Our Kids

 

Some of our kids who we worked with throughout the summer

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Being the introvert that I am, I find myself finally having (somewhat) processed things from the trip and am now able to talk about them somewhat. I wish I had been able to stay in Sarajevo longer. By the time the 8 weeks were over, I felt like I had finally just found a routine and a way of making things work. I was getting to know people better from Bosnia and finally working toward creating deeper relationships, rather than the superficial relationships that form when you only know someone for a few weeks and rarely see them in that time. Luckily, I’ve been able to keep up some of these relationships through Facebook and email. I’ve frequently been emailing one of the adults from our adult English class and being able to have serious discussions with him through email. While it’s not an ideal way, it’s better than nothing. I’m fortunate to be able to not only keep helping him with his English but also to maintain that relationship and learn more about him and Bosnia in general.

I know when it was close to the end of our time in Bosnia, I was mostly ready to go. I knew that I would miss people and be sad to leave but I wanted to see family and friends and get back to “normal” life. Now, of course, I wish that I could go back and spend more time there. I think that I would have started to love the city more if I could have spent more time there. 8 weeks wasn’t nearly enough. I wish I could have had about 4 more weeks. Mind you, not necessarily 4 more weeks living in a communal setting but definitely 4 more weeks in the country and spending time with the people I got to know.

I wish I had gotten to know the people who I was working with better. I only really got to them know near the end and they were fabulous people. As much as I was against teaching English at the beginning of the trip (which I still have my doubts about), I don’t regret getting to know and have at least some impact on the people who I got to work with. As frustrating as it was at times (mostly with the teenagers), all of them are people who I know I will never forget and I hope they feel the same about me. I hope to some day get to make my way back over to Bosnia and see how much they have improved the overall situation and to visit the people who I formed relationships with. I’m not sure when that will be but getting to travel back at some point in my life and the relatively near future would be a fabulous gift.

Home

I’ve been back in Denver for a week so I guess it’s time to officially say goodbye to Bosnia.  Hard thing to do.

It is nice to be in Denver for lots of reasons, including the following:

  • Family and friends
  • I can understand everything that is being said to me
  • Guacamole
  • Ice
  • A large and efficient washer and dryer
  • Reliable, fast internet

A few things about Bosnia that I love and miss:

  • Friends who feel like family
  • Bosnian Coffee
  • The Adriatic
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables purchased daily in the market
  • All night bakeries
  • Water fountains everywhere which are quite different from U.S. drinking fountains
  • The call to prayer heard 5 times each day.  When I really need to hear it now I do so by going here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fe8qRj12OhY&feature=related

 

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!

Doviđenja

Yesterdays “When are you going for dinner?” have become todays, “When are you leaving for Denver?” The change catches at my mind to the pitch of surrealism 0.0

 

1. Any number of things might might have been limiting or irritating, if I had been thinking about them at all. Google: schemas. Sometimes the recipe for happiness isnt thinking about whether you like something or not but just experiencing it.

2. In Sarajevo I have found people who live in the moment with a calm and astute mind. I love this.

3. The time, people, and places in Bosnia have given me the skills and trust I need to go back but not go under. Thank you.

On Leaving

It seems that once I have finally figured out Sarajevo, as much as is possible in two months, it is time for the trip to end and for all of us to head home. It took two months but I figured out my favorite places in this city to eat, have coffee, drink a few beers with friends, and engage in conversation with locals. I think it is going to be the various places I have frequented that will truly allow me to remember my time in Sarajevo. It is going to be hard to forget the substantial amount of time I have spent at the Fildžan viška talking with the employees about everything from soccer to Bob Marley to the 1997 Chicago Bulls or laying under the misters at happy hour desperately trying to stop sweating when it is 100 degrees in the city. It is through my memories of my “hangouts” in this city that I will be able to remind myself of all of the other things that happened during my time here.

I will also remain forever amazed at how friendly almost every person in this city is, except you Mr. Bean, and how willing they are to engage in conversation for an extended period of time. It is a far cry from life in the states where the waiter gets upset because you have been sitting at the table for 45 minutes and are not showing any signs of leaving. Here the waiters are more than willing to not only let you sit at the table for 5 hours, but to also share a little about themselves. After two months in Sarajevo, it is going to be incredibly hard to return to the pace of life in the U.S. I think the first time a waiter brings the check with the food I will get this dumbfounded look on my face because I don’t understand what is happening. Why is this guy rushing me out, when I have only been here for two hours? I’m sure I’m entitled to spend another three hours here since I paid $3 for this coffee.

Things I need to remember once I get home from Bosnia

So I know we are supposed to be writing about things we will miss about Bosnia, or something along those lines, and I originally planned on posting a bunch of pictures of all those things. However, in the last two weeks or so I’ve noticed a big change in my attitude (many of my roommates might have noticed this as well) and things seem to be getting to me a little more, patience is running seriously low, and I’ve been just easily irritated in general. This week, I think it’s safe to say it’s gotten worse. And this morning getting coffee I was talking to one of my roommates about all the things I have to worry about when I get home and it hit me…I’m already getting in crazy, stressed out, on the verge of panic-attack mode because of my crazy, stressful life waiting for me back in the states. Therefore, I decided that there are certain things/realizations from this culture and the trip in general that I need to make an effort to always keep in mind.

  • Enjoy my breaks: rather than only heading to the coffee shop to work on a 40 page paper or research jobs and send out my resume to a billion different job postings…take a break..enjoy my (much larger) cappuccino…and remember that life can’t only be go,go,go. I can absolutely go have coffee for the pure and simple pleasure of coffee and people watching.
  • Remember how lucky I really am: Here I am, freaking out about a job search ahead of me, my last quarter of grad school, my living situation, etc. even though, as much as our economy straight-up sucks right now…I still have a much better chance of finding a job, possibly one that even lines up with my interest in health communications, than most Bosnians my age do. We are extremely lucky to have the opportunities we have in the United States, and being here for two months has really put that into perspective. Now it’s my job to not forget just how lucky I really am when things get overwhelming.
  • Things fall in place..not only in the Balkans, but everywhere: Our little mantra here was (think of Danielle saying this) “trust the process.” This should not only be a mantra for our time in Bosnia…it really should be kept in mind at all times! Thanks for your little tid-bit of wisdom D-Money 🙂

As far as what I will miss…just about everything! With the exception of the lack of unsweetened iced tea (that really has ice in it!), a twin sized bed with 6 other (very lovely and easy to live with!) ladies in the same room, and the lack of sweet, sweet air conditioning when it’s 90+ degrees outside.

 

Things I will miss about Sarajevo:

Hearing the church bells when I walk to my internship in the morning.

Hearing the call to prayer when I walk back from my internship in the afternoon.

The 24 hour pekara, and buhtla.

Exploring the shops in copper alley.

Conversations in broken English with my co-workers, and the convenience of Google Translate.

The eleven year-old girl who has autism that I have been lucky enough to spend some time with.

Conversations with the locals.

FOOD!!! All of it!

Things I look forward to when I get home:

My fiance, friends, and family.

My cat.

My HUGE bed.

Privacy.

Bacon.

The insight from this experience which I may not gain until I have returned home.

The end is nigh

This past weekend was what I consider to be my last in Sarajevo, at least for this year…and assuming all goes according to plan when I get to the airport on Saturday. Its been great and I have had a blast this summer, but now it is time to go home. I anticipated my last week in Bosnia to be uneventful, seeing as my internships have wound down quite quickly and I have visited just about every place in the tour book. I had been down every ally in Bascarsija, tried every flavor of Burek, and tripped on every pothole from Stari Grad to Ilidza.
But until Wednesday, I hadn’t tried the flavored Rakija, and that’s when things got interesting.

To summarize what started at Barhana on Wednesday night and ended (lets hope) a lot of random pictures on Facebook today: Rakija makes you friendly enough to meet and chat up local guys who then give you all day tours of Vrelo Bosne, drag you 10 kilometers down the side of a highway just to show you a bridge, volunteer you to be in pictures with every passer-by simply because you are American, drive you up to condemned ruins where the cool kids make out so that you can see what prison was like in the 16th century, and then insist on driving you back down to your hostel through every one way street on the way which takes the car 45 minutes but could have taken you 10 minutes on foot all the while listening to Gansta’s Paradise and Ms. Jackson. And as a memento, they tag you in advertisements of Rakija on Facebook because thats where this whole misadventure started.

And here’s what I have learned from this very eventful final weekend: Its really hard for an American to try to get to know a Bosnian when we are programmed to ask things like where they went to school and what they do for a living, because they maybe didn’t go to university at all, and there’s a strong chance that they don’t work because the youth unemployment rate is more than half. And what you really want to know is whether they lived here during the war, but asking that amounts to the same thing as asking how many friends and relatives they lost, how many dead people they saw and how screwed up are they now. So you have two options, ask nothing and hope that they are talkative, or in my case ask stupidly obvious things like ”So you’re practicing Ramadan… that means you’re Muslim right?” How do you learn who a person is without defining them by what they do?
I don’t have a good answer to that, because the book that I had to read for Foreign Policy entitled ”Identity and Difference” didn’t say squat about real people.