The gift shopping has started and a few of us are starting to get sick as we begin our seventh week here in Sarajevo. Trying to find the right gifts to bring home to friends and family has proved to be a common topic of conversation. “What should I get for my dad?” is a common one. “Here I can show you a shop where I got those bracelets for only five marks!” is another. During these six weeks in Sarajevo, I’ve been exposed to a couple things that, I’m hypothesizing now, will always remind me of my time here in the Western Balkans.
1. Doners. I was first exposed to these tasty little sandwiches here in Sarajevo
2. Street Dogs. They are very popular here in this capital city. You’ll sometimes see packs of them roaming the less populated areas.
3. Mosques. It happened without me noticing it, but I got used to walking past mosques instead of churches.
4. The Adhan (the Muslim call to prayer). Walking through the streets of Sarajevo, we have gotten used to hearing the Adhan come from the minarets around the city five times a day.
5. Cheap Movies. Late night, weekend movies only cost 5 or 6 KM, which is about $3.50.
6. One Scoop Ice Cream. We’ve gotten into the (not very healthy) habit of frequently stopping to grab a scoop of ice cream from one of the (what seems like hundreds of) little ice cream stands that litter the streets of Sarajevo.
7. Genocide. Though I was fairly well educated on the idea of genocide before my time here, I have gained an understanding of how it can affect people personally that I don’t think I could have gained without being here in the flesh. It is here that I have been exposed to and shown the physically and psychological effects of such a horrible event.
8. United Nations. Closely related to my experience with genocide, comes my new understanding of the UN. Until recently I was under the naive impression that the UN constantly protected those who it promised to protect. That opinion has changed drastically after our visit to the UN Dutch Base in Potocari.
9. Rakija. A plum brandy that I had never heard of before my time here. Comes in many different flavors, and is usually so terrible that it really doesn’t even matter the flavor.
10. A Fear of Cold and Wind. It seems that many native bosnians (mostly older women, I would say) have a fear of sitting on cold surfaces or leaving certain windows open that might create a gust in the room. Many taxi drivers will also only allow one window to be open at a time. The woman who runs our hostel doesn’t like to see any other women or girls sitting on ‘cold’ surfaces (like the stone stairwell) because she believes it will freeze their ovaries.