Back in the USSR (Day 14)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008.

I woke up with a touch of the Bubonic Plague that’s been going around. We’re all dragging, and repeatedly getting lost on the walk to our first morning meeting isn’t helping.

We meet with a Franciscan priest who is the head of the International Multicultural Interreligious Commission. They work to promote and preserve religious tolerance and acceptance in Bosnia and Hercegovina.

Next, we meet with Svetlana Broz, the granddaughter of The Josip Broz Tito, Marshal of Yugoslavia. If I wasn’t already aware that Tito is pretty much considered a man of mythic proportions by Bosnians, then Svetlana’s work and popularity would be enough to fill me in.

Trained as a cardiologist, she left Belgrade during the war to be a doctor to the wounded in Bosnia. Here, she got involved with people who shared stories about the help they’d received from people not of their own ethnic group. Inspired and surprised by the number of this kind of story she heard, Svetlana went on to write quite a few books on civil courage, including Good People in an Evil Time and Having What it Takes.

She was extremely honest and open in response to our questions and she’s had enough experience to temper our enthusiasm to more realistic levels. We bought copies of Having What it Takes and she gratefully signed each of our copies. I felt really motivated listening to her, because even more than working on the ground, she’s getting the word out that civil courage exists and works, even in the most inadvertent situations.

After this, I go along to act as Tina’s moral support while she gets her nose pierced. The studio was a little small, but relatively clean and I made sure, through a mix of broken Bosnian, German, and English, that they sanitized everything first. Tina jumped a little when the gun went in, but said afterward that it didn’t hurt at all. It looks great.

Following this detour, we went to a meeting at the UNDP to talk about focus groups and who knows what else. By that time, my scratchy throat had turned into a full-on head-nose-throat thing and I didn’t have much energy to pay attention.

Tonight is Vahidin’s last night with us and to celebrate, we all go to a hookah bar in the square. I drink something called Magic Tea – which I’m pretty sure is just apple tea with some spices. It’s sweet and delicious and soothes my throat. Everyone else smokes strawberry and peach hookah and it smells sweet and juicy. The walk home is, as usual, long and straight up hill. I pack a backpack for Srebrenica and crash.


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