Ramazan is a month long celebration of fasting (postic) and feasting (iftar) observed by many devout and nominal muslims here in Sarajevo. Every day at sunset, right around 8 o'clock, the lights in the mosques' minarets turn on in unison to a single rocket shot from a fortification above the city, signalling the time to join family and friends for the iftar feast. Yesterday, I was at that fortification, the zuta tabija, and among others, had a count-down anticipation of the rocket's explosion as striking sun-set colors and clouds bejeweled Sarajevo below us. In those prolonged moments, I welcomed myself back home to Sarajevo and promised myself that I don't have to leave anytime soon!
Yeah, I am back in Bosnia. I have been here for the better part of 10 days; getting back into the flow of things with relation to home, work and play. It is summer here; first time seeing so much sun and feeling the heat in this city that I have come to know as cool, cloudy and wet. You could say that I am going slowly, polako, as always some things change, friends have left and my own set of expectations and understanding have changed and flexed, requiring a new inventory of life.
Many of you knew that I left home in a flurry of activity near the end of July heading towards Europe. During that time, from July through August, I seized the opportunity to realize a dream I've had of doing a pilgrimage in northern Spain called the Camino de Santiago. A few years ago I heard about this pilgrimage in a travel writing essay and then just last year in a newspaper article from Louisville, Kentucky and since then I had been wondering when I could find the time to do this journey that takes weeks, involving walking hundreds of miles across pastoral Spain.
This pilgrimage dates back hundreds of years when medieval pilgrims began traveling across Europe to Santiago, Spain where the body of St. James is mysteriously buried. We are talking about the third largest christian pilgrimage sight after Jerusalem and Rome and interesting it is how the pilgrimage has retained popularity and meaning even today; now days the journey has gained more of a backyard travel feel for anybody and everybody, religious and non, who have the will to lace up their walking shoes every day and rough it a bit. Personally, I chose to do the pilgrimage because I wanted the time, the pace and labored time, to think and envision my upcoming adventure in Bosnia and that is also why I did the Camino backwards, starting in Santiago and literally walking east towards Bosnia. All in all, accompanied by great friend, Stevo Schanely from Boyertown, we walked clear across northern Spain accumulating 725 kilometers worth of stories, pain and shared memories. Even more specially, as the path continued after 1,2 and 3 weeks, I could sense my heart being opened to God and a growing sense of calm and purpose in my return to Bosnia: exactly what I was hoping to happen!
A highlight portraying this was my last day alone on the Camino, atop the very last mountain, Jaizkebal, that I had just summited. It was quite cool and cloudy and rain drops were coming and going with the strong breeze. I climbed up this little tower dedicated to Santa Barbera and stood high, arms outstretched to the heavens and in both confidence and fragility I welcomed my life, my destiny, my purpose and asked God for the strength to continue. And then I yelled; twice and very loudly for as long as I could. It was liberating and after that I put back on my hiking bag and ran down the mountain.
And all this to say, that I am back home in Sarajevo. I so much enjoyed being back home with family and friends in Bechtelsville and I didn't want it to end because I know, somehow know, that the coming months will be spent so far away from Pennsylvania. I feel blessed for all of the conversations and encouragement from many of you I was able to spend quality time with and I look forward to a continuation of that through emails and the like. I hope to also invest more time with the blog to continue to tell the story of this place, not neccessarily my story but the bigger story of the realization of light and beauty here!
And so, this is what I got for today. Blessings upon you all and once again I welcome your thoughts, questions and prayers.