This summer in Sarajevo has not been an easy one for me, and not for the reasons that I initially anticipated. During the spring quarter at DU, I studied the conflict in Bosnia and did as much research as possible to prepare myself for what I believed would be an emotionally charged summer that would push me beyond my limits and out of my comfort zone. I mean, we’d be eating in restaurants that had been blown apart by mortar rounds and walking down roads where people had lay dying from sniper fire, not even 20 years ago. Pretty heavy stuff. But, surprisingly, this wasn’t the hard part for me.
I’ve always been a fairly private person. I suppose this has a lot to do with the fact that for a good portion of my life, I was an only child in a single-parent household. It was very quiet with an abundance of privacy. I got very good at being alone with my thoughts, and even came to identify solitude as my comfort zone. So, it wasn’t the war crimes or widespread destruction that made this summer difficult for me…it was the impossibility of being alone. Living in a hostel and spending 95% of my time with the same group of 15 people for two months has pushed me to my limit, regardless of how much I enjoy some of their company. I’m just the kind of person who needs alone time to mentally recharge, and that has been nearly impossible to find here.
However, this past Friday, the group went on a hike to the semi-nomadic village of Lukomir. I will say that one of my favorite things this summer has been the Bosnian countryside. It is positively breathtaking. And while I pretty much detest hiking with a large group of people, once we reached the village, my mood suddenly did a 180. The village is located on a large rock outcropping that overlooks what our guide called the Grand Canyon of Bosnia. We had some time to ourselves to explore on our own before the busses arrived to take us back, so I found my own little rock formation, far enough away from the majority of the group so that I couldn’t hear their voices anymore. It was so silent. A group of birds flew by about 20 feet from me, and even though their wings weren’t flapping, I could hear the air disruption that their formation made. It was amazing. I could hear myself think finally. I could finally take a huge gulp of fresh, clean air, unlike the stuffy, cigarette-smoke laden air that gets trapped amongst the buildings in the center of Sarajevo. For ten blissful minutes, I felt like I was alone. I can’t explain how grateful I was for that time, and how much I wished it would never end.