Monday, June 13, 2011

The sweet fragrance of Cinnamon

I wrote this on the DC website as the challenge was to recreate a smell or taste that takes you back.... I didn't really think it was any good, but people there liked it; so here it is. :)

            Oh, yes, the smell of cinnamon.  Every time I smell cinnamon I go back in time to when I was a little girl.  I remember our little kitchen/pantry like I am standing in it at this very moment.  Many days when I was growing up, I would wake up to the sweet spicy aroma and I would know exactly what was happening in the kitchen.  I would jump out of my bed and run in the kitchen to greet my mom.  And, as always she would be standing in the kitchen busy cooking.  First I would stand right in the doorway and just take in the scent of the cinnamon mixed with sugar.  I would look around throughout our little kitchen.  Right of me was our little table that had four mismatched chairs.  On the table, right in the middle was always this little yellow plastic napkin holder.  Right next to the table was our old fridge with scratches going down on both sides of it. The top of the fridge was full of pots and pans stacked neatly.  The wall on the far right accommodated the sink and cabinets.  I remember them being this reddish brown color with bright white handles.  And of course in front of me was this little window looking out in our yard and our shed that held the tools for our little garden.  At the end of the little tour of our little kitchen to the left of me was just enough room for the old wood and coal stove.  By this time my mom would notice me standing in the door and she would say: “Why don’t you close the door and stay awhile?” She would smile at me and point to the table for me to sit.  After I would sit at the table my mom would bring homemade crepes stuffed with cinnamon and sugar.  The second round would be the ones stuffed with euro cream.  It is one of the sweet memories I have from my childhood and I have learned to make those for my own kids.  I guess it is kind of a little family tradition when it comes to the sweet crepes. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The New "Old Bridge"

Old Bridge or, if you say it in the native language, Stari Most, was one of the oldest structures in my country. The construction began in 1557 and lasted nine years. It is said to have been completed in the period of 1566/67. The greatest architectural work of its time connects two parts of the old town of Mostar, the city that was named after it. Upon its completion it was the widest man made arch in the world, standing about forty feet tall at its highest point. This timeless, beautiful architecture made of stone stood there for 427 years, crossing the most stunning river you will ever see, Neretva. Allowing only pedestrians over, this bridge stood there in all its glory until it was destroyed in November of 1993 during the ethnic cleansing war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The story I am going to tell you is about a little girl nicknamed Zela who grew up there, and what this magnificent bridge and this stunning city meant and still mean to her.

This was my favorite place to be. I remember, on many occasions, telling everyone I was going to move there as soon as I finish school, regardless of anyone’s objections. I was very proud to be hercegovka (a girl from Herzegovina) and the plan was to spend the rest of my life there…

The majority of my childhood memories are connected to this mystical place. No matter where I was, I could always smell the dry air, feel the heat on my skin, and see this striking bridge and old town in my head. My life there was filled with fun and amazing memories, among them my first broken heart. Most days I spent with my cousin Amina, who happened to be only five months younger than me. We did everything together, from sharing the same bed, eating all meals together, watching our little cousins, and of course getting in trouble together.

Summer days were spent down by the river. All the neighborhood kids knew to meet down there each day. The path going down to the river is very steep and on the edge of a cliff. The cliff is about fifty or sixty feet above water, so we had to be real careful walking down. We had to remain alert not to fall. No one ever did, but there was always that fear that we could. Going down the path, I could smell ripened figs and of course I looked around and picked some to eat on the way. Wild flowers were all around, sometimes reaching two to three feet tall. As I got closer to the bottom, I could see the paved platform through the trees and could definitely hear my friends talking. As we emerged from behind this huge rock that was blocking the view I could see everyone was already there, swimming, and enjoying the day.

Zlatko, a sixteen-year-old, dark haired boy, whom I had known for most of my life, came with his arms wide open to give me hug. As he called my name, everyone else turned around to greet me. This was the first time this summer that I saw them, so it was very special. Of course they all came to Indira and me to see us, chat, and just enjoy the company.

Then I saw this new kid sitting on a boulder. He was so handsome; he had brown spiky hair, nice luscious lips and brown eyes that were tentatively looking at me. My face got hot, I got a bit light headed and sweaty… I knew I was blushing big time. I turned around to walk back to the paved opening when Sasa greeted me and took one look at me; he slightly turned to look behind me, and with a smile on his face said:

“I see you met Elvis.”

I looked down sheepishly and said quietly, “I did not meet him, I just saw him. Who is he anyway?”

“He is a new kid in the neighborhood. He actually lives across the street from you, you can see his window from yours, over Nada’s little house.”

“Oh”, is all I could say.

We went on visiting, chatting and laughing. After we all moved to the other side of our little hand- made pond where it was still sunny, I found out the cute boy was Elvis C. He was seventeen, an only child and also joined kayaking with the rest of the clan. I kept looking over to where he was sitting and every time I did I would catch him looking at me. Most of my friends saw this too and eventually they decided they should just bring him to meet me. Even though I did not agree with their decision, deep inside I was glad. He came over smiling, shook my hand and introduced himself. I remember very clearly my heart skipping few beats at the warm touch of his hand. I didn’t know this at the time, but this summer was going to be the best and the worst time of my young teenage years.

The next day my uncle took me fishing. We got everything ready and walked down to join his friends. After we set everything up I got my fishing pole, put bait on, and cast my rod. To my surprise it went over the big boulder that was to the left of me and got stuck on something. I tugged at it, and as I was trying to figure out what to do, a red kayak showed up. I looked up ready to complain, just to realize it was Elvis, and the hook from my fishing pole was stuck on his kayak. First, I was embarrassed, but shortly after everyone saw what happened, we all started laughing. My uncle helped me “unhook” Elvis so he could go on with his training, but not before he secretly winked at me and made my heart skip few beats. Then everything went back to normal, or, so I thought.

For the next few days, Elvis and I started hanging out. In the beginning it was just at our meeting place, down by the river, but before long it turned out to be an all day, every day thing. We became best friends. I can’t say I didn’t like it, but as soon as I wanted to go out after dinner to hang out with my new best friend, whom I secretly fell in love with, I was told no. There were many nonrealistic explanations of why I couldn’t, which did not make any sense, until one day the truth came out. “You are a girl, and we don’t want the neighbors to start talking”, my family said to me. I was very hurt that no one believed or listened to what I had to say. We were friends and I wanted to spend time with all of them. That was it, all of it. There was no hidden truth here.

So for the next month or so, I became very angry with my family for not trusting me. Every time I left home I was told to be careful and not hang out with my “boyfriends” because that would give me a reputation, and not a good one at that. I was furious. For nobody trusted my judgment or believed me. I then realized my brother, who was only eleven, had a girlfriend. I confronted my parents: “How come Dario is allowed to have a girlfriend and I can’t even spend time with my friends down by the river?”

“Aren’t they cute together”, was not the response I expected at all.

“No, they are not cute together. They are only eleven. I wasn’t even able to be alone with a boy when I was that age. What is wrong with you people? How can you have such different rules for us? It is not fair!” I complained.

Nothing I said made any difference. I could have ranted on until I was blue in face, it would have not changed anything. Sitting in my room crying for days made me become more independent and rebellious, as well. I snuck out to be with my friends. One day Amina and I told our parents we are going to the library when we actually went into the old town to meet our friends on the Old Bridge. I remember standing in the middle of the bridge feeling free. The wind was blowing through my long hair, the sweet smell of an ice cream shop, different flavors of grilled food from surrounding restaurants, even sweet fruit aromas coming from piazza made me realize it was a bitter sweet moment. This bridge witnessed everything, from a young girl, with no worries, living a care free life to this same young girl becoming a woman where everything changes. It felt good that I was smart enough to find a way to be with my friends, but I also felt betrayed and sad that I had to lie to my family to accomplish that.

Four years later I was living in Copenhagen, Denmark, as a war refugee, when I watched the Old Bridge get bombed and eventually crumble into the river. The noise of flying bombs with the blast of them exploding, once they hit the arch of the bridge, and clatter of the stones falling into the roaring river I will never forget. I sat there in front of the TV hugging my little girl and crying. There was just this numbness. I could not believe what was happening. The moment that bridge fell, many memories went through my head. Finally, my childhood was gone. At that instant I have lost part of my life, my first love, my happy place. Part of me was gone. As a nineteen-year-old mom of an eight-month-old little girl, I had lost so much that day. Thinking about my friends and wondering if they were still alive, or if they were there fighting, made the old memories of happy mischievous times overcome my body and my soul. I recalled that bitter-sweet day when I hugged my little girl a little harder as I whispered in her ear: “I will never treat you different just because you are a girl, and I promise you that I will try my best to be a good mom and to have a loving relationship with you!”

The Old Bridge was rebuilt and finally, after eighteen years, I had enough courage to go back to visit. Since the bridge is only five minutes away from the house, I went there every day. Usually, I had to go to the Internet Café so I could talk with my family who stayed in the US. After my chat with everyone I would get ice cream, a different flavor each time, and just go to the middle of the bridge to stand there and savor everything.

The actual structure of the bridge was new; kind of white and shiny and not as slippery as the old one. The wind still felt the same in my hair and all the flavors surrounding the area still smelled the same. I would close my eyes and go back in time when everything was much simpler, when I was a young girl meeting my friends there, and yes I could still see my first love’s handsome face smiling at me.

People there have not changed much. Even though I am thirty-five years old and I can take care of myself, my uncle still called every night to check up on me and make sure I was safe. I often think about my promise to my little girl. She is almost eighteen, just a bit younger than I was when I made that promise. I can honestly say that I have kept it all these years. Partly, because life in America is somewhat different than in Bosnia, but mostly because I did not want her to go through the same pain of being a girl growing up in Bosnia, not being able to do things just because she is a girl, as I did.

copyright 2011 by Sanela Kubiak. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

*** *** *** ***

A friend read this quote to me last night and it just "hit" me in the right way... I hope you like it.

We write to be able to transcend our life, to reach beyond it.  We write to teach ourselves to speak with others, to record the journey into labyrinth, we write to expand our world, when we feel strangled, constricted, lonely.
~ Anais Nin

Tuesday, February 01, 2011


This is a little piece we had to write for school last year.

My class was taken to the McCutchan Art Gallery at USI-Evansville for observation with a task in mind to pick a piece of art to write a paper on. At first I thought it would be a difficult task to do, but as I walked through the gallery the beauty of art and my classmates made it a unique and enjoyable experience. Most of the paintings were abstract naked women, which in itself was pretty and very colorful.
I was more or less briefly looking at the pictures across the rooms to see if something would catch my eye. And it did. I saw this little picture, maybe 5”x7” in size. My original attraction to this piece was the beautiful colors of the sunset. I went closer to see the details, and I was pleasantly surprised. It truly spoke to me. It reminded me of the place where I walk daily; My special place, The River Paradise.
An interesting thing about this piece is I could completely visualize myself right there standing in the middle of this two way road. Tall naked trees on both sides, branches touching in the middle above the road, making it look like a tree tunnel. I was looking at a sunset through those trees. Intense red, orange, yellow and blue sky took my breath away. There is a car in the distance with its break lights on, tall grass on the left side of the road and a field on the right side. I could even imagine the river behind the grass.
“As soon as I saw this picture I thought of you”, I was brought back to reality by my classmates voice. I looked at her with a confused look on my face.
“It reminds me of the story you wrote about River Paradise. That is the first thing that came in my mind when I saw it”.
I knew exactly what she was talking about, because that is the very same thing I thought about. Her comment made me feel really good and all fuzzy inside. My original story and this picture of U.S 41 in Indiana were the connection between the two different places, both in Indiana, and among the two people who see beauty in this world the same way.

copyright 2011 by Sanela Kubiak. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Unfinished Tale

She looks outside her window into the dark and rainy night, and she sobs quietly. The night reminds her of that first night when she went to meet him. She is crazy in love with him, she is aware of the fact that she cannot be with him at this time, but she still really misses him…

She was waiting for his call that night; she went out for a long drive just to take her mind off of him, but distractions never work for her. He was there the whole time, playing inside her mind, making her think about “what if’s”, making her wish for things she didn’t know she wanted… Finally, 11pm came and the sound of her ringtone broke the silence in the car. She looked up at her phone and saw his name flash across the shiny surface of the screen. Adam. She held her breath for few seconds knowing she should answer her phone before it went into her voicemail. With butterflies in her stomach she reached for the phone, excited and nervous, “Hello”, she answered.
Deep, soothing, gentle, yet very sexy voice came in, “Hi Sannia, I just got off of work. Do you still wanna do something tonight?”
“Yes, I'd love to”.
“What do you want to do? You wanna go out and grab something to eat, or get a drink, or do you want to come over to my place and just hang out?”
“Oh, I don't care, I'm easy”, Sannia said.
The moment she said it, she realized what she said. How embarrassing. For once she was so happy and glad nobody was there to see her blush.
“I mean, I'm not easy, I...”
Adam laughed and said: “I know what you meant.... I didn’t think you were easy… You wanna come and meet me here and then we can decide what to do?”
Without any hesitation she said: “um, ok, I can meet you there”.
“Give me 15 min to take a shower”, Adam replied with a smile in his voice.

After he gave her his address, she drove a little longer, just not too look like she was impatient to see him again, she went to his place. She got out of the elevator and right across the hall was apartment 305. She got nervous and shy and went toward the door. She hardly touched the doorbell, and he was right there opening it. Adam charmed her with a huge smile on his face, like he always does. She was so happy; it’s been over two years that someone was glad to see her. She walked in, took her shoes off by the door and he was eager to show her everything. She saw the aquarium on the counter with two beautiful fish in it. She has never seen this kind before, so she questioned him. Once again he flashed his beautiful smile....
”They’re Japanese Koi fish”. “This is ... and this is his girl...”
She completely lost the names of the fish, preoccupied with her own thoughts, but she loved them anyway...

“You wanna see my place?” Adam asked.
“Sure”, she smiled shyly.
“Well, this is my living room”, he said facing the room.
There was a white cream couch full of pillows on the opposite wall from where she was standing... she saw his laptop on the table next to it, TV and stereo across the room...
“I ordered this big black and white painting, it will go above the couch”, his voice penetrated her thoughts. “I want it above the couch, you think it would look good there?” he asked.
“Yes, I'm sure it will be great”.
He moved to the side and she followed. “This is my bedroom”.
She froze in the doorway, she couldn’t breathe. It was the bedroom from her dreams... the bed with all white bedding....white curtains gently moving in the spring breeze. He was standing in the middle of the room and talking....just like the man she kept seeing her dreams. “Are you ok?” Adam said walking toward her.
“Yes”, she said quietly, looking at the floor.
He moved again to the next room, “This is the bathroom” he said smiling.
She looked around, it was spotless, and everything was neatly placed on the sink. She saw him take the hair spray to fix his hair. He smiled again while saying: “Sorry, I didn't have time to finish when you showed up”.
She smiled back shyly...he got excited… “Sannia, wanna see the best part of this place?”
“Sure”, she looked at him with little butterflies fluttering in her stomach. He took her hand and walked her to the balcony. His apartment was looking over the pool. They stood on the balcony in the moonlight... The sky was full of shimmering stars. He talked; she listened, mesmerized with his voice. While looking at the pool, she imagined herself there... with him… She smiled to herself…
He touched her shoulder bringing her back to reality... and she was so glad it was dark; he couldn’t see her blushing over the fantasy she was just enjoying. They went inside and he offered her to sit on the couch. They started talking, and shortly after he offered her a drink.

“Just ice water please”, Sannia responded. He got up and walked inches away from her, almost ran to the kitchen... She followed him with her eyes... Oh my gosh, those jeans look great on him, and that butt... He has a bubble butt, she thought, blushing... Just like the man from her dreams… OH, she got embarrassed when she realized he caught her looking at him, her face reddened even more, but this time it was so big... she felt so hot inside... Adam came back and took a seat next to her, didn’t say a word... He gave her the water. While she couldn’t look at his eyes, she still reached for her glass....their hands touched... There was this incredible shock that went through her body... He pulled back and sat on the opposite side of the couch...

They started talking again...first it was sort of weird, like everything they said had a double meaning. She was careful with her words, despite the fact that her mind was playing tricks on her. She couldn’t get the images of him and her together out of her head. Slowly, they got so comfortable being together, they kept talking about everything and anything. At one point he said he was surprised how tremendously they got along. About four hours later, they felt like they have known each other all their lives...

She got tired and by the look on his face he was getting more tired by a minute. Strangely, neither of them really wanted to separate. There was something so calming and comfortable between them. He mentioned he was about to crash and it was definitely time for her to go home. She got up to leave and he followed her. There was some strange tension in the room at that moment. She put her shoes on and turned around to say good bye. Oh, she sighs loudly... Adam was right there behind her, his face is only inches away, and the look on his face, mischievous smile… there is something there... she doesn't understand it. Quickly she looked down, and with yet another beautiful smile on his face he said: “I'll walk you out”.

“OK”, she nodded. He walked her all the way outside and they started talking some more. She knew she should be leaving... It's 1:30 am. He reached out to her and gave her a hug... She hugged him back. They stood there and they talked some more. All of a sudden she realized they were still holding each other, he had his arms around her shoulders, the warmth of his hands was soothing, yet exciting to her. She was still holding unto his shirt around his waist. And they kept talking…
He didn’t want to let her go, and by now it was really raining outside. The sound of rain drumming on the cars and the trees was very soothing.... She felt like she belonged in his arms and she really didn’t want to go; but she must...They stood there in the timeless moment, talking… and for the first time she really saw his eyes, beautiful hazel eyes were smiling at her. She rose on her tippy toes and gave him a quick kiss on the lips, and as she was ready to turn around to leave he grabbed her little harder, took her face in his hands and gave her an amazing kiss... She lost control over her body and kissed him back. She was completely aware of all her surroundings; the sound of the rain, the wet spring air she could smell, the aroma of his cologne… His touch was reaching deep inside her soul. His kiss was so sweet, so gentle, so passionate... She could feel his heartbeat; she could almost hear her heart pounding in her chest... “How could this be? What is this feeling?” she asked herself in her mind. They finally separated from their kiss, so they could catch their breath. While he was still holding her, he whispered in her ear: “You need to go home... and… I need to see you again. Please, promise you will come back....”
“Yes”, she said softly...”I will be back”...
He hugged her one more time and held her just a little bit longer. Then he let her go. One last loving kiss he shared with her...
“Please be careful driving home, it's wet... Call me as soon as you get home...ok?”
She grinned... “Yes dad... I will call you when I get home”... He chuckled.
As she walked away she felt his gaze upon her body and she turned around. He was smiling and not at all hiding his attraction for her.
“Sannia”, he called out to her.
“You do have a very nice butt btw”, he said grinning.
She smiled back bashfully, got in her car and started driving...

She couldn’t exactly figure out what just happened... Her lips were burning from his kiss, her whole body was awoken. This was something she has never experienced before, she was afraid. No, she was terrified… But she was so willing. This time was different, she was ready to give LOVE one more chance...

copyright 2011 by Sanela Kubiak. All rights reserved.