Without fail I always forget how hard it is to come home from an experience abroad. I did not expect a short visit to Bosnia would be included in this ever-present dilemma. This is likely why I had difficulty writing a final blog. When you come home from a trip to a far away land, people ask you how it was, but it seems they are not truly earnest (unless the person asking is a fellow wanderluster). I have developed a sort of distancing mechanism when asked this question, mainly because most people do not want to know anything more than what sites you saw. However, it is in part because the experiences I have are ones I want to hold close to me, ones I am not ready to share with others for fear they will be tarnished. Bosnia has changed this slightly. People are shocked, actually shocked, that I enjoyed going to Bosnia. Every person who I tell this to says, “but the war,” as if they cannot fathom the country or the people apart from the war, possibly because that’s all most people know about Bosnia (this only seems to be reinforced by the way the news has covered Bosnia since I returned home). In fact, the only people who seem to grasp this idea are the ones I have traveled with in past, the ones who heard of the genocide in Cambodia and visited atrocious sites of said genocide. To us, these countries and their histories are complex and yet the people are so strong and caring of others. So unlike past reentries, I have become more outspoken and willing to show people just how wonderful the experience of visiting Bosnia is.
I tell people that to me Bosnia will always be a place of juxtapositions. The people were friendly and caring, to a point I have never experienced abroad, and the landscape was gorgeous. But the ruins of war and genocide remained in both the buildings and the souls of its residents. I did not experience the Bosnian War, and thus I cannot speak for those who did, I cannot say whether they feel they have recovered in any manner, or what they have learned in their life time. Learning about the Bosnian War before going helped me understand the complex nature of politics, religion, ethnicity, and more in Bosnia. But actually going to Bosnia and meeting people, hearing their stories, seeing their smiles, and their sadness, made it real, painful, and filled with wonder about recovery from trauma. What I really came out of this experience with was the resiliency of the Bosnian people. The amazing souls they have, the collective sense of humor, and the kindness shown towards strangers, struck me the most. So while I still struggle talking about my journey in Bosnia, I’m getting closer to being able to, though framing in words the feelings and meaning I had (as is evidenced by my repetition), might take years.