leaving. not on a jet plane.

I officially get on a train to leave Bosnia in about 6 hours (so much for sleeping well tonight) and I have very mixed feelings. Obviously I’ve loved my time here, but I am ready for the next adventure.

I’m not travelling back to the States yet (I have a 3.5 week backpacking Europe trip planned) – so I can’t get too excited about what I’ll be returning to, yet.  Therefore, I have been dwelling on things I will and will not miss about Bosnia.

I will miss hopping on a bus/renting a car and travelling to random countries and having amazing international adventures

I will not miss having smoke blown in my face all the time every where I go – the States got it right when we banned smoking indoors.

I will miss meeting random travelers, hearing about there stories, and getting advice from them on travel.

I will not miss rude people running into me everywhere I go and not caring that I’m a person.

I will miss Bhutla and these delicious little bruschetta crisps that are mixed vegetable flavor.

I will not miss the Sarajevo stroll – people walking 1/2 per hour and not paying any attention to where they are going.

I will miss nights out with the group drinking rakija and laughing.

I will not miss Cheers and the other 2 bars that are loud all. night. long.

I will miss the friends I have made and Fondacija CURE – having coffee and saying goodbye to them was difficult.

I will not miss attempting to make sense of the Bosnian language – for some reason I have had an extremely difficult time learning it (probably because it hasn’t been necessary) and I cannot wait to get back to languages I know and understand.

I will miss walking everywhere – Sarajevo is so small that walking to work was easy and wonderful.

I will not miss living with 6 other people in one room –  I very much look forward to some solitude when I get back to the States.

I will miss being able to fill my water bottle up all over town and, really, all over the country – fountains are everywhere, and the water is soooo good!

I will not miss the teeny tiney shower that I have to share with a bunch of other people – I love my shower, shower head, water pressure, and massive bath tub at home in Denver.

I will miss the hostel owners here in Sarajevo – they are so sweet and adorable and super kind to all of us.

I will not miss having my laundry done for me – as much as I hate doing laundry, I would much rather do it myself with fabric softener and a dryer back home.

I will miss all of my other Project Bosnia buddies – I know I’ll see them back in the States, but it won’t quite be the same.

I will not miss having to rush to dinner before the cannon blows to mark sundown during Ramadan.

I will miss meeting cute, adorable, cuddly cats and dogs everywhere.

I will miss Somersby Apple Cider – even if it does just taste like a carbonated jolly rancher.

I will miss hearing the Call to Prayer.

I will miss…

I will miss…

I will miss…


My list could go on and on as I will miss much more than I will not miss –  Sarajevo has been good to me this summer.

That being said, I’m excited to head to Prague and beyond and very excited to go home in a month and hug my kitty, Kingsley, who has missed me terribly this summer!



Today we went to Srebrenica. I figured I was more prepared than most, having already been to the Killing Fields in Cambodia – I was wrong. It was a heartwrenching experience made all the more difficult because our guide had survived the Srebrenica genocide.

I don’t know any Muslim songs or hymns or really even what one would call them. So, as I was wandering around I found myself singing Amazing Grace – not loudly –  just enough to for me to show respect and mourning the best I knew how.

I’m not trying to get preachy, but throughout the day a particular passage kept coming to me – it brought significant comfort on a difficult day.

Do you not know?

Have you not heard?

The LORD is the everlasting God,

the creator of the ends of the earth,

He will not grow tired or weary,

and his understanding no one can fathom

He gives strength to the weary

and increases the power of the weak.

Even youths grow tired and weary

and young men stumble and fall

But those who hope in the LORD

will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;

they will run and not grow weary;

they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40: 28-31


transcending language and culture.

I think many times as a part of Project Bosnia we feel as though we have to be inclusive – if we want to do something we invite our friends and if no one wants to join us then we just give up on the idea.

I spent the weekend in Dubrovnik with 5 of my good friends I’ve made on this trip (as well as a couple of adopted travelers Kat and I met on the bus into Dubrovnik). The last night everyone was heading back at 11pm on the shuttle. I got to the shuttle pick up point and decided I wasn’t done with Dubrovnik. I had been looking forward to visiting this city since 2005 (when Matt Lauer went to visit for his “Where in the World is Matt Lauer” week – it was the last location of the week and it looked magical) and I just wasn’t ready to leave. I asked if anyone else wanted to continue exploring and no one did – so I wandered back into the city by myself.

I started out literally just wandering up and down side streets to places that I hadn’t explored before. I walked into a couple of shops, talked to some random people, and got to know the actual city.

I decided to go back to the cute little jazz club we had visited the night before to look over the pictures of the day and listen to some delightful music while having a drink. To my great surprise (and extreme delight) a concert that we had happened upon during the evening but was too packed to even get in to see anything was still going on and the stage was located right next to the jazz club. Most of the concert was over, which meant that there was a seat right in the front just for me.

Music is one of my true, great delights in the world – it speaks to me more than just about anything else. I love to sing and I can play very rudimentary piano (having taken about 8 years of piano lessons thanks to my lovely mother who forced me to go). This group of gentlemen (who I later found out was a group called Klapa Cambi – a popular Croatian group from the Dalmatian Coast) were some of the best singers live that I had ever heard. I think the most moving moment was when the entire crowd stood on their feet clapping and sang along with the group. It became obvious how popular and loved this group is. Even though I had no idea what they were singing (other than the odd number, weekday, and “volim te”) it was beautiful. I don’t know what it is about music that can transcend language and culture, but it makes my heart happy.

It was the perfect ending to a magical weekend and if I had been with a group of people I never would have had the chance to experience it – lesson learned.

A video of the final song of the evening can be viewed here.

For more tales from Dubrovnik, see my blog.

sarajevo living: puppy hill.

you are about to experience cuteness overload
(and sorry for the poor formatting – I can’t fix it on here for some reason – you can go to my blog to see it more properly laid out)
last week on our tour we came across some very adorable on top of a hill that we have now aptly named “Puppy Hill” – today we finally had the chance to go back and visit them.
this is there little home someone made them made of cardboard and branches.
Sasha and puppies – lots of cute adorableness in one shot.
so – I set my purse down and said, “there’s no one around to steal my purse, so I’m just going to leave it over here” only to turn around less than a minute later to see this…
seriously – I can’t handle this.
they really want to come home with us – if only we could convince our hostel owners.
seriously – I have never known street animals to be so incredibly cuddly as the ones here in Bosnia have been – a testament to how kind people here are to them.
5 puppies romping around fighting with each other…
…will wear them out considerably.
more trips to puppy hill will occur. I’m sure this is not the last you will see of these adorable little guys – maybe next time I’ll bring my fancy cam up for a full on photo shoot…

perspective: through the lens

Our assignment this week was to think about perspectives. What is the lens and perspective through which we view life? Through what perspective are we viewed as students, volunteers, and (as much as it pains me to say it) tourists? 

I realized that my perspective is often through the lens of a camera. I am constantly thinking about the framing of shots, lighting, posing, yada, yada, yada. When I have Bella out (my fancy DSLR) it becomes much worse. Anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that I always have a camera with me. People on this trip with me in BiH (Bosnia and Herzegovina) right now will probably complain about how often I tell them not to move and how annoying it is that I’m always following behind or racing ahead to get a shot of the group. I just love documenting life by taking pictures. 

I brought 3 cameras with me to BiH (2 point and shoots – one with 720/1080 HD video capabilities – and my Nikon DSLR with two lenses). Some might call this excessive, but I call it practical.  I can’t imagine my life without a camera by my side, and I consider one of my best purchases for this trip (other than my Chacos which have been a major blessing despite the ridiculous tan lines they leave on my feet) is my new point and shoot camera – A Sony Bloggie.

There is a constant war going on in my head regarding my need to take pictures and document everything and my strong desire to not look like a tourist. Without a camera in my hand and a massive group of people to walk with, I can fit in pretty well here in Bosnia – as long as I don’t smile or open my mouth to speak – and I love that.  I absolutely despise looking like a tourist – which is a major difficulty for a photography nut such as myself. 

To compound this issue, many things I want to take pictures of here in this beautiful city are remnants of a part of its history most people would rather forget. I wonder what the Sarajevans think of us as we tourists wander around the city taking pictures of the Sarajevo Roses, bullet holes, and mortar blasts on buildings. What do they think about our fascination with the destruction of their home? What would I think if something horrific happened in Portland and tourists from all over the world came to see the after effects – not having any idea of what it feels like to experience what happened – and take pictures of the worst thing that has ever happened there rather than appreciate the wonder that is Portland? I can’t imagine that I would take that well. I would try my best to put the event behind me. That doesn’t seem to be something that is very easy to do here in Sarajevo/BiH – it really seems to follow you wherever you go.

Rather than ogle at these sites all summer long, I decided to document them as best I could through my perspective: the camera lens – hoping that it would not only allow me to see past the war to beauty of Sarajevo and BiH but also to display and explain to those who aren’t here what the war has done.

This is one of the completely bombed out buildings. I know I’ve showed it before on this blog, but I wanted to display it in a different light. It’s one of those sites that sticks with you and forces you to come to grips that there was a major war here.

The building at the mouth of the tunnel that was used during the siege to smuggle items/people/supplies in and out of the city. The tunnel ran under the airport, because it was one of the only internationally protected areas in the city. You can see the bullet holes all over the building.

More bullet holes along the back side – all over.

This is the bobsled track from the 1984 Winter Olympics held in Sarajevo. In the far right of this picture you can see a patched up part of the wall – Serb snipers made holes in the track and used it to shoot people (men, women, children – it made no difference) in the city. They were protected from return fire by the concrete. There were many of these patches interspersed along  the track.

Another bullet ravaged building. This one was in the city and right along what is known as “sniper alley” – for obvious reasons. Deaths and casualties in this area were not uncommon.

The largest cemetery in Sarajevo. They had to convert a soccer field into the cemetery because there wasn’t enough space anywhere else for all of the bodies.

A mortar/grenade blast on a building. These are all over. It’s really hard not to be distracted by it. One of our guides told us that some 4 million grenades/bombs/mortars were sent into Sarajevo during the 5 year siege.

Here’s another bullet ridden house. You can see where reparations were made up top – the rest of it is covered. While I was taking this shot a woman who lived there came out. Part of me was mortified. I said good morning to her in Bosnian and tried to make an apologetic face. I can’t help but wonder what she thought of me taking this picture of her house. I know I didn’t feel good about it.

I walk by this building everyday on my way into the CURE (pronounced tsoo-rday) office. I didn’t notice the mortar blast until about 3rd day. It catches you off guard a little.

Another Sarajevo Rose – right in the center of town. The diaspora of this one strikes me every time I pass by it.

There’s a temptation to think that some things are just wear and tear on old buildings, but most of the damage on buildings is from the war. There are even spots on the street that have been patched up from bullet holes.

I usually attempt to steer clear of more depressing topics in blog posts (and conversation in general – I know, crazy coming from the person working in anti-human trafficking). I like to make people happy and not depressed. However, in order to get past the war from behind the lens I needed to get it out of my system all at once. Hopefully from here on out you will see an abundance of the beauty that is Bosnia from my perspective: through the lens of a camera.

for more of our escapades – check out my blog at adventureisoutthere2012.blogspot.com

Do and Don’t

First day inSarajevo: done.  There are 14 of us here from The University of Denver (all doing different internships), and today we took a walking tour of the city.  It was beautiful!  Last night when we got in on the train (an hour later than expected – apparently this is normal) it was too dark to see anything.  This morning we could see beautiful hills surrounding the city.  I think I’m going to likeSarajevo.

And now starts a new series: Do and Don’t

Do: Ride the train if you have the time. I was worried that it was going to be completely sketch and the train would fall apart along the way.  It was actually really nice – not too crowded – air conditioned (except when we stopped – then we melted) – beautiful countryside – plus, 4 stamps in my passport in one day! (leavingHungary, entering and leavingCroatia, and then enteringBosnia)

Don’t: Forget to bring food for the entire day. We made the mistake of believing there would be a food car.  Apparently that was left inHungarywhen we crossed the border intoCroatia.  We survived on peanuts, juice, cheese puffs, and apples – we were starving when we finally arrived inSarajevo.

Do: Hang out with friends at the bar across the street from the hostel as soon as you arrive – and get a massive pizza all for yourself.  Chat – catch up on travel stories – lament over lost luggage – brag about how amazingBudapestwas – generally have a fantastic time with amazing people you get to spend the entire summer with.

Don’t: Go to Bosnia and eat at McDonalds. They most definitely had signs pointing the direction to the McDonalds (which has to be the most amazing looking McD’s that I have ever seen in my life, btw) 

 Do: Watch the men play chess in the city center. It’s most definitely entertaining.

Don’t: Take pictures in a church that you are not allowed to take pictures in – or go inside without your shoulders covered – the nun will chastise you and make you feel like a fool.

Do: Travel around the city and look at the “Bosnian Roses” – they are from mortar shells that caused casualties, and are a reminder of the lives lost and injuries sustained during the horrific war and siege.

Don’t: Climb around in an abandoned bombed out building from the war just because it looks amazing and you think you will get some awesome shots – it likely will collapse on you if you traverse its depths.

Don’t: Wear inappropriate clothing while going to visit a beautiful Mosque – they will not even let you inside the courtyard.

Do: Look at the architecture. It’s an amazing blend of Austro-Hungarian, Turkish, and Modern influences. It is also apparent how significant the damage from the war is upon the old buildings vs. the new ones.

Do: Make friends with the local wildlife (aka random cats and dogs that are all over the city). The people inSarajevo are extremely nice to them – therefore, they are extremely cuddly and cute. I feel as though there will be many friends made this summer.

Don’t: Travel behind your tour group to take pictures – because you will miss all of the important things said regarding the history of Sarajevo.

Do: Visit the place where Arch-Duke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated – because it’s a major piece of world history.

Don’t: Eat solely at places that serve “American” food.  Bosnian food is delicious, and every opportunity to try new, wonderful dishes should be taken.

Do: Eat the delicious gelato after every meal. For 1 KM (about 70 cents), you really can’t go wrong.

Do: Finish the night with friends, food, and drinks at a local restaurant/pub. In this case, the local Sarajevo Brewery.

Don’t: upload a bajillion pictures using slow internet access ever again. You will be up half of the night waiting for the pictures to finish loading onto the blog…

Do: Go to bed and come back to the blog post the next day in favor of sleep. No one likes a grumpy, sleep-deprived person.