Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Finals week was my final week in Croatia, adventures in Ireland, RIP - my camera, I hate Philadelphia, and finally back to New York

So I'm now back home in Henrietta, New York.

Monday before finals the photo students had a Mexican dinner for everyone at their apartments. All of us study abroad students came and ate and drank and socialized and took group pictures. It was fun. Teo was making drinks for people and invented a drink called "sex with Teo." Kara's rice was like the best rice I ever had, I'll have to ask her how she made it.

Two days later on Wednesday we had a dinner at my apartment. We made chicken and eggplant parm, salad and garlic bread. Our guests were every study abroad student, plus our professors, Axel and Denis, their wives, another American professor, Ted, Anna's friend, and our friend Feđa. We had 21 people in the apartment and it was packed. Teo played bar tender again and he made me a drink and got me drunk. It was lots of fun though and afterwards almost all of us went to Fresh. Our apartment hasn't been organized since...

On Saturday my mother and sister flew into Dubrovnik to pay me a visit. I took the bus to the airport and picked them up. They stayed in Old Town. My last week in Croatia I did some things I didn't get to do that I wanted to such as walking the city walls and going to the island of Lokrum which is right outside of Old Town. Lokrum was really really nice and I actually swam in the salt lake, which was awesome, but the water was cold and I got sunburned, but it was still awesome.

My classes finished up with finals. I had an Environmental Science final and a final project in XML and a presentation to the class about my final project. I did my XML final project in only 1 day and I got most of it done, I was happy with my final grade of a C in XML. I was guessing I was going to get a C even before I came to Croatia considering how hard Axel's classes are and the fact I was going to be in Croatia. The other two classes I got extremely easy As in.

I left Croatia on Saturday morning and flew to Ireland with my mom and sister. The flight was 3 hours long but I was so tired I slept the whole way. We stayed just outside of Dublin for 2 nights. Dublin was really really awesome and I'm glad I went. My camera broke the first night I was there though, so I got almost no pictures. :( We went to the castle in Dublin and we were going to go to Guinness storehouse but it was closed by the time we got there. My mom wanted to take a bus tour of the city which I thought was lame but we did it anyways and I was really glad we did it, it wasn't as lame as I thought it would be. The sun appears to always be shinning in Ireland... I woke up at 5:30am and thought it was 10:00 because the sun was out and shinning, then at night it doesn't start to set until about 9:30-10:00pm. I had the best food in Dublin from a "Take-away" restaurant, I ordered "vegetarian kebab" expecting to get some kind of vegetables on a stick. Well, no, it was an overflowing thin pita sandwich with some kind of... grain based patty and plenty of toppings and sauce. It was impossible to eat without dripping it all over and toppings flying out everywhere and of course they had no napkins. It was absolute heaven though, I mean, sure it didn't sit well in my stomach and adding Guinness to my already woozy stomach promptly made me throw up, but it still tasted so good! I returned to the same place and got another one the next night. I wish I had another day in Ireland.

Monday I flew out of Dublin to Philadelphia. My mom and sister were flying to Albany and me Rochester, so we parted ways in Dublin. Their flight was at 11:30 and mine at 2:30, so I got to the airport almost 5 hours ahead of time. I wasn't able to check in or get my boarding pass until 2 hours before my flight and I had my obnoxious amount of luggage I had to carry around with me. Eventually I was able to check my bags and head to the gate, I saw a bookstore and so I used the last of my Euros to buy a book for the ride home, The Da Vinci Code. I finished about half of it before I got back to USA. US customs has a whole section of gates in Dublin for flights leaving for the United States and once you passed the US boarder officials you couldn't return. It was different then flying into Europe...

We now arrive at my new least favorite airport ever, Philadelphia International Airport. First of all my itinerary was from Dublin to Philly to LaGuardia in New York City, to Rochester, which makes no sense considering USAirways operates about 50,000 flights between Rochester and Philadelphia everyday. I saw about 4 flights going to Rochester at the time I was going to waste in LaGuardia in the one terminal alone. When we landed in Philly I had to go through US customs... again. I had to get my checked luggage and then re-check it again. Why? I don't know. Then I had to go through security... again. Uh. So I didn't figure I was going to have to go through security again so I forgot to empty my water bottle and they took it away from me and wouldn't let me drink it without having to wait in line again and go through security again. UH. So I said they could have my water bottle that I've had for the last 3 years and now I'm going to have to get another one. Boo. So I landed at B terminal and I had to go to F terminal which exactly opposite of what I had to do on the way up. So F terminal is not connected to the rest of the airport and you have to take a shuttle bus to get there, so I did. I got to my gate and then laid down on the floor and took a nap. When it was time for the plane to depart, it still had not boarded yet and the status still read "on-time." We finally a manager came to the gate and announced the plane was delayed an hour and a half and they had no staff to update us because it was Memorial Day. So I was going to miss my connecting flight in LaGuardia so I told her and she said "uh.. why aren't you just on a flight directly to Rochester?" I was wondering the same thing myself. So she said once the delayed plane leaves she can give me boarding passes to a flight directly to Rochester but she can't do it until that plane leaves, which makes no logical sense. Finally when the plane left I got my boarding pass and I had to go back to B gate. However, now I only had 10 minutes to get from F gate back to B gate, so it was a mad dash, I didn't want to be stuck in Philly for the night. I sprinted to the shuttle bus and then from the shuttle bus to my gate, when I got there the plane had already boarded but I handed over my boarding pass and the person at the gate said "Goody gumdrops, you *just* made it." So then I got on the plane and waited... and waited... and waited... The captain came on to tell us that there was a queue of 30 planes waiting to take off so we can use our cellphones because the wait was going to be like an hour. The whole plane took out their phones and started calling and texting. The guy in front of me answered his phone "I'm *still* stuck in this God-forsaken Philadelphia airport." I felt the same way, however I was glad I have my cell phone again, so that was the one positive, I could make phone calls at least. Eventually after waiting an hour and a half for a 45 minute flight, I made it to Rochester at 11:00pm. My luggage however, did not, it was lost. It arrived in Rochester the next day and they delivered it to my house by noon.

Getting back home I found out that my roommate had moved out while I was gone and I had more food at home than I ever did in Croatia and while my friend Austin was watching my cat, Zeus, he got fat. I skipped graduation ceremonies for my trip to Ireland, so I had a friend pick up my cap and gown for me so I could have the tassel. Now I can pretend like I don't have 3 more months of classes.

Since I've gotten back to the United States, I've been catching up on my sleep and haven't done anything else.

Pictures to follow eventually.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

So much is going on...also a bad week for vegetarians

*Whew* Hello from Croatia.

Friday morning we woke up at the crack of dawn and piled into 3 vans to go to Bosnia and Herzegovina. (the locals call it Bosna i Hercegovina) The first stop was Međugorje which is a small Catholic town. It was a basically a religious place with lots of Catholic things for sale and a huge church but I didn't know why until I read about the city on Wikipedia. According to the Wikipedia page the city is most famous for apparitions of the Virgin Mary. So there wasn't that much to do in Međugorje, we just walked around and checked the place out and then ate some early lunch. The food was excellent. Leah mentioned something about not ever imagining herself visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina of all places, we all pretty much agreed.

Two hours later we were on the road again and our next stop was Mostar. We unloaded the vans at our hotel, Hotel Mostar. It felt very much like a dorm room, I felt like I was back at RIT freshman year. There was a sink in our shower... I took a video for your enjoyment. I forgot I can take 30 second video clips with my camera until recently. I had trouble remembering the name of the city, kept wanting to call it Monstar.

So then we wondered the streets of Mostar. There was the shells of bombed out buildings next to new buildings, and it was very strange to see the remnants of the Bosnian war still so vivid and real. We walked down to the old town and saw the famous bridge the city was named after, stari most. The old bridge was destroyed in 1993 during the war but was rebuilt to match its original construction and was finished in 2004. When I was looking at the bridge in pictures I thought "that's it? What is so great about it?" Well, seeing it in person is really impressive, it is really unique and walking on it is really an experience. The river it ran over was very green and looked really interesting and unlike anything you'd see in New York. The streets of the old town were all rocky and the entire construction of the city was so unique, like nothing I'd ever seen before in my life. It was so different from anything I've seen in Croatia or Montenegro. Around 5:00 or so everything started to close down and none of us knew why. Later I found out from Denis it was because they found some bodies from the war and they were having a ceremony to honor them. We headed back to the hotel to rest for a while when everything was closing up. I didn't anticipate it, but I fell asleep almost instantly when we got back to the hotel. I was so exhausted when Ian came into my room 3 hours later and asked if I wanted to go back to the old town I said "no, go away, I'm sleeping." I wish I was more awake at that point because I didn't want to spend all day sleeping. I woke up around 10:00 or so and I was really really really really hungry. So hungry I couldn't concentrate on anything except for getting food. Everyone else had already come back to the hotel and ate previously but Tom said there was a place down the street that he got food from. I headed that way hoping there would be suitable food there for me to eat. This was the menu:
Now, I don't know what any of that stuff is except for Ćevapi which is definitely not vegetarian. I asked the lady if there was anything without meat except she didn't know what I was talking about because she didn't speak any English except for the word "hamburger." Tom who went with me said he was pretty sure that "pomfrit" means french fries. After some more failed communication with the lady who worked there, when I said the magic word, pomfrit, she pulled frozen french fries out of the freezer!! Success!!! I was so happy to get food into my system, and the fries were really really good, just wish I had more of them. I noticed that my phone, which has never worked in Croatia, worked in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I had bought a Croatian SIM card for my phone my first week here but it never worked and I couldn't justify buying a new phone for only 3 months so I just went without a phone. I regret this choice in the long run, I wish I bought the new phone, but oh well.

In the morning I got up and ate a big breakfast at the hotel. I sat and ate with Denis' wife. Denis is the photography professor from RIT that came along with the photo students. She is a really interesting person. So after that I showered in what felt like the middle of the bathroom and got dressed and we piled back in the vans and said goodbye to Mostar.

Sarajevo, the capital and largest city in Bosnia, was next on our journey. We stopped to eat lamb from a restaurant on the way to Sarajevo, I had an omelet which was ok. I prefer my eggs to be very well cooked and these were runny but I wasn't going to be picky when I was lucky to get anything vegetarian at all so I just flipped the omelet around so I didn't see the runny part. Once again, the people who served us spoke just a bit of English but Leah spoke to her in German which she was able to understand better. We had a hell of a time trying to get water out of the tap that wasn't bottled, but we had success. The view at the place we ate was spectacular. On the way to Sarajevo, Leah, Brad, Kyle and I played a stupid game you play to waste time on car trips. The basis of the game is one person starts with saying "I went to a picnic and brought..." and then names something that starts with A. Person number two says "I went to a picnic and I brought..." and then says the same thing person number one said and then adds a new thing that starts with a B, and then person three does C and so on. We finished the game and we ended up with an awesome picnic so I thought that I'd share.

Things we brought to the picnic:
banana nut muffins
ding dongs
ice for the fudgesicles
Lufthansa employees
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
nice people
odorous people
Reading Rainbow
Snakes on the Lufthansa plane
vegetable soup
XPath expressions
Zach Braff

We tried to get our van driver to play also but he didn't want to. He was the same guy who drove us to Montenegro. After the game was over we were just about in Sarajevo. We drove around for what seemed like forever once we were actually in Sarajevo and eventually came to our hotel. When we got out instead of being shown to our rooms, we were seated at some tables at the front of the hotel and we were brought a large shot of... something very alcoholic as a welcome. So we drank it and sat for a couple of minutes. The hotel staff showed us to our rooms, ladies first. So all 6 of us women followed the staff out the back door and across the street to a separate building that looked like someone's house, and up the stairs, where there was 3 rooms and a bathroom for us. The guys got normal hotel rooms in the hotel. The rooms were super nice and the sink was not in the shower.

We set our stuff down and then all 14 of us study abroad students preceded to wonder the streets of Sarajevo. We were looking for the downtown area but we were clearly lost. We split up into two groups eventually and Zoran the photo student kept asking people for directions in Croatian. We stopped for coffee on the way. There was your bombed out buildings in Sarajevo too, and TONS of graffiti everywhere. There was also a lot of large buildings and business. Ian and photo student Zoran took picture of a building but it was next to the construction site of the new US embassy so the guy was waving his hands at them not to take pictures and started to follow us. The new embassy site was fenced off and barbed wires prevented people from entering. We also passed the statue of Tito that our mentor Zoran showed us in class:

Eventually we got to the downtown area. Downtown was really pretty cool, it was crowded and there was lots of stores and things going on. We walked around and saw the city and sat down to eat. I asked Zoran if there was anything on the menu that was vegetarian, since it isn't like in Dubrovnik where the menus are in English as well, and he said the only thing was yogurt so I got some of that. It was drinkable yogurt. I saw a market next door so while others were enjoying their food I stopped there and picked up some fig newton-like snacks and some pudding for my dinner. We were talking about Snickers on the ride to Sarajevo so when I saw one at the market I had to get it, even though it was a bit much. We took a cab back to the hotel and then I was super tired from the day's activities and took a nap. When I woke up, Anna, Lori, and Kayla were returning. We sat up and talked for what seemed like forever but we were all in bed before midnight.

We got up at about 7am and ate breakfast at the hotel then we went back downtown to check it out again. We walked around and saw a store where people make crafts to sell. Chris bought a super-awesome chessboard the guy made and then he engraved it for him for free. We sat down and ate some burek which I was told was really good in Bosnia. I had burek in Croatia before, but the Bosnian burek was very different and they had more flavors and it was so very good. I got potato burek but we tried out each other's. Then it was time for Turkish coffee, which is like the only kind they serve in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was good, but a bit much. We took a cab back to the hotel and then sat around for an hour before the vans took us home. The ride home was miserable because it was all windy mountain roads and it made me so very carsick. When we got back to Croatia, ACMT was having a BBQ at the beach for their students. I went but there was nothing vegetarian except the bread. I ate some bread and sat on the beach for a while. I helped Ian collect sea glass and put my feet in the water and Kyle showed me how to skip stones. I had an awesome time in Bosnia but it was so nice to be home again. The sun was shinning and it was a beautiful day to be outside on the beach. I was happy. :)

I know I'm so behind on posting pictures, I'm sorry about that... more eventually from Montenegro and Bosnia eventually.

One week left...

Monday, May 12, 2008

Cheese with every meal

There's a new house rule, if you eat something you must eat Parmesan cheese with it. There is plenty to go around....

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Kotor, Montengro

Hello again from Croatia. This weekend is our trip to Bosnia and the end of my stay is fast approaching.

Here's some pictures I took in the first city we went to in Montenegro, Kotor.


Open market out in front of old town of Kotor.

This is a map of the old town, Kotor

The entrance to old town, Kotor

Montenegrin license plate

Orthodox chruch (Axel said so)

Axel's dogs again

Chris, Zoran, Axel in the old town of Kotor

Menu in Cyrillic

People getting some coffee

Sleepie doggie sleeping in the middle of the open part of town

Souvenir shop

Church again

Parents drink coffee while children play



Post office

Saturday, May 3, 2008

I like balconies

It's a beautiful day in Croatia. I just got back from getting icecream in old town.

Photo students taking pictures (Lopud):

On our balcony:

I think I'm trying to be artistic here...

Leah, Nikola and I - Group hug. <3

Stairs leading to Tabascos/Ploče gate. I'm not kidding when I say there's a lot of stairs/hills here.

Castle-like structure on the city wall

In Montenegro, right before we got to Kotor we stopped on the side of the road to stretch and take pics:

It was super insanely windy...

Kyle right before throwing stuff

Pretty sea once again

I almost fell to my doom down that hole

Zoran and our van driver

Zoron and the sea

Axel (our CS professor from RIT) and his dogs - Sammie and Heidi

Same scene, different views (this one was taken by Brad)

Same scene, different views (this one was taken by me)

Mrs. Axel and the dogs.