Friday, 31 December 2010
Thursday, 30 December 2010
Tuesday, 28 December 2010
It's been just over two weeks since our last post which means one of two things: either we've had nothing to talk about or there's been a little too much going on to find the time to talk about it. This video should help you make you mind up about which one it's been.
Monday, 13 December 2010
Saturday, 11 December 2010
Rowan was reminded of ice daggers, the sort plunged through the hearts of unfortunate, and probably unsuspecting, victims in fairytales; shortly before some wholesome, heart-warming hero arrives on the scene to heal the hurts and ensure everyone – except, perhaps, the ice-wielding bad guy – lives happily ever after.
I had images of old-school platform games, or perhaps even a Nintendo original hand-held classic like Donkey Kong. The aim was to complete a successful dash through the Tunnel of Doom, while dodging the game-over inducing objects regularly falling from the ceiling.
Earlier this week we were telling friends in Mostar that our walk to work – or the supermarket – was a relatively easy one in all weathers as half of it was through the road tunnel under Jajce's castle. As if to prove that nothing in life is really that simple the weather threw us a curve ball this morning. This is not photoshop, a fairytale or Nintendo's finest; those really are icicles over three feet long, or measuring over a metre if you prefer metric.
However, fear not; in a country that often appears to have a laissez-faire attitude to all things health and safety these actually register as dangerous enough to require attention. As I was walking through the tunnel, photographing all the while, I spotted the guy with the very long stick working his way towards me on the other side of the road, smashing the seasonal hazards above his path. I was pleased to see that despite clearly forgetting to don his protective goggles he had remembered his wooly (safety?) hat!
Friday, 10 December 2010
Wednesday, 8 December 2010
We were down in Mostar yesterday and today. This provided us with two paper-trail related tales to tell.
Yesterday: Novi Most owns a couple of Volkswagan Transporters, one of which we are using in Jajce. To make fuelling easier about a year ago we got fuel cards from a chain of gas stations that are well represented in Herzegovina. Moving to Jajce we realised they had no forecourts in the immediate area so it was suggested we get a card from a different, Bosnian-based company. Two weeks ago, somewhere in north-west Bosnia, I used this card for the first time. It took the two gentlemen behind the counter fully fifteen minutes of conferring with one another and consulting sheets of A4 paper on the wall be behind the till to finally get the appropriate machine to spit out a little slip of paper for me to sign. Yesterday, I was in the Novi Most office in Mostar when the envelope arrived containing the bill for the account for the last month. There, stapled to the top right corner of the A4 invoice, was the very same slip bearing my signature. I couldn't help thinking that for a company with a nation-wide network of forecourts which are being actively, and very nicely, modernised this system might lack a little in the efficiencies made possible by the digital age.
Today: Amongst other things we found the time to shop for some things we haven't been able to get in Jajce. One was phone/fax machine. Even in Mostar, finding one of these that didn't include the bulky addition of a printer and scanner required a bit of a search. We ended up in a shop called DigiTrends, in the Piramida shopping centre. While the purchase of an unremarkable piece of office equipment would not normally be afforded a blog post this story finds it way online because of the quaint picture of the young assistant hand-writing the receipt in a carbon-copy booklet. For a retailer showing off a fine selection of the latest consumer electronics, surely this is not the digital revolution the shop's name implies!
Monday, 6 December 2010
We were standing in the kitchen this morning when I heard a Police siren outside the window. In our experience here that can mean only one thing: dignitaries being ferried about the country in a high speed convoy. Rowan had seen on Facebook that Ivo Josipovic, the Croatian President was dropping in on Jajce today. Sure enough, half a dozen blacked-out people carriers, a few others vehicles whose description I can't remember, and a couple of ubiquitous white Volkswagen Golf Police cars were snaking their way down the valley from the direction of Banja Luka. I can't claim to have seen the President but if he was looking out of the window he may well have seen our house, if not us gawping out of the window!
I've just received an email from Balkan Insight that contained a link to an article explaining why he was in the area. As it was a promising piece politically I thought I'd couple some of the stand out sections here in the hope you'll click the link to read the rest. So here goes...
Croatia's Josipovic Is 'Man of the Year'
Nezavisne Novine daily said it was awarding the Croatian leader because he is “a statesman not burdened by the legacy of war... who promotes a policy of reconciliation and tolerance” in the former Yugoslavia.
For his part, Josipovic said that the award was a great privilege. "It is time for cooperation that implies peace, good neighborly relations and understanding, common interest, and it is time for all to return to their homes, to boost trade, cultural exchange and cooperation," he told Nezavisne Novine.
Read the full article here.
Sunday, 5 December 2010
Saturday, 4 December 2010
After being involved in youth work for more than fifteen years you've heard lots of reasons, and occasionally excuses, as to why people didn't show up when you were expecting them too. Today I heard one I'd never heard before. Rowan and I used to do a lot of youth work out of a school youth centre in a rural part of Sussex. Even there this never cropped up. Jajce is more rural still, as this picture indicates. It was produced by one of the young people who did make it to our first Novi Most session in Jajce. He was one of almost twenty who responded to the invitation and came to see what opportunities could open up with Novi Most now working in the town. It was a very positive couple of hours. We'll run a similar introduction session next weekend for those unable to be there today. Some of them were at a school event happening in town, which is familiar territory; others, however, had to go to a village and slaughter some pigs, which is definitely a new one for me!
In have to add this picture of some black boxes for all of you who can identify with boys toys type excitement. What you may or may not be able to make out is a small KV2 Audio PA system. At the last big event I played at in the UK before moving to Bosnia and Herzegovina we rocked a significantly larger KV2 Audio system. Buried in the back of the wardrobe I still have a couple of KV2 Audio T-shirts, gifts from the nice people on their stand at Plasa, an annual sound and lights trade show held at Earl's Court, London. My snap was snapped in Artist, a music store in Banja Luka. It's a real rock'n'roll music store. One where they let you touch things without hovering like over-protective parents. Such shops used to exist in the UK, but the ones I used to frequent in the early days of my musical journey have long since evolved into don't-touch-without-permission generic supermarkets for sanitised musical equipment. More's the pity! The downside of the visit was the sudden urge to buy things I probably don't have the money for. The upside was the discovery of many useful things I haven't seen on sale in the music stores in Mostar or Sarajevo. I don't think it'll be too long before I find myself back in Banja Luka with a little bit more time to spend checking out the plentiful delights of this Aladdin's Cave.
Thursday, 2 December 2010
While the town we came from in the UK is in the grips of some unseasonally large snow falls, Jajce has not yet plunged into the depths of winter. No doubt it will come. Today we had enough sunshine to add a rainbow to a now familiar view. Yes, a rainbow needs a little rain and we've had a bit but nothing like what's going on back in Mostar at the moment. Rowan was looking at some pictures on Facebook earlier and said she never saw the Neretva so high in the two years we were there. Apparently the border at Metković was closed due to flooding in the town. With so many of Bosnia and Herzegovina's main roads running alongside rivers I've often thought how vulnerable this network is to rising water levels.
Snow, however, it is well equipped to handle, at least in our experience. Gritters and snow ploughs operate around the clock keeping the main routes passable, if not entirely clear. The requirements to put winter tyres on every November and carry snow chains help too, although people only seem to resort to chains if absolutely necessary. Like the time one of my back wheels froze on the top of a mountain. Snow chains gave enough traction to drag it down to below the snow line where the bare tarmac provided enough resistance to work it free again. And so to all my UK readers struggling with the country's less-than-entirely resilient infrastructure, enjoy the snow-break...and if you see a set of snow chains they are a worthwhile investment!