March 1st, Day 1: Don't travel to Bosnia by bus

It's a nice day today in Mostar--the northern winds (bura) have finally stopped, and we'll reach a high of 15 or so. The skies are perfectly clear, as they have been since we arrived three weeks ago.

The trip here was arduous, worse because we're travelling with a 9-month-old. We got to Vancouver airport at 6:30pm on Monday the 3rd, and didn't arrive here until noon on Thursday. The worst part was 18 hours on the bus from Vienna. What possessed us to take a 1000 kilometer bus ride? Ana got really sick in Vienna and was coughing and throwing up on the bus. She had quite a temperature. And she pooped 5 times, to the chagrin of our fellow passengers. Next time, we'll really have to charter our own jet.

We're leaving for Sarajevo in a few hours; we'll spend the weekend there. We haven't been there for a year and a half.

March 2nd, Day 2: I got fat somewhere along the way

Just got some film back. What happened to me? I was tanned and lean, and now I'm white and flabby. Tipping the scales at 172lbs, it's time for some evasive action. My goal: 155 by day 90. Is that possible? Is that legal?

It all started during Gina's pregnancy. She was putting on weight like crazy, so I put on some sympathy weight. I felt pretty good about myself when she was 206lbs and I was 167. But now she's back to 145 and I'm up over 170, and she's asking me whether I'm pregnant. I told Gina that it's not fair because she lactates. She told that if I keep eating like this, I might start lactating myself.

So how do I lose a pound every 5 days for the next 90? Here's my plan:

  • Do an 8-day lemon juice fast starting next week
  • Cut out all desserts except a small home-made mocha
  • Use skim milk instead of whole
  • Never take a second helping
  • Pack nutritious snacks so I don't stop in at the bakery
  • Do a Pilates workout every day
  • Walk everywhere (this should be easy 'coz we got no car)
  • Run 25-35km a week as soon as my ankle recovers (more about this some other day)

And I'll create some positive peer pressure for myself by sharing with you my progress.

TODAY'S WEIGHT....Um, haven't bought a scale yet
FOOD HIGHLIGHTS...A cappuccino, way too much pizza at lunch,
and some vegetable soup.

March 3rd, Day 3: Muslim-Catholic tensions rising in Mostar

On Thursday, a Muslim man was moving back into his apartment on the Catholic side of the river when he was blown up. The apartment had been occupied by Catholic refugees since during the war, but now it was returning to its rightful owner. The man and his son were unpacking, when the son pointed out a piece of baggage that wasn't theirs. The man opened it up. It exploded and he was killed instantly; his son was seriously injured.

Another apartment bombing happened in a similar manner a couple of months ago; it was intended to kill the returning Muslim family but instead it detonated sideways and killed a young Catholic boy in the hallway. Another Catholic was killed recently in the nearby city of Siroki Brijeg; a Muslim amulet was left at the scene. (Police now believe it was mafia-related and had nothing to do with nationalism.) And last Christmas a Muslim man opened fire on a Catholic familymoving back into their apartment in Konjic, about 70km from here. Three were killed, and a 31-year-old man was left with a blind eye and a useless arm.

Some people say that this is exactly what it was like before the war. Tensions were running high, marked by unprovoked acts of nationalist violence. We were at a buregdzinica (pita restaurant) for lunch last week on the Muslim side, and the owner said that when the international forces leave, there'll be a war within 48 hours.

But they're not about to leave, and that's why we feel it's safe to be here.

TODAY'S WEIGHT: 172lbs on my new $11 scale!
FOOD HIGHLIGHTS: Vegetable stew, cabbage pasta, stewed cherries. I was a good boy. And boy, would I like a chocolate bar right about now.

March 4th, Day 4: Simple Toys

Mommy and Ana play with plastic bowls
Ana's got all these kids' toys that I'm sure engineers spent years developing. But all she wants is the grown-up stuff. Among her favorites:

  • Plastic mixing bowls
  • The remote control
  • Big metal spoons
  • Scrabble tilers
  • Lint & fuzz
  • My bible
  • Our CD cases
  • The big pasta pot
  • My watch
  • Gina's watch
  • All pens, pencils and markers

So I don't even know why we bother with baby stuff. One thing of hers she does like, though, is her books. They're short, bright, and made out of durable cardboard. Here, I'll even share her best ones with you:

Favorite book in English: "Kitty's Tail", by Richard Powell
Kitty wants to play. But Butterfly flies away. And Tortoise hides in his shell. Frog is too quick. And Horse is too big. It's a good thing kitty has a long tail! It's just perfect for playing!

Favorite book in Serbo-Croatian: Zaba
Ja sam zaba mala i bara je moj dom. "Kupanje je pravo uzivanje, zar ne, patkice?" Ja volim roniti. U vodi susrecem kornjacu. "A tko si ti?", upita pticica. "Ja sam vodozemac," kaze on. "Kako si ti velika!" divi se zaba. "Tek cu narasti!" odgovara vidra.

Both books kinda leave you hanging, but Ana loves them.

TODAY'S WEIGHT: 171lbs. Wow, if this keeps up, I'm done in two weeks!
FOOD HIGHLIGHTS: Espresso, corn flakes, curried mushrooms with rice, curried mushrooms with pasta, low-fat apple crisp.
EXERCISE: Walked around 5km

March 5th, Day 5: Diaper Rash

Sorry to all you non-parents out there for writing twice in a row about baby stuff, but diaper rash is on my mind. Ana's got her first real case of it. Red little lumps all up the butt that drive her crazy. Poor kid. She lays on the bed kicking and kicking, trying to knock the little bumps off. Or she shuffles on her back up the floor, struggling to get away from her own ars. She hasn't been happy at all in the sitting position, and incessant nursing is about the only pacifier. Poor Gina.

We're not sure why she's got diaper rash, but here's some ideas:

  • Too many wet wipes. We got lazy with the soapy cloth thing.
  • Bosnian wet wipes. Perfumed, alcoholed, and extra-allergic.
  • Maybe she's teething. She's got all the other signs--a cold, a temperature, drooling... or maybe she's just sick?
  • Constipation. I'm not sure if I'm allowed to be telling you this, but she had a rough go of it for the past week. (You know, it's amazing how much I think about, talk about, and deal with poop these days. I've seen more shapes, colors, sizes and textures of poop in the last 9 months than in the first 29 years of my life combined.

So we're not sure if it's, like, regular diaper rash, or yeast, or hemorrhoids, or what. So we've tried applying panacean (sp?) cream, yogourt with accidophilus, and anti-yeast cream stuff. Anyway, hopefully it gets better soon, because Ana had a rotten sleep last night. And that means so did I.

TODAY'S WEIGHT: 171lbs. Shoot. This is gonna take longer than I thought. I should have weighed myself naked.
FOOD HIGHLIGHTS: Espresso, corn flakes, soup, soup, soup, cabbage salad, oranges, stewed cherries
EXERCISE: Rode the funny bike 5 or 6 km.

March 6th, Day 6: Shopkeeping Beggars

Interesting thing today while souveneir shopping. We were in the old city, which dates back to the 1400s. They sell copper works, war souveneirs, paintings of Mostar, and so on.

An older fellow approached and asked, "Parlez-vous francais?" He saw Ana's funky baby jogger and pegged us as foreigners. "Ne," I replied. "Samo Engleski i Bosanski." He complimented me on my Bosnian, coochie-cooed Ana, and made small talk. Then he asked us, "Can you spare a couple of dollars for a cup of coffee?"

He took me by surprise. How could we say no when he had built up this friendly rapport with us? So Gina gave him one mark, reminding him that that's how much a cup of coffee costs here. He thanked us.

Then we walked into this store with nice prints and postcards of Mostar. He followed us, and then told me, "Pick out a postcard for yourself. Any one." I looked at him. "This is your shop?" I asked. "Yes," he replied, "but business is slow. There's just no customers."

So we picked out a postcard for ourselves--they were one mark apiece--and continued on. 

So think about that! This guy owned a print shop, and as a sideline, he sat outside and begged. Funny. And sad. At the same time.

TODAY'S WEIGHT: 166lbs. Woohoo! Big progress! But this was naked in the morning. Yesterday was clothed at night.
FOOD HIGHLIGHTS: Potatoes, ruki, soup, tiny but decadent mocha, fruit
EXERCISE: Rode to my guitar lesson (3 km); walked 4 km


Day 7: Workin' the Web

I worked on my web site today. I found out that my search engine hasn't re-indexed my site for over a year! So it wasn't turning up any results for searches on things like "Ana" or "baby" or "grooming eyebrows". But I fixed it now. I also password-protected my archives directory, which has links to past portfolio items. I received a complaint from former employer EvilMegaBank that the site I built for Illinois Funds 4 years ago (username mcgrath, password archives) was ranked higher in the search engines than the real site. It's not my fault they don't know how to get their real site listed in the search engines, but I don't want their lawyers to contact me either.

Speaking of grooming eyebrows, I've got a ton of comments on this page. I received the following email:

I have a question. I have uneven eyebrows and was wondering if I should completely shave both eyebrows. My concern is, will the eyebrows grow back faster and bushier. And, should I even consider doing this?

To which I replied:

Dear Uneven,

Definitely shave off both eyebrows completely. Then I recommend Lancome
Eyebrow Pencil #621 for a neat chestnut brown replacement.

If the eyebrows return within a week, you might consider waxing.

Chris McGrath

Ha! I crack myself up. Anyway, that's it for today. Check out the picture of Ana and I on my updated bio page.

TODAY'S WEIGHT: 170 lbs. Shoot, and I even tried to dehydrate myself.
FOOD HIGHLIGHTS: Corn flakes, espresso, chocolate croissant, and nothing else yet... it's only 3pm.
EXERCISE: Walked about 4 km