Green. Lush. Bustling. Kind. Friendly. Willing. Helpful. Colorful. Historic. This city feels very international. I have heard many languages spoken as we have wandered our neighborhood. Our hostel family is generous and friendly and the hostel building is so BIG. It is a wonder to me that it was once the owner’s family residence. And I haven’t even seen it all.
We took a walking tour around our neighborhood and then went to a few historical sites. The walking tour was helpful to orient us to our new space and to show us some of the wonderful places I am excited to visit. And a nun kicked us out of a church. That’s always a little exciting. Plus, I had been asking if anyone wanted to go to Turkey to attend the fish foot baths and we came across a Fish Spa! And you can bet I have already tried it out. ;0) It was odd and delightful. I recommend trying it!
We also went to the escape tunnel by the airport. It is an 800 meter tunnel from one side of the airport that was under siege to the other side of the airport that was free. It is a small tunnel measuring about 1 meter across and about 1.6 meters high. We watched footage of people traversing through this tunnel carrying in food, water, a live goat, and weapons. It looked to me that it was only men in the tunnel…I didn’t ask our guide about this. During the war, part of Sarajevo was cut off from the rest of the city and the world. People were rationing food, burning furniture, books, anything they could to stay warm and to cook what little food they had. This tunnel helped save many lives and to reduce the cost of food and goods during the siege.
That same day, we went to the Olympic bobsled that was built for the 1984 Olympics here in Sarajevo. It was later used by the Bosnian Serb forces as an artillery position and now is a hangout for graffiti artists, teenagers, and skateboarders. We walked the entire bobsled run and how I wish I could share the sound of the birds and the smell of the forest we walked through. The area is overgrown and the bobsled run is slowly falling apart, but the memories of what it was are very alive.
We visited a Jewish cemetery that was used as a sniper nest during the war. It is hard to imagine such a vibrant city being under siege. We stood where massacres occurred and where the Archduke of Austria, Franz Ferdinand and the Duchess of Hohenberg, Sophia Ferdinand were assassinated (the event said to have started WWI).
It’s hard to imagine this city during a genocide – only 20 years ago. The city is green and beautiful. We are staying in the older part of the city and I love it so far. There are buildings here from the 1600’s which is a little mind blowing. The streets are colorful and the area is walkable. People are out and about day and night and everything feels so alive. Trees grow in the best places, stray animals (that I want to find homes for) look cared for and seem welcome in the city. There are organizations here to help keep the stray population from growing but no shelters for the animals to reside. They just reside everywhere. There are many pet dogs in outdoor cafes with their owners and walking about the city. It’s truly lovely here.
My internship with World Visions International officially started today. As of now, I am working with the Education and Livelihood team and the People and Culture teams. I will learn more after my meeting with my main supervisor and I am hoping to be in the field visiting their partner organizations and program sites. The focus of World Visions International is child protection and vulnerable populations (like the Roma population here) and I think it might be a great fit. There are already so many connections between my education, passions, and their projects. I’m very excited to jump into their organization.
My first impressions are of a beautiful city with welcoming and beautiful people. The history of war is in their everyday lives from the traumas they have experienced to the shrapnel, missal, and gunfire damage in their buildings and homes. Like I said, it is hard to imagine that this city and these kind, resilient people I meet have experienced a genocide and the traumas associated with war, displacement, and loss. Their spirit of strength is beautiful.