blog posts from GYC's participants, alumni, & staff
By Cameron Macaskill
Our last week in Sarajevo could not possibly have started out on a more energetic note that our morning meeting on July 14th with Yuri Anastasiev, Resident Coordinator of the United Nations Development Program in BiH. He was brutally honest and direct in his analysis of international policy regarding BiH and was the first person we’d met with to really bring the situation there into a larger international perspective. He talked with us about various topics ranging fom EU accession, the Wuropean Economic Crisis, EU’s asylum system, and how situations in Ukraine, Russia, Serbia and Syria all contributed to the current political climate in Bosnia. His analysis was critical and his clear energy was a great way to start our day. When it came to career advice, his biggest warning was that a life in international development came with a lot of sacrifices and it was important to understand this when embarking on a career in it. His words of advice had a lasting impression on me and many other members of our group, and this meeting certainly stood out to me as was of the most memorable.
Mogu li te uslikati (“Can I Take Your Picture”)
by Hannah Bailey
Being my fourth trip to Bosnia, this GYC Delegation was an opportunity to see a place I already know and love in a completely new way. One of the many new perspectives I gained was through my camera lens. Walking around the market in Sanski Most with a DSLR camera isn’t exactly the way to blend in. I wanted to capture the people in the market but pointing my camera at strangers going about their daily business seemed rather intrusive in a small town.
I was nervous that people would not want their picture taken so I decided to ask first. Fortunately, a friend previously taught me to say, “Mogu li te uslikati (Can I take your picture)” and so I started asking the different shop owners. I completely butchered it a few times and asking turned into me pointing at my camera and then at them and saying “slika (picture)”.
Some said yes, some said no, and some just wanted me to photograph their vegetables. Seeing me trying to talk to people with my minimal amount of Bosnian apparently made me much more approachable. At one point different people started waving me over to take pictures of them with their goods. I even managed to have a few basic conversations. The feeling of communicating with people despite a language barrier is one of the best feelings in the world. A whole different type of connection is created when you and a stranger work together to understand each other. I had a lot of extremely powerful experiences on this trip, but the ones closest to my heart are the five-minute-relationships I created with people I will most likely never meet again.
By Kathleen McCrudden
Funnily enough, one of the things that made the greatest impact on me throughout the entire, whirlwind trip, was swimming in the river Sana. It was not by any means the most dramatic, or even most unusual experience that we encountered over the three weeks, but for me it symbolizes one of the most powerful. Moments spent by the river in Sanski Most represent, firstly, some of the few occasions over the course of a busy trip that were spent in pure peace and relaxation – opportunities to process and digest, even subconsciously, the often painful and difficult emotional and mental demands that we making on ourselves by wanting to learn more about the beautiful, fascinating, but damaged country that is Bosnia Herzegovina. Splashing in the water, or sat by the banks, watching the sun glint on the clear water and reflecting off the dome and four minarets of the mosque that indulgently watched over us, laughing at the fears of the Bosnians who accompanied us that we would give ourselves heart-attacks by jumping into the freezing water, were some of the happiest moments of the trip. And it is here that the real key to this joy can be found, and the reason why these recollections stay with me – not the coolness of the water or the heat of the sun, but the memory of the people we encountered there. For the greatest thing I learnt was not the intricacies of Bosnian governance, or the procedure of international diplomacy, fascinating though these lessons were, but the real and human cost of conflict. It was the paradox of the fact that the people we met were just like us – teenagers, young adults, with their flaws and their virtues, and their own, wonderful, unique personalities – but had also been through an experience that we could never comprehend, and the impact of which we could never measure. I learnt that war did not just damage those who went through it, but those in generations to come, and no survey or statistic could ever do justice to that. Yet here enters the paradox – despite this gulf of experience that separated us, we were connected by the simple fact of our humanity and our youth. The people I met were further outside my ken, yet more wonderfully familiar than I could have ever expected, and it is this that makes me hold swimming in the Sana, and all it represents, so dear. It is to these people therefore – Amar, Bakir, Arnaut, Lejla, Dejan, Amila, Alexandra, Samra, and all the others we met – that I would like to dedicate this piece to.