Back in the USSR (Day 6)

03Jul08
Tuesday, July 1, 2008.

We started our internships this morning after a long night of dogs barking and an early morning of roof construction next door. Tina, Ann, Ajla, and I walked to Krajina Tear where the plan was to translate – vis-a-vis Ajla – a grant proposal and to possibly make a visit to an elderly lady with a broken hip.

Instead, we visit a woman named Enisa who shakes with Parkinson’s Disease. Today, it has been five years since her husband of 48 years died. Krajina Tear sends a visitor once a week, but they don’t have the funds for more and Enisa doesn’t have money for better care. She can barely afford her several medications and is only allotted three charitable meals a week, which she must ration to last seven days. She is diabetic, as are her sons. She lives alone and last night she says she fell in the bathtub and slept there, thinking she was going to die. No one in her neighborhood helps her, except a woman who washes her dishes. Her eyes are dark and sad and she must take hormonal medication because she has what can only be described as a goatee growing on her chin. She sits alone at home, with no company except the Bosnian pop music on the old radio and the one or two visitors from Krajina Tear. Her blood pressure reading is 160/120. Our German friend Anne works for the Phoenix, another NGO in Sanski Most, and they bring Enisa food occassionally. Enisa has an uneasy feeling with so many visitors here at once; she is happy to have company, but her blood pressure rises. She says she saw many horrors during the war. She tells us all we are pretty and that she would love to have daughters.

Enisa says she doesn’t have anyone to talk about the war with. She talks to the flowers. She and another woman talk sometimes, but always avoiding the death of the other woman’s husband, because it is upsetting. Tina asks what Enisa’s favorite flower is and she says happily, All of them! But especially the red ones. She kisses each of us on the cheek as we leave, saying we are dear to her and God bless. Wilted raspberries grow in her yard, untended, like Enisa.

Ajla and I walk back from Krajina Tear and talk about our plans. She’s going to Dubrovnik after the delegation. I paid almost $1700 for my round-trip flight and it seems like an incredible waste of money for me to not use that flight, but what I really, really want to do is sunbathe in Dubrovnik for a few days, then find a Ryan Air or some other intracontinental cheap flight to Glasgow and spend a few days with Lis.

I have nothing to do when I get back home: no school, and even if I do get that job, it wouldn’t start until sometime in August. Even considering I get it and considering it starts August 1 (all working under the option of Best Case Scenario), that still gives me at almost two weeks before I would have to move. Say I spend Juny 17 and 18 in Dubrovnik, then July 19 through the 22 or 23 in Glasgow, I’d still have a week to get home.

As far as money goes, I’ve only spent 50-some BAM, and I have plenty in my checking account and even quite a bit extra in savings. An extended return date would only be a couple hundred and even a change in departure city would only add another hundred. Honestly, at this point I’m only tring to convince myself not to do it. I have the money and the time and when am I ever going to be able to do this again? Why not make my last hurrah before real life hits a really great last hurrah? (Not to mention, crossing off another item on my 101 in 1001 List, Lisa-Marie.)

After work, Ajla and I had lunch and waited for our ride out to Vahidin’s house. About 12 of us crammed into an old VW van and cheerily made our way through the outskirts of Sanski Most. We snapped pictures of each other and the landscape and we were all in spectacular moods until we parked in front of a graveyard.

A sign on the gate read Beware of Evil from Someone you did Good to. The cemetery commemorated and served as the burial ground for those massacred in Vahidin’s village in 1992. We walked to the bridge where Serbs lined Bosniaks against the rail and shot them into the river. The grave stones were marked with the Arabic word Sehid, martyr. Vahidin’s family members were listed on a memorial plaque. One of his cousin’s dates read 1991-1992. Vahidin’s cousin or not, how is it possible for someone to murder a one-year old, and at the end of the twentieth century? We are supposed to be civilized.

We arrive at Vahidin’s parents’ house a few somber minutes after leaving the cemetery. His mother tries to feel the girls up (he says this is just Bosnian hospitality) and tells the boys they are handsome. We snack on cheese, meat, and tomatoes before setting out on a several miles-long hike to the new land for the International Center for Peacebuilding. On the way, we stopped at a canyon and Vahidin’s father explained that he watched his friends be shot to death from a hiding spot on the east rim. We take a group picture and walk back through thick, sharp brush that scratches my legs (I’m wearing a dress).

Dinner at Vahidin’s parents’ house consists of pita – another Bosnian dish delicious in its simplicity. We have cakes and cucumbers and drink Turkish coffee from small plastic cups. Miki announces that it’s time to leave. We kiss Vahidin’s parents goodbye and congratulate Vahidin’s wife on their beautiful baby, Alli.

York and I drive home with the Europeans, Brigitte (pronounced Bri-geet-ah, the Austrian way), Aida, and Mathilde. York and I explained the American political system to them and they were so relieved to find out that most Americans actually do not support our president. The five of us planned a trip together to Berlin. If only!

When we got back to the hotel, there was a traditional Bosnian folk concert in the square. York and I watched a life-size game of chess and later a few of us got ice cream bars. The shop owner spoke German to me and after we took a picture together, he gave me a postcard for free. After a few drinks at Caffe The Cool, I headed to bed relatively early.

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2 Responses to “Back in the USSR (Day 6)”

  1. 1 Mom

    Whitney,

    I can’t wait to see your pictures! I have no idea of what it is like where you are.

    Be safe.

    Love you and miss you,

    Mom

  2. 2 Cy-V

    I’m just catching up on your writings to see what’s all going on over there.
    Reading one post after another makes me feel a bit sad about the situation there. You know about it, but you just don’t think of it. It’s great what you do ;-) =)

    Oh, and IF you go to Berlin, let me know ;-)
    It’s fun to know when you’re just a few hours away, when it’s usually an ocean ;-)
    -is going to Berlin for Christmas and New Year again-
    Can’t wait to live there ^^

    We might go to Bosnia as well, in the summer, but that all depends on how much money we can save for our month backpacking :)

    Good luck, enjoy, and spread the love!

    Samantha (Cy-V from flickr and LJ)


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