Monday, December 18, 2006

Barcelona, Spain 15-17 December 2006

Barcelona, Barcelona....I've been around much of Spain but not to this infamous Spanish city. It was fabulous. I went with Arno and his colleagues (kindof a reward for some help I've provided his company lately). Anyhow, we visited some great restaurants, bars, and sights. The architecture in Barcelona is renown. I absolutely loved the Park Guell which was designed by Gaudi, artist/architect. (see photos below)

The weather was warm and perfect for walking around (which we did quite a lot). We also took one of those corny tourist buses with that has the top floor open so we could see more of the city. The most significant highlight of the weekend was jumping into the Mediterranean Sea with Arno and one of his colleagues! It wasn't even that cold, very refreshing :o)

Here are some photos, but as usual the rest are on Kodak! Click here for those.

Left: Arno, Gerco, and Aart (business partners)

Below: View within Park Guell

View onto the beach and in Plaza Real
Lots of palm trees!!!

Oslo, Norway 7-10 December 2006

Dear Family, friends, and whoever else might view this blog, It's been a while since I last posted something, but it has been a very busy past few weeks. I finished classes, have some papers to write, celebrated Arno's 26th birthday, Sinterklaas, traveled to Oslo and Barcelona, and am preparing to travel to the U.S. before coming back to Amsterdam for New Year's and writing my thesis!!! Whew....

Highlights of Oslo include:
sitting on fur in the bars and restaurants, visiting Statue park (see photos below), going to Drobak (a small town on a fjord an hour away from Oslo), seeing the Nobel Peace Prize winner (Muhammad Yunas of Grameen Bank) and being interviewed by a Bangladeshi TV station on the winner and his work in microcredit (if you don't know what that is, read about it--very interesting).

It was freezing in Oslo, the sun set a
t about 3:30pm which was strange, and prices were the highest I've seen in any country. Regardless, it was a good time. It felt like an American New England city for the most part. I'd like to go back to the North where you can see the Northern Lights and even get a trip to the North Pole!!

I hope you enjoy these photos! For the whole lot, go to my kodakgallery website!
Some images from Statue Park

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Luxembourg City, Luxembourg!

The weekend before Halloween, Arno and I trekked (drove) down to Luxembourg City in Luxembourg...a country between Belgium, Germany and France. It's a rich city, as it is a country, well known for banking. The people there speak both French and German, and even some dialect called Luxembourgish, or something along those lines...pretty impressive anyway. The city is absolutely beautiful and so pristine. We had excellent weather and all of the fall colors were in full effect. I also ran into a guy I knew from Leiden, lol!
For more picturesque photos like this one, go here!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Michelle, Jess, Arno and me at the Virginia Wine Festival -
we are undoubtedly drunk at this point, hahah ;)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

To the U.S. with Arno, 22 September - 4 October

Well, it was a very good trip and most people were able to meet my wonderful boyfriend, Arno. We took many photos of our travels and will share them with you below. More photos will be added as I receive them from others, so stay tuned! I had a great time and am just happy Arno was there to experience it with me :o)

Below: Harper's Ferry, where the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers converge and Arno and I when we went hiking on the Appalacian Trail in Virginia.

Arno and Jared bonding.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A trip to the South...

This week has been a really good week weather-wise so some friends of mine and I decided to take a day trip to the south (near the Belgium border). We visited two castles (made of brick by the way!) and a trappist brewery (beer brewed by monks). This trappist brewery which brews "La Trappe" beer is one of the few still in existence where the monks are the ones still brewing it. Here's the link to view all of my photos. Below is me hanging in some hops, the plant which is used to make beer!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

A photo of me and Arno

Arno and I went to a marketing party a couple of nights ago and had this photo taken.

Anyhow, see you guys when I return to the States in a week!!!

Friday, August 11, 2006

A weekend in Sarajevo and then to Experience the Wild Beauty of Montenegro!

Since we seem to travel almost every weekend when together here, Arno and I decided to stick around in Sarajevo for the weekend. After taking in some of the nightlife, we travelled with others to a town just an hour from the city to go...rafting! The story of how we actually got to Konjic, the town where we were meeting up with one of my colleagues and his friends, is an interesting one. Me, Arno, Parish, his girlfriend Mira, Kanako, and one of Mira's friends were at dinner the previous night. We had to meet my Bosnian colleague, Ahmed, the next morning at 9 and still had not decided the means by which we were going to get there--bus, train, taxi?! Well, this topic came up with one of our waiters at the restaurant and he offered us to use his car! After agreeing on a price, we met him the next morning (he was a little late, but hey, at least we got the car in the end) and headed to Konjic. Can you imagine this happening in the U.S. or some other place? Someone just offering and entrusting you, a bunch of randoms, with his car? I was shocked really.

>Heading to Konjic, Parish is driving and Mira is in the passenger seat.

The rafting was good fun...some of the people wanted more rapids but we did have some pretty big ones. Overall, it was relaxing and something different to do. A thunderstorm in the middle of the trip was obviously a high point ;) Another high point was grilling fish for lunch...the ent
ire fish, scales and all just without the guts. I've never eaten an entire fish with my fingers in such a barbaric manner, but I did it and it was tasty! After our trip, there was a huge feast of a meal waiting for us. Just what we needed after being so cold and tired from rafting in the rain. Here are some more rafting took about 50 minutes to get to the starting point so there are lots of photos of the scenery. Also, sorry, but no good action shots because it was too wet and risky to take photos during the rafting!
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The following weekend, 4-8 August, Arno and I drove to Montenegro (which is really called Crne Gora, like Greece is actually named Hellas, etc.) The country's marketing slogan for tourism is "Come and experience Montenegro's Wild Beauty". Well that is exactly what we did--we first went to the mountains in the north to Durmitor National Park and a town within the par
k called Zabljak. The mountain range here is very, very high with some snow still sitting on them in places. The area's beauty is really breathtaking. A highlight of the trip to Zabljak was driving on gravel roads which on the map appeared as a normal route. In my experience, gravel roads are NOT even shown on maps, but here this road was--we expected an average country paved road, but got gravel instead...small things like this keep you smiling. :o)

With no place to stay in the town
's main hotel, we stayed in a room in a family's house--something which you can do almost anywhere here. We just enjoyed a walk in the national park and an interesting meal with a faithful follower of Law of Time. I leave researching that to you...but if you do, do the research I am a yellow, resonant warrior...hahaha....
We had enough of the quiet, serene wilderness after one evening and night, so we travelled the next morning to the coast. It was just that morning that our trip took a turn for the I've come to find out since, I had contracted some kind of stomach infection which gave me an extremely sharp pain in the left side of my stomach.

After almost fainting, having a high fever, and being in constant pain, and looking on the coast for a hotel for SIX HOURS, we rested and went to the doctor the next morning. Of all the things to do on the beautiful, wild coast of Montenegro, visiting a doctor and getting pumped with medicine through an IV is not what I imagined we'd be doing. A second day came, still pain, and another IV...we were really enjoying ourselves! Arno was at my beckon call every second and took wonderful care of me.

The pain has gradually subsided and I am doing well today. We saw a lot of Montenegro, but unfortunately didn't have the best trip we could've had. After getting a speeding ticket and essentially bribing the cops by paying the fine on the spot so we wouldn´t have to go to court, we made it back to good ole Sarajevo.

For photos of Montenegro (mostly the mountains because I was too sick to stay outside that much while on the coast), visit this site! Enjoy!

Just one more week here in Sarajevo!!!!!

Croatia again: Zagreb, Podstrana, and Split

For my 25th birthday, Arno returned to visit me in the Balkans meeting in Zagreb, Croatia. We stayed only a night and part of an afternoon in Zagreb before heading to the beautiful coast yet again. This time we were more north than before staying in a small town called Podstrana which is just south of the main city, Split.

The very nice family run hotel in which we stayed is located directly on the beach which remains relatively uncrowded throughout the day. We had a wonderfully large balcony with just a gorgeous view over the sea. We relaxed all weekend, played frisbee, and on an inflatable raft.

Zagreb does seem like a great city--it is the biggest in Croatia af
ter all, but we (especially myself) wanted to get some sun time.

In travelling back to Sarajevo, we weren't able to take the afternoon bus from Split because it was full so we had several hours in the city before departing that night. Split isn't as beautiful as Dubrovnik but the 'roughness' adds to its ch
arm. Diocletian, a Roman emperor, built a palace here. Compared to other Roman sites I have visited, this is probably one of the biggest I've seen (next to the Colosseum in Rome).

Please enjoy the rest of my Zagreb-Podstrana-Split photos by clicking here!!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A few notes...

I will be posting photos from my trips to the Croatian coast with Arno, as well as from our upcoming trip to Montenegro within the next week and a half so stay tuned!

To support one of my favorite pastimes, I've started a new blog of revieweing restaurants at and plan to add reviews from almost wherever I dine in the world. Right now I just have reviews for some Sarajevo restaurants but I will add some from DC and in the Netherlands within the next month or so.

In other news, I leave Sarajevo on 18 August and after a weekend on the coast, again, I will head back to the Netherlands. My classes start on 5 September and last until mid-December. I have to start thinking about my thesis too which is a bit stressful, but I'm definitely looking forward to finishing it and most likely earlier than the deadline! More on that later when I've decided what I'll be writing on...

I am also going to try and return here for a weekend to observe the elections to be held in October. It will be the last elections before the Office of the High Representative (OHR), the organization basically managing the country, closes and leaves Bosnia-Herzegovina to try and govern itself...should be interesting.

O.k., I hope all of you are doing well wherever you may be! My best to you, take care :o)

Friday, July 14, 2006

Novi Sad, Serbia 7-9 July 2006

Kanako, Parish, his British friend, Ben, and I traveled to northern Serbia for the largest music festival in Eastern Europe, called the EXIT fesitval. It started in the late 90's sometime as a protest to Milosevic. It took place inside a fortress which was pretty cool--my photos don't show it, but it became so packed with people at night (and I have been to similar festivals) that I could hardly stand it!

The trip to Novi Sad was interesting in itself with Parish's delapidated yellow volkswagen overheating. We spent some time at the festival Friday night and on Saturday relaxed in the centre of Novi Sad which is actually very pretty and civil (as opposed to where we were staying on the outskirts of town across from a big trash heap). Most of the museums were closed for some odd reason but fortunately one of the museum directors heard us complaining and let us in for a special tour of an art gallery containing works from a former Serb diplomat's personal collection. It was a unique experience since we were the only ones there and received explanations on all of the pieces as well as allowed into the archives room...of course, after such a cultural experience, you need to balance it out with some drinks at a cafe, which we did for a number of hours ;o) Some of us made it to the festival Saturday night, but it didn't include me...I know, pathetic right? Sunday afternoon, after eating some lamb and great salads at a roadside traditional restaurant, we made our way down the road. The trip turned into an ordeal with the car breaking down after exiting a pay toll. Fortunately there was a tow truck on the opposite side of the road which carried us 40 km down the road to a small Croatian town (you cross a lot of borders because of the weird shape of the countries) to a mechanic. After restarting the battery and replacing the alternator, we were ready to go. Mind you, this is my first time ever experiencing a car breakdown. You should know I stayed calm and contributed a considerable amount to evaluating and resolving the problem :o)

Of course, restarting the battery was only a temporary fix so en route to Sarajevo early Monday morning, we had to buy a new battery which I put in. We made it! Whew-hoo!

Click here for the photos!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A glimpse of Sarajevo

I have posted numerous photos of my travels since arriving here, but hardly any of Sarajevo itself. There are some of the old city (Stari Grad), pictured left, also called Baščaršija (pronounced like ba-shar-shi-ya). This part of the city is very beautiful and contrasts the old way of market life in the Turk-Ottoman Empire which lasted 400 years, with newer Western traditions and styles. You will find traditional foods in this's always wonderful to walk through the small, polished stone streets to see the old merchants making and selling their crafts and also to smell the rich aromas of the lamb and beef being barbequed in the many little, family-operated restaurants.

There are some photos of my little apartment as well as of areas outside of the Sarajevo city centre. You see, Sarajevo is quite spread out with many people residing in the hills surrounding the main part of the city which lies in a valley.

Also, I recently visited the tunnel which Bosniacs used to exit the city, to transport necessities, and for soldiers to move to new fighting positions closer to the Serb lines. The Serb army held Sarajevo under siege for 4 years shelling and firing upon it almost everyday for that period, killing about 11-12,000 people and injuring many more. In my photos, there are just a few examples of the mortar, grenade, and bullet holes which litter EVERY SINGLE building in this city. Parks and what used to be open spaces were replaced with this collection of photos, I have some shots of the largest such cemetery--here is one view.

To read more on the siege of Sarajevo, CLICK HERE for a BBC News Article and HERE for Wikipedia information.

To see the photo collection, please visit this website.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik again, Sarajevo, then Belgrade and back to Sarajevo!

So, it has been a little over a month since I arrived here in the Balkans. It has been an interesting stay so far. After spending the weekend with a friend in Dubrovnik, my boyfriend, Arno, came to visit and we spent a weekend in Dubrovnik with a side trip to a nearby nature reserve island called Lokrum. A very nice time!! :o) Click here to see some photos from that trip!

>Photo above is from the balcony of our room.

We journeyed back to Sarajevo by bus, a 7 hour ride (the form of transportation I use most)...the next weekend, June 23rd-25th, we went to Belgrade which is the capital in the neighboring country of Serbia. (You might recall Serbia from the news stories for once being home to the tyrant & war criminal, Milosevic, and the subsequent NATO bombings in 1999, as well as to its recent separation from Montenegro because Montenegro voted for independence from Serbia). The bus ride was a grueling 8 hours each way with little to no air coming from the air vents--the ride back was ten times worse and like a sauna, literally. Anyhow, after some fun stops by the border police going to and from Belgrade, we did enjoy ourselves in the city.

>Photo above is from the walls surrounding Dubrovnik

pon entering the outskirts of Belgrade, you notice there is a Roma (aka gypsy) community living among trash heaps--there is a large Roma population in the Balkan region...Well, despite that, the city is a very modern European city which really surprised us. It felt more modern and city-like than Berlin. The food, shopping, and cafes are great there, not to mention still cheap...they even have a McDonalds which doesn't exist in the entire country of Bosnia. There are only about two buildings which NATO bombed which have not yet been rebuilt...the city has been rebuilt throughout history like 60 times or something, so they are used to it and quite good at it. Damage from the war is otherwise not visible. This city has great potential and I think it will again become one of the top European tourist destinations in the next ten years.

Click here for a lot of Dubrovnik photos from my first visit!

>Photo above is an example of mountainous Bosnia

I have been living in Sarajevo now and going to my internship for a month now. The city is nice, as I have already mentioned before. The nightlife (and daylife for that matter) is a cafe culture, going to the cafes in the morning, afternoon, and evening for coffee! Nobody eats at these places because they can't really afford to and you will literally find groups of people sitting there throughout the day just drinking coffee and sometimes juice. The nightlife is rather mild, not much dancing. Since the World Cup, large tv screens have been placed at all the cafes outside, which is where I've been watching several of the games. It's nice to sit there in the cool shade, sip on a beer, watch the games and the people go by. Walking around is a major affair in this city, and in other Balkan cities too. People dress to the nines, especially the women. Low cut, tight shirts and pants, and high heels, and usually lots of makeup. On average the women are pretty, but sometimes they overdo it.

>Photo left is overlooking city of Sarajevo

Work has been good. I have done a few projects for NDI normally consisting of doing some research on a problem the Bosnian government is encountering, write a report explaining the research and providing recommendations for legislation and policies to implement. I am also doing an independent research project for the Office of the High Representative, which is the organization managing the country. It's on local self governance...I know, so interesting for you, isn't it?

Well, Arno has come and we will hopefully see each other again in a month--he ended his stay here in style singing Born to be W
ild in karaoke at one of the EUFOR military base bars; the bar is an interesting place to say the least. ;) Also, one of my classmates is arriving tonight and she is interning somewhere else, so we get to hang out now. Next weekend, I am driving with Parish and his girlfriend to another city in Serbia, Novi Sad. There is a huge music festival going on and we'll be dancing in the hot sun all weekend.

> Photos: Me and Arno en route to Belgrade and one of the NATO bombed buildings, near some government buildings.

For more Belgrade photos (and more of Arno and I, of course) click here!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Photos are coming...

Soon I will have photos from Dubrovnik (Croatia), Sarajevo (Bosnia-Herzegovina where I am), and Belgrade (Serbia) posted. Stay tuned, they are great!!! :o)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Arrival in the Balkans, and Sarajevo...

Well, this is my first real time with access to the internet since arriving in the Balkans on 26 May. I flew into the city of Dubrovnik in Croatia (pictured left) which borders Bosnia-Herzegovina and is located on the beautiful Adriatic Sea. My friend, Matthew Parish (a friend I met in DC, as many of you know), and I had a beautiful room atop a mountain overlooking the old town of Dubrovnik and the sea. Breathtaking view, to say the least. I have taken tons of photos but because I lost my camera usb cord and haven't replaced it yet, I cannot upload any here....anyhow, we spent most of our time walking around the walled city, swimming in the clear water, having some beer, and relaxing. We drove back to Bosnia on Sunday the 28th and, let me tell you, it was one hell of a scary drive along the small roads curving in and out of the mountains--not to mention, the road signs were few and far between and when they did appear, were in cyrillic. I knew this region was mountainous, but nothing like this! It was also strange to see all of the destruction from the shelling and fighting from the war, which is visble everywhere.

Sarajevo has a really neat old town, which I live very near to. It's clearly a mixture of Eastern and Western worlds with churches, mosques, and synagogues all around. The setup of the market area is several hundreds of years old, not changing much since. The buildings in the city are generally drab and evidence of war is overwhelmingly present here. I found myself quite distracted by it when I first arrived trying to imagine what it must have been like to be here during that can see the effects of the experience on the faces of the older people here and the younger people seem to be resilient even though they too were subject to the conflict--I am sure they are more hopeful for a stable political future, but they also don't hold onto the prejudices to the extent of those in the older generations. Some of the nationalist political parties encouraging prejudices and seperatism does not help either.

If you didn't know, the majority of the population here in Sarajevo is Muslim but having said that erase the stereotypes from your mind because that isn't the case here. Muslims, Christians, and the Orthodox people here in Sarajevo are generally not practicing. Only a small minority of the Muslim women wear head scarves and most everyone drinks alcohol, which if you were a strict practicing Muslim, would not do. Intermixing, at least here in the city, is quite normal. As in the rural parts of the U.S. where you tend to find many more of the hardcore religious people who do not have as much exposure, if any, to other cultures as you get in say NYC or DC, the same holds true for the rural people here--they are generally more close-minded and prejudiced. It is unfortunate, though, that these groups acted upon their prejudices more so here which led to the war (upon strong encouragement from people like Milosevic). Furthermore, without proper functioning institutions, one of the main things I am working on improving during my internship, corruption is very present. You do everything through family and friend connections because you will either have to wait forever to get anything done through official channels or have to pay some kind of bribe. The 'rule of law' is something which most of the internationals here are working on developing...

Well, that was just a blurb of what's been going on in general. Arno is visiting me in two weeks so I will get to spend some time with him in Dubrovnik, hopefully taking a boat to one of the many nearby islands, before returning together to Sarajevo. Looking forward to it!! Take care everyone.

For some more info and photos of Sarajevo check out:

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Better shot of me and Arno

Since I failed to put an up-close shot of me and Arno before, here it is now...also from Berlin, in front of the largest section of the wall which is still standing.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Jared Allen Ruggles

I know I have already sent photos of my baby brother to nearly everyone I know, but I wanted to post a few here as well :o)