Monday, 31 January 2011

Pretty in pink?

Without doubt, the most popular car on the road in Bosnia and Herzegovina is the Volkswagen Golf. Every generation is represented, in fact, only the other day I saw one of what Wikipedia tells me was only 6,697 Mk2 Golf Country's ever made. This was Volkswagen's pre-emptive – you could even say prophetic – stab at producing an SUV in the early nineties. My sighting was the only time I have ever seen this model anywhere, other than in a picture. But today we saw a much more modern incarnation that whet Rowan's appetite. As you can see from the picture it is pretty in pink. Rowan declared that it looked like you could eat it. Instead of the words 'Volkswagen' or 'Golf' adorning the cars behind there was just a simple, silver heart decal. This too is a unique sighting. I can't recall seeing many pink cars over here, if any others at all. Do I approve? Well, I like the wheels! Naturally, if I had to choose between these two Golfs my vote would have to go with the retro 4x4 experiment.

Monday, 24 January 2011

On Course...

Last week we said we'd be starting running courses as a Novi Most team in Jajce. We can confirm we did and that our first week of courses turned out to be a heady cocktail of drums and guitar, with a dash of synth, a spot of violin, lashings of papier-mâché and two dozen chocolate muffins! This video gives a bit of insight into the preparation for the music courses and a nice long look at my new hat from various angles!


Monday, 17 January 2011

She Will Be Mine?

I'm not sure how familiar you are with Wayne's World. As a teenager my wife and her friends were definitely in the Bill and Ted camp; for me and my friends it was Wayne and Garth that got our laughs. Regardless of your franchise allegiance – if any – an interest in either should have stirred an affinity with the rock wannabe. I first watched Wayne's World as an aspiring musician; two decades on I've now got a long history of helping others strike their own first heroic barre chords.


Tomorrow Novi Most starts its first music courses as part of its work in Jajce. So it was that today I – a guitarist – walked into Banja Luka's premier music store with my drumming co-worker for some essential supplies. Yes, there was a drum kit sitting under some lighting bars but he did not treat shoppers to an impromptu solo! In the movie Wayne had his heart set on a white Stratocaster that lived locked in a glass case in his local music store's window. “She will be mine” he says until the day he can make an extravagant cash purchase. I've never asked to play a guitar locked in a glass case but the shops I used to frequent in the UK all used to wire their guitars to security alarms. Today I walked in on this beauty just laying on a stool in the guitar room, clearly asking to be played. I can't claim to be a huge fan of Strats or super-strats, but neither was I of Teles until I bought one. Is this the super-strat to change my mind? Will she be mine?

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Lunch

This was lunch. I can't say I'm proud of it but I present it as an interesting case study of economists; neatly summing up both the psychological power wielded by global brands and the well known fact that scarcity increases demand. As we've mentioned before, Bosnia and Herzegovina has no McDonalds. This is by no means a bad thing. The country has plenty of quality home-grown alternatives to the most famous burger in fast food. However Croatia has McDonalds and that means the lure of the Golden M is never far from the travelling kind.


We once spent twelve days in Manhattan. Despite there being seemingly a McDonalds on every corner that wasn't occupied by a Starbucks we only stepped inside once, when needing to find a 'rest room' after a trip on the Staten Island ferry. We had no inclination to eat there. Years before we left the UK we'd stopped considering McDonalds as a fast food option, except in an absolute emergency. So why did I find myself eating a soggy burger and some decidedly average fries in Zagreb earlier today? Clearly I am a victim of some pesky mind games because I am reluctant to admit I would pine for an absent restaurant I was well out of the habit of frequenting!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Back Page Special

One of our co-workers turned up this morning, apologising for oversleeping in one breath before breathlessly asking if we knew how much Edin Dzeko is set to earn every day. For those whose eyes are not glued to the UK's back pages, Dzeko is Manchester City's latest acquisition and Bosnia and Herzegovina's star striker. We saw him once, when he turned in what I'd have to describe as an uninspired performance in the country's most important ever football match. They lost 1-0 to Portugal and didn't go to the FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

With a £27m price tag to justify you have to hope he performs better week in and week out in the Premier League. Whatever his wages are they are almost certainly beyond the realms of comprehension for most people in his home country, although this is almost a universal issue with the sport's highest paid stars. That said he could probably pop back here in a couple of weeks and afford to buy a small town, or two!

The funny thing is there's a local joke about Manchester City, at least amongst our friends. It doesn't translate easily into a blog post because it revolves around singing like a folk singer. Needless to say, having lived with this joke associated with City for the last eighteen months or so it put a smile on my face to see Bosnia's most famous current footballer signing for them. I look forward to seeing a rise in the number of fake light-blue shirts on the streets!

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Crazy Icy Tunnel

We blogged about icy tunnels a few weeks back but as yesterday's bike ride took in a couple of them I could resist the temptation to stop and make this video so you could experience them close up. Enjoy!

Monday, 3 January 2011

Happy Trails

Here is the evidence I went out riding today. It's not that I think you wouldn't believe me without the image - I could have blogged about the ride without it – but a pictures ability to add to the word count without adding any words is the stuff of legends. From what I gather from Facebook it seems some UK readers may be sick of the sight of snow, and to them I apologise, but it was the dusting of overnight snow that got me out of the house this morning. I wanted to ride in the snow a couple of weeks back but we had too much work on for me to find the time. Today gave the perfect combination: a sunny day and enough snow to make it a snow ride, without too much to render riding an impossibility.


Yesterday we met an American who had worked in Jajce at the end of the nineties. They were excited to here about the developing youth work project we are part of. The word pioneering cropped up in the conversation. I'll confess it's not a tag that sits easily because I'm conscious that our success so far owes a huge debt to everyone who has worked on similar projects here in the years before we arrived. At the same time, when people with the experience to comment with some historical perspective on what we're doing use the word it seems foolish to dismiss the compliment.


As we look ahead to 2011 we do want to be part of something that provides new opportunities and experiences to young people in Jajce. For all my hang-ups, yes, we do want to be involved in something pioneering, even if we don't want to jump to stick that tag on it ourselves. In our first couple of months here we've seen far more progress than we would have dared anticipate. As we kick off our working year later this week we have plenty to work on, and a surprisingly large number of young people to start working with. Being in the right place and the right time may be a cliché but it also may be our present reality.


Which brings us back to the photo. It clearly shows my bike tyre tracks in fresh snow: trail blazing, or pioneering if you will. I shot it close-up. There's nothing to give any sense of scale or perspective, except if you know the average width of a mountain bike tyre. Were these the lone tracks across a vast untouched snow field? Are they carving a furrow on the verge of a well-gritted highway? You can't tell. Perhaps it doesn't matter. The snap shot shows activity where five minutes before there was none. Instead of a blank page it shows the signs of purpose and progress. If 2011 is stretched out in front of us like a sunny snow day I hope there will be plenty of these kind of photo opportunities as we make happy trails.