Bosnia, first impressions

Arriving in Bosnia has so far given me many moments of just simple pleasure from the atmosphere, people, and scenery, to working to grasp the evidence of history as we move through Sarajevo. I am frequently thinking about the war and people’s experiences within the time frame of my own lifetime. Such as, I was this many years old when the tunnel was being used. Or when seeing shelling damage on buildings, how life goes on and with balancing the aftermath of war, and if my family and had lived through this would we repair the hard to reach wall of our house. I don’t think we would.

The first moment of really feeling like I had arrived in a new country, was when I walked out of the hotel and through the market place. I have decided that small, pedestrian streets, like the market place, bring me a lot of joy. Seeing the architecture, public water fountains, craft work, and people gathered eating feels lively and I intend to take the time to slow down and look more. I have a few souvenirs in mind that I plan to acquire. I know I will enjoy having items in my living space to remind me of my time here.

Before coming to Sarajevo, we viewed documentaries about the siege, and saw images of the hills. In stopping at a point that was used by snipers, it is odd to experience a beautiful view from a vantage point where someone sat inflicting violence on those below. Yet at the same time, this is probably one of the reasons why people love this city, and built houses going up the hills. In a similar way, walking along the bobsled run shows how shortly before the war this was where the Olympics were held. What did it feel like to live through the pride of hosting this world event to not having the international community intervene during war and genocide? How does that shape a country’s sense of global community?

Today we started with lectures from the school of social work. Personally, I have just begun to learn how to really affect change in my own political system, so it is so interesting to learn about Bosnia’s, and how such recent history created its structure. I really appreciated how engaged the lecturers were with us, and their willingness to take their time for American students. I think the exchange between social work communities is so important, as we can learn from Bosnia’s strengths and challenges, especially as the United States is in a place of political instability and injustice. In discussing social problems, such as interpersonal violence or segregation between social groups, I don’t think the problems are so different from what is happening in the United States, however there are different systems to navigate or protective factors present, and the events that exacerbated or shaped these problems played out differently.

Another moment that struck me was when we went to dinner. There was a table nearby with a large group. At this table musicians were playing, and most of those at the table sang and moved along to the music. Seeing multiple generations gathered and enjoying the music together felt different than what I experience in my own life. I appreciated seeing that group of people together enjoying the same music without the apathy that I think Americans can express when gathered in mixed age groups.

Lastly, I want to reflect on the food. As a vegetarian, it can be interesting to travel and find what options are available. I am enjoying the selection of cheeses and stopping for gelato. We’ll see how many tiny spoons I collect by the end of this trip as memorabilia from each frozen treat I enjoy.

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