I’m writing this final blog post from the comforts of my apartment in Denver. It’s been a week since I arrived back in the states and I will say that it has been a whirlwind adjusting to the American lifestyle. My journey back to the United States wasn’t exactly the smoothest sailing. My flight from Istanbul to Chicago was delayed by 4 hours, which meant that I would be missing my connecting flight in Chicago to Denver. As I was surrounded by dozens of my fellow passengers who were angry about the predicament that we were in, I was strangely very calm and relaxed. Albeit, after a whole summer of being abroad, I wanted to be home in my own bed as soon as possible, but the easy-going Bosnian lifestyle definitely rubbed off on me. I knew that it doesn’t help my situation if I were to respond angrily towards the people working at the airline transfer desk. So instead, I did what I imagined most Bosnians would’ve done – found the nearest café, ordered a cappuccino, and waited.
I never would’ve imagined how much of an impact Sarajevo (as well as the rest of Bosnia) would have on me in such a short period of time. I remember telling a friend on my last day that I couldn’t clearly remember what life was like before living in Sarajevo. I grew used to the simplicity of being able to walk or take public transportation to my internship and to most other places. Since being back in Denver, I’ve had to drive to complete all my errands as no stores are in walking distance and taking public transportation isn’t feasible. I grew to love the frequent cups of Bosnian coffee and I was dismayed when I came to realize that the American coffee was not as delicious as I remembered it to be. I miss seeing the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables at various stands and the mesmerizing smells of the numerous pekaras (bakeries) that I would pass on my way to my internship. I miss my daily walks past the nearby cathedral and through Bašcaršija.
At the risk of sounding like a cliché, my time in Sarajevo and Bosnia in general has been both life-changing and eye-opening. Before this year, I barely even knew anything about Bosnia aside that it was a part of the former Yugoslavia and that Sarajevo was the site of Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination. As I learned more about the war and the genocide that took place, I also learned how strong and resilient the people of Bosnia are. What amazes me the most is the non-aggressive manner in which the survivors spoke of their ordeals. I feel that if I was in their shoes, I wouldn’t know if I would be able to reach a point where I can recall my trauma in the same calm and collected state. What has stuck with me the most is when one of the survivors I met mentioned that there has not been a reported incident of revenge. Instead, countless survivors disclosed that their children and grandchildren have been their ultimate revenge because it is a visual demonstration of their continued existence and the furtherance of future generations.
As a side project for this summer, I interviewed individuals at my internship about something they are proud of. My idea behind this was to highlight the positives because in my own opinion, most of my peers and the people I have met along my travels are only aware of the war and genocide in Bosnia. They don’t know much else about Bosnia. But after spending two months living in Sarajevo, I know that there is so much more to Bosnia than just the pain, tragedy, and violence. As a result, I believe that the least I could do to pay back the generosity that I have received is to show the rest of the world the Bosnia that I had the privilege of seeing.