Clean

rain sarajevo
Photo Credit: Annalisa Triola

I’m not certain I can explain this photo, but I’ll try.

Srebrenica was difficult. “Difficult?” Difficult, adj. “needing much effort or skill to accomplish, deal with, or understand.” Hardly captures the overwhelming emotion, crippling sense of gravity, or powerful message of resilience the survivors we met impressed upon us. I struggled greatly with depression in the wake of that weekend. I think we were all sick, in one way or another.

During a particularly arduous day at my internship, I was informed that we had another after-work program obligation: a barbecue at Wings of Hope, a nonprofit that provides trauma, legal, and educational programs to both survivors of the war and people of all ages and walks of life in Bosnia. In retrospect, I’m ashamed to say I was pissed. I wanted nothing more than to sleep away my mental and physical exhaustion. But I grabbed a bottle of wine and a taxi and got myself to the west side of Sarajevo. Though our hosts were incredibly welcoming and gracious, the tension amongst our group was palpable. The most awkward group of undergrads I’ve ever encountered showed up, too, and we were asked to try to engage them—they were struggling with being truly involved with their experience in Serbia and Bosnia.

We stood awkwardly in our cliques, all clearly on edge and upset on some level. We ate, we drank wine, and conversations got easier, but something was still tight in the air. Then, thunder.

It started with a sprinkle, and quickly became a torrential downpour—complete with hail—of biblical proportions. The undergrads and many of the Wings of Hope employees ran for cover. But a few of us just let it ride. Laura smiled and threw her arms up. Jenny and I threw our shoes off and ran together through puddles collecting on the lawn. Julia and Lindsay ran out to join us. Then Rose. Then, all of us were out there, even Ann. We laughed hysterically, hugged, danced, sang various rain-themed songs (“Fool in the Rain” was stuck on repeat in my head). I shed some tears of happiness, but they were washed away as quickly as they came. When the sky thundered at us, we laughed and yelled back at it. All the anger, all the sadness, all the tension was summarily cleansed.

What followed was a ridiculous evening of screaming and dancing, soaking wet, in the kitchen of Wings of Hope, along to a compilation of Shania Twain, Spice Girls, Smash Mouth, and other godawful/fantastic 90s hits playing from someone’s iPhone. The undergrads, understandably frightened, cowered in a room nearby, with eyes begging “Please get me out of here!” We couldn’t have cared less. Our minds were clean.

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