Looking back on my time spent in Sarajevo this summer I feel extremely grateful and hopeful. Entering into the program, my main goal was simply an internship in a foreign country, I never would have thought it would be in Bosnia or that I would enjoy it so much. I thought I would get some internship akin to any you can find in the United States where I simply sit behind a desk and do menial work. I thought, if it wasn’t that, it would be a position entirely unrelated to my area of study, because I thought of the program as an extension of the Graduate School of Social Work. My expectations were drastically different from my experience. I thoroughly enjoyed the work I was doing, and the people I met at the internship are people with whom I will continue to keep in contact. While my job did concern the social welfare of the people in Sarajevo and was not explicitly for a corporation, I was able to learn through my experiences and the people around me how what I did connected with my field of study.
I would love to return to Sarajevo in the future, and I would love to work with the people I worked with this past summer. Fortunately, the people there have suggested they want me back too, so I very well might end up back in Sarajevo after graduating.
Towards the end of the program, there were a few parties thrown and other gatherings. The first of these was at the Center for Healthy Aging (perhaps not surprising due to its name, this is the only non-smoking place in Sarajevo). It was supposedly an American party, and some of the girls had made a lot of food for the party. However, when we arrived, the food prepared for us was much more than what we brought. Additionally, the food varied from tacos to burek. There was a massive amount of food, both Bosnian and American. We stayed there talking and drinking coffee until everybody else had left.
The next party was just a few days later. It was a birthday party for two of the people at Wings of Hope, Nikki and Paulo. Everybody from the program was invited to Wings of Hope, and we had a barbecue, again with massive amounts of food. This time, people left at staggered times; I was the last of the program people to leave.
The next week, days before our program was over, the people working at Wings of Hope were invited to Maja’s garden home for a small gathering of people. Unfortunately, Annalisa and Arista couldn’t join, so it was smaller than intended. However, once again, there was large amounts of food (seems to be a trend in Bosnia). I ate a ton and actually ended up falling asleep in a lawn chair for a bit. Overall, these gatherings were terrific, with a lot of food and a great way to conclude the summer.
Visiting Srebrenica was a very eye-opening experience. Srebrenica as an event had been discussed within our group extensively, and is a major focus for many concerning the war. This is mainly because of its identification as a genocide, the first on European soil since World War II. At Srebrenica, thousands of people, supposedly under the protection of Dutch forces for the UN, were massacred, and many more were forced to march for days from Srebrenica to safety even as Serbian forces continued to hunt them down.
Having learned about this historical event in class and through reading, I thought I had some knowledge of what happened. However, meeting people like Saliha and Hassan who had both lost loved ones in the massacre, made me aware of it on a more personal level. I was able to talk to these people who had lived this event, and I learned how it truly impacted their lives and how it continues to impact their lives today. This was extraordinarily valuable to me, as I was truly able to connect with people and see on a personal level the effects of such a historical event.
My favorite moment thus far has been the time spent at Kravice Falls. After a bit of a walk down to the Falls, the cold water was very much welcome after the extraordinarily hot day that we had in Mostar. Aside from the cold water being refreshing, the Falls were absolutely beautiful. There were a number of different spots that had waterfalls, but the main spot that I was at flowed over and around a cavern. By going through the waterfall, one was able to get inside the cavern, where it looked amazing. Additionally, just standing under the pounding waterfall was a lot of fun.
This past weekend I went to Tito’s bunker along with some of the other people in the group. It was interesting to see how massive the place was and how intensely they prepared for a nuclear attack. In addition to seeing the history of the bunker, much of it has also been used for contemporary art exhibitions (which is not particularly one of my interests), and in the next few years the entire bunker will be a museum of contemporary art.
After leaving the bunker, we went to a local fish restaurant where there was a cave in the back and the fish were swimming in front of us. In addition to the (very) fresh fish, they served some of the best lamb that I have ever had; it was awesome – it literally inspired awe in me. There was also so much food that we could not eat it all, so I was fortunate enough to be able to take the remaining lamb home and eat it there.
Overall, despite being super hot outside and the bunker not being exactly what I thought it would be, it was a pretty good day.
After a (very) slow start to my internship, the workload has increased dramatically this past week. Maja, the director, has returned from the wedding she had been attending in Bulgaria and has assigned me various projects. Maja and everybody else at the organization seems to be wonderful people, and many of us share a lot of the same interests. As such, I think that I will very much enjoy working there this summer.
One project that I am particularly interested in concerns corporate social responsibility, something studied extensively at DU. However, DU focuses more on the sustainability aspect, whereas this project focuses on transparency and accountability in government taxation, something I had never even considered before. Within one day Maja had already assigned me to write a report on the effect inaccurate taxation and poverty that excludes Bosnia and other Balkan countries from the European Union has on the mental health of the people in the region.
This past weekend we went out a few times, and it was different from going out on weekends anywhere else I have ever been. After talking to a number of people, it seems that this is due to Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and one of the Five Pillars of Islam. During this month, Muslims fast during the day and do not drink any alcohol. However, people around the city have suggested that once Ramadan is over that people will come out and drink and party at night.
Despite that, we had some good/interesting times going out. Frequently, places we thought would or should be open were, in fact, closed. One notable example is a bar called Pussy Galore, which apparently was an awesome bar open last year but is moving to a different location this summer. Additionally, I learned that rakije (a fruit brandy popular in Bosnia and the surrounding region) is not a drink to be played around with after drinking a little too much one night.
Now here is a haiku:
Ramadan no fun
Rakije is dangerous
Pussy galore closed
My first impression of Sarajevo was of beauty. Even from the plane I could see that it was unlike anything I had experienced before. Having traveled around the world, I had seen a number of different places and landscapes, yet this was something completely foreign. There were some buildings scattered on the green hills surrounding the city in a variety of architectural motifs. It looked like something out of a story, not like the warm beaches or high mountains I had seen elsewhere.
The next day we had our walking tour of the city. You could tell that the city had a rich history, one filled with a number of different dominant cultures. Yet you could also see the damage that remained from the war. It also seemed as though this was the meeting point of the Islamic culture to the east and the European culture to the west. This was due to the seemingly homogeneity of the people, differentiated often mainly by clothing (as discussed in detail by certain members of the group).