a cat with an incredibly loud hiss and a rather deep growl. Since Kissy and Nixie were introduced to each other yesterday, they've been sneaking around trying to catch each other unaware and pouncing. All of this is followed by lots of hissing. It seems as though they're playing, but you're not going to catch them cuddling up to each other in rapturous friendship.

My mother seems to require my presence for even the most mundane task - such as watching her put clothes into the washing machine. I'll be sitting, reading peacefully, when I hear my name yelled. I can ignore it for a little while, but she'll keep yelling until I show up. Then I stand around, leaning against a wall with my arms crossed, watching her work.

Also, I'm not allowed to let anything touch the floor in my bedroom. And by anything, I mean, quite literally, anything - otherwise my room is instantly deemed a pigsty.

I suppose it's not so bad - it's only for a few days - then my parents leave, and my mother's busy working, so I don't see her that much. And my parents are very sweet, generous, kind, loving people - they're just a little bit crazy. And by a little bit crazy, I mean they're certifiably insane. But that's OK, they're the only ones I've got, and I wouldn't exchange them for anything.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Paper and Packing

Finally, after many months of agonizing toil, my research paper on Nagorno Karabagh is done. I put it in an express mail envelope, wrote out the mailing label, and am ready to mail it. Unfortunately, the post office isn't open today.

Meanwhile, I am cleaning my apartment, doing laundry, ripping CDs, and packing my suitcase in a frantic attempt to get everything done that I need to get done before tomorrow morning. So far, I have a couple of tanktops, a few pairs of shorts, about nine pairs of shoes and some books on warfare packed. I don't see why I would possibly need anything else. As long as I have loads of shoes, I'm happy. Although maybe socks and undies would be useful.

I'm going to be gone for two months. This is a very long time. My fridge must therefore be completely devoid of anything even remotely perishable. For instance, the ketchup can stay, but the open cream cheese must go. The pickles will be OK, but the crumbled feta cheese won't.

So back to work I go - I would post more to my blog, but the process of getting ready to leave is a bit distracting.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

LSAT scores

I'm recovering from a night of drinking to celebrate/mourn my LSAT scores. I received them yesterday.

According to the scoresheet, I got a 178. Yes, that's correct, a 178. Of course I had to phone everyone to tell them the good news, and of course my parents pointed out that somewhere along the line I had lost two points (I believe they were joking, but still...) Looking at the answer sheet, I realized that three of the four question I answered wrongly were on the last section, which was logical reasoning. And that I could have scored a 180 had I answered two more questions correctly. In short, had I concentrated harder, I would have had a 180.

But seriously - I'm ecstatic. Couldn't be happier. Stayed up until 4:30 AM playing Trivial Pursuit with my boyfriend on my Xbox while getting wasted. I lost a lot. But I scored a 178, so things will be fine.

Good times, good times.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

More cooking adventures

Since my last cooking adventure went so well, I've decided to try it again. This time, however, I'm a little out of my element.

I'm attempting to make a sort of a lamb pot-roast. Since I'm rather impatient, I keep trying to look at it. So far, I don't think the lamb has done anything, and the vegetables are still cold. Also, the pan is rather full, so I can't poke and prod things as much as I'd like to.

If this ever manages to cook itself, I am going to try to make gravy. In my family, my mom roasts and my dad makes gravy. I usually just try to stay out of the kitchen. As a result, I'm completely unsure how this will work, although my parents have been kind enough to give me lots of advice.

I suppose that if this doesn't turn out to be edible, I can always order fried chicken, with a side of gravy french fries. Or maybe the gravy french fries would be too much of a humiliation after my botched cooking attempt. If Cluck-U Chicken can make gravy, then I can too.