Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sarajevo on My Mind

Reading this article reminded me of a quote from Safe Area: Gorazde of a Bosniak partier's reason for having so much fun in the midst of a bloody and seemingly endless war: "We don't party like there is is no tomorrow.  We party because there is a tomorrow."  It really demonstrates the resilience of the Bosniaks who, having gone through so much during the wars of the early 90s, chose to celebrate not the end of a conflict, but the continuation of life as it was.  

I also dug up the pictures I took of Sarajevo when a friend and I visited a few months ago, and was reminded why I loved the city and the country so much.  Although many of the city's buildings still bore reminders of the war, the most notable feature of the city was its lively citizens.  Workers walking to and from work, friends sitting and chatting at local cafes, bars over-filling with young people enjoying the local brew, Sarajevsko.  The whole town just brimmed of life and seemingly never-ending possibilities in the face of war and now, economic difficulties.  

The person who most exemplified this liveliness was a man we met in Illidza, while visiting the famous Sarajevo underground tunnels which served as the city's only source of life during the four-year siege as it allowed the transportation of goods into and out of the city past Serbian lines and snipers.  We personally didn't see the tunnels as they were closed by the time we got there, but the owner's neighbor offered us a ride back to the train station and his personal story during the war.  He showed me where the snipers were, the truck he used during the war to drive food and supplies from the tunnel to the city center, where the Serbian lines were, and the house that he built after the war.  He told me stories about death and suffering, but also Bill Clinton touring the tunnels.  

But forget all that.  "Look at my cell phone.  See the man singing?  That was me!  It was my friend's wedding, and he paid me to sing.  OK, it was karaoke, but I'm so good I am a super star.  They should give me a record deal!  Would you like some raki before we leave?  No?  Ah...Americans!"  As he drove us back to the train station, he struggled to juggle his cell phone, driving, and the very real possibility of intoxication.  

In college, I was always reminded that "life is political."  After college, priorities are straightened out and politics recede to be replaced by weddings, celebrations, and karaoke.  Life is still political, but the most resonant political act is to party like there is a tomorrow.  

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