Finding that one place to settle and feel completely comfortable in a foreign country is not something often done easily. Due to cultural differences, language barriers and a variety of other things that make one feel out of place when away from home, sometimes finding that one spot in which you feel like you can actually breathe is difficult. Sometimes it doesn’t happen at all. Instead, you are left constantly feeling a little at odds with your surroundings and even with yourself. Your brain and your body are always on alert: attempting to avoid cultural faux paus, struggling to communicate the simplest of words, figuring out how to get dinner. All of them are taxing on both your body and your mind and leave you feeling frustrated and like you just need a break. A place where you don’t have to consider every little thing you do. A place to take a breath.
While is often difficult to find that place to breath when abroad, I was fortunate enough to stumble upon mine early on in the trip. While wandering with Ann, Jillian and Jon we came across the Franz & Sophie Tea House and stopped in for a cup of tea. When you walk in you are greeted by the owner whose enthusiasm for the art of tea making is apparent. He brings you to a wall filled with different teas, most of which he has blended himself, and helps you choose one based on the flavors that you like most. He brews the tea just so and then gives you a little teapot full of it to sip as you sit. He is not only enthusiastic about tea but also incredibly kind and friendly. I immediately fell in love with this place and have spent many days here working remotely for my internship. It is not only incredible for working remotely on my internship due to the speedy wifi (the presence of which I will never again take for granted!) but, beyond that, it is that one place amongst the cultural chaos that comes with traveling abroad where I can breathe. It is peaceful. There is no pressure to figure out how to be, what to do or how to pronounce a word. It doesn’t seem to matter that I barely speak the language and can’t contribute to the local neighborhood gossip. He welcomes me in and saves me a table every day. The other regular tea drinkers welcome me and ask about my weekend. We haltingly talk about politics, the weather and whatever else you talk about when drinking tea. There is no trying or forcing yourself here. There is just being.
Being able to find that one place where you can just be when away from home is special enough. But, when that place welcomes you and makes you a part of it, now that is a truly amazing thing. Two days in a row now the owner has asked if I would watch the shop while he ran home to grab lunch or go to the market. I feel so incredibly lucky to be considered close enough and trusted enough to watch his store, particularly considering that the most I have to offer a would-be customer is “He’ll be right back” in English which they may or may not speak. Upon returning he has brought me fruit that he picked with him family over the weekend and thanks for being here to watch things. Upon telling Ann about this she said that I am just like one of the street dogs here in Sarajevo…they don’t really belong anywhere and have no home but somehow they find a place to settle that cares for them. I don’t really culturally belong anywhere in this city but Franz & Sophie’s has accepted me and made me a part of the place nonetheless.