While on the trolley bus this morning, I noticed an adolescent boy using gestures to his sister (there are many assumptions in this post). the bus was crowded and I wasn’t staring at them (Bosnians have a tendency to stare for an uncomfortable length of time, according to my American beliefs). I personally assumed they were just… gesturing. As the bus began to clear out (I have a 90 minute commute…), 2 more boys his age got on the bus, and also began to gesture. that’s when I oh so obviously realized that the boy (and possibly the others as well) was deaf and they were using sign language. Selfishly, I felt immediately connected to him.
Being in Sarajevo is much more difficult than I had imagined, language wise. English is rare, and I do tend to use gestures frequently, although many waitresses and store clerks just sigh deeply and walk away from me. I’ve gone days without hearing English, which ultimately I feel as if I cannot be frustrated by, because I am in their country. Many Bosnians are not frustrated that I don’t speak Bosnian, and they seem nearly sympathetic to my struggles in daily communication.
I speak basic conversational Bosnian, if that, yet the language is more difficult to pick up than I had imagined. Bosnian is the 6th language I have encountered (Latin, French, Danish, Spanish, and Swahili) other than my native tongue, and I have found it to be the most difficult.
Through my internship, I have done numerous home visits of foster parents, and families receiving services from HHC, and the visits are entirely in Bosnian. it is fascinating to only rely on body language, gestures, inflections, and tone to understand what the conversation is about. My mentor here typically translates every few minutes so I do have the general idea of the conversation, but it is fascinating to realize how similar humans are, no matter where in the world one may be.