Jeff Kolpack, Published October 17 2008
Bue takes her game to EuropeIn a figurative way, Lisa Bue put the “roommate wanted” sign on her apartment window. This wouldn’t ordinarily be a big deal if it weren’t for the fact that she’s living in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
It’s not Churchill Hall on the North Dakota State campus anymore. This is women’s pro basketball, eastern European circuit version, and the only connection to her old world as an NDSU women’s basketball player is the Internet.
The plan was for her team, K.K. Zeljeznicar, to hook her up with a roommate.
“All of a sudden I get here and she never showed up,” Bue said. “Then they were trying to find somebody else. It was definitely a little scary. I thought, ‘What did I get myself into?’ ”
Finally, about four weeks ago, another roommate did show up. The world for last year’s Summit League Player of the Year got a lot, lot, lot smaller.
It was Brandee Gibbs, her old Bison teammate.
Gibbs finished her Bison career in 2006. She played in Poland the following year. Last year, she played partly in Spain and partly in Slovakia. She was planning to play in Finland this fall, but a team there went with another center.
Her agent then steered her toward Bosnia.
It’s different, no doubt, but the two ex-Bison are enjoying the world. They are the only two on the team who don’t speak Bosnian. Their head coach doesn’t speak English besides “hi.”
How does that work?
“I don’t think I’ve ever been yelled at although it’s not because I haven’t done anything wrong,” Bue said. “It’s probably more of a hassle to yell and translate it to me. But you can tell when she’s mad at you.”
An assistant coach speaks both languages. A player from Sweden, who was born in Bosnia, does most of the translating on and off the court.
Last week, Bue and Gibbs had just returned from a game in the country of Montenegro.
“I didn’t even know where Montenegro was,” Bue said. “All of a sudden, we’re on a bus in Serbia and then Montenegro. We’re going to Latvia in a few weeks. We go to Italy and Greece. You can go to Google and type in ‘Eastern Europe’ and this is where I am.”
Sarajevo has gone through ups and downs that nobody around here can imagine. It hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics. It also went through the Bosnia War from 1992-96, a complex battle involving Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Croatia.
Signs of war still exist, both players said. Some buildings are still charred from fire. Some just have foundations.
“Some of the girls who talked to us about it said it was just horrible during the war,” Bue said.
It’s horrible no more. The city is recovering. Bue said she always feels safe.
“I expected to see areas of a war zone,” Gibbs said. “I wasn’t sure what to expect. But it’s nice, much nicer than I expected but they definitely haven’t totally come back from the war yet.”
It’s not a daily, probably not even weekly, thought for both players, however. Bue said what seemed crazy at first now seems normal.
In general, everybody lives in apartments, everybody is walking around and the two roommates ride the bus or tram everywhere they go.
That’s about as anti-Fargo as it gets.
Bue was an elementary education major and Gibbs a sociology major at NDSU. But you can’t teach the education they’re getting now.
“I love it,” Gibbs said. “It’s fun for me because we can do this for free when other people have to save up to do it.”
Readers can reach Jeff Kolpack at (701) 241-5546 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com