Our apartment is actually very nice. We have two bedrooms and two bathrooms and a place to park which is unusual here. We have a nice view of the mountains and the city and it is located fairly close to most things. We have lots of windows and have enjoyed the sunshine coming through! We did have to go buy a memory foam mattress topper because the bed was a little hard for our liking but we are comfy now!
There truly is so much diversity here. The city itself is steeped in history. There is still much evidence of the war that took place here over 20 years ago. Buildings are riddled with bullet holes, some are completely bombed out and only a brick shell remains. Amidst the ruins are lively communities and happy people. We spent a morning exploring Old Town Sarajevo with its brick streets and local shops located in the heart of the city. There was everything from Pekaras (yummy bakeries) to shops that sold hand knitted socks. People of all ages and walks of life seemed to be gathered in the street cafes enjoying the beautiful weather and each other's company. It is hard to imagine the peaceful setting as anything other than what it currently is, but it was not that long ago that it was a war torn, ravaged city and there are many buildings that stand as a reminder of the past. I've been impressed how the people have overcome such trials and have rebuilt the city and their lives.
After our morning in Old Town and lunch with the two Elders (both from Utah) we went to the local Family Center. It's pretty much a mall with a large store called Konzum that is similar to Wal-Mart. Not as much variety, but for Sarajevo it's the closest thing to it. There are a few other shops in the center that sell clothes, shoes, bedding, makeup and books, but Konzum is the anchor. We found most of what we needed, except a scale! LOL! Need that to remind us that no matter how good the Pekeras are, we still need to fit in our clothes! After Family Center, we headed to Sarajevo City Center. Now talk about diversity... after the experience at Old Town to walk into this ultra modern, upscale mall was quite a shock! Think the Plaza or Tyson's Corner type stores, very upscale and expensive.
The people are as diverse as the city. The majority of the population here are Muslim. Some are strong practicing Muslims including "covered women" and those that stop when the call to prayer rings through the city. Others are Eastern Orthodox or other religions. I have enjoyed people watching everywhere we've been and look forward to learning more about the religions and cultures that comprise the country as we begin our service here.
One thing about Sarajevo that I have found both thrilling and devastating is the number of stray dogs there are here. There is a litter of puppies in one spot along our mountain drive that I have to go visit everyday. I want to bring them all back to the apartment, but have remained strong and have only brought them food and puppy treats. They are not wild dogs, just strays. Many are very friendly, some are shy but all are homeless and it is just a fact of life here. I suppose it's good that they do not believe in euthanizing them and the hope is that the will be spayed/neutered but it just doesn't seem to happen. I'm sure I will eventually do an entire post on dogs and puppies, but know that so far not bringing home every stray has been my greatest challenge!
As much as we've enjoyed the city, we have grown to love the countryside, especially the mountains. We have driven up into the mountains everyday that we've been here. It is breathtaking! I am so happy to be living in the mountains again and can't wait for fall to see the splendor of the leaves changing, the white winter wonderland and the emergence of spring as we get to spend the seasons here. The pictures do not really do justice to the amazing views and beauty of the mountains and countryside surrounding Sarajevo. In the coming weeks we will get to travel to other parts of the country and I'm sure we will be enthralled with all that it has to offer not only from a visual perspective, but in general. We are excited to get acquainted with this country we will call home for the next 17 months.
We went to church today and marveled at how much alike yet how very different it was. The gospel is true no matter where you are! Our little congregation consisted of 6 missionaries (2 sisters, 2 elders and us Seniors LOL!) , the branch president (who works for the Embassy) and his wife and 5 children all 10 and younger, one visitor from the State Dept., two members, one of whom comes with her husband who is not a member and only speaks German and one investigator. It was amazing that the spirit is still strong no matter what the numbers are. We have one hour for sacrament meeting and then a 30 minute Sunday School and a 30 minute Relief Society/Priesthood meeting. We look forward to serving with the missionaries and watching the little branch grow in faith and numbers.
Well, that about sums up the five days we've been here so far. We miss home, we miss friends and family ( including my dog and horses!) but we know there is much work for us to do here and look forward to what the Lord has on His agenda! Big hugs to all!