Tag Archives: intern life

doviđenja, Sarajevo!

doviđenja is Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian/Macedonian/Montenegren/Kosovan (why are there six languages that are all exactly the same?!) for bye!

I leave Sarajevo in less than a week! that means I’ve been in Europe for two months already. sheesh. this summer hasn’t been as incredible as it had the potential for (due to a less than exciting internship and again, total complications with my student loan which I stillll haven’t received!), but overall, I definitely have valued my time here and appreciate Sarajevo.

for being 24, I’d say I’ve traveled a fair amount. I won’t list every country I’ve been to (unless you’re actually curious!), but I definitely have the travel bug. Living in Bosnia has been a totally different experience than my previous travels, due to the post-war atmosphere. if I was simply a tourist here, I don’t think I would have noticed it as much (well, there is war damage on 90% of the buildings and mortar holes littering the sidewalks) but I am referring to the vibe, the mood, the atmosphere, the stories. all of my coworkers are Bosnian and its about a 50/50 split of who stayed in Sarajevo during the war, and who fled. I wont make another post about the war, but the stories are horrendous. one of the main streets of Sarajevo was called Sniper Alley for a reason. 15 years later, things are better in Sarajevo, at least.

this is right out my living room window. not the best angle (I didn’t take it) but you can see a bullet hole going all the way through. and there is a huge mortar hole right above the window as well. safe? yikes.
out my window

my neighborhood was completely invaded during the war by the Serbs, and thus is totally wrecked. plus, no tourists ever come out here so there is no real motivation to renovate or rebuild.

the next few days I am finishing up at my internship, buying last minute souvenirs, celebrating with a nice dinner with my roomie, and packing!


5 marks of gratitude

on my trek to work every morning, I pass an elderly woman sitting on the corner of a driveway with her hand out. she never says anything to anyone, and I won’t assume she’s homeless, although she is likely to be unemployed (observed by the fact that she is begging for money, and that the unemployment rate in Bosnia is between 40-60%). I realized today that I have walked past her everyday (minus the one day she wasn’t there and I sort of freaked out, only to see her perched half a block up the road) and I’ve never given her money. I think I’ve given money to a handful of “beggars” (I use that term loosely. not sure what to categorize people who are asking for money) in my lifetime. it’s more of a guilt thing… I feel strange giving money to some people and not others. on what basis do I give money? if I have it in my pocket? if I feel sympathy for their situation? right place/right time? if they don’t “look” like they are drug addicts? who I am to judge. so thus, I don’t have a standard; I typically don’t give.

but today I gave that woman 5 marks, which is the equivalent of $3.31 US dollars. what can 5 marks buy? 5 scoops of gelato, 1.5 kilos of chicken, 3 bottles of wine, 8 loaves of bread, an entire huge basket full of fruits/veggies (a kilo of potatoes is .5 marks, a kilo of nectarines is 1 mark). in the past 3 days I don’t think I’ve even spent 5 marks. sidenote, I am living meagerly since I’ve been here, due to some extreme complications with my student loans. so yes, 5 marks is meaningful.

and in all reality, those 5 marks could have made a bigger impact on someone’s life than my 6 weeks of volunteering at this NGO. you never know.

day-to-day today

as requested by my dear brother, I will share my day-to-day life in Sarajevo. he pointed out that I generally post about Sarajevan life or weekend excursions, but not what I am actually doing here, and what I’ve done over the past month.

as I’ve mentioned, I am volunteering/interning/working with a British NGO called Hope and Homes for Children. basically, they are the only organization in Bosnia that gives families the emotional support and physical things that they need. the staff is mainly compromised of social workers and each have a hefty caseload of families they work with. so, what do I do? unfortunately, finding actual work is difficult due to the language barrier. I frequently visit Bosnian families (either foster parents with a foster child, families who have requested/been referred for mental health support, or we are delivering clothes/food/toiletries/whatever we can get donated) and although I can’t understand what they are saying, a HHC staff will translate for me, and it’s incredibly interesting to observe body language, gestures, tone, inflection, etc. all of the policy work and program evaluation documents that I am especially interested in are in Bosnian. and the families I have visited don’t speak a word of English. on Fridays, I give a presentation or training for the entire Bosnian staff, and the topic is up to me. examples of presentation topics are “foster care in America”, “neurobiological and psychosocial effects of trauma” and one in the works on helping treat PTSD on an outpatient basis using DBT and CBT.

their logo. clearly done by a graphic designer but meant to look like a child drew it.

a few days a week I head from work to the center of town to indulge in gelato at a cafe and use the free wifi. there isn’t too much to do around my apartment and I try to not get home super early after work. there’s a fruit/veggie stand across from my apartment that I frequent. he has recently become elated every time I come into the store (nearly every day) and I point to which baguette I’d like, and he helps me weigh out my produce. I absolutely look forward to his huge grin (he used to sigh and frown at me like everyone else). the tv channels are almost entirely in Bosnian (we get CNN, the Discovery channel, and occasionally MTV will be in English) and I’d rather not spend my summer watching tv anyway.

it takes me approximately 90 minutes to get to work each morning on the trolley bus, so I have plenty of time to listen to my iPod and observe Sarajevans. I live in a suburb of Sarajevo called Dobrinja, and every time I tell Sarajevans where I live, they are amused/nearly impressed that I live in an area that is completely composed of Bosnians. Dobrinja is incredibly damaged from the war, for a multitude of reasons. firstly, there aren’t tourists out here and the government doesn’t feel the need to renovate the endless amounts of tall apartment buildings (they are all littered with bullet holes and mortar holes), and apparently Dobrinja was invaded by the Serbs and thus has entirely more damage than the inner parts of Sarajevo.

my internship can be slow at times, but that’s mainly because I don’t speak Bosnian and it can be difficult for the staff to figure out how I can actually help. Translating a document, explaining it to me, then I work on it, and then its translated back to Bosnian takes a significant more amount of time than the staff simply doing the work themselves.

please let me know if there are any requested topics, questions, whatever. sometimes I question what is interesting or not to read about :)