Now that many people have moved from our hostel to a hotel, have begun their next adventures, or are just journeying home, Sarajevo feels empty. The place where you rest your head should be comfortable, but the company you keep is arguably more important.

As much as you may love a location and feel that it offers everything that you need to live comfortably, what do you have if you do not have meaningful relationships? I believe that it was hard for some to feel that Sarajevo was home while we were here because of the important people that were left behind.

As much as we tormented ourselves over the food we would literally kill for, we managed with grilled cheese, peanut butter and nutella, and various restaurants. Our normal diets could be supplemented, and we could move past the cravings. Important people are harder to replace.

I have missed my family and my friends who may as well be my family. They are the people that I cannot live without, and they are what makes me happy regardless of where I am. As we move on from Sarajevo and our hostelhome, I feel as if we may not have realized what we built here. We have made close relationships that made this place feel right. Although it was not perfect, and many of the relationships that have been constructed at home took years and many trials and tribulations, I felt a sincere closeness with the people I shared this experience with. They are the only people who will completely understand, who can laugh at an inside joke, and know many small details that outsiders may never be told about, but that made everyone closer.

Now that our group is no longer complete, I cannot help but feel that something is missing. The obvious is that people are missing. The less obvious and not expected is that this place is not the same. The people who I spent my summer with made this experience what it was, and their presence and crude jokes made me sincerely happy. I will miss everyone and the summer that we shared.

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I feel that I got something different from the Srebrenica memorial than many of my peers. Not better or worse, just different. As I walked through the cemetery, I noticed something that interested me. There were a few main colors working throughout the area. White, green, yellow, and grey. All of the tombstones were white. The grass and trees were green as well as “for now” tombstones that mark where proper tombstones need to go when they are finished. The fountains, benches, walkways, and memorial structures were all grey. And as for yellow, a flower that captivated me.

Grey can represent depression, and it can be a symbol for loss. I would say that both meanings are appropriate in this situation. Many innocent people were killed in Srebrenica, which lead many people to deal with immense grief. People lost so much in their lives. Their homes, their money, and the people that mattered most to them. Fathers, brothers, sons…

It is known that the color green stands for growth, both literal and figurative. The growth of the grass, trees, and hopefully a country. It is less known, however, that it can represent peace.

White is best known for embodying purity. According to those who work with caves, white is also a definitive sign of continual growth. Stalagmites and stalactites that are covered in white are still active and are continuing to grow. It takes years for them to show much growth, but as long as they are white, they aren’t finished.

Optimism is what yellow is best known for. Yellow can also be a symbol for a positive future. Optimism and a positive future often go hand and hand, and promote happiness.

I was struck by a theory upon noticing a curious type of flower in the center of the memorial. The flowers had a yellow center and yellow petals. Its’ body should have been green by traditional standards, but it was actually white. Close to these flowers stood a large white stone speckled with grey. It quoted a prayer that centered on hope, justice, and the desire for an event like this to never occur again.

Maybe the colors in this memorial were coincidence, traditional color schemes, or precise planning with color symbolism. Depression plagues those directly affected by what happened as well as those who come to see Srebrenica for themselves. Some have lost possessions, pride, and people that they loved. Others lose the image that the world is a perfect place and that all people are innately good. A sea of grey was followed by a wave of white; the secret symbol of growth. Literal green growth then follows. Blossoming of trees, continual growth of grass, and growth in green tombstones. The green tombstones hold a place until white tombstones can take their place, but they also represent closure, which is important for many families affected. It means that they can move on as best as they can knowing what happened to their loved ones, and where they now rest. The white tombstones that replace the green ones will be, like the stalagmites and stalactites, continual growth of a family who will always mourn the loss of a family member that was taken from them. And then there is the seemingly insignificant yellow flower with a white stem and flowers. This small gesture reminds people that there is hope for the future. People can pick themselves up and become strong once more. They can tell people what happened and try to keep history from repeating itself.

Now returning to the quote that stood near the flowers I grew so fond of. Hope, justice, and future prevention. What better justice is there than showing people who wronged you that they cannot keep you down? That you will continue to have hope and that you will continue to grow. You will mourn the loss of family and friends, and you will also be optimistic about your own personal future. Creating and keeping bonds with those who may hold different ideologies than you. Being able to live and function side by side once again.

Maybe I read too much into the colors used, or wanted to feel something other than sadness. Either way, I hope that I am not alone in what I took from this experience. I want to believe that people can recover from something like this. I have to keep looking for bright beams of light even in the darkest of skies. If you only had grey, you could never move on. As long as there is green, there is peace. No matter how slow, white shows that a community is still growing. As for yellow; trying to find light in dim situations and always holding onto optimism that you are capable of growth.

It is difficult to explain what I am experiencing. As much as people try to take pictures, journal, and keep in contact with loved ones back home, no one but ourselves are going on this journey. And although we all set out on the same path, many changes have been observed and people’s experiences are not identical. We are all living together and are following a semi-similar schedule, but it is hard to say that I actually know what everyone is experiencing and feeling.

As the world always seems to work, people grouped off from the beginning. This is a normal process, but it has slowed the progress of getting to know everyone’s personal story and how they are growing as people through this trip. It goes without saying that you are not going to like everyone and there is a reason that there is the phrase “personality clash.” Not everyone is my best friend here, but I can honestly say that I would like to get to know everyone better. Because of separate rooms and preconceived notions of each other, I am unsure if this will be possible.

If we were in the “real world,” where you could shower when you please in the comfort of your own home, it is quite possible that we would have passed each other by and never made an effort to make connections. Once again, normal. But because we are all living together and sharing a similar experience, I do wish that we could hear what all of our peers are going through.

As I mentioned earlier, I find it hard to explain myself. Not only my experiences from this trip, but in my day-to-day life. I do not easily feel comfortable expressing myself and talking about my feelings. This is why this is my first blog post of the trip. I am not writing this to change the current group dynamics, but I do think that no one back home will understand what we went through no matter how much we document and try. The people I am surrounded by are the closest I am going to get to true understanding, and perhaps we should try to broaden our horizons and converse with people we have overlooked or may not have initially clicked with.