Perspective is the theme of the week, but it is also a force which is ever-present among each individual in every situation. I will admit that I have been rather selfishly cocooned in my own perspective since I arrived in Sarajevo two weeks ago. The reason is simple: my creature comforts are missing. Where are the eight cubes of ice in my water? Where is my free bathroom? And where in the bejeezus is my Air Conditioning? Gdje Klima?? Ja trebam Klima…ahora! Yes, I have been whiny and irritable since I arrived. I am hot, sticky, and per my last post, uncomfortable with the proximity of large masses of people and loud speakers. From my perspective, I can get all of that in Florida, but at least they have AC in Florida.
Well now that I have vented my adolescent complaints, it is time to talk about other perspectives. First and foremost, Sarajevo is a living entity unto itself. Like most cities, it has a personality all its own, which is perceptible to the tourist and citizen alike. When I describe Sarajevo to my friends back home, I say that it reminds me a great deal if Italy, but with a Turkish flare and a lot of war damage. That is the simplest way I can say it. What I find interesting is that, depending on which native Sarajevan you talk to, my description may or may not hold muster. When Idrina took us for our first tour, she made an effort to point out buildings which still stood empty and dilapidated from the war. She showed us new, old, improved and very badly damaged buildings alike. She seemed to embrace the city exactly as it is, the good and the bad. On the other hand, our tour guide from Friday ( I think his name was Haris?) said that there are only a couple of buildings remaining in the city which still have the marks of war. I do not know if that is how he sees his city, with only a few blemishes, or if that is how he wants us to see his city. Regardless, his assertion is flat wrong. I am not saying that is a bad thing either. I believe that if all of Sarajevo had been immediately repaired as if a war had never occured, it would probably have been too easy to forget the war. The younger generation would have no proof of what their city and their families went through. One need only to walk a short distance up any hill to see absolute proof that no building was spared the devastation of the shelling.
What was even more shocking to me, was that Haris mentioned to me that he had been five years old when the war had started. His house had been shelled within the first 90 days, and he is convinced that the person reponsible was the husband of his Serbian school teacher, a commander in the Serb Army. He said he knows the mans name, and he is still somewhere in the area, as are all of the other Serb soldiers. Moreover, Haris said that each of those former Serb soldiers is ready and willing to take up arms against “us” (the Bosniaks or Sarajevo) again. I got chills when I heard that. I have also heard of other conversations in which the Sarajevans have said that they are ready and willing to defend their city once more. It would neither surprise nor frighten them. To this I have no comment. Such a state of mind is too difficult to process when I am living in this city alongside all of these people. That night after talking with Haris, fireworks were set off in celebration of the Sarajevo Film Festival. My first thought was that a gun was being fired. I quickly realized that the noise was harmless, but how odd that my first reaction was to assume the worst of this place. Obviously most Sarajevans are okay with fireworks, or they wouldn’t set them off in a city full of the ptsd-afflicted.
In other ways, I think I have become very desensitized to the war that happened here. In reality, I think I have felt like that since I got here. We spent so much time talking about the war at DU that when I got here I wasn’t surprised by what I saw. I don’t know what I expected of myself, but I didnt expect to feel nothing. When I look around this city, I think I just see a city. Maybe that is just as well. Maybe that is all the Sarajevans want us to see.