Some of our kids who we worked with throughout the summer
Being the introvert that I am, I find myself finally having (somewhat) processed things from the trip and am now able to talk about them somewhat. I wish I had been able to stay in Sarajevo longer. By the time the 8 weeks were over, I felt like I had finally just found a routine and a way of making things work. I was getting to know people better from Bosnia and finally working toward creating deeper relationships, rather than the superficial relationships that form when you only know someone for a few weeks and rarely see them in that time. Luckily, I’ve been able to keep up some of these relationships through Facebook and email. I’ve frequently been emailing one of the adults from our adult English class and being able to have serious discussions with him through email. While it’s not an ideal way, it’s better than nothing. I’m fortunate to be able to not only keep helping him with his English but also to maintain that relationship and learn more about him and Bosnia in general.
I know when it was close to the end of our time in Bosnia, I was mostly ready to go. I knew that I would miss people and be sad to leave but I wanted to see family and friends and get back to “normal” life. Now, of course, I wish that I could go back and spend more time there. I think that I would have started to love the city more if I could have spent more time there. 8 weeks wasn’t nearly enough. I wish I could have had about 4 more weeks. Mind you, not necessarily 4 more weeks living in a communal setting but definitely 4 more weeks in the country and spending time with the people I got to know.
I wish I had gotten to know the people who I was working with better. I only really got to them know near the end and they were fabulous people. As much as I was against teaching English at the beginning of the trip (which I still have my doubts about), I don’t regret getting to know and have at least some impact on the people who I got to work with. As frustrating as it was at times (mostly with the teenagers), all of them are people who I know I will never forget and I hope they feel the same about me. I hope to some day get to make my way back over to Bosnia and see how much they have improved the overall situation and to visit the people who I formed relationships with. I’m not sure when that will be but getting to travel back at some point in my life and the relatively near future would be a fabulous gift.
Since I’ve done a horrible job at blogging this trip, I need to do a little bit of catching up. For this entire trip, I haven’t had too many complaints. I’ve had the usual “living with 15 other people sucks,” “things here are way different than I’m used to,” etc. etc. etc. However, the biggest frustration for me has been the language barrier. Anytime I’ve traveled to another country, I’ve had either an above average knowledge of the language (Spanish) or traveled with somebody who either knew the language or had lived in the country before and could travel around with ease. Here, not so much. Here, none of us really speak Bosnian that well and I definitely don’t. I’ve found that very frustrating. I want to be able to speak to people and get to hear their stories in their native language. Speaking to somebody in their native language is much more insightful than trying to speak to them in their second language. I know many of our adult English students have struggled with this as well, not being able to fully communicate what they mean. Because of all of this, the only regret I would have for this trip is the fact that I didn’t learn more Bosnian before this trip. I think I would have been able to learn more things and to hear somebody’s perspective better in their native tongue.
A little ironic that the day we have to blog ends up being one of my most challenging days of the trip. I started out the day just fine but then things went downhill. Dealing with issues with friends back home as well as battling the kids in our language class who presented a bigger challenge than usual, I was not too bright and cheery. Thanks to some fabulous comfort food (roasted chicken and baklava), as well as fun chatter and some entertaining coin collecting, I am (mostly) back to my chipper self. I’m definitely glad that on a trip like this, it’s easy to find a group of people to distract you and make you remember the good things!
I’ve been struggling with this blog, as is to be expected for me. I really do have a hard time writing for other people but I’m gonna give it a go.
For this trip, I’ve been having somewhat of a hard time. It has nothing to do with the people here, or Sarajevo itself, or even the whole internship itself. It’s been a result of one part of my internship: teaching English. In the past few months, as I’ve been struggling through the task of job hunting and sorting through every possibility out there, I’ve been faced with many opportunities to teach English in various countries across the globe. I had never really had a strong opinion of teaching English until these opportunities presented themselves. Once I thought about it, I came to the realization that I had an issue with going to these countries and teaching English; it has a feel of proselytizing and doing missionary work — forcing something onto these people that they aren’t really interested in but will do just to humor the outsiders. I haven’t wanted to really voice these thoughts. Coming here and realizing that was going to be the bulk of my internship, I’ve been struggling through everything.
However, today, with perfect timing that seems to only be possible in Bosnia (i.e. the perfect timing of everything on our rafting trip in Konjic), I was given a new perspective of the whole thing today that actually made me think and reevaluate the whole thing. I had heard before that people in Bosnia learning English is beneficially because it really makes them more employable, more outside opportunities, etc. I hadn’t really been convinced and bought into these answers and I still think that kind of oversimplifies it. But, today, I was talking to Maja, the supervisor from Wings of Hope. We’ve been struggling with the English classes for the teenagers at the center, mostly because, well, they’re teenagers. They’re not fully invested in being there and don’t have much desire to be in school when it’s summer. During our break with these kids today, Maja started to tell me the histories of these teenagers and giving me an opportunity to view everything from their perspective. Knowing what they’ve grown up with and being able to see just how intelligent they really are, despite their typical teenage behavior, helped me realize that while teaching English might be our actual activity, we have the opportunity to show these teenagers what life can be like and that they can be hopeful and stop seeing the future as full of crime and jail time. We can use this opportunity to influence them and hopefully play a small part in changing the direction of their lives down a more positive path. Now, even though they can be extremely frustrating and difficult, I actually find myself wanting to get to know them better and get to understand their lives.
I honestly can’t think of what to write about. I’m trying to just get used to everything still and absorb everything that’s been happening. It also probably doesn’t help that I’m feeling pretty introverted right now. I’m still processing everything that’s been going on and trying to figure out how I feel about it all. I’m not a big fan of writing for other people, which makes blogging a little difficult. I think I’ll get better at it over the next few weeks but at this point, it just feels too early for me.