I openly admit it. I am schizophrenic about where I want to be and when at the moment. What is a man to do? Two great choices. Well, an infinite number of choices. Right now I dabble with two. So as I sit here in 25 degree weather (or 77 if you wanna talk F), with a subtle warm breeze coming in from the ocean, I ponder what it is that I like about home. Home is Bosnia. At least for now. I think I got a little too philosophical with my pondering. I could’ve just as easily said I miss Delikates cafe, Noovi restaurant, hiking in Umoljani, brainstorming with Tarik Samarah, skipping stones on the water with Alban, trying out all the new yummies at Ujedinjena Hercegovina, stumbling upon Pedja at Europe (his home away from home) and daydreaming about when, if ever, will we finish our eco-house. Daydreaming I can do here. So I’ll just philosophize. It’s what southern Slavs do.
1. Coffee. There are a million different brands here in the states. All offering ridiculously large and rather mediocre cups of joe. It’s not the quantity but the quality. I have to travel 45 miles for a good espresso. And it’s not really all that good. Bosnian coffee, both due to the way the coffee is prepared and the quality of water, is second to none. I hear people discussing whether Dunkin Donuts or 7-eleven coffee is better. Are you kidding me?! I’m drinking tea for the rest of the month.
2. Family and friends
3. Time. The western world, especially America, is always on the run. People work hard. Too hard in my opinion, or at least too much. I certainly don’t have the gall to applaud Bosnian work ethic but one thing I do appreciate is the collective ability (generally speaking) to find time for each other. Even if it’s just a ritualistic coffee. Another thing about time that I have learned (it took me many, many years to accept and learn) is sabur. The ability to slow down, contemplate and not always be heading in six different directions at once is – when utilized properly – a tool for success.
4. Modesty. One of the things that I find discouraging about the states is how the entire society is seemingly set up to do one thing – spend, consume and waste ( I guess that’s actually three things). America is 6% of the world’s population and uses 40% of its resources. Ultra consumerism is the way of the world here. It is not sustainable. I have a problem with it. I have a deep appreciation for Bosnian’s mostly modest lifestyles. Consumerism is more based on what we truly need rather than what we want. And we are usually able to recognize the difference. Things usually get used until they can be used no more and, even then, someone will find a common sense use for it.
5. Nature. Pacha Mama is wonderful wherever one goes. But Bosnia and Herzegovina definitely tops my list as the most beautiful swath of mother nature in southeast Europe. What I love most about it is how wild it is. I went hiking in Switzerland some years back…saw chamois…beautiful views. I thought it was me and the mountains. When I got to the top it was a circus. Paragliders, trains, hotel, hundreds of people – all had come up from the other side. Bosnia’s nature is wild, pristine and still largely untouched. For those of us fortunate enough to wander in the outback – it’s a treat that not too many places in the western world can offer any more.
6. Creativity. Perhaps the insanity of the Bosnian ‘situation’ is a catalyst for Bosnia’s creativity. Ne znam. For such a small place I find the creative talent to be utterly remarkable. Inspirational even. My creative juices, however sour, are definitely more fluid whilst embedded in the Bos. The pain, injustice, fatalism…which undoubtedly stem from the fun years of war…have been the foundation of the new Bosnian cultural renaissance. Whether it be film, literature, music, theatre, arts…I’m proud to be a part of what I consider Sarajevo’s better side.
7. Cejf. Bosnians have mastered the art. Thoroughly enjoying the things we love most and doing them as often as possible is the rule rather than the exception in BiH. Narcissism at its finest. I particularly like the cafe culture. Sipping a strong espresso or creamy cappucino over a long chat about war, politics or who slept with who. Mezze is an art form. It’s a magical melange of munching on fine cheese, dried meats (or meat of any kind, Bosnians are the definition of carnivore), an olive or two all carefully washed down with good wine or the local firewater – often both. Cejf almost always involves number 3.
8. Challenge. The war sort of gave us a blank slate in 1996. I don’t find the transitional period to be only a frustratingly painful one. I find it challenging as well. Bosnia and Herzegovina is still not defined as a nation, and I don’t mean politically. It is still taking shape as a new society. It’s identity still unknown although so many centuries old. When I see Bosnia I see potential. And with potential there is always a challenge to realize that potential. I think we’re doing a shitty job of it at the moment but there are those who have genuinely embraced the challenge of creating a new Bosnia. In the states I feel like it’s all been done. I don’t feel the pressing challenge to do or die. I like that rush. It’s certainly worth getting up in the morning for.
9. The fight. Directly related to number 8. The forces that tried, and almost succeeded, in ripping this nation apart at the seams in the early 1990’s have not by any means gone silent. They are still at it. It’s sort of like good versus evil, although I’m not to keen to throw anyone into the evil category. There’s still a good fight to be had…and it’s with our hearts and minds (now I sound like an American military strategist :) instead of the sword. I think it’s easy to walk away…and in all honesty I’ve contemplated it many times. But Bosnia and Herzegovina will only survive if there’s enough good people putting up a good fight.
10. Food. This may seem strange. I think I surprised myself. The choice of foods are very limited in Bosnia, true. But the thing i truly appreciate in its simplicity is the quality. Locally grown food is mostly organic by default. Cows actually graze. GMO’s are virtually unheard of (although Monsanto are trying to creep in the back door). You can buy a liter of milk or some cheese, unpasteurized, from a local farmer. Food is also very seasonal – so we eat what mother nature gives us when she gives us. Tomatoes taste like tomatoes. Apples taste like, well, apples. No perfectly waxed reddish wonders that taste like cardboard. Strawberries are only available for about a month or two per year. Simple isn’t always bad. Locally grown is always good.
back to the sun in sunny South Florida. Vozdra raja. Adios hermanos/as. Nos vemos. peace