No. I am serious. I want to learn.

Normally my language class is held at the “Cambridge Center.” The center usually focuses on English, so my instructor is more of a free lance teacher. During the week, it is pretty easy for me to get to during the day. Since it is local, I just have to give a driver a heads up in the morning. When I want to be picked up, I call and they come get me when they can, which is usually right away.

I say normally, because I was to have my first weekend class on Saturday, which would take place at my instructor’s flat. We set each new class at the current class to keep it all nice and flexible. I estimated it would be about an hour walk from my flat to hers, which poses no real issue as we are into spring now. She gave me directions to her place, and I consulted a map and folks at work.

I had to head past town centre, and make a quick turn or 2 to get past Kastel, a small castle on the river that served as a Turkish dungeon. (good food) I navigated that without issue and soon arrived at the bridge I was supposed to cross. Note that. Supposed to. The directions were very easy. Cross the Green Bridge, turn left at the first light, 8 floor yellow building. Sounds easy, right? Well, it seemed to me that I encountered the bridge much more quickly than I should have in my mental map. I had plenty of time I thought, so I followed, as best I could by zigzagging street to street, the river. I thought there should be another bridge that is close, and that’d be my mark. I tromped through some neighborhoods, actually being kept more to the main road. I lost sight of the river, but could approximate it by the gap between buildings in the distance when I passed gaps in nearer buildings.

I was getting concerned that there was not any bridge coming up and considered turning back to explore near the bridge I had passed. I saw that a street ahead of me had a light, and thought possibly I had got confused on the directions and the light came first. I happily went to the light and turned left, and to my joyous surprise, I saw a green bridge! What I did not know at the time was that when people say the Green Bridge, they don’t mean the bridge that’s green!

It was a nicely colored green bridge. It was narrow for only one car, but had a protected footpath for us walkers. Standing on the bridge, look down the river gave a spectacular view. There were few buildings in sight, and the river went straight out with its green and disappeared in a turn. The landscape was almost all freshly leaved trees, fading into hues of green as the valley gave way to hills and mountain, in the gently sway from the rivers carving. I vowed to take a photo on my return this way.

On the other side of the river, I took to wandering around the neighborhoods. I was helped that I seemed to be at the edge of town, and they only went one direction, and not too deeply in from the river. I was very happy I had learned to red Cyrillic just a few days prior. I had been putting it off, but I learned just in time. There are very few street signs here. I find that very troubling, coming from a well-signed, giant grid. As I came across streets, I had to take each one to see if it was the one I needed. Instead of having corner signs, the house number and street are printed on metal plates, affixed to buildings you see. Each street meant another walk down until I found a building that still had its number plate. In this part of town, all the signs are in Cyrillic. Can you feel my good fortune and timing ebbing over you?

After being down every street in the area, I came to the hard resolve I needed help. I had thankfully left way too early for class, and felt I could still make it. I sighed deeply and screwed up my courage. The irony is, for what I needed, I hadn’t learned any words or phrases that would help. I will say I am proud I never once considered just crying. ;-D I went over what I knew in my head: How old are you? Where do you work? to clean, flower, I am! There was a start! I am. I am what? Dang. I had my address on paper, so I figured I could get help from gesticulation. Surely if I looked worried, and pointed to the address, people would get it. I would. I even was ready with a pen, so a new map could be drawn. Nothing like visual aides! Now, to be polite. What was that word? Something like prostitute. I always wanted to say prostitute, but Renee likened it to prostrate. Oprostitute. Definitely O!

Oprostite. ::point point, brow furrow:: The kind fellow stacking beer looked at the paper, then me, then pointed to a woman inside the store. Hvala! I head in, and go through the same routine. She asks if I understand the language. This I know! Ne razumijem. (I don’t understand.) She smiles, and starts gesticulating, using a word I assume was “left.” She looked at me, reflected for a moment, and I got left and right in English. With gestures, she said, “Go down that street for a while. You will have to turn left, and then right right away.” Elated, I thanked her and headed off.

I strode off, but soon came to doubt myself. I thought she meant I had a ways to go, but after a missed left for a minor street, and before I turned right, I spied an 8 story yellowish building! I had no idea I was so close. I back tracked like mad, and discovered that while it was indeed the wrong building, 2 young boys stood at the ready. Bolstered by my earlier success, “Oprostite.” ::point point:: The taller boy, maybe, maybe 10, looked at me, and then at the paper. Careful consideration crossed his face as he softly read the street name out loud. After a long moment, he scratched his chin, and looked up at me. “Ne.” “Ne?” “Ne.” The other boy had taken interest, and motioned for the paper as I was thanking the first boy. I got a similar performance out of him. I left, knowing the general direction I needed to head, and amused by the way the boys became adults so suddenly.

Tromping around back and forth, with my bearing somewhat skewed again, I realized I had to call off my class. It was a few minutes to 1, and I was lost. Or rather, I wasn’t lost. I knew how to get back where I came from. I simply had no idea where I was going. My instructor answered, and we had a brief conversation what was painful on my side. Yes, I had thought the directions were good. Yes, I had looked at a map. I know we have to re-schedule. Yes, yes. Tomorrow. Yes, I will be checking a map again!

My mood was fairly spoiled now, through mixed feelings. I had missed yet another scheduled class, but I had successfully gotten help on my own. I set off in what I thought, yet again, was the correct direction. To help you visualize this. There was a main road of sorts, though not really main here. There were subdivisions of sorts off this road. I was following the river back the way I came originally, but on the opposite side. I knew the place was near the river, and had to be in the direction I was going, simply because the other had no buildings!

I finally crossed a street, where looking to my left revealed the first bridge I had seen. What I now know is the Green Bridge. It took only a try or 2 before I got the right direction down, and was turning at the proper traffic light. Minutes later, I was standing on the walk, looking at the yellowish 8 floor apartment building with the 25 I needed spray painted beside one of 3 evenly spaced doors. (27 and 29 being the other 2.) I could head back to the flat and try and relax and get cheerful again before Dana called.

A little side note here. I do have a mobile here now! I am borrowing an old phone, and have a pre-paid service. It is pretty cheap. I can probably finish out my time here with it for $25 US or less. Incoming calls are free or charges!

Things brightened up again on the way back. The street with the correct bridge had all sorts of interesting things going on. There was a second hand shop, places with pita, an open market, street vendors, bakeries, etc. I stopped in for some sirnica (cheese pita) and was delighted that they sold by the piece, not by the kilo.

In all, I was out walking for 3, 3.5 hours. It was upsetting to miss class, but some great stuff came out of it. I found out what was meant by the Green Bridge. I managed to give some boys a chance to be treated as adults, I found a place here with pita, and saw a bunch of other shops and parts of Banja Luka I would have never experienced. Most importantly for me, it caused a shift in my thinking. I feel a barrier has been dropped because I think I truly engaged the town for the first time on my own.

Finding your own way can be a beautiful thing.

Posted by Andrew     

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