It is a special, special country in my heart. I went there on Summer Project with Cru on what can almost be considered a whim, but not really; it was totally prompted on my heart by God. The first summer I spent there in 2010 was wonderful, and, again on almost a whim, I returned in 2011. $10,000 fundraised, tons of new friends, and two years later, a little chunk of my heart became converted to Balkan, and it can never go back.
While I'm sure everyone who has been to a somewhat obscure country for an extended period of time says this, I am sad that most people will never know what a gem Sarajevo is in this world. Reactions to my announcement that I would spend the summer in this city said it all -- many haven't heard that name since the 1990's, and will always associate it with war and ethnic conflict, or communism in the very least. The legacy of Sarajevo is mostly confined to the location where WWI started, the Winter Olympics in 1984, and then the horror of the war as Yugoslavia broke down in the 90's. But what has it been by the year 2010, when I first stepped off the plane at Butmir Airport?
It was beautiful mountains, dotted with red-roofed houses, surrounding the whole city.
It was the bustle of trams full of people rolling down the wide European avenues.
It was the smell of ćevapčići in Baščaršija. (That is a lot of accent marks!)
It was the call to prayer ringing through the valley 5 times a day.
It was the thumping beat of techno at coffee shops and bars in the Austrian part of the city.
It was the children biking and running on Vilsonovo.
Today, I am missing the food -- which I was so afraid I wouldn't like -- with the most delicious bread in the history of the world. I miss sitting "on coffee" with my friends from the University of Sarajevo and getting their help shopping at Mercator (which is a little like Target). I wish I knew the next time I would get to take a walk by the river and just be there again! It would be so awesome to get to visit with Darin one day and show him around, if all my favorite places are still there. They probably will. The mixed reaction to McDonald's opening in Sarajevo is a good marker of how much Bosnia likes to stay Bosnian.
Yes, the man in the photo above is a brief fling I had in Sarajevo. Darin is aware of it. Everything is okay.