First week in Bosnia
I am living in the attic of a blue house, which I share with fish farmers in the Bosnian countryside. I have a small kitchen (with a tea kettle and 6 espresso cups), a living room decorated with antique dolls, and a bedroom that smells like the suitcase of a grandparent. It is a musty and warm oasis. Behind the house are vegetable gardens and pools of fish and a guard dog (named Garo) who no longer pulls on his chain. There is a dirt path that I can follow for hours, past sheep and cemeteries and forgotten homes.
I arrived in Bosnia last Thursday, so my experience at Zene Za Zene (“ZzZ”) has been an introductory one. ZzZ was set up in 1993 to provide the female victims of the war with financial assistance and job skills training. A micro-credit program was set up at ZzZ in 1997, and the organization started raising money through Kiva just 9 months ago. The women at ZzZ wear leather jackets and have aggressively highlighted hair. They are smart and talkative, and gaze at me curiously as they smoke their cigarettes. I have a hard time explaining that I am here on a volunteer mission to help capture the stories of their borrowers. I still have not met any borrowers, but I have been promised several trips into the field later this week.
The Bosnian people are kind and insist that I eat. Constantly. At all times, I am either eating ‘burek’ (a meat pastry so greasy that its grease absorbs through my fingertips even before it reaches my lips) or sipping espressos, whose loose coffee grains stain my teeth black. I think I’m going to be happy here. Happy and fat.
I spent the weekend with a girl my age, Emira. After hours of conversation about boys and school and our shared crush on Obama, I thought that I could ask her about the war. Wrong. She was 6 when the war began, and she says that she remembers everything. She changed the subject quickly. “I can’t let myself think about it. We live side-by-side with the Serbs today. I don’t want to think about how my neighbors tried to kill my family.” I stopped with my questions, and offered to buy her ice cream. I guess I am already learning the Bosnian way: when in doubt, offer food.
I shall write more soon! Thanks for reading./>