Journal: Internship at CURE

This week we are supposed to write about our internship. This summer I worked with Foundation CURE, a feminist organization here in Sarajevo. Foundation CURE is a powerhouse of talent and activism. I am blown away by what this organization has accomplished with such little funding and support.

 

I spent the bulk of my internship researching artists and funding sources for the 2019 PitchWise festival. PitchWise is an annual feminist festival that brings artists and performers from all over the world to join together in a weekend of art and activism. It was interesting to learn about the women’s networks here in the Balkans. I knew of organizations in the South Pacific from my past work, so it was interesting connecting the dots in another area of the world. I also spent time researching, editing, and writing grant proposals for submission. I picked up grant writing as a skill randomly some years back, and haven’t looked back. Political Science and grant writing seems like a weird combination, but it somehow works. Anyways. I enjoy grant writing because I’m afforded the opportunity to learn all about an organization, and hopefully help create projects that benefit many people and communities. The moral of that short tale is that i’m extremely grateful for all of my internships and jobs that allow me to develop my grant writing skills and learn from others in the field.

 

During my short time with CURE i’ve learned many things. I’ve learned the importance of sharing a meal with coworkers and taking time to simply talk and build relationships with others. I’ve learned about the power of research… how projects and proposals are rarely funded without properly vetted research. I’ve had the privilege of attending a book launch in Tuzla (Tuzla round 3 for those keeping score) where members from CURE and the leading researcher presented their findings to the women’s group gathered there. Although I could not understand much, my coworker helped translate some, I could see that this research and event was important to many people in BiH. Being exposed to this much research has really impacted my plans for after GPB, in a positive way.

 

I’m grateful to the organization for taking me under their wing and sharing their stories and creative space with me. Feeling grateful for the coffee and tea time over cookies and other assorted snacks. I’m grateful to the people i’ve met at my internship, and the connections i’ve made here. I’m glad I trusted the system.

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Week 7: Writer’s Choice “I’m on a boat”

 

This week I chose to write about my rafting adventure in Konjic, on the Neretva River. Konjic is roughly an hour away from Mostar, and the location of Tito’s top secret bunker back in the day. It feels like yesterday we were touring the bunker, and here we are nearing the end of our program. We started the day off with a breakfast of fluffy donuts and the best cheese. After I consumed my fair share we scrambled off to find the rest of our tour group. We changed into our wetsuits (that was a struggle bus) and carried the boat down to the water (at this point the boat carried me… oh well) and we set off on our rafting adventure.

The water was beautiful. I know that sounds trite, but it was. I could see all the way to the bottom of the lake. The guide tried his best to explain the “rules of the water”, mostly in Bosnian. We figured if it was really important he would say something in English. We quickly discovered that when something was coming up when the guide said “big”, and nothing else. The best way I can describe our rafting adventure is a cross between a peaceful lazy river and bracing for the possibility of running into a rock, or flying out of the boat. The Neretva is very popular this time of year, and I enjoyed people watching. It was cool seeing people and children of all ages outside exploring nature. I was amazed at how the guides would just chill at the front of the boat side saddle, with nothing but a rope around their waist for support. We eventually took a break and feasted on chocolates, bananas, and assorted snacks. I think the funniest part of the day was approaching a rapid with a man just straight chillin in the water, and us trying to dodge him, the seagulls, and not fly out of the boat.

Once we approached shore I was pretty happy. We said goodbye to our new Bosnian friends and waited for the guide to take us to the bus station. We were on a time crunch, and i was getting nervous that we would miss our bus. One of the themes I keep finding here during my time in Bosnia-Herzegovina is that things end up working out one way or another-that I should focus more on what is happening now and less about 623 months from now. Surprise- we ended up making the bus and headed back to Sarajevo.

Although I was apprehensive about rafting (hello, flying out of the boat), i’m glad I went. Here’s to trying new things and going on more adventures. Sorry there are no photos, I couldn’t risk my phone flying out of the boat too.

Journal 6: Photograph of the day

 

 

Journal 6: Photograph of the day

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For this week we had select a photograph and write about it. I decided to pick a picture from my trip this past weekend to Montenegro. I went with a few of my friends from the program here and we had a fun time exploring the cities of Kotor and Budva. In Kotor we walked around the city, which was surrounded by cats, and even went to a cat museum! The cats are apparently descendants of cats who were on the trading ships back in the day that were left behind. In Budva I wasn’t feeling very well, but I did manage to take this photo. I also had some amazing Pad Thai there too… who knew. Throughout Montenegro we were greeted by winding narrow streets and green doors. I’m not sure why I became so obsessed with the doors, but alas. 

 

Anyways, so I chose this photo because I feel that it represents my summer here in Bosnia-Herzegovina… with the door representing all of the opportunities I’ve had and experienced on this trip. I’ve met new DU people from a range of disciplines, worked at an amazing feminist organization, and met some truly amazing people along the way. I’ve had the chance to visit Tito’s bunker, the war crimes court, and go on a crazy hike in the rain in Lukomir. I had the chance to attend the Srebrenica burial that occurs every July, and visit Srebrenica genocide- the failure of the international community and memorial. I’ve visited the ICMP center in Tuzla and met Ramis, the bone man, whose takes time out of his day to collect remains from people who were killed during the genocide.

 

All of this to say is that this trip has opened many doors for me. From shifting my focus away *momentarily* from the South Pacific, I’ve gained a broader perspective on development and what that looks like here in BiH. I’m grateful that I randomly stumbled upon the Global Practice Bosnia handout with Kovaci’s shining face on it and decided to apply, even though the deadline was way long gone. So here’s to new opportunities and life experiences here in BiH. 

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Journal 4: Srebrenica

Journal 4: Srebrenica

 

So, this blog post has taken an estimated 300 years to write.  Everytime I try to put words together it doesn’t seem to fully convey my experience visiting the Srebrenica memorial and hearing from the survivors. So i’m just going to describe what I took away from the experience.

 

Day 1- Tuzla

On the first day we visited the organizer of the Mothers of Srebrenica. Walking into her office space was very striking. Her walls were covered with photos of the men and boys who were killed at Srebrenica. She showed us how her organization kept meticulous records of photographs and banners sewn by the families who lost loved ones in the genocide. We then attended a talk on restorative justice, and then heard from Hasan’s cousin, who is a nurse who shared her story of surviving the death march. I was struck by her story. It made me think of my mom and how she is in the medical field.

 

On the second day we visited the Srebrenica memorial and museum at the site of the battery factory, that was turned into a UN Safe Zone during the war. The safe zone was not safe and many people lost their lives due to the UNs incompetence and ignorance. The museum is striking for many reasons. One of the reasons that Ann always mentions is the power of place.The museum is the same place where many people were forever separated from their loved ones. The museum is divided into 3 parts. 1) UN/peacekeepers, 2) srebrenica and 3) followed the life story of a young boy who was killed at Srebrenica, which I found to be a really effective way to unpack and explain the events which followed. After we explored the museum we dealt with feelings and had a picnic lunch. We went to Saliha’s for dinner. Saliha is a magical person. She is a survivor of Srebrenica and lost her husband and sons during the genocide. She shared her home and home with us. I will not forget her kind spirit or hospitality. I hope she knows that she has people thinking about her.

 

On day 3 we went back to the memorial and met with two other survivors, Nora and Mafia. They are precious and badass ladies. They completed the Peace March with a few other people from my group. After we met with them we walked around the battery factory which featured photographs and other things from the war. One thing that struck me in particular was the black space that contained belongings from people who were killed during the genocide. Reading the bios really struck me. The one account that stuck in my head was of the old man who was last seen by his neighbors crying and looking for his family. It made me think of my grandpa, who turned 81 yesterday, and it broke my heart. After that we visited Rami, the bone collector. He is a farmer who also helps people find closure. He has found over 200 bodies in the hills above his home. He doesn’t receive any compensation from the government, but instead does it to help families. He talked about all of the clothing and articles that remain in the trees, some 20 years on. When we visited Tuzla the next week the ICMP talked about how helpful he was. It was definitely a weekend of feelings and I’m beyond grateful to everyone who shared their stories with us.

 

Journal #3: Srebrenica

Journal #3: Srebrenica

 

Last weekend we visited Srebrenica to commemorate the lives lost in the genocide, where over 8,000 people, mostly Bosniak men and boys were killed. I’m not the best at feelings, and don’t really know what to say, so I wrote this.

 

Seeing the white headstones, all in a line

Rain falling throughout the town

Examining what was left of the town, burned out buildings and graffiti

Burning up in the sun/Blemish on the U.N

Racking my brain with how such evil exists in the world

Embarking on a walk to the cemetery and memorial center

Never again

I don’t know what else to say…

Coffins, draped in a green cloth

Anxiously waiting the return of the Peace Marchers

 

Nestled in the town, over run spas remain

Exchanging stories and enjoying dinner with the Peace Marchers and people from all walks of life

Viewing the coffins, being brought into the cemetery from the battery factory

Enforcing the barricades to the cemetery

Renouncing hate in all its forms

 

Feeling a haunting presence in the battery factory, where many lives were lost

Organizing thoughts and feelings

Reflecting on the lives lost in the genocide

Getting a ride back out of the cemetery

Enjoying the company at Annessa’s

Together we remember the lives lost

Journal #2: Free Write- A Place at the Table

Journal #2: Free Write

 

For this week’s topic, it was free choice, so I decided to write about the hospitality I have encountered during my short time here in Bosnia-Herzegovina. No matter where you go in Bosnia, you will be treated to coffee (Kavah/Kafa) or tea (chai), often accompanied by cookies or chocolates. My favorite tea so far is called grandmother’s soul. If i’m not mistaken I think it’s a version of Thyme tea. It’s magical and comforting, whatever it is. All of the chocolates are my favorite. 

 

At my internship, we start the day with tea and coffee, and take breaks to socialize and share a meal with each other. Everyone brings something, and somehow it ends up being enough for everyone at the office. I have really come to appreciate this time of socializing and sharing with my coworkers. It reminds me of the magic wardrobe in the hostel- there is always something for someone in need.

 

Another instance of sharing and hospitality I encountered this week is when the group (who did not participate in this years Peace March), drove down to Srebrenica (more on that next week) to meet up with the Peace marchers and commemorate the lives lost in the genocide in July 1995. At Annessa’s Guest House (where we stayed), we were greeted by the most gracious family. They had essentially turned their house into a hostel, and hosted people from all over the world. Their house was especially busy during the Srebrenica memorial time (the weekend we were there). Anyways, what I wanted to talk about in this blog is the dinner table. After a day of traveling from Sarajevo we put our belongings down in our room and moseyed along to the dinner table in Annessa’s living room/kitchen. It was a spread… pasta, chicken, fresh tomatoes, a delicious veggie soup, fresh bread and pita. You name it and it was there. So we stuff our faces with the wonderful meal, the Peace Marchers stuff their faces… some of Anne’s friends show up (notably Hasan Hasanović, friend and supporter of the DU program), show up… and there is still enough food for everyone. It was mind blowing. Did I mention how delicious the food was? It was really nice to gather around the table and simply have a conversation with people (without people checking their phones every 5 seconds…wow, I sound like i’m 90 years old) and hearing about their connections to Bosnia and what the Peace March and this time means to them. I enjoyed listening to the different languages and accents flowing around the table. I felt like I was at my grandparents house in TN, but instead I was world’s away at a guesthouse in Bosnia. It’s a weird feeling to explain because I was only there for 2 days, but I definitely learned from my time at Annessa’s. Maybe because it reminded me of my grandparents house. How they always make sure that everyone has something to eat. The Southern hospitality. How the mother worked and prepped all day to create a meal for us. She also made breakfast for us the next day, before we left to observe the burial at the cemetery. I wish people in the States would share more. Share their time, energy, and meals with other people. I’m not talking communism (we know how that ended) but just recognizing the humanity we all share.

Thanks for reading through the rambles.

 

Dovidenja.

 

Blog #1: First Impressions

First impressions.

 

My first impression of Bosnia-Herzegovina was, “Where will I find a jacket for this never ending rain?”. After several attempts moonlighting as a old Hollywood actress with my pashmina draped over my head, I finally broke down and bought a cardigan that I could use as a jacket. The moral of that tale is that I did not expect the rain, much as I did not expect the different architecture styles here. It was interesting walking around with our guide and seeing the Ottoman style buildings and Austro-Hungarian buildings co-exist in the old city. It’s interesting to see the city slowly rebuilding after the war, with scars and all. It was exciting to ride in the cable cars, that just recently reopened after being destroyed by the war. The city is slowly putting itself back together after a devastating war and countless suffering. It’s interesting to see the graffiti on the buildings and remnants from the Olympic games, from the eternal flame that I pass everyday on my walk to my internship, to the bobsled run… that was used as a “sniper’s nest” during the war. Also, we visited the Sarajevo History Museum, and toured the collection of artifacts donated and collected from members of the community who lived through the siege during the war.

 

More impressions.

 

When I went to my internship at the CURE Foundation and was greeted by Vedrana, I was immediately put at ease with her easy going nature. We had a tea called Grandmother’s Soul, that I really enjoyed, and finally tracked down at the grocery store. The smell is really calming and relaxing. Ann was saying how the tea always reminds her of Bosnia. The work I will be completing at my internship is similar to my past work with the Talitha Project in Tonga, so I’m excited to see how all of that comes together. I am excited to learn more about what feminism looks like in a post-conflict society such as Bosnia-Herzegovina. The CURE foundation serves as an outlet for the promotion of human rights and feminism throughout the country. The foundation organizes multiple festivals and outreach events throughout the year, and I am thankful that I’m able to work on their largest event- PitchWise. PitchWise is an annual festival which celebrates women’s art and activism here in Bosnia-Herzegovina. During my time at the organization, I have spent my time editing grant proposals and educational materials. The most important thing I have been trying to do is form relationships with my coworkers and supervisors. I like how we start the day with tea and coffee time, and take a break for lunch to share food and talk about our day so far. I’m enjoying my internships focus on community, and how the organization steps in and helps people who are marginalized in society.

 

It’s interesting to see the old contrasting with the new here in Sarajevo, from the new hotels and malls, to the old city with the coppersmiths who have been in business for over 400 years. From the “Sarajevo roses”, some that are original and others that were newly reconstructed after the war to the cable cars, things are slowly rebuilding here and taking shape once more. It was interesting seeing how the Ottoman bath was turned into a marketplace that is used today.

 

A final takeaway for this rambling blog, is that I really appreciate the cafe culture here in Bosnia-Herzegovina. I love that you can spend the day in a coffee shop or cafe engrossed in a book or hanging out with your friends, without any pressure to leave. We visited a tea shop run by a kind old man who looks like a magician and he was so friendly and knowledgeable about his tea products and I can’t wait to go back to see what magic his tea shop holds.

 

Well, you made it this far through the rambles.

 

Dovidenja!