Thursday, June 18, 2015

Leaving Sarajevo

Less than 2 days in Sarajevo, I’m feeling very sad. I love this city, I love the Bosnian people, and on the whole they have been amazingly kind and warm and welcoming. It could not have been a better start to my life as a Foreign Service Diplomat for the United States.
I don’t want to leave, the kids are so well settled here, as am I, even the husband has a great job at the Embassy. But even with me asking, the powers that be said, “no, it is time for you to move on to your next assignment.”
I can understand, Sarajevo is a fantastic post, people would be lucky to get it, we were lucky to get it. Everyone in the system has to get a turn at good posts and at bad posts. If those of us at good posts never left, it wouldn't be fair to those at bad posts, no?
I still remember my Flag Day ceremony, that was the day all of us newly hired diplomats were told our first overseas assignment. I had really wanted to stay in DC as my first assignment, dip my toe into this Foreign Service world, second on my family’s list was Abu Dhabi, third was Sarajevo and forth Baku, Azerbaijan. My husband and I were sure that if we didn’t get our top choice of DC, we would definitely get our second choice of Abu Dhabi or our 4th choice of Baku (as no one else in my orientation class wanted Azerbaijan). We didn’t even really consider Sarajevo, just stuck it on the list. When my name was called and they said “Congratulations you are going to Sarajevo!” I could not have been more dumbstruck – um…what? I vaguely remember going through the motions of the ceremony, going to the stage to receive my flag and shake hands with the visiting dignitary presiding over the event.  I do recall that as she handed me the flag, she said, “You are so lucky, you are going to love Sarajevo.” Needless to say I was skeptical.
Also on memory lane is the day we landed in Sarajevo, my heart sank on first impressions. The city was so gray, so communist looking and what wasn't communist looking was damaged by war. At that second, I wanted to scream to the Embassy driver, “turn around, I want to go home.”
It is so funny to me to think of those moments now, as I have fallen in love with city and its people. I love how I can walk down the street and see at least 5 people I know, smiling and saying hello. I love how people are so kind with the kids, playing and talking to them. I love how you are treated like a family member as soon as locals get to know you. Every evening I get a bit weepy at the thought of us leaving. Ilhan and Eyshal have grown so much while here.

There is so much I will miss about this lovely and haunting country: the people, the greenery, the fruit market, the endless shoe stores that I love to window shop in, Eyshie’s teachers, Ilhan’s nanny and her family, our next door neighbor who doesn’t speak English but is super sweet, the tiny grocery store next to our apartment with the kind ladies, my flower lady, my egg lady, the old couple I buy vegetables from who always ask about the kids, the other flower ladies with the proper shop, my Gypsy lady and her adorable baby Riyadh and all the other wonderful friends we have made here. 
This is not a goodbye to Sarajevo but a farewell for now. 

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Pic of Sarajevo

Pic of Sarajevo, the city cemetery, this is adjacent to the cemetery that they had to make during the war. The picture shows the Orthodox portion of the city cemetery, with the church in the middle. Sadly because of the last war, the city cemetery is quite large (you can't get the full scope from this photo). My daughter calls the cemetery 'mouse city,' which is cute and I don't want to explain what the cemetery is really for. Let her keep her innocence a while longer, she is only 4.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Bosnia as a Muslim Country

I had a friend post on Facebook inquiring if Bosnia is a Muslim country.  That is a tricky question, technically no, it is a secular country, with no one religion to identify. But yes, the majority of citizens identify themselves as Muslim. Its a mixed bag here of varying degrees of Islam, some very liberal others wearing the full head covering and body wrap. Also, Bosnia has two other major religions, Serb Orthodox and Catholic. It can't be forgotten that it was this religious divide that fueled the 1990's Bosnian war.

The first official census for the country since the outbreak of the war in 1991 is scheduled to come out this month. There is much controversy surrounding it. It will conclusively show the results of ethnic cleansing and a fleeing dispora - experts guess that the numbers will present a much smaller Bosnia, about 1 million less people then from 1991. The census could also show that there are much less Muslims in this country than originally thought. Than the question really becomes, is this a Muslim country without a Muslim majority??