Within days of arriving in Sarajevo, I was put in the position of justifying my going to the Sarajevo Tunnel of Hope to my supervisor, E. I was totally not prepared for this, first because I had only met E on one prior occasion and was surprised that he would be so aggressive and rude to someone he had just met. More importantly though, I was shocked by his overall reaction to our trip there in general. In my mind, the Tunnel is a symbol of strength, ingenuity, and people’s ability to overcome. I did not expect our going there to be seen as a bad thing, but to E it was. In his mind it was offensive that one of first things our group did was to see something about war because there is more to Bosnia and specifically Sarajevo than the war. I think I am able to look at the tunnel from simply a positive position because I can see the good it did without any of the negative emotions that people from Sarajevo also probably associate with it, such as fear and desperation. After all, when E discusses the tunnel, he also mentions how his father used it during the war to go and fight and how every time he left E would be left to wonder if he would ever see him again.
This week has been a both frustrating and disappointing for me. Since beginning my internship, I have worked hard to try and bring some order and structure to the organization. It has been tough going at first because the lack of a relationship and trust didn’t make the most welcoming work environment. Then there was how both supervisors had jobs, sometimes multiple ones, outside of the organization thus making scheduling a nightmare from time to time.
As the summer progressed however the first issue resolved itself and to a certain extent so did the second, that is until this past week. Last week, after meeting with E, it was decided that the three of us would come together next Wednesday to create an action plan for the up coming year. This made my day! I was so excited to see the organization moving in such a positive direction and to have to opportunity to be a part of it. However, as Wednesday approached it quickly became apparent that the meeting would not be happening.
Scheduling and communication are two elements that have been a constant problem all summer long. As it stands now, L & E have too much work in terms of both their MOBA work and their outside jobs. I guess, if one is to have a problem, this is the kind to have, yet it makes things like running and developing the organization problematic/challenging as well.
I feel partly responsible for setting them on this path, which is why I am sad not to have the opportunity to see it through to the end with them. Who knows when our paths will cross again though. After all, E just said the 21st (the day i am back in sarajevo before leaving for Belgrade) could be made into a deadline for something.
This picture isn’t the best one I’ve taken on this trip. It isn’t my prettiest nor my most interesting, but I’ve picked it to talk about because of what it represents to me.
It isn’t a big secret that my internship got off to a rocky start. I thought one of my supervisors was an ass and I really didn’t know how I was going to work with him for eight weeks. Yet, after some brooding and a lot of bitching, I decided I wasn’t going to let his crummy attitude and my resulting anger set the tone for the summer and/or our relationship. There is nothing I like more in life than a challenge and so I set out to get this guy to like me, but more importantly respect me.
I like to say I’m a bit of a brat, but it is probably more honest or reasonable to say I’m ornery. I like to use humor to poke and prod at people because regardless of the differences that separate us, laughter can almost always be a common denominator. With that in mind, I treated this supervisor like I would anyone else in my life. I teased, I joked and slowly I wormed my way in.
This picture is special to me because it represents a shift in the tide of the relationship between this man and myself. His offering to take Zabrina and I to where it was taken was our first tentative footsteps towards friendship.
When Srebrenica is talked about, rarely is it done so without the tagline “worst genocide to take place in Europe since the end of World War II” being added some where along the line. While I know this statement is accurate, I find it offensive.
War, genocide, murder are all ugly reminders of what man is capable of doing… regardless of where they come from and/or take place. However the repeated emphasis on Srebrenica location makes it feel to me as though society is saying because it happened in Europe it is automatically more tragic than when similar things take place in other parts of the world.
Yes, the Srebrenica genocide was heartbreaking and horrible, but is it more so than what took place in Rwandan or what is taking place in the Sudan? Why is so much emphasis put on location when it takes place in Europe but not Africa? Is Europe special? Are Europeans more important than Africans? Rationally, I don’t think that most people believe they are; yet I cannot help but wonder if the media/history is subconsciously making us feel that way.
Yes, I know I’m late in posting. What’s funny though is that prior to leaving for Srebrenica I knew what I was going to blog about, but time just seemed to get away from me. Now that I here though, everything I was going to say just doesn’t seem to fit yet everything I’m thinking and feeling doesn’t feel right either. So where does that leave me but rambling somewhere in the middle.
Today we went and registered our presences with the Republika Srpska; and as we pulled up to the police station, where our passports were to be examined and fee paid, I saw the Serbian flag. Seeing it there, flapping in the gentle breeze, my mind turned to thoughts of what it must feel to live surrounded by those who hate you.
When I studied in Northern Ireland, my university was in the predominantly Catholic area of the city. I say predominately because nestled within the area was a tiny enclave of Brits who proudly proclaimed their heritage, flying the Union Jack wherever they could. And while there is dispute as to what rights these people had over the land, it cannot be denied that they somewhere they were not wanted. Yet regardless of that, they remain. Why? I can’t imagine.
And so my thoughts turn to the people of Srebrenica and how so many (though clearly not all) have chosen to return to their homes, regardless of the fact that the people who committed these crimes against them are still there, living in the area. They come back knowing that they are surrounded by people who hate them, people who tried to kill them. I can’t help but wonder what has motived them to do this. Is it simply because they see Srebrenica as their homes and thus their right? Or perhaps it is because to do otherwise would be to let the Serbs win? Maybe, and the mostly likely, it is something else completely different that I just don’t understand.
In thinking back on this week, what impacted me the most cannot be pinpointed to a specific event or person but rather a realization, a state of being perhaps? God that sounds weird, state of being, but it’s the most accurate description I can come up with at the moment.
This week, as I walk through the city, I found myself grinning like an idiot for no apparent reason other than shear happiness. (Okay, can’t lie, rereading that sentence made me vomit a bit) Being here, in Sarajevo, helps to satisfy my desire to explore and understand the world around me, while the work with my internship fulfills my need to lead a life of meaning.
In the past, I have been in situations where one of these aspects has been met (usually my curiosity), but rarely both simultaneously. As I look towards the future, I cannot help but wonder what this means for me, what path it will lead me down. After all, I want kids and a family of my own some day too. Can I have it all? Can I do meaningful work, explore the world and raise a family? Only time will tell.
My interest in Bosnia goes back over ten years now. It’s odd, I know. When most students couldn’t wait to get out of history class, I was the one who kept reading, kept researching, kept learning. I’m a bit of a nerd, but I’m okay with this J because without my curiosity and my need to know more, I never would have found my way here, to Sarajevo.
So here I am in this country I feel I know so much about only to come and realize this week how little I really understand. To know about the events depicted in books is one thing, to know and understand the effects they have and how they manifest in people is another. So every day is a new opportunity to take what I know and mix it with what I don’t and see what happens. I predict there will be some bad/difficult days ahead, but I also predict there will be wonderfully amazing experiences and opportunities as well.
My internship will play a large part in this, I believe. Who they are, what they do and where they choose to do it make for an interesting combination that has already begun to shift my perception of thing and I am sure will continue to do so over the coming weeks.