Back in the USSR (Day 4)

02Jul08
Sunday, June 29, 2008.

Instant Bosnian hang-over cure: fresh baked bread with jam, something that tastes like watered down Tang, almost-too-sweet coffee, and individual packets of honey.

Today we’re looking at root causes of personal conflicts. We’re supposed to look at a conflict in our lives and examine it.

In the end, the conflict I went with was relatively superficial. The process itself was like an emotional assault; one none of us were prepared for. We sat in a circle and talked, one by one, about our personal conflicts and our places in the cycle of conflict resolution. People talked about friends’ suicides, alienated parents, and of course, the Bosnians talked about the war. By the end of the discussion, most of us were crying and all of us were in need of a hug.

At lunch, Vahidin chain-smoked and told a couple of us about being a refugee during the war. He and his family left Sanski Most within 15 minutes of the city becoming occupied. They fled to Slovenia and were refugees there for four and a half years. For the first eight months, they thought his father has been murdered. They had a funeral and buried an empty coffin and tried to grieve. Then, on New Years Eve 1992, Vahidin’s father called his family from Zagreb in Croatia. Until 1996, the family shared one room, often with as many as 12 other people, and were only allowed outside the refugee camp walls for four hours a week. Vahidin used his four hours to talk to the UN supervisor in Slovenia about the refugees’ horrible living conditions.

Vahidin got a text message saying a war criminal has been found hiding in Sanski Most and had been shot outside an apartment building by special forces from Republika Srpska. Details pending. (As of this posting on 7/2/08, there has been no coverage of this event in local or national newspapers or television news.)

After helping Vahidin move furniture from the old Center for Peacebuilding to the new facility, we went swimming in the Sana. The water was crystal clear and ice cold. We hiked knee- or thigh-deep against a heavy current until we got to a concrete island. We sat and skipped rocks and played with clumps of soft green and brown moss. To get back to shore we floated in the current and skinned our knees on sharp rocks.

After dinner, several of us headed across the bridge to find a bar with a TV: the Euro Cup Final between Germany and Spain kicked off at 8:45. We found a bar with a big screen and pivo (beer) and paired off by team: York, Anne, and I for Deustchland; Omer, Aida, and Joe for Espana. Friendly rivalries aside, we had great conversation, and sang happy birthday to Sara at midnight in English, Bosnian, and Spanish. Omer gave us a rundown of Islam as it’s practiced in Bosnia: devoutly, if intermittently; peaceful and quite modern. We hear the call to prayer from the mosque five times a day; it sounds sad and longing, but Omer translates. “Come pray, come pray, praise Allah, the faithful come pray.” Omer tells us he goes to Christmas Eve mass with his Catholic friend every year; not to pray, just to watch.

We finished our drinks and went for a late night gelato. Caramel and stracciatella in a sweet cone, just like in Italy. Joe, York and I shared an Obama fist-bump and brushed the dirt off our shoulders, and I realized that I was quickly becoming friends with these people.

Sanski Most is incredibly safe. Walking home around 1 AM, we feel perfectly fine. Some drunk locals stumble across the bridge with us and drink toasts to Spain from the bottles they are carrying. We picked up a bottle of red wine and grabbed some bread and chicken salami from the hotel bakery and Ann, Omer, Liz, Sean, York, and I sat downstairs playing Never Have I Ever and Truth or Dare and talking well into the night. We finally crawled upstairs around 3 AM, Omer camping out on Liz and Sean’s floor.

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2 Responses to “Back in the USSR (Day 4)”

  1. 1 katrina

    I’m so glad to read more updates. It sounds like you are having an incredible time. I’m glad you are doing this right now, because I really believe this is an important time in your life and I know you are learning more now than you even realize. I can’t wait to see you again!

  2. 2 Mom

    Whitney,

    It sounds as though this workshop is turning into a great therapy session. You are learning how to address issues and resolve personal conflicts. On top of that, you were able to eat gelato!! I must tell Gretta.

    Keep the blogs coming….I feel a book coming on.

    Love you and keep missing you,

    Mom


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