Bosnia First Impressions

When I first decided to come to Bosnia, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I did not know what happened beyond what I saw in movies since my family never talked about it and it was not covered in my education growing up. I wanted to learn what happened because I believed it would fulfill multiple things for me. This trip would provide me the necessary education to advocate for individuals and groups, it would give me a point of reference for working with service members who have been deployed and it would spark a curiosity to learn more about the world beyond what I see on the news.

When I first started reading for this course, I found that I was consistently angry about what happened here. I initiated my reading from one of the recommended readings and it gave me such great discomfort to hear about the siege through the eyes of a child. I found that I was consistently frustrated knowing how long it took for any aid to come to Bosnia even though the Olympics were held here not 10 years prior. For the world to sit back and wait as long as they did, left a sour taste in my mouth and it gave me some anxiety about traveling abroad for the first time to a country that was ravaged by genocide and yet creating beauty from what was left. I spoke with people on multiple occasions about what I was learning and I was shocked the limited perspective available and how Bosnia is still viewed as this depressing, war-torn country when I see so much hope, beauty, resiliency and life.

Working with service members has always been a passion for me and I have always wondered what it would be like when questions about my understanding of war would come up. It made me fearful for a long time because I wasn’t sure how I would answer. Now, having done research and being in the country, I found that I basic understanding of what it may have been like for service members and I can better appreciate their experiences as unique with a general understanding.

Being in Bosnia has opened my eyes to a part of the world I don’t think I ever would have wanted to see. I never thought Bosnia would be the location of choice for completing my Values class and yet I feel so eager to learn and experience a culture that most of the world seems to ignore. After spending a full 24 hours here, I found that I am having surreal feelings about easy it was for the Army to snipe people and for the tanks to take aim at all the structures. I never would have thought it was so easy to follow through with an order to kill someone and to see a city that is so very divided. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to go from the Federation in the RS and back again. Being here has created moments of shock and awe and also moments of great sadness as we have listened to our guide tell her story of what it was like to live in Sarajevo during the war.

After experiencing my first impression with Sarajevo, I find that I am overwhelmed with the history that took place here and excited to be able to share what I have had the privilege to see and the stories have been able to hear. I don’t think I would have such an appreciation if I had not taken the time to learn the material and to move forward and be a stronger advocate for social change in an effort to prevent such an atrocity from happening again.  Being here is creating a complex internal narrative that is difficult to put into words and I think it is a positive thing since I would rather have this complicated narrative that I can share than to feel nothing about the tragic history of such a beautiful and resilient culture. For 24 hours, I feel like I am seeing the world through a new lens and I am eager to see what other lessons I can learn from my time in Bosnia.

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