After one week in…

I don’t love Sarajevo yet, but I think I will soon. This week feels like a whirlwind, and I am inclined to believe the rest of my time here will feel much the same. It is a strange juxtaposition to be in a place where life slows down, but the hours never feel like they are dragging by – at least not yet. I love this piece of Sarajevo. I love sitting in a café for hours at a time or eating dinner, drinking wine, and letting conversation carry the night on in a steady pulse.

Sarajevo truly awakens at night. Granted, Ramadan accentuates this rhythm, but it feels as though it is the underlying, ceaseless beat of the city.

The day trip outside of Sarajevo on Wednesday highlighted the felt dichotomies of a post-conflict city. Or, at least, this post-conflict city. Walking down the 1984 Olympic Bobsled course riddled with the evidence of shelling and also marked by the contemporary expression of graffiti artists created a strange oscillation between [1] my excitement of picturing eager attendees trying to catch a glimpse of the athletes barreling by and [2] a reverberating somberness of the wartime realities.

The Snipers’ Nest and Jewish Cemetery were also moving for me – particularly after reading memoirs and watching documentaries from civilians living in Sarajevo throughout the siege. I was initially surprised at the range of the snipers’ positions in the hills further removed from the city, but transitioned to a sense of unsettling injustice at the proximity of the cemetery to the city. Not that I will come close to understanding the actual experience of life under a sniper’s scope, but finally could watch people stroll the streets below and picture the apartments once filled with trepidation – it was surreal and enraging and insightful and sobering.

It is a sobering reality that people are driven to kill by an authority that demonizes the ethnic and religious differences previously appreciated and celebrated within communities. I am so appreciative to be working in this post-conflict society, and wish I had much longer than 8 weeks to gain a deeper understanding of what is under the shell of peace in Sarajevo. I am not suggesting that violence is still rumbling under the surface, but it is an indication of civil unrest when a local Bosnian friend states that “Bosnia is like Namibia” in terms of development and opportunity. The stagnation of economic and civil progress perpetuated by a political stalemate is not surprisingly resulting in despondency.

I appreciate the honesty of the Bosnians I’ve encountered, and I sincerely hope that peaceful answers will surface for the movement of Bosnia out of its 20-year-old “transitional” government.

As I anticipated, the geography of the surrounding area is incredibly beautiful. We hiked to Lukomir, the highest populated village in Bosnia. The name translates to “harbor of peace,” and it is a self-sustaining Muslim village that was almost entirely spared from the war because of its difficult access. I love the historical richness of this country, particularly places like Lukomir, where family roots run deep and tradition, story, and hospitality pulse through the community.

I am excited to dive into my internship at the Post-Conflict Research Center this next week, and am looking forward to the various experiences my colleagues will bring home from their respective organizations. I am thrilled and tremendously grateful to be here, to continue to adjust and settle in to my home for the summer, and to learn from the beautiful and poignant narratives of life in Sarajevo.


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