I have responded to all of my (important) emails, doctors appointments have been scheduled, syllabi printed, meetings set up, and my new apartment has been moved into. Giving myself time to think about Bosnia hasn’t been a priority, though I know it should be. When I think about it though, I wonder what I am supposed to get out of my reflection of this summer. Closure? I’m closing the door on my summer in Bosnia, but I’ll never be ready to stop learning about and exploring everything Bosnia has to offer. I don’t want to find closure because that is giving myself permission to stop thinking about Bosnia and to move on from my experiences when I need to continue learn from them. My summer in Bosnia was life-altering, and I have grown to respect and love Bosnia more than I could imagine loving a country, other than the one I was born and raised in. Thinking about my experiences this summer fills me with so much joy, nostalgia, and love. Love of Bosnia, especially Sarajevo, but also of the people I spent the summer with. Without our amazing group, all of our experiences would have been so much different. There will always be a part of my soul in Bosnia and I cannot wait to go back, in two years of course.
There are many things that I miss about home. I miss my friends and family, especially my nephews who are growing like crazy. I miss the easiness of hiking in Denver because I can just drive right to the mountains. I miss driving every day. I miss fast food, especially Taco Bell (not kidding). I realllllllly miss my dog and waking up every morning to his snuggles and kisses.
But what I miss most about home is being comfortable and in a routine. In Denver I know what time I’m going to wake up, when I will be doing laundry or cleaning, when I will be showering, when I will go work out, and when I will go to class. Living in Sarajevo for two months has forced me out of my comfort zone and made me more flexible. Although I do wake up at about the same time everyday, I only go into the office 4 days a week if I am even working in the office. This isn’t always a bad thing though because I have found awesome coffee shops and tea shops to work in. I’m also supposed to have my laundry done every Friday, but on weekends I go out of town I don’t get my laundry until Sunday which really throws me off. I have loved my time in Bosnia, but I am definitely looking forward to getting back into a comfortable routine for a couple of months.
Hiking trail near Lukomir village. The hike took us down to a waterfall where we had a picnic. The hike was easy but steep at many points.
Kravica Falls in Herzegovina. The falls had so many caves and rocks to jump off of. It was like a natural playground. Beware of snakes!!
Neum, Bosnia’s only town on the Adriatic. The water was beautiful and the food was incredible. We even rented a paddleboat with a slide!
The Bosnian economy has seen better days. Before the war, Sarajevo was the gem city of Yugoslavia, with a booming economy, updated technology, and revolutionary transportation. The war pulled all of these to a halt, and the time since has proved that Bosnia doesn’t have a functional enough government to implement any initiatives that would positively affect their economy. This is why Bosnia’s neighbour, Croatia, has been integrated into the European Union, but Bosnia is still struggling to meet any of the EU’s criteria. You can especially see the impact of EU integration in Croatia’s tourism industry. Croatia has taken advantage of their hundreds of miles of Adriatic Coast, their islands, and even of their capital city, Zagreb. Croatia attracts millions of tourists per year, and is only getting more popular. To achieve this kind of tourism industry, it is imperative for Bosnia to achieve accession into the EU.
Bosnia was recognized as a potential country candidate country for accession in 2003. They have had to meet many requirements to be considered for accession, such as allowing minority groups to gain seats in the House of People’s, or to be elected to the presidency. Initially, this was impossible because of the Dayton Peace Accords. The EU also requested that Bosnia create a single unified body to manage relations with the EU, but this has been continually prevented because of Republika Srpska. In 2014, the Foreign Minister of Croatia suggested that Bosnia be granted the status of Special EU Candidate Country because it is unrealistic to give Bosnia a high criteria list of things to do to achieve accession and then just wait for something to happen. It would also make sense that this would come from Croatia, because if Bosnia achieves EU status, tourism would be given a boost for both countries. Traveling would become increasingly easier between the two countries.
Even if Bosnia met trade and economic criteria, the EU stated that Bosnia’s application won’t be credible until the Office of the High Representative (OHR), which helps implement the Dayton Peace Accords, is closed. This has prevented Bosnia from submitting an application until 2016, because Bosnia has finally met the conditions of the Dayton Peace Accords, and the OHR should be closing soon. Bosnia will remain a potential candidate country until it gets a response from the Council about their application.
When I first came to Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2015, I had no idea what to expect. All I knew about Bosnia was that there was a terrible civil war and genocide, and that the country has still not recovered. No one told me about the lush green mountains, the turquoise waters, and bright blue sky. Sarajevo is surrounded by mountains that are easily accessible and hikeable/bikeable. Unfortunately, because of the war and Bosnia’s history of violence, you rarely hear about it as a popular spot for outdoor tourism. Even when journalists write about outdoor activities in Bosnia, land mines always come up within the first couple of sentences.
Tourism has the potential to drastically change the economy in Bosnia and even lead them to integrate into the EU, like it has done for Croatia, but how does this happen? This is when companies like Green Visions, where I am lucky enough to be doing my internship, come into the picture. I first came into contact with Green Visions during my first trip to Bosnia and they completely changed my perception of Bosnia. As an avid outdoors(wo)men, I was psyched to be going on a hike, but wasn’t sure what to expect. The hike was three hours and the views were phenomenal. I grew up thinking that nothing could be more beautiful than the Colorado rockies, but Bosnia made me question this thinking.
This is why companies like Green Visions are SO important to encourage tourists and especially outdoor tourists to come to Bosnia. There is really something for everyone in Bosnia. You can do a moderate day hike to the highest mountain town in Bosnia, bike through the mountains in Herzegovina, snowshoe Sarajevo during the winter, or raft the turquoise waters of the Neretva River. Tourism companies and those who have been to Bosnia need to get people to come visit, and the beauty of Bosnia will take care of the rest.
Initially, I was not thrilled about going back to Srebrenica because of the mental and physical exhaustion I felt the last time I was there. Srebrenica is the location of the only genocide on European soil since WWII, and the wake up call the world needed to end the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. After spending the weekend in Srebrenica, I am once again mentally exhausted, but I have more connection to Bosnia and the gravity of our participation in Marš Mira has set in.
I first heard Hasan’s story two years ago when I had the opportunity to visit Srebrenica. His vulnerability is something that has stuck with me, and a driving factor for studying Human Rights and genocide. We also heard testimonies from two amazing women, Nura and Saliha. They lost their whole families in the genocide, and have to go on living despite this. Nura kept repeating that we are the age her grandchildren would have been, but instead of spoiling grandchildren, she is mourning her husband and sons. I think this resonated with me because my parents have recently become grandparents, and my nephews bring SO much joy into their lives. Nura will never be able to experience this.
After hearing the testimonies, I had many thoughts, but one that I cannot shake is that people are still denying the genocide happened. There will always be genocide deniers, but why? All of the victims we talked to have no hate in their heart, but I feel like I have enough for the whole country. Saliha told us that she goes to the market and buys candy for the Serb boys and girls. Maybe doing this will help alleviate some of the rhetoric they get in school about ethnic Muslims. They are not born with nationalism, and what good is doing for the country to keep perpetuating it? I think the change will come from those who experienced the war, Bosniak, Serb, or Croat, because they understand what it was like, and they have felt losses because of it.
When I first heard about Marš Mira, I was sitting in the library talking to Ann about Global Practice Bosnia. At the time, it sounded like an interesting adventure that I definitely wanted to partake in. My first trip to Srebrenica two years ago left me in awe, and I wanted to do something to honour those who lost their lives and the families that had to endure these losses. Leading up to the march, I learned more and more from Ann and past GPB students about the physical and mental stress it puts on your body and mind, yet I didn’t want to back down. It wasn’t until the night before the march that it set in. I was about to walk 60 miles over the next three days. The morning of the march was hectic, yet we met people from all around the world and so many proud Bosnians, and we even met a couple of survivors from the death march. It was an instant reminder of why we were doing the march. During the march, it was hard to remember why I was there, but it all came back when we would pass one of the many mass graves. It was also easy to laugh and have fun with those around you, something I wasn’t expecting. We met so many incredible individuals who lifted our spirits and motivated us to keep going. It is hard to put into words what the march meant to me, and I’m hoping that my time in Bosnia will make it easier to explain. Overall, the march brought me closer to my fellow GPB marchers and closer to this country and the suffering it had to endure, although I will never fully understand what they went through.
I’m finally back in the country that hasn’t left my mind for 2 years. There are so many things that I remember from my two weeks in Bosnia, like the mountains, the amazing coffee, and the way I feel when I’m here. Coming back has felt like coming home. I probably had the biggest smile on my face when I landed in Sarajevo but I couldn’t hide how happy I was to be back. Even though I had been to Bosnia before, I have already experienced so many new things like the Old Jewish Cemetery, bobsleigh run, and SUNNYLAND!! I also didn’t realize how much I missed the call to prayer every day, even if it wakes me up every morning at 4:30am. I’m looking forward to settling into Sarajevo with the amazing group of people I’m with and my kick ass internship.