Well, I am back in Sarajevo or maybe back “home” is a better statement. It was wonderful being back home with loved family and friends for a month and not easy to leave again, but there was a lot of internal, churning emotion driving me back here. Arriving to a snowy Sarajevo on Sunday night I felt totally at peace and ready to make life happen again: continue learning Bosnian and interning with Fondaciju Mozaik and give/receive blessing from old and new friends alike. I never did finish the rundown of Top Ten Sarajevo sentiments so I would like to wrap them up with returning impressions of Bosnia.
8. There is something uniquely and discreetly magical about Sarajevo and the people here. Something you have to believe in and discover or else you might miss it. I have keenly felt the hospitality and the helpful guidance of so many people here who moments ago were perfect strangers. And overall, these people suffer the weight of historical and present-day prejudice that is most absurd.
In a previous Top Tenner, I shared a brief story about Aid who I met on the tram and ended up taking a coffee together. We were not able to meet up again before I left in December even though he was most earnest in seeing each other so I assured him I would see him at the end of January. Answering my first text message he excitedly told me about his amazing new job and insisted on meeting for coffee as soon as possible. I have a hard time believing this myself, but Aid is committed to helping me because…he believes in me and wants me to succeed here and thinks I could help tell the world that the people of Sarajevo are good people. Sitting in the café with Aid, I just settle into the vinyl bench, feeling lucky and loved. I need to be here!
9. Coming from the states, I arrived in Budapest and made travel arrangements from there to get to Sarajevo with time for a brief rest weekend in the Hungarian capital. While there I met up with an Italian volunteer working in Bosnia who was attending a conference on forced migration. Spending two evenings together, I was invited into her new network of conference friends, all volunteers, and a few of them had lived in Bosnia. It was very encouraging to hear their stories of life there and sense how jealous they were that I was returning to Sarajevo while they dispersed to places like Libya and Spain. What strikes me is the impression Bosnia leaves upon souls and the shared nostalgia of life here.
10. Life is real here. Not to say that life in Bechtelsville, Pennsylvania is a mirage or dull but I can say that it is different. I sense daily that knife’s edge reality of emotional darkness and light, success and disaster, love and hate, joy and suffering. In most conversations the dialogue will range among these reflecting this distressed normalcy. In talking to Aid yesterday, he readily confessed animal urges to react ferociously to insults and injury and in the next sentence made it clear his commitment to peace and forgiveness. In accepting and wearing these most basic of human tendencies, there is the freedom to express and reach out towards the light and I wish I could aptly communicate how often I have been warmed by that light.
Life is real here. Contradictory and every rough edge softened by snow and mist.
I hope these thoughts are helpful. It’s hard to explain feelings and observations sometimes but I am trying. Beyond these dynamic aspects of life there are the daily nuts and bolts activities like commuting, staying warm and committing to language learning that is an aggravating daily battle. A routine is going to develop as I find and settle into my new apartment and live within the boundaries of the daily grind. Overall, we must all find the glory and possibility of meaningful work and play within our own schedules and I am quite happy about mine here. Blessings upon you all and thanks for reading!