Mission accomplished!

It was a life time mission and on personal level the summer in Bosnia was one of the best summers I have ever had.  In this post I tried to conclude my thoughts, goals and achievements through all the trip phases as follows:

Pre-arrival thoughts and goals:

thoughts~

-I thought Sarajevo has one main street and one or two cafes!

-A destroyed city and very depressed people

-Very poor living conditions

-Unsafe to go anywhere.

-and finally A war zone full of land mines!

Goals~

-Try to cope with any circumstances I encounter

-Help as much as possible investing in any chance

-Be patient and avoid complaining

Post-arrival thoughts:

-I was in love with Sarajevo

-Plans should be changed to fit expanded goals

-More emotionally tensed being targeted and discriminated racially

-Sensitivity and emotionally involvement with war victims was highly present

-Work expectations are less than planned

-Diet constraints should be held for further notice

-Trams were full of Hygiene atheists

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-super nice people who were willing to help in all means and ways

-Facebook address is necessary to be handy, most people from first meeting ask about my Facebook account name

Midway mind’s talks:

-People are awesome but they don’t look like it, so you need to interact

-overcome any racial issues wherever you feel different

-Go out as much as I can and socialize more instead of getting stuck on my laptop after internship

-Peace march was a life time experience for me walking around 70 miles in three days however I felt little bit uncomfortable being privileged over locals

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-Ramadan was so hard, so fasting in the summer was super tough but people were fasting and working

-I need to go out and explore more things

-Ticket control officers on the trams were so racists and they picked me all the time between all the passengers just because I was colorly distinguishable

-giving even small things to the people is very well appreciated

-People say to me most of the time “Arkadash” thinking I am turkish

Pre-departure situation:

-Time flew so fast

-some places need to be checked out

-no time for sickness but I missed the last family dinner because I was really sick 😦

-gifts need to be bought ASAP

-I needed my Bosnian flag to be signed

-Thinking of my sick grand mom and aunt but soon to meet them

Major learned lessons from the trip:

-People are lovely and friendly by nature

-War did horrible things to innocent Bosnians but they are still optimistic

-War victims are abandoned mostly on their own unless far cousins or old friends support them occasionally

genocide in BiH was underestimated all those years and facts about what happened should be widely told to the unfortunately deaf world

-It’s very disappointing how other parties in BiH still deny the genocide and the massacres happened in 1992-1995

-BiH borders should be open to the world to witness and assist, being closed is not helping at all

Government is very corrupted and serious actions by the international community should be responsible as they created this complicated system

-It was awesome meeting the Bosniak president of BiH, the Saudi ambassador, minister of defense, the former US ambassador during the war, US Cultural attaché, all immigration officials and many other people who I couldn’t meet in normal circumstances.

-I am grateful for the life conditions I have besides safety, nice big family, secure awesome childhood and all the things I have been enjoying all my life until now in which others have had lost everything and suffered a lot even for the basics to live, Thanks Allah for everything!

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Family # 3

Being hesitant while I was in Denver when I was asked to decide on my internship is normal but never thought the healthy aging center in a post-conlfict country would have been that much fun.  I prioritized the other three options over this center but my destiny was decided to be with the healthy aging center despite all the effort to join the others instead.  I was raised around my grand parents hence I loved them so much and love all elderlies generally but I wasn’t sure elderlies who suffered a war would be as the same as the ones who had not.  It was a rocking experience since the first day at the center, I danced and sang with them and it was incredible time. 

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Further, my friends at the internship became my family # 3 following my biological family numbered 1 and my Bosnia group friends from DU is family # 2. 

The work that I was supposed to do at the center was purely technical but I attempted to expand it to be in touch with the members and it was unbelievably fantastic!

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I was astonished how much I was loved by all the members in the center especially when they started offering me their help to find a Bosnian soulmate for me, however I was not really ready for that.  Also,  a lot of presents and appreciation souvenirs were given to me when they knew I was leaving the center even the manager (Sedjifa) who was so awesome and lovely.  I am really touched and still appreciate their kindness even though  I have done nothing extraordinary to them except chatting, smiling and drinking Bosnian kafa with them plus I was trying to deliver a message of love and peace.  Even after I left, some of them still keeping in touch and expressing their gratitude.  I miss, love and wish the best for all of them and as I promised I would visit them back in Sarajevo, hopefully soon!

Full moon is rising*

BiH is the only place in Europe, maybe in the world, that has hosted and welcomed repeatedly for centuries all ethnicities despite any kind of differences.  Wars have been severely damaging but the country survives every time by its dedicated people who sacrificed looking for the best of the coming. 

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In this picture, a catholic church, an orthodox church, a mosque and small jewish temple hidden in the dark somewhere on the left all are lightened signs of the beautiful involvement and coexistence between humans regardless of their backgrounds.  A path where people walk, shop, smile, cry, chat, flirt, relax, read, work, eat, drink, etc, is called “Baščaršija”.  You just cant tell who’s who because simply there’s no difference, all are the same!  Hatreds is an evil feeling hidden in the souls that were raised by ill supervision or miss educating but not in the humans nature or innate.  The full moon on the right is rising and brining hopes to the city and it people.  the dark is around and been seen everywhere since the past is dark though the moon represents the future that it is bright and vivid as I believe Bosnia will be one day!

Silent Graves’ Memories (3)

Never thought while I was in the States reading about the Bosnian war in the nineties that it would have been much more painful in reality than just reading or listening about it.  First breaking I have had when the crowd was walking silently down the hills to Potocari memorial where people were ready to bury another group of 174 victims remainings found lately in a one of the mass graves in east part of BiH. It was a shock for me seeing women weeping their sons or husbands lost in the woods twenty years ago but hope had not stopped until the remainings identified and hence it was the time to face the bitter truth of loss. Also, I thought it was because of being really tired after a couple of days of walking but actually it was not, however I guess it is naturally and emotionally involving for any one who could see such sorrowful scene.  The second breaking was when a mourned mother and wife was telling her story of last moments with her two sons and her husband, furthermore she shockingly saw them on news for the last time. 

20140718_172508 This strong believer and a great mother is Saliha who lives just walking distance from Serbs borders and small towns which are visible from her yard, she was along with her family living peacefully as farmers until Serbs attacked them and forced them to leave in the 1992 claiming the holly day of Serbs.  Her family fled to Srebrenicna for the UN protection or as it was known “SAFE ZONE”, in contrast it was the “KILLING ZONE” after families were separated by gender but unfortunately her husband and sons were killed running for their lives.  Saliha lives alone since she has no family anymore but she was energetically cooking different kinds of food and desserts for a group 15 people coming to her house even though she was fasting in a hot long day, it was a wonderful day of hospitality. 

20140718_125944Then she started to talk about her experience and her last moments with painful memories, thus it was another breaking down for most of our group since she was crying a bit and serving Bosnian Kafa just seconds after.  She is a symbol of patience and an amazing woman in all means, I cant imagine how she has been through horrible situations and still has faith and hope. Saliha deserves to be helped and surrounded by warm feelings of love, and just to keep in mind war and conflicts give birth to many other Salihas everyday around the globe just they need who could listen to their stories.

Silent Graves’ Memories (2)

From the first time I heard about the Peace March while I was Denver, I wanted eagerly to participate no matter what the outcomes are.  So, after spending a sad day in Srebrenica, my friends and I headed to the camp where we will catch up on the second day of the peace march.  Muhammedovic, a Srebrenican survivor and well-known activist in Bosnia, has helped us always and all the time to get there and even arranged our stay because of his strong relationships with authorities around the country.  We got a private army assistance; it was not all about Muhammed, it was in fact the pure souls of Bosnians.  Being privileged group between all the people who were participating, was unpleasant at all though we had no option to refuse it, if so otherwise it could have been real rude and disrespectful.  We have listened to real life stories from the army soldiers and enjoyed our first night between them getting offered all different kinds of drinks and food.  6 a.m. was the time to start the peace march where I was full of energy and enthusiasm after a rainy night.

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I have learned, broadly speaking, that Bosnians are unbelievably friendly and willing to help whenever and wherever needed despite the fact of the difficult life they face.  Many of the peace march participants were Bosnians and they wanted to chat even though there’s a language barrier sometimes. I found wounds fingerprinted every moment along the walking through small towns, massacre areas, graves and all land marks I crossed by.  They are no enough words to explain how sad it was seeing all the execution places where innocent people just killed even bodies removed by cranes to hide the scene repeatedly.  Awful scenes from painful past all along the way but courageous and full hope people are along the way as well.  To Be Continued! 

Silent Graves’ Memories (1)

On the way to Srebrenica, I have felt myself being in a heaven or even a paradise observing the amazing vivid portraits of the mother nature on everything my eyes’ grasps.  Bosnian drivers usually are efficiently good but hazardous and scary regardless of the road conditions.  Arriving safely to Srebrenica is completely another story where abandoned houses and building would the first welcoming sights of the wounded city  since where most people have been leaving it since 1993!

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Never felt the same way of fear in my whole life as I did when my first walking around the streets in the city of dreams where it was a tourism designation due to its popular spas and gorgeous mountains.  Few people still live in Srebrenica but most of them are just visiting during the summer as memorial for their beloved ones who killed or even dead abroad and loved to come back.  Sadly, people are divided as well as the whole country in this small city; so Serbs don’t interact with Bosnians and so on, which has been ruining the norms of life in BiH and all its parts in general.  Unhappiness was a clear feature in most people’s faces; especially elderlies even though they were trying to hide it somehow. While we were there, my friends and I tried to discover the source of orange colored river that runs from a mountain to the city, we traced it and found big Spa buildings nearby the source of the river where these buildings have been under constructions for years and still not finished!

A school where people were congregated and killed is an alive mark in the haunted city but a painful one. 

It seems from the half day “tour” in Srebrenica that abroad residents have tried repeatedly to come back after the war by rebuilding the destructed city but for some reason they were not successful.  

Srebrenica is a forgotten place of the world where only its people wont forget, filled with memories and massacre sites all over the place witnessing how ruthless human beings could be when they loose their pure innocent humanity. 

I hate you Ms. Bosnia!

Well, I hate the bureaucracy by officials and the government in BiH not the lovely kind people where I see their gorgeous smiles everyday.  Dr. Anna and I have been incredibly overwhelmed by my visa issue since I was required to leave BiH.  Carrying a Saudi passport seems a nightmare to me however we enjoyed the Saudi embassy stunning VIP guest room where we’ve been regular guests recently.  The Saudi ambassador was so cooperative and has done great deal of help and assistance where they offered many services and we were given rides on their diplomatic cars and interpreters.  Croatia was awesome especially beachy Makarska because I had to go there to renew my stay permit of seven days period by leaving and reentering BiH. 20140629_135247

I was called “Arab man” out of the bus with my luggage in the border of Croatia and BiH, people in the bus thought I was sort of a terrorist guy 😦  , but they cheered me with thumbs up when I came back to the bus which was a relief.  I will never ever forget how I am loved by my awesome friends, I am really touched and words cant express my feelings toward all of you, I just LOVE YOU ALL.  Anyway, I am feeling much better going to Zagreb on sunday to get my BS stamp from there then I’ll be good the whole summer. I cant miss saying the astonishing views on the way to and from Croatia still in my mind as a fairy tale.  I missed Sarajevo and its beautiful coffee shops, streets, mountains and above all of that the nice people.  So, this whole experience is completely a contrast of how mostly the rest of countries around the world deal with foreigners in dignity, justice, and convenience but BiH is absolutely an exception.

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I’m in love Ms. Bosnia!

I’ve known Bosnia and especially Sarajevo since I was 8 years old where all the media was talking about the bloody war against powerless civilians who were killed horribly, even I remember quite well old women weeping in the streets with very sad song in the background theme.  All my imaginations about this part of the world was destruction and scary tall apartment buildings with visible bullets wholes on their walls!  

Further, when I was in the train in Frankfort on my way to the airport to fly to Sarajevo, I wasn’t completely optimistic about this journey.

However, I fell in love even before I step out of the plane 🙂

It was gorgeous view from the sky, amazing mountains and finally Akram was super nice guy who gave me a great impression about the people in this lovely country. 

On my first day in Bosnia even I was not sleeping for 40 hours continuously, I could make it to eat in Han, have made two new friends, drank their natural herbal tea at an authentic tea shop and try homemade vanilla ice cream on the street. I couldn’t waste a minute even I was so tired and walking like a zombie!

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I love going out and feeling sick if I get stuck indoors for long time, so you might find me hanging out all the time except to sleep!

On my second day, our group took an awesome tour to a mosque, two cathedrals and an old orthodox all around our hostel, I tried to pray for solving my problems on these spots as people here do but still no luck! hahaIMG_20140623_180630

The third day was charm, I woke up early after a nice symphony played by my roomy during the night then went to meet my internship supervisors.  It was a cool meeting with promising discussion for better outcome hopefully.  I am excited and enthusiastic to give even more than being asked or at least bring something new to the group where I work. 

I am confident in this trip more than ever to be great and looking forward for the next days adventures.