So, clearly, I wasn’t super great about blogging throughout the summer. And then, to top it all off, I got incredibly sick right at the end of the trip, and never really had the capacity to think about my last few days there…other then to hope to get home. I still don’t quite feel like it’s all over. Or that I was even there to begin with. But today, I re-read the last major post that I wrote on my personal blog, and thought that maybe I’d share it. It’s a bit out of order for the timeline of this blog, as we all wrapped up in Sarajevo over a month ago. But hopefully, it relays a bit of my own personal experience (prior to the insanity of getting really sick), because it was so incredibly rich. Here goes.
Until the lions tell their tale, the story of the hunt will glorify the hunters.
Sincerest apologies for my extended absence. I assure you, all continues to be well in Sarajevo (it’s rainy and gray and London-y right now, and I love it). Hopefully the pictures have made up a tiny bit for the lack of posts, as I haven’t had the time or capacity to put all the thoughts mulling around in my head for the better part of two weeks into the appropriate words. What’s new, right? We’ll see how this goes (and how many times I go back and edit and re-edit it).
PCRC’s annual youth conference was held over the weekend of 14-16 July. The conference was intended to highlight stories of moral courage, and to educate youth as to how they can participate in the dissemination of such stories via the use of media. All in all, the weekend went off with out a hitch. Well, I suppose there were some minor hitches, but for the most part, they only contributed to the overall success of the conference, thanks to the flexibility and perseverance of my lovely colleagues. It was excellent. The conference ended with a spontaneous discussion amongst the students about their thoughts regarding the conference, the future, and their (our) role in it all. In that moment, I couldn’t help but wonder at the incredible people, stories, films, photo exhibitions and the like that I had encountered in such a short space of time. It was a blur, but it was deeply moving.
Among the conference’s panelists were James and Stephen Smith, the brothers and brains behind Aegis Trust, a British NGO devoted to genocide awareness and prevention. After listening to bits and pieces of both of their presentations (they were at the same time on the same day), I knew that I somehow needed to talk to them. Sure enough, once the events had wrapped up, I had the chance to sit with them for a few minutes and talk shop. Unfortunately for them, I was exhausted, idealistic, disillusioned, and desperately trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do with my life, right then and there. You know, the usual Christi’s-having-another-life-crisis conversation. Par for the course these days, right?
At one point, James stopped me (and what must have seemed like incessant and nonsensical rambling) and said, “Christi, you just have to start somewhere. Pick a project, and make it happen.” I smiled and chuckled, knowing that he of course was right, but still having no clue what that project would be because I want to do everything. I went home feeling pretty discouraged and woke up in the same state the next day. But a bit later, sitting over my macchiato and music at the Meeting Point, it hit me. I am where I am–right here, right now–because of the commitment I made to nonviolence back in college. And somehow, in between now and then, I ended up with this incredible teaching career and discovered that I love love LOVE working with youth and am passionate about excellent education. So why not put the two together? And there it was. My “start somewhere” project: a project that would aim to educate youth about nonviolent direct action–its history, theories, successes, pitfalls, you name it. That night, I pitched it to my fantastic supervisor, and ended up with the go-ahead to start work. I don’t know if anything will come of it, but as much as I try to be cautious with my expectations, I feel like this might really be something. At the very least, it’s not nothing.
Since then, I’ve walked around Sarajevo a bit differently. When I first arrived, I found myself hesitant to stare at the ever-present remnants of war for too long–the shelled-out buildings, the bullet holes, etc. And when I came across a shell crater in the ground, I would take great care to not walk on it out of respect and remembrance. As I’ve mentioned before, these reminders are not mine to own. And in unabashedly staring, or taking pictures, or plodding over them, I felt like merely an undiscerning and gawkish spectator. But this has changed. These reminders are still not mine in the same sense that they belong to those who live here, and lived through their inception and consequence. They never will be. But I’m also no longer afraid to take some ownership of them in a manner that is appropriate to my own scenario. I love this place and have quite a lot invested in being here. And now, having spent time getting to know the unique character of Sarajevo, I no longer feel like that ogling spectator. Maybe there really is the potential for me to meaningfully contribute to the place and people that I have grown to love. I don’t hesitate to look or even to stare. As for the shell craters? I now find myself unafraid to actively tromp right over them…not out of ignorance or delusion or passivity, but out of the feeling that maybe, just maybe, I really can do something divinely guided (however small) to prevent the violence from returning. This fills me with hope and confidence. I will never live in a manner that ignores the devastation that people can inflict on each other through the use of violence. But the fact that the experience of conflict might not be “mine” does not in anyway mean I need to shrink from focusing my future energy and every fiber of my being toward reconciliation, awareness and prevention. For now, regardless of where Cole and I end up, or what I’m supposed “to do” with my life, I can teach. And through education, I can actively take a nonviolent stand against those who perpetuate the ever-present myths of war.
James and Stephen Smith started with an idea to host a single exhibit in Nottingham to educate people about the Holocaust. From there, Aegis Trust grew. The story is actually quite incredible. As for my idea? There are no guarantees that anything will come of it.
But it’s not nothing. Although I can’t really explain why, this is deeply exciting.