She was so polite when she asked for it.

"Can you please pass me a tissue?"

It came from four-year-old Liv's mouth from the back seat--the bench seat on which I was also sitting in the European-style minivan.

Liv is a character. Sassy at all the right times. Brighter than most four-year-olds. More imaginative than any person I've ever met. She collects every receipt, every bottle cap, every piece of "trash" any of us encounter and demands that these objects not be thrown away. When we ask her what she wants them for, she tells us that she needs them for her "creations."

She calls her parents by their first names. Kimberly asked her once why she doesn't call them "mom and dad." Liv responded, innocently, "why don't you call me 'daughter?'"

I've grown attached to this child, and her ten-month-old brother Jake, who is in a perpetual state of Gerber baby giggle that cannot be oppressed under any circumstances. I kid you not. This is the happiest baby that has ever existed on planet Earth.

The children are so unbelievably cute that we are stopped in the streets everywhere we go so people can oogle over them and give them free stuff. They are the world's most effective beggars.

When Liv asked for the tissue as we drove through the windy mountain roads in central Bosnia, none of us thought much of it. She probably needed it for her next art project or to use it as a part of some game she was inventing in that moment.

Then the smell hit us.

We looked over to her, and there she sat. Calm as could be. As though nothing had happened. Except something had happened. She had puked ALL over herself.

The adults panicked simultaneously. Tyler pulled over the car so quickly that we all got whiplash and plan to sue him the moment we get back to the United States of God Bless America. Within ten seconds, Liv was standing outside the car, barefoot, on the side of some Bosnian road, being stripped completely of her puke-soaked clothes. And that's when the poor thing started sobbing.

Puking was scary enough to her. But suddenly she was standing outside in the cool mountainous air, stripped naked, and without much explanation.

As one parent cleaned her up, the other noticed that baby Jake, who must have crapped the stinkiest and largest crap in all the history of crapping that has ever been crapped by a baby, needed an emergency diaper change.

Both children conveniently (?) chose the exact same moment to do the most disgusting things children can do. And both in the vehicle in which I, innocent little old me, had been traveling.

Whichever parent had not taken charge of the puke situation went on diaper duty.

So many wet wipes were used during this emergency pull-over that 50% of the remaining rain forests have been destroyed.

I was impressed with my ability to avoid becoming too involved in any of this. I pretended to be busy or asleep or something else that was probably a lie. And then the combination of smells hit me.

I don't know how else to describe what happened inside of me than to say that I had an out-of-body experience. I saw myself from above for a moment or two. My spirit no longer wanted to be inside my humanly mass. But the stench was so powerful that my disembodied spirit gagged from on high.

"This is not a smell I am used to," I remember informing Kimberly and Tyler, who were cleaning up poop and puke as casually and elegantly as one might clear a British table of tea cups.

And seconds later, I stood, my head between my legs, puking seven-days worth of bread and baklava to the sounds of a gagging Liv on the other side of the car and her giggling brother who was a little too happy with his diaper change.

Kimberly and Tyler laughed. Because that's who they are. The kind of people who find it humorous when their children's puke and poop cause their childless adult friends to vomit.

And that's exactly why I love them.

I'll miss Anel from Sarajevo. I got to spend a great deal of time with him for several days and he showed me his amazing city. Happy trails, Anel. May you have the courage to dream big and the wisdom to dream well.

Alex, my late night kebab supplier in Sarajevo, and one of the happiest people I met there.

In Sarajevo.

A blurry and terrifying image of Shabesaur.

Belgrade, Serbia.

Kimberly gets her ear talked off by a VERY eccentric woman in Belgrade.

With Kimberly. I don't want to talk about my hair.

Belgrade by night.

Some bombed-out buildings in Belgrade.

Umbrella ceiling at a cafe in Belgrade.


My new friend Marco in Belgrade. A fellow lawyer who showed me some hidden sites of his amazing city.

~It Just Gets Stranger