Sometimes I wonder about how ridiculous and twisted my life is.
I am in Mostar now, a city divided between the Croat (Catholic) and Bosniak (Muslim) population during the war. The frontline in the war is right by the river. Only the bare skeletons of buildings remain, with holes and graffiti as the only “decorations”. There
are even people living in the most livable sections of the rubble. This is probably the most destroyed city in the country and ironically enough, I am working in a building named “Beirut”. I couldn’t think of a more apt title for the building; however, the
building got its name before the war. Someone had foresight. Actually it is a nice building, except for the totally bombed out section and the shell marks.
It has a Mediterranean look to it, with small windows and nice balconies.
They say that Beirut is a crazy city. I have to say that working in Beirut in Mostar has been quite crazy, peppered with that good old war legacy of Bosnia-Hercegovina.
I am interviewing candidates for an economic adviser position for the Mostar area. The former boss of a candidate told me that the applicant had worked in an area near Mostar that has had mine accidents recently. (One person killed, a couple injured.) Though officially, no one will say that the mines are new, it is obvious
that those mines are not from the war period. The candidate was not able to contain herself and snapped at her boss and colleagues because of stress from the mine accident and overwork. He thinks her age (24) had something to do with it. I
am also 24 and I wonder how I will last during this six month contract. Will I crack?
My day today varied I go between discussing cow and sheep distribution to minority returnees, to reading a proposal for a freezing facility for snails, mushrooms and raspberries to deciding whom to give the unlucky job of working in a dangerous mine area.
To take a break from this madness, I went for a walk in the center of Mostar, a beautiful area with old Turkish buildings, cafes, shops and restaurants. After lunch, I went to the market in search of a basil plant. No luck. I tried to the flower shop, the woman directed me to the agricultural pharmacy, they told me to go to the bird store. The madness stopped there, I wasn’t going to go into a bird store with screeching parakeets to ask
for my favorite herb. On my way back to “Beirut”, the muezzin calls for Muslims to pray. I am not Muslim, but I took the muezzin’s call as a sign to relax. I can only laugh at my day. From mines, cows and raspberries to bird stores……
It is only 1:30pm, what other insane issues will come my way today? Maybe when I return to Sarajevo (the European Jerusalem) with its own collection of
mines, bombed out buildings and grenade markings, my life will return to “normal”. Though, one might wonder, what’s normal?
Tonight, I am going to a birthday party for an Iranian-American volunteer in the Sarajevo office. She lives near the Iranian embassy, a place that funds the construction of new mosques, Farsi classes, and encourages religious worship. This war-torn country that needs jobs, infrastructure and opportunity and not more mosques.
Is my life a Balkan version of Latin American magic realism?