Back in the USSR (Day 13)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008.

An early morning took us to the mayoral offices of the city of Sarajevo. We were expecting to meet the mayor, the first woman in Sarajevo’s history, but she sent one of her two deputy mayors instead. The guy looked like a furrier (and fatter) version of George Carlin and had urban snobbery written all over him.

We asked him very direct questions that could have been answered with a short and equally direct explanation. But in true politician style, he blathered on about completely unrelated topics and kept talking about the uneducated (read: ignorant and helpless) rural people who were easily seduced by nationalism and who need brilliant people like this asshole to save them from reverting to neanderthals.

After this visit, we received a breath of fresh air at the headquarters of the Nasa Stranka political party. Nasa Stranka means “Our Party” and it is the new, up-and-coming political party in Bosnia: incorporating Serbs, Croats, Bosniaks, ethnic minorities, non-nationals, and other citizens. Their goal is to unite all Bosnians with a platform of constitutional reform, economic and health care reform, and ensuring each individual has their rights afforded them. Our Party is fairly idealistic and has unbelievable obstacles to overcome (including threats and intimidation) in order to secure any seats in local municipalities. The diffidculties are even greater when it reaches the federal level.

Bosnia’s presidency is divided in thirds. The 1995 Dayton Peace Accords, which also serve as Bosnia and Hercegovina’s constitution, demanded the presidency be divided between three people, one Bosniak, one Serb, and one Croat, who rotate in and out of office every three months. If you ask me, that’s a pretty messed up – and not to mention, inefficient – system of governance. Our Party seems to agree with my sentiments. What they’re doing is really wonderful, and they’re giving a voice to the underserved and largely ignored people. But I wonder if their aims are too lofty? (The Barack Obama of Bosnia and Hercegovina, perhaps?*)

After meeting with Nasa Stranka, we enjoy a kitchy double-decker bus ride through the city. We travel all through downtown and then we creak up into the hills, where the views are incredible. From here, Sarajevo gives the illusion of being larger than Rome, even though it’s impossible to see where that city ends, even from the dome of St. Peter’s. We drive through New Sarajevo and I finally see the Holiday Inn. (We didn’t do the tunnel today, or Snipers Alley proper, but apparently we will before we leave.)

After the bus tour, we meet with the USAID project for sustainable development and ecotourism. It’s an interesting approach to reconstruction, but I don’t know how effective it is (especially on a meager $16 million budget). They try to draw tourists in by sending out videos displaying happy tourists biking, hiking, and rafting in the Bosnian wilderness. Personally, I thought it was a little cheeky, and I’d rather see Bosnia the way I’m doing it, but if USAID is capable of bringing money in, that’s great. (By the way, if this blog [and subsequent pictures] does not convince you of Bosnia’s beauty and allure, perhaps the promotional Enjoy Life USAID DVD they gave us will.)

We wait out a thunderstorm in the AID lobby and Tina and I take a really obtuse detour on the way back to the hotel to look for a tattoo and piercing studio for her. I buy a certain cosmetic product and surprise everyone at dinner with an instant makeover. We watch a movie about the seige and, in addition to the flu-like illness circulating around some of us, there is a tangible emotional sickness going around as well.

We’re exhausted and in for another really long day tomorrow before leaving for Srebrenica on Thursday morning. (Due to the fact that Srebrenica is extremely rural and that it’s an extremely somber commemmoration ceremony and the government typically shuts down the communication structure, it will be absolute radio silence from my end, until at least Sunday night.)

*My fellow readers, please don’t interpret this as a dig on Obama. My support for him is still going strong. But I maintain that hope can only get us so far.


One Response to “Back in the USSR (Day 13)”

  1. 1 Alex

    Read parts of your blog, find it pretty cool. Ok, I have a Q. few friends and I are going to Sanskii Most for 2 weeks to work in an orphanage as volunteers. We have a weekend in the middle. Where should we go? How long does the bus to sarajevo take? or maybe you can suggest some other places to visit nearer to sanskii most so that we dont spend a day travelling there and a day travelling back.
    Also, was wondering if you know how long is the bus ride from sanskii most to Split (Croatia), coz that was initially the plan for the weekend untill we realised that it may be too far. Thank you

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