Many of you know of my love for coffee, even if my consumption has tapered off in recent years. I am slowly (?) moving into snobbishness about coffee. It is my heroine, my weakness, the dark breweding mistress to whom I always return. It is my balm, my muse, my solace. I use it to wake, to celebrate to relax, to move along… So here we have it, my big look at the coffee situation here in BiH. (keep readin’…)

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Flipped the switch.

Wow. The weather is GREAT! Nice breezes, 60s to 70sF!

The crazy thing is, its like someone just turned a knob. Cold one day, nice the next. From what locals tell me, this is typical. There usually isnt much of a transition.

I like the winter, but must say it has felt really good and been quite a boost to get some warm sun.


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First Ride to the Sea side.

This is one of those entries that should and could probably be much longer than it will be. Kind of fades before the telling, if you will.

After my visit with the Head of Mission, we left promptly for the sea. It got darker as we drove, being late afternoon when we left. It seems I have a knack for entering new places under the cover of night. The trip itself was pretty uneventful, but I did get an appreciative honk as I peed by the road side. It is a pretty well traveled road, and thanks to threats of landmines, you exactly go wander off by a bush. Well you could, by I will chance the apreciative (I hope!) honks.

The road itself comes to wind along a river I believe is called Neretva (I will hear shortly if not.) The river has several remarkable things. It has a manmade lake of remarkable size. It has the hydro-power plant I am told supplies most of the country with it’s power. It is also my understanding that power is an export here, though the damming of rivers is such now that it threatens the natural habitats. I don’t know how related it is, but many of the trees on the bank have caught trash. Bags and plastic drape like cobwebs for kilometer after kilometer of bank. There have been actions aimed at other rivers to clean them, so this one will be to, I imagine.

Perhaps the most remarkable attribute is the color. The entire river is an opaque, milky green. It almost looks like a flowing gem. I won’t forget my camera again! Truly, it is incredible to see. I would have never thought a river could be both green and healthy at the same time. Best guess in the car is algae. Extra points to the first to tell me.

There was also a couple landscape changes. I was startled by a sudden flatness. I hadn’t realized how accustomed to the hills and mountains I had become until we entered a large, flat valley. The mountains still ringed us, and it it didnt have the same valley feel of Vegas. There you can feel the flow to the point. Here, it was like the mountains sprang up to shroud a piece of flatness. I am told the summer gets brutal there.

We also passed some amazing cliffs, and walls. They were covered with a few trees and some scrabble, looking both hard and wonderful at the same time. They were as fascinating to me as they were harsh and there was some general disagreement in the car on their beauty. Some prefer mountains with more green, lol.

It was dark when we arrived at the sea and took the ferry over.

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Off to see the HoM

HoM is one of the many tody abbreviations floating about OSCE. It means Head of Mission. I recieved an email one day from his assistant, detailing that there was to be a meeting. I remarked how spiffy to my supervisor, not looking at who it was sent to. Virtually everything I get is because he asked people to put me on their distribution lists. (keep readin’…)

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Well, I am here just past a month now. I am settling in, I suppose, though I still have a long way to go. My language it still extremely limited, so social interactions tend to frighten me. :-)

I will admit that I first thought the differences were not so great. I liken it to being in a dream. Everything pretty much works the way it should, but there are differences that are subtle, but let you know things are what you are used. If it were a dream, it would be mostly visual clues that hint at incontinuity. The toilets and doors are slightly different. The roads are narrower, most often. There are a ton of minimal observations you could make on what is different. I amuse myself still when I see a sign for people crossing.

There are 2 types of the sign. Warnings are triangles pointed up. These are white with bands of red and orange on the outside, and shadow people strutting within them. It is kind of a fractal: each difference shows another difference- the shadow people look different. They are a little taller and skinnier, I think. Their stride more confident. Heh, but I digress.

The second version of this sign is what amuses me. (Photos someday.) On the left side of the triangle, the bands of color are broken out, all jagged. It gives the impression that the shadow people were caged, and something blew a hole in the wall, which they are escaping. Free from the sign at last! Unite brothers! The photo will amuse you when it comes. My guess is that it shows an area where people are inclined to pop out at random, rather than a controlled environment. Don’t ask me what that means. (keep readin’…)

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I have started on a formal project here. Well, I am working on the stuff that needs to be done to pitch the project so I can do it. Still, if the pitch is good, I can’t see why I won’t get the go ahead.

I don’t want to go into all the gory details, but: Essentially I want to create a self-assessment test for citizen’s organizations. If they do poorly in some area, they can ask OSCE for help getting it straightened out.

Yeah, there is a lot more to it than that, but hey… I am not that far into it.

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I have been reading quite a bit since I have gotten here. I seriously have not read this much since University, and perhaps not this much, then! (sh! Don’t tell!)

Just this last weekend, I finished a book on multi-cultural representation in government and that sort. (I shamefully can’t recall the title at time of writing. Ask me if you want it.) It laid out some fantastic ideas and chains of thoughts. There were 2 key things that I got out of it. The first is differentiating between National Minorities and ethnic minorities, and examining them as separate rights and representation cases. I am sure to oversimplify, and butcher this a bit, but: Native Americans had no choice, so they are National Minority. Irish immigrants came voluntarily. The rights afford these 2 groups should be different. Or, at least, they must be thought of differently.

I also read a book by the fellow who wrote “Fight Club” (which I read a few weeks ago) called “Invisible Monsters.” It was an interesting read, but didn’t impress me either way.

I read the “Code Book”. I think that is the title. I need to pay more attention. Anyway, this excellent book started with ancient codes, and worked through present day, and then did a bit of conjecture on the future. It examined the nuts and bolts, like how the codes worked, and their strengths and weaknesses. The strength of the book is putting all the developments into a historical context. This angle made it quite heard to put down. I eagerly followed the logic of cracking the Enigma code that would give the Allies a leg up in World War II. I mentally took pause as I read that the fellow who made PGP readily available for our modern age was taken to court, but later let go. It’s a great read.

I also began, this last weekend, a book of Rawl’s collected writings; essays mostly. He is a political theory fellow that I am led to believe is quite good. I also started a book on the philosophy of the internet. The first essay of Rawl’s was a little queer to read, but was written in 1951 in an outline form. The internet book has already given me some great things to think on just 2 chapters in. Like the idea the television wasn’t really so earth shattering new. It can be viewed as an improvement and extension of radio. Hmhmrrrm…

A couple weeks back I read Dahl’s “On Democracy”, which I highly recommend. It is easy to digest, and he nicely lays out what should make up a democracy. Given his thoughts, which I find myself in general agreement with, the United States has got some issues. Big Ones. See that? So big I needed a capital ‘O’.

I also read “Animal Farm”. I had started years ago, but never quite got through. I somehow managed to avoid reading almost every classic when I was in school. So thorough is what I missed that you might be tempted, though wrong, to say the aversion was willful on my part.

Ah! I just remember I read the original “Pinocchio” this last weekend. Let me tell you, the little bastard didn’t deserve to become a little boy, however reformed he was! It is a pretty quick read. I think you ought to check it out to help increase the buffer and filter strength between your mind and the Disney world. You have a buffer, right? Right?!

I also started reading “American Pharaoh” in Sarajevo. I will leave it there for when I visit. It is a (thick) book chronicling the rise and times of Mayor Daley Sr. of Chicago. So far, it is good stuff, and provides some good insight to political and thought ripples you can experience even today.

Stuck in the last weeks are also a book called “Don’t Read This if You’re Stupid”. I found it pretty bad. It read well enough, but left an icky taste in my mouth. I almost wish I were stupid. All the stories in it had outright miserable people, and messed up glimpses of their life. Perhaps I would enjoy it another time, but not this one. I also read “Elements of Style”. I think that is the title. One event is written in a ton of styles. I don’t feel like going into it, but you all would appreciate it.

This all doesn’t count the volume of materials I have read at OSCE to try and get my head around what the deal here is. I know I really need to get something down for “all ya all” about what that deal really is.

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