Thursday, 31 December 2009

Thanks for reading

I noticed my brother changed the banner on his blog the other day. The new image presents a list of places where his readers log in from, much like fashion stores have a fondness for putting London, Paris and Milan on their windows. The purpose of this blog is not to try and go one up on his impressive selection of cyber destinations but merely to say thank you to those of you who have been following our adventure throughout 2009. Thanks to all of you who have commented or let us know that you enjoy what you're reading. We know 2010 has some exciting things in store; we hope you'll be part of seeing them unfold with us.

But, tempted as I am to do my own little bit of 'place-dropping', I'll let you in on our New Year plans. In previous years we've taken in the delights that London, New York and Cape Town have to offer. Tonight we will be in Dubrovnik and I'm sure they'll be pictures or, more likely, video to follow!

Friday, 25 December 2009

Peas On Earth

As I took a break from cooking what will pass as Christmas dinner in our house, I was struck by the sudden urge to blog. I reasoned that on a day such as today my last post - Lettuce Give Thanks - had to be followed up with one entitled Peas On Earth. At this point you've probably looked at the picture and thought something like 'surely he knows that's not peas, that's sweetcorn?'

Fear not, I do know my vegetables, frozen or not. The switch was initially based on necessity. We're out of peas. Pity really, I was planning to cook some today. The choice was to go with corn or carrots. Carrots carry the 'or stick' connotation which could have worked well in a 'peace on earth' context. But sweetcorn has one endearing quality. It's durability. I don't wish to lower the tone to explain myself but let's just say very little else can get chewed up and yet come out looking completely unscathed by the experience.

Peas pale in comparison. Their claim to fame mostly involves being mushy, hardly a desirable quality. That is certainly true when it comes to peace. Mushy doesn't help anyone. You can make peace, but a mushy approach to passive peace keeping doesn't work.

As were look to ahead to 2010 I, for one, want to pursue peace with the durability of sweetcorn, not the bribes of a carrot or the mushiness of a pea. I hope that those working to secure lasting peace and stability in this region think likewise.

[Merry Christmas....if you want a bit of stark, somber Christmas reading I recommend this article.]

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Lettuce give thanks!


Tonight we made our first trip to a new, smallish, supermarket just around the corner from our apartment. Imagine my surprise when browsing the selection of good-looking fruit and vegetables I saw this. Pictured here is the first iceberg lettuce I have seen on sale since our arrival in Bosnia and Herzegovina almost sixteen months ago. Maybe I’ve been looking in the wrong places; now I know where to go. I’m not really a salad freak but I always a bit of extra iceberg crunch with a burger!

Such luxury comes at a price. Four marks fifty-two to be precise. That’s a lot for something that’s predominantly water. For my English readers, that’s well over two quid, more than twice what you’ll be paying in Tesco. There’s always a cost to progress and my taste buds count the reintroduction of iceberg into my diet as progress. Students of economics will remember that a decrease in price should lead to an increase in demand. Maybe it can work the other way too; my increasing demand helps everyone else benefit from lower prices in the long run. Well, it’s a nice thought anyway!

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Snowtastic!

Much like the part of the UK we came from, Mostar does not often get decent snow. It's comes, then, as no great surprise that on a day when the fall could genuinely be counted in inches I was out there with the camera to capture the evidence.





Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Smashing!

I've had chipped windscreens in the past, I definitely remember one of our MINIs needing the glass replaced, but I'd never smashed a window on a vehicle...until last Tuesday. As I type snow is falling outside but a week ago tonight the rain was pouring down. Heavy, heavy rain, even by Mostar's standards. I was driving our Volkswagen Transporter down towards the Stari Grad for another Gilgal gig. Reversing into a parking space I missed the overhanging tree - or rather I didn't miss it. It wasn't in my wing mirrors although I might have seen it had the rear window not been quite so steamed up. One of the passengers in the back screamed 'stop' but in that instance the whole window just exploded inwards. I'll save you the story of us picking up the pieces from this mess but I must mention that driving home later that night without a back window gave fantastic clear rear visibility!



The video gives a little more of the story and some very grainy gig footage - enjoy!

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Competitive?

It has been our observation that in the world of retail Bosnia and Herzegovina has yet to evolve in to the fiercely competitive market that we were used to in the UK. It's seems retail is not the only area this is the case. The World Economic Forum has presented its 2009-2010 global competitiveness report and Bosnia and Herzegovina comes 109th out of 133 major and emerging economies.


What caught my attention was that this position leaves the country sandwiched between Uganda, just above it, and Cambodia, just below it. Those countries share the distinctive that at some point in their history they have been the byword for atrocities in their region. Does that make them fitting neighbours?


From my limited perspective - I've visited neither Uganda or Cambodia - I would say no. I find it hard to reconcile the potential I see in this country with the stigma I've seen attached to the others. The sad reality this report highlights is that the mention of Bosnia and Herzegovina is likely to continue to draw the sharp-intake-of-breathe response in business circles.


The financial fiasco that has done much to undermine the credibility of western capitalism over the last year may make you ask if competitiveness is that important after all. It is. While the inexcusable excesses that have been exposed do the system no favours the alternative is stagnation and exploitation. Whether progress is inevitable or not is up for discussion. News articles can be depressing but we see encouraging signs on the ground.


You would have to wear blinkers to only see encouraging signs but here's an example of this morning's news of progress, albeit of the slow and steady type. After seventeen years the railway line has re-opened between Belgrade and Sarajevo. We plan to visit the Serbian capital one day; now we have another transport option!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Mr Writer responds

“Mr Writer, why don't you tell it like it is? Why don't you tell it like it really is? Before you go on home...” Yesterday afternoon, as the Stereophonics sung these words in my ear, I had one of those moments of conscience. Am I guilty of not telling it like it is? Come to think of it do I really know what it is like?

The ‘it’ is probably life in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the land of contradictions that is broadly the subject of this blog; our life and work in Mostar being the particular focus. I am aware, often painfully so, that our life here is nothing like that of a great many of the population. For one, I have a Passport that allows me to live and work around Europe. Bosnian Passport holders need an expensive visa just to visit the UK. Such restrictions affect how you see life’s possibilities.

My brother commented on the video I made of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s World Cup playoff defeat to Portugal that at times I could have been Alan Green. Sometimes I do feel more like a commentator than a player. I’m blogging more about what I’m seeing than what I’m experiencing. Would I want to share the hardships I witness others going through? No I wouldn’t. Does this make me feel selfish and, at times, pampered? Yes it does. And sometimes that bothers me.

Perhaps that’s why the Stereophonics struck a nerve. To tell it like it really is you have to have lived through something with people. The lyric prods at my detachment and places a huge, awkward question mark over it. In a country of many contradictions it seems I have plenty of my own I must resolve or learn to live with.