Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lab coat for Mirsad

Dear Friends,

Let me tell you a story. Last year I became friends with Selma who is a Veterinarian student here in Sarajevo. Before I left in December she told me about a Pathology professor in the department who was an amazing professor and in love with Cornell University which has a world renowned Veterinary faculty. Even though Dr. Mirsad Kadrić had no physical ties to Cornell, I sensed it's importance to him and felt compelled to get him a gift from the university.

So, after the New Year I made first contacts with Cornell and right away I knew it was going to be a battle as the gift I desired to get was no small thing; a veterinarian lab coat with the official Cornell insignia. Fortunately, I met the "right" person, the Dean's secretary, Patricia, and she committed herself to finding a coat and finally we got some luck- she found one last lab coat that was meant for upper level veterinary students when they transition up. So we found ourselves a lab coat for Mirsad!

Now, just to make it more official, I wanted to embroider his name on this lab coat and I knew the right place to go- the Firestore in Gap, PA. It is an amazing place thanks to the owners, the Witmer family, and because of their embroidering department, they were willing and able to help. So, we were able to put Mirsad's full name in cornell red across from the faculty's insignia. Cool!

You can imagine how excited I was to come back to Sarajevo with this snazzy gift. I had to curb that enthusiasm a bit as the university starts later in the year and my friend Selma was all kinds of busy and she was our connection. But, last Wednesday I was able to meet Mirsad and exchange this gift...

Obviously, he was totally surprised and maybe unsure of the why's and how's. I tried communicating to him that I understand he is a very accomplished and talented professor whose commitment to his students and integrity as a professor (not so easy here in Bosnia) are shaping the lives of his students. He confessed, that he is not sure of his impact within the department but assured me that he is happy and committed and I could sense that he has purpose and passion.

In closing, let me explain the significance of this I feel about it. First of all it is a pure extension of friendship and goodwill from one place to another- between strangers and among "peers" in the veterinarian world. To feel the kindness of a stranger is a great thing! Also, I believe this gift could inspire Dr. Mirsad to keep on, keeping on! Please imagine a scenario where you give your life for something (maybe educating generations of veterinarian students) and all you see is complacency within the overall educational, political, social and economic structures of your society and you have to "entrust" these students to this society; to sink or swim. I feel this gift could encourage Mirsad in this journey and maybe even impact his students to see the Cornell insignia and dream of realizing any and every dreamlike goal.

So, this was my story about a lab coat for Mirsad. Hope you enjoyed it and I would just like to warmly thank Cornell University and the Firestore. Go team!

Much Love

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Introducing the April Baseball project

My colleague, Eldar, and I are beginning Little League Baseball teams here in Sarajevo. Maybe you could help? Thanks

Friday, March 5, 2010 On

Dear Friends-

That was an extremely cheesy blog title so please forgive me. An early March snowstorm here in Sarajevo is blanketing my creative spirit with that lulling sense of sleepiness and quietness. Overall, I have not felt too inspired to write anything on the blog (hence, not doing so for two weeks) but please give this update a chance to materialize. Wow, that was a pitiful introduction!

I can say that life has not been overly dramatic recently and maybe that is why I feel I have nothing to say. And in that vein, maybe this is why I need to write; to express the necessary normalicy of living with resolve and purpose in "foreign" places that can become so casually familiar. And so it is that I am getting used to life here in Sarajevo and I will say that it is a confetti mix of day to day happenings and a deeper realization of opportunity here. Let me explain...

As you know, I was working on one of Mozaik's projects regarding efforts to create an EthnoRestoraunt here in Sarajevo's historic center. I am in the middle of these efforts as I am developing plans for reconstruction of an Ottoman period house that will be the restaurants home. So, from conceptualization to diagrams to model-making, I am wearing the "hat" of architect and designer and...I freaking love it. I told my sister yesterday that it feels so good to be designing again; working with layers and layers of trace paper and letting the house come to life at my finger tips. Of course, I am not an architect, but the opportunity Mozaik has given me to bring this project forward into fund raising has given me the courage to be creative and expressive, digging into this awkwardly new design world. All in all, the project is going well and next week I will begin making a scaled model that will fully express the houses potential character.

Earlier I spoke of my life lacking drama so I would like to tell you about my recent trip to Srebrenica. Most people have heard of Srebrenica, even if they know nothing about Bosnia or the Balkans. Srebrenica is synonomous with genocide, war and failed international peace-keeping. Srebrenica was a tiny city kilometers from the Serbian border and home to about 6,000 people of which 70% were Bosniak/Muslim while a similiar Muslim majority was intact throughout the entire Srebrenica municiaplity with around 35,000 inhabitants. One of the most ravaged cities in the war, Srebrenica also realized unspeakable atrocities with the most notorious crime happening on July 11th, 1995 when thousands of men were systematically killed. An area called Potocari, pictured below, is final home to the 8,300 persons and counting murdered in Srebrenica during the war.

Today, Srebrenica is meagerly inhabited with Bosnian Serbs and Muslims trying to scrape together a meaningful life. I was in Srebrenica with my friend Selma, as her families guest and I was introduced to "life as normal" in post war Bosnia. A few quick observations:

I am sick of seeing bombed and burned out houses and buildings strewn about the beleagured landscape. Literally 60% of the buildings you see are not lived in and are either mere shells or charred and ruined. It's sort of like driving in a pristine natural area and then coming upon hundreds of acres of forest ravaged by wildfire. Each desolate house represents a family devastated.

Optimism is ruined hearing story after story of people, lovely people, unable to make significant steps in positive directions- economically, emotionally, relationally, educationally; To see them stuck.

My heart breaks to be around young adults my age who have lost fathers and brothers and uncles; having to live in refugee camps and locked in cells of depression and frustrating futures. To look them in the eye and remember every blessing I take foregranted. Talking to my friend Selma as we were driving and she was fighting back quiet tears in retelling the loss of her father; any attempts to comfort through words were hushed by the lyrics of a Fleet Foxes song playing on the stereo...
"There's nothing I can do
There's nothing I can do
There's nothing I can say
There's nothing I can say"

I guess Srebrenica is a kind of cruel drama we all wish would never happen.

As I look out of my apartment, as newly pictured to the right, I see freshly painted houses and a clean coating of sodium white snow. I guess life is as dramatic or as boring as we allow it to be. Soon I will step back into the confusing world outside this nucleus of comfort. I trust some of my expressed words touched home and made sense. Thanks for listening and richest greetings from Sarejevo.