This site contains the archives of my travel blogs from 2010-2016.

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Bunker


It was July in Bosnia, and the one hundred twenty-six degree breeze ruffled my hair and lifted the ringlets off my neck.  It was so hot I would not have been able to concentrate under any normal circumstance, but this was anything but mundane.  A ruggedly handsome older man stood tall and proud before us as he relayed a gripping first-hand account of the Siege of Sarajevo.  The voice of Retired General Jovan Divjak of the Bosnian Army commanded our attention.  His French was impeccable, and my fellow scouts and I felt honored to hear his story straight from the source.  I looked up at the stone pillars of the synagogue behind the general as he spoke.  We were standing atop one of three important hills in Sarajevo, the site of the Jewish Cemetery.  Looking out across the valley, General Divjak pointed to the Christian and Muslim cemeteries on their respective hills; he demonstrated with large arm movements the positions of his men and those of the Serbs and Croats as all three armies gathered to fight for the city on a warm May day in 1992. 
We were then escorted to a bunker near Konjic, just south of Sarajevo, which had been built in the seventies as a recondite emergency shelter for Josip Broz Tito, his family, and his aides.  Our military-grade van turned up a long, one-lane mountain road, slowly climbing for what seemed like an hour.  When finally the van arrived, we were greeted by several average-looking homes looking out over a fish hatchery.  I was somewhat disappointed; besides the soldiers milling about, clad in combat uniforms and armed with Kalashnikovs, this place didn’t seem to be anything special.  Just then, a garage door opened, revealing a tunnel twelve feet tall and infinitely long.  It was only then that I realized the significance of my visit.  
My fascination with the history of the Bosnian War and the region itself led me to ask many questions of General Divjak, every one of which he warmly and fully answered.  Although I had been living in Brussels for a year and spoke French quite fluently, my slight accent and use of expressions gave me away; in a group of Belgians he quickly singled me out and asked about my origins.  Upon learning of my American roots, I was quickly informed that I was the first American civilian ever to visit the bunker.  Much of the Bosnian military did not know of the shelter’s existence.  Though its location was no longer considered top secret, it was certainly not advertised to the public.  I thought to myself that I would never forget this place.  A musty smell permeated my nostrils as we walked by whitewashed walls; maximum security, airtight steel doors; completely furnished yet untouched bedrooms, offices, and conference rooms; and impeccably organized rooms for code-cracking which featured dusty typewriters, telephones, and radios – state of the art equipment in Socialist Yugoslavia in the 1970s. 
the hills surrounding Sarajevo

looking out over the fish hatchery

crammed in the back of the van

the entrance to the bunker

electrical room

General Divjak presents desks completely equipped and untouched since the 70s

the conference room

General Divjak & assistant address us in the conference room.
Note the framed photo of Tito on the wall.

Josep Broz Tito's secret bunker was revealed to the public just last week (see this article, and this one).  It is now in the process of being turned into a contemporary art museum.  I found these articles by chance while revisiting my memories this week.  When I looked back through my blog posts, I was surprised I hadn't told this story yet, as it's definitely one of my favourites. 

Monday, June 21, 2010

"In Search of Beautiful"

A recent article in Sunset Magazine reminded me of all the fun I had decorating my dorm this past year, and has got me eagerly anticipating the day I have my own home to decorate (and re-decorate).  I love the whole process....assessing the space....deciding on appropriate sizes and styles of furnishings....picking the colours....arranging and rearranging to get the perfect combination of elegance, whimsy and practicality.  Even the before and after shots are thrilling to me.  

It's the process of making things beautiful that keeps me coming back for more.  I thought today...Maybe I should have named my blog "In Search of Beautiful," because that's what I love to do.  I look for beauty in people, actions, things, and situations.  And even more so, I love to watch things become beautiful.  A messy room getting organized.  White walls being decorated.  A bad attitude turning to a thankful one.  These things all bring me so much joy!

So, back to the article....They showed several different themed dining setups for outdoor spaces.  On a warm, sunny day there's nowhere I'd rather dine than en jardin.  It reminds me of blissful lunches with my host family in our back garden in Brussels.  Here are some of my favorites from Sunset's exposé....

Tuscan Dining: the PlanHenderson's garden plan
Tuscan Dining: The Courtyard
Tuscan table

I would be a little concerned about getting splinters from the furniture in this last setting, but the rustic yellow is such a beautiful accent colour!

Dinner on the Deck: Concrete Side Table
Concrete side table

I love the idea of that green slate slab as a smooth, level, elegantly shiny countertop that's easy to keep clean.  The pullout drawers underneath add valuable outside storage that's also fashionable.  And the striking blue barbecue tops it all off!

Mediterranean Patio

Isn't the multi-coloured tile gorgeous?!  This setup would work well for those less apt to "eat in the dirt."  The ultra-clean low-walled patio makes for a relaxing setting without compromising a beautiful backdrop.

Social Backyard
Social backyard

This arrangement would be great for a modern, young couple who entertain mostly young people  sans back problems.  Otherwise I'd consider investing in some more chairs offering comfortable back support for the older crowd.   But you can't deny, the corn-cob candles are pretty cute! 

Floating Paradise...on a houseboat!
Floating Paradise

The couch complete with pillows really does it for me.  Very zen, and very comfy-looking.  Imagine sitting in this little houseboat garden and looking out over a lake (this is a real photo of some lucky guy's houseboat).

Mission Magic
Enchanted gardens: Mission magic

I've fallen in love with the mosaic table shown here.  I actually found an almost identical one in TJ Maxx last year and instantly knew I had to have it.  It was a great deal....$150 for the table and two chairs!  And thus my little dorm room was turned into a garden cafe :)  

Just the way I like it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I marvel at the carefree summer days my youngest siblings are enjoying and every now and then I get a glimpse of what that used to look like for me.  It's been a while; that's for certain.  I can't help but reflect on how my view of summer "break" has changed throughout the past several years.  

Up through elementary school and junior high, my summers were filled with trips to the beach and public pool with my mom, siblings, and fourteen additional neighborhood kids in tow.  I survived on red licorice and trail mix, and cherished the long afternoons that I could lay on the couch with all the doors open and a breeze blowing through the house and loose myself in a book for hours at a time.  

As a fourteen-year-old, I was going into my freshman year of high school and excited about having made the school's Dance Team.  Summer was still fun, but not nearly as relaxing.  I was still competing in gymnastics, so my morning practices would get out and then I'd have a few hours to do all the things fourteen-year-old girls love to do before Dance Team practice in the evenings.  It was everything I could have asked for.  I thrived on the hard work, constant movement, and physical exhaustion.

Everything changed right after my fifteenth birthday.  I left high school and started attending the community college.  I transitioned from a happy-go-lucky child to a young woman with serious goals.  I decided I wanted to study abroad for a year, and knew I would have to work almost every day of the next year and a half to earn the money for my trip.  But my eyes were set on the prize and I happily took up three jobs that summer, waking up energized every morning after dreaming of sipping latte's on the French Riviera all night.  I was going places and life was more exciting than ever.

That enthusiasm carried over through the year and into the next summer.  It was June 2007 and I had just finished an amazing school year in Brussels.  I loved my host family and was cherishing the last weeks I would get to spend as one of the kids.  I left for Bosnia with my scout pack and learned while I was on the trip that I had been hired to work for a prestigious political think tank in D.C.  Summer felt so good!  I was charged up with anticipation for everything that was to come.

The summer I was eighteen I left Australia and headed to China for a month.  The travel bug lived on and I had a bad case of it.  That might have been the most humid, sticky summer, but nevertheless full of fascinating adventures. 

Last summer was just plain exhausting.  I didn't feel like I even got a summer at all.  Probably because I didn't.  Just two weeks after spring finals, I left on the 40 States in 40 Days trip.  When I returned in July, I had just two weeks to write six 2,500 word essays before moving into the dorm and starting training for my job as an RA.  That summer was mentally and physically demanding and I was exhausted before the school year even started.  

This summer is a conglomeration of everything that came before.  It started with an amazing month-long road trip (which you'll hear more about soon).  Although it was a bit tiring, this blissful 28 days left me with the impression that I had really "lived it up" this summer and had me eager to get back to work.  I have an ambitious but exciting thesis to work on this summer; the usual gamut of internships, scholarships and study abroad programs to apply for; two online accounting classes to get out of the way; a new gym membership; and a plethora of French and Russian novels calling my name.  I started to get bogged down yesterday by everything I hope to accomplish by the end of the summer, but woke up this morning thankful for the eight weeks that remain free from the constant deadlines and meetings that clog up my semesters.  

So I'm enjoying the warm weather and chugging on....I think I can, I think I can, I think I can....

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Letter from the Honors Council

Congratulations! The Honors Council met this month and approved your Plan of Study for a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a catalog major with modifications in International Entrepreneurship. The Honors Council appreciates the attention to detail you and Professor Schenkel gave to the plan, and is pleased with the ambition you've shown in structuring this Plan of Study. I hope your plan will be productive for your future. Best of luck as you work to fulfill the program....
An even more enthusiastic "congratulations" is due you for the outstanding thesis prospectus you presented to the Council. They did, of course, approve the prospectus for the thesis entitled Social Capital and Personal Financial Capital as Linked Factors in the Formation of Entrepreneurial Intent in Russia. The Council was extraordinarily impressed by the vision and detail in your prospectus.  You and Dr. Schenkel are to be commended for putting together a proposal of such creativity and ambition. 

This letter made my day. :)
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