Blogs are becoming harder and harder to write. So much happens in a day – new thoughts, feelings, activities…my days feel full even when they are mellow.
Last weekend we had a program trip to Mostar and Kravice (cra-vee-tzeh) Falls. Mostar is beautiful and has a deep history in the war. I can’t help feel regret when history is lost at human’s careless hands. The main bridge in Mostar, built during the Ottoman Empire, was blasted to pieces during the war. It withstood so many punches and still stood…until if finally fell completely. But the people here did their best not to “improve” the bridge by building something modern, instead, they did their best to replicate it and rebuilt it in its original fashion. For me, it stands for their power to rebuild, their respect for their history, for the love they have of their country, and memorializing what has fallen in the war. They haven’t forgotten, I hear repeatedly, that they must not allow themselves to forget what happened, lest it happen again. And in rebuilding the bridge, they used as many pieces as they could rescue from the river below. They didn’t replace the bridge entirely, they integrated the old with the new, encapsulating what has become their new society.
From Mostar we went to Kravice Falls – what a treat! After the heat and the crowds in Mostar, the falls were a welcome experience. We were able to climb among the falls, swim if we chose in the lake, and just relax.
From there, we students (minus our professor and coordinators) rented cars and headed to Makarska, Croatia for the weekend. What a trip! We visited Makarska and Brac (Brach) which is an island off the coast of Croatia. Although it was REALLY hot, the water was glorious – blue, calm, clear – no waves, fish and crabs swimming freely, water we could see to the bottom of, and refreshingly salty. The beaches are rocky instead of sandy, which I’m more accustomed to. So you make some changes, wear waterproof sandals, have a thicker towel – easy fixes. It was lovely to sit and just enjoy the surroundings and the company.
This week at internship, I was asked to join a training in a town called Teslic (teslich) in the area called Republic of Srpska. There is a tri-government here in Bosnia to represent the three distinct areas. It gets a little confusing understanding the how’s and why’s – however, it is. The training was for the Education and Life Skills team and to bring the office folk and the people in the field together.
What am I going to work on while I am at this internship? The need to pay everyone back. Because this was a training, and I felt that my internship was spending money on me, I felt the need to pay them back in work. However, my supervisor had a very different perspective. At the end of the second day she said exasperated, “I bring you hear to enjoy, and you work.” I didn’t know! I thought that was expected of me. I did fit in a 28 km massage and attempted to sit by the pool (it was way too hot outside), I did take a nap, and spoil myself with a lovely hot shower. But I worked when I should have been enjoying. Balance here is prominent. “Why do you Americans get your coffee and go? Why don’t you sit and enjoy it?” Yes, why is this? “Coffee” (you can order tea, voda (water), or what you like) is for connecting, for enjoyment, to talk without rush or stress. I was told at my internship that deals are often made over a meal, coffee is enjoyment. I want to remember this when I am attempting to multitask and fighting to keep up with the chaos around me. Why do we rush just so we can relax? Where is the balance in that?
When I arrived back at the hostel, my friend from California, Erica, had arrived. She was in fantastic hands with the owners of the hostel, Sead (say-odd) and Naida. Sead picked her up from the airport, Naida put her to bed for a nap, and they gave her directions to a restaurant, where, upon her arrival found out they had called ahead to make sure she was well taken care of. How wonderful is this?!
Her trip was fast and wonderful. Since most of my group is on the Peace March and the others are traveling, it was lovely to have time to focus on showing Erica around and catching up. She got on swimmingly with one of the other students, bonding over books (she is a librarian!) and Shannon, who introduced us to a tea shop with the most welcoming owner and employees. And last night, as Erica and I were lounging in our common space, Sead came upstairs to invite us to Iftar. What a treat! We enjoyed another fabulous dinner with Sead and Naida and afterwards they took us and another traveler from Turkey out for kafa and caj (coffee and tea). My cup overflows.
Today, Erica left and I filled my day, while waiting for my friends to return, with a hair appointment, emails, and my blogs.
I have realized that although there are times I feel disconnected, this is a great opportunity for me to practice connecting. During the training in Teslic, I felt removed, unsure how to connect with my colleagues who seemed comfortable in their group. I realize that part of it was my own shyness, my own insecurity with the local language, and uncertainty of the expectations. But I was reminded of a few things:
Do what is comfortable for me, I don’t have to wait for permission.
Enjoy life, it’s happening all around me
Barriers aren’t always personal and what we make them to be in our thoughts. Before I left, one of my colleagues approached me and said, “I’m sorry I didn’t speak to you, my English, it’s not so good.” And in that moment, I realized I wasn’t alone in my communication insecurities. The barrier wasn’t just mine.
My massage therapist, upon asking where I was from and hearing my answer, “California”, burst out, “WHY ARE YOU HERE?! California is perfect. Everyone there is perfect.”
Aside from meeting me, whom is far from perfect, she still proclaimed this.
I responded, laughing, “That California is only portrayed that way in movies.”
She quickly replied, “Don’t ruin it for me.”
Hahaha. Perceptions are our reality, no matter where we live.
And now I realize that upon my friends’ arrival back to the hostel, perceptions will have changed. Many of them attended the Peace March and the memorial in Srebrenica. My friend at internship have told me that it is so heavy, they only did it once. They encourage me to be supportive of my friends who may experience intense emotions over the coming days. I’ve done my best to prepare and hope that although heavy, this experience has brought enlightenment that they will share with me. I’m looking forward to their return.
More information about the Peach March this year: http://www.aa.com.tr/en/news/554037–bosnia-peace-march-to-mark-srebrenica-genocide-ends