When I first came to Bosnia, I expected there to be much more rubble. That may seem like a stereotypical expectation of a post-war environment but it was one I had. In turn, I became aware of the stereotypes I had brought with me. It became clear that I had almost expected to step off the plane and see de-mining efforts going on around the airport and perhaps even some buildings still on fire. It’s ridiculous in retrospect and even quite funny. But it is an ignorance that may not be unique to my case. It is likely there are those that have only heard of Bosnia in the context of the war and as a result may think it is still in that state.
In my earlier post, I mentioned how I had expected those remnants of the war to be more prominently featured. Instead, I found a modernizing city. While the trams seem to be leftovers from a time long past gone, there are multistory malls with shining floors and luxury stores which many people visit every day and nearby there are buildings with pieces blown off or riddled with bullet holes. There is a very visible contrast between the old and new and the dynamics of those interactions are some that I will certainly find interesting as this experience goes on.
I learned that there is no stereotypical war. Each has its nuances, of course, and in turn each aftermath is also unique. So in short, what surprised me the most has been the stereotypes I brought with me. In some ways it made me moderate my expectations of the quality of life here – cold showers are a very real thing – but it also almost made me expect less. I came with a certain level of ignorance and I think that is something that I should be comfortable recognizing.
In all of our studies, we become experts to a certain degree in those fields. But we must always be conscious that we do not know everything, nor should we expect to. The sheer quantity of information available should make that obvious but many are very defensive about their assertions and maybe fear the possibility of being wrong. I was wrong in my expectations of the country and its people and I am happy that that ignorance has been quickly rectified.