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Sunday, May 30, 2010

An update from Sarajevo


When I had thought about Sarajevo before coming here, and hearing the stories of how there are still holes in the buildings from guns and bombs during the war, I didn't understand. I couldn't figure out why they just couldn't "fix" it, cover it up, repaint, tear down the bombed out buildings. What I didn't realize, is nearly every building is marked and that would be nearly impossible without tearing down the entire city. What I still don't understand, is why certain buildings had to be hit. Like buildings which are clearly apartments and homes. I understand libraries, universities, museums, but places where it is just obviously civilians, I will probably never understand. However, life goes one, people still live in apartment complexes once sprayed along the line of fire and look out of their office windows into bombed out buildings now being overgrown with vegetation, repairing the holes with trees and ferns.

The people here are strong. Everybody has a story about the war. Even those who I can't understand (my Bosnian is rough), I know they talk about war through the hand motions of bombs and pointing to eyes and ears, which would explain why they aren't responding to my questions. The old people talk about the war, the younger talk about the war, even if they weren't here for it, they always throw in the fact that they were born in Germany, Kosovo, etc. because the war was going on, but they are Bosnian. I am reading a book called Sarajevo Marlboro, written by a Bosnian journalist, translated to English. 27 stories of the war from individuals point of view, small vignettes of their lives which help me understand what it was like. The people did and still do look out for one another, more so than in any other place I've been. One story in another book I read was about a shoe maker who told a customer to buy shoes from the man next door, he has already sold one pair and thus could feed his family that day, the man next door had a wife and two children who also needed to eat. That is how the people are here.

I have spent most of my time with Internationals. I live with a family who is American and Dutch, the kids speaking many languages. They go to a school with mainly international students and it is fascinating to talk to these people, all doing good things for others through aid and service all over the world. They're the kind of people who don't just talk.

I had been told that the Mormon church was not here. However, upon meeting a few people who had talked to a few others, the church is here. They had actually heard I was coming from one of their daughter's friends in Idaho, but nobody was sure exactly where I would be or how to get a hold of me to let me know they were here, which I find to be downright crazy. There are just 8 of us who meet on Sundays in a home in town, but it is here. The church had missionaries here during Tito's days of this being Yugoslavia, however, when it split and with war and what not, somewhere during that time it had become illegal. Nobody really knows of what happened to the members, however, there is one Bosnian member that we know of who lives outside of town. Other than that, it was just us 8 Americans.

I am having a hard time narrowing down what to photograph, there are so many interesting places and people, but they all revolve around the pain of war. I want to show how things have changed, how progress is being made, but it is difficult to show that. I still have 3 weeks, hopefully this week will be the week I figure my project out so I can spend the rest of my time working on it. The people who I have met are helping, exposing me to the right people and places to help me understand Bosnia and it's complicated history.

Bosnia has always been known for its water, a traveler in the late 1800s wrote that he had counted 110 fountains in the city alone, all flowing with perfect, cold water from underground springs. Many are on top of hills, so when you reach the top, you are rewarded with a drink. These were vital during the war when the water got shut off, keeping the people alive. There is a fountain in the center of town, and legend has it, if you drink from it, you will never want to leave. I fill up my water bottle everyday hoping that I never will have to.


Mrs Wilson said...

The war in Sarajevo was a war on civillians. People were shot queuing for water. Markets were bombed with people inside.

I'm glad you have this experience and sorry that I don't get to share it with you.

I drank the water, too. That means that I will someday go back.

Stephanie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephanie said...

That sounds like an interesting, and really amazing experience. How do you know Bosnian?

Christine Armbruster said...

I've just picked it up while living here and a book that I hardly look at... I don't know it well at all though! I'm really good at faking it though, apparently.

And Kim, when you got back, I'll be here.