Day 5 (June 15, 2012) – Visit to the US Embassy

Today we walked to the US Embassy, which was like no other embassy I’ve ever seen! It was this huge eye sore in the middle of Sarajevo! I’m not really sure why the US Embassy is as large as it is but I’m sure there’s a reason for it.

 

We met with Ambassador Moon who took lots of time to welcome us to the Embassy and answer our many questions about the work that the Embassy is doing in Sarajevo. He acknowledged that there is a human-trafficking problem in Bosnia and that although the police and political parties have become more involved in it, there are no formal laws against human-trafficking. He also said that this past year was the worst in regards to arrests and added that they had no prosecutions for human-trafficking.

 

Like Judge Wiener, he acknowledged the challenges faced within the politics of the country and challenges with collaborating between multiple ethnic groups. His assistant, whose name I can online remember as Sunshine (which IS her real name), was able to speak more freely (and less politically) than the Ambassador and was able to say that not much can be done about change until the people are more invested in it and that many people are afraid of another war, which may be one of the reasons why they are reluctant to do or say anything.

 

Kristy and I walked back towards the hotel but found ourselves stopping and walking into random buildings. We found ourselves walking towards the most beautiful building and then realized is the University building for Fine Art. It sits right along the river and we were able to walk around the building and look at some of the student art and peer into an art class. Then we walked a little closer towards our hotel and saw this HUGE church. When walked in we noticed that it was an Orthodox church that was in the middle of reconstruction in the inside. You could tell where parts of the old church had been destroyed by the war. It was so beautiful with the tall stone pillars and the stained glass windows.

 

Then back to our hotel where we had some time to relax before we went out to meet some of the Social Work students from the University of Sarajevo. What a great time we had! It was so interesting to talk to people who are in the same profession and around the same age as us about what graduate school is like for them. They said that they have 2 social work professors in a school of 5,000 students! They spoke about how many students will pay for good grades and that they have heard that trading sex for grades has happened too but that they don’t know anyone who has done it. They also spoke about how they hate the politics in Bosnia and are frustrated with the system but feel that they have no power to enforce change.

 

We then went to a hookah bar where I smoke entirely WAY too much hookah but it was so fun to sit around and talk with everyone and participate in something that is typical for that age and culture. Grape hookah might be my favorite!

 

To give you an idea of what else we are doing here, at the end of each day we all gather as a group to process the things that we have seen and talked about our reactions to the things we have seen. Tomorrow we are going to Srebenica, which is the site of mass genocide that brought the Bosnian War to the attention of the media and thus began the efforts to end it. I’m thinking that it will be a very emotional day for everyone and maybe even myself. Although I saw concentration camps during school trips, when I lived in Belgium, I don’t think that will prepare me or desensitize me from what tomorrow brings.

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