I'm writing this from the little couch in my Bosnian apartment! We all arrived in Sarajevo safe and sound; Rebecca lost a suitcase in Germany, but it was recovered by Thursday. We hit the ground running, and luckily have a great friend in our "Otes family" named Ana-Maria that has shown us everything. The area of Sarajevo we live in is called Otes, and almost all the foreign musicians in the Philharmonic live in the same complex of public housing as we do. It's interesting living in the Bosnian version of section 8 housing, there's a lot of gypsy kids running around. Soccer is very popular with them, they're always playing in the courtyard area between buildings. There's a lot of stray dogs in the area as well, Ana-Maria says the government doesn't have enough money to have an animal control department. There's one very cute black puppy that I'd love to adopt... they make me miss Rudy!!
The other Americans here are awesome. I live with the trombonist, Kent, in the third (Americans would say fourth) floor apartment, and Chihiro, Rebecca and Lindsay live in the apartment directly above us. Chihiro is the bassoonist from Illinois, Lindsay plays oboe and is from Ohio, and Rebecca is the other horn from Boulder, Colorado. Kent's from Kentucky, and I represent both coasts since I've lived within hours of New York and LA... haha! It's funny how no matter where you go, people always know what Las Vegas is and have family who have visited. One of the Bosnian percussionists has been to Las Vegas, so we talked about the shows; he saw Blue Man Group before they were in the Venetian, and he was so excited to see Cirque du Soliel.
It's been very busy since we got here. We've had rehearsal every day, we're preparing for a concert with Balkan pop stars that performed on Eurovision (no one knows what Riverdance is, even though I thought they got popular after winning Eurovision in the 90s...). Our concert will be broadcast live on Turkish TV station TRT tonight at 7pm Central European time, so if anyone has access to that on satellite check it out! The music is probably corny to the Bosnians, but I love the style of Balkan folk music (even in the overdone arrangements we're playing) so I'm having a blast listening to the singers and the sweet trumpet parts. The concert is in the Olympic stadium from 1984, I've heard it was damaged in 1992 during the war and rebuilt, but I think the part we've been in is original. Either way, the 80's American music videos in the café and the vintage look of everything makes us feel like it's still 1984!
Our rehearsal last night was very long, it was the sound check with all the pop stars. Most of them were very down to earth and polite to us, one girl in particular (whose name I have to write down today because I can't pronounce it) took pictures with us and actually wanted one with her own camera, saying she was delighted to play with us! She's definitely the best of the female singers, she has a great presence and an incredible voice. Each singer is from a different country, this girl was representing Albania. One of the last male singers decided to be a diva, but it was at the very end so the orchestra was told to leave anyways. It's interesting to be on the outside of something like this, the Bosnians all know the songs and who the stars are, but to me they're just random people I've never heard of singing songs I don't understand. I wonder if that's how a Bosnian would feel playing the Billboard music awards in Vegas or something like that... Although I have seen Taylor Swift on a gossip magazine cover here, which is hilarious.
Anyways, it's been a great week so far. The concert tonight will be great, and we'll undoubtedly go out and celebrate with our new colleagues!