Arriving home the United States and having friends and family members ask me “How was Bosnia” has forced me to reflect on my experience and pull the things from my two months abroad that have really stuck with me. Often times when someone gets home from a vacation or an extended period of time abroad, they usually try and and come up with a fairly quick synopsis of their experience.
It’s hard to take two months of living in a country so different from ours and crunch in down into a couple of sentences that I can share with others about my experience. Here are some quick phrases that I tend to throw out at people, and a couple more sentences that I wish I could share but usually don’t have quick enough time or patience to do so.
“It’s absolutely beautiful there”
…especially when you get outside the city. Because my internship with an eco-tourism company I was able to spend a lot of time in the mountains all over the country. There is so much untouched nature and wildlife there, giving it huge potential for eco-tourism and outdoor fun. Unfortunately some parts of the country, even close to Sarajevo, are covered in land mines from the war. I think that slowly people are starting to get out into the mountains like they used to and explore, it’s just that it is very expensive to do trips with any sort of guide service, and the infrastructure isn’t quick there yet in some parts of the country. During the war there was a lot of fighting done in the mountains, so to some they still have a very negative connotation and they have no interest in getting out there in fear of being reminded of such a tragic time.
“Sometimes you could still feel the animosity left over from the war”
In many parts of the country, especially in larger metropolitan areas such as Sarajevo, feelings left over from the war aren’t necessarily so apart and people are moving on pretty quick. In other parts of the country occupied just by small towns or villages, I sensed that there were still some strong feeling lingering (justifiably). The genocide in Srebrenica happened on July 11, 1995. That is less than 20 years ago. People who lost a loved one are still most likely still living their lives with out that person. I believe that time will heal some of the animosity from the war, just as time has helped heal negative feelings about other tragic events around the world.
“The people are so kind”
Barring the shop owners in Sarajevo who are so sick of tourists speaking English to them that they can’t even muster up the slightest excuse for a smile, 99.999% of the people I interacted with during my time in Sarajevo were brilliantly patient, caring, understanding and kind. The woman who ran the hostel where we stayed was amazing. It was impossible to find her in anything besides a good mood. It was also such a pleasure to interact with the people who I worked with. Even though we were so busy with different expeditions heading out every day and they all required a large amount of planning and organization, nobody was ever sharp or disrespectfully blunt with anybody else. It was a great environment to live and work in and I was learning new things every day.
“It helped me appreciate what I have here in the United States”
I understand that not everybody in the United States lives as lavish of a life as I feel like I do, as our poverty levels and poor distribution of wealth rival that of many third world countries. Speaking simply about my own life, it is sometimes hard to compare life here in the United States to the life that many others live in other countries around the world. I have been fortunate enough (imagine that) to live in a couple different parts of the world for an extended period of time, and one of the most important things that I have taken from those experiences that we (anyone who is reading this on their computer or cell phone or tablet, etc) should constantly be in appreciation for everything that we have.
Thank you Ann Petrila for the opportunity to participate in a program like this that has opened my eyes to yet another part of the world that both struggles and flourishes at the same time.