Our first two days in Bosnia have already flown by. My first impressions of Sarajevo were that it is smaller than I expected, beginning with the tiny airport. Having been the last to arrive I had a private driver to chat with on the ride to the hotel, so in my first ten minutes here I was witness to a story of survival. He chose a particular phrase to describe his hometown, Sarajevo, that stuck with me as he described the conditions of the city before, during, and after the war. He said that this town birthed him. This was not a grammatical error, but I felt rather a most intimate way of describing a location. I do not believe I have ever shared this sentiment of any of the places I have lived. This perspective made me so curious about the city and its people. I was surprised to hear such affection for Sarajevo considering the appalling war that occurred only 20 years ago.
The first physical impressions were of the great diversity of the buildings. The styles, ages, and conditions of the architecture varied more than anyplace I have visited. Evidence of beauty and violence is everywhere, and unless a building is very new you can still see damage from shells and grenades. Having just completed the course readings I could picture where the snipers and tanks placed themselves in the hills and tall buildings. But at the same time I see people walking, laughing, and looking no different than anywhere else in Europe. It was also very new for me to see mosques and Islamic dress around me, and hearing the cull to prayer for the first time was amazing. I think the visible damage in the city combined with the unhesitant sharing of our guides gave the city a feeling of openness, still there among the laughter and patched holes. I am looking forward to absorbing all that I can while I am here in a responsible and respectful manner as possible. I hope to remain as open as the people and places around me.