Mostar is a city of contrasts. Our freshly painted orange school stands next to destroyed communist-era apartments. Trash lies heaped around the beautiful park. Built as a symbol of hope, the giant cross on the mountain serves for some as a reminder of religious oppression. I see politicians drive Mercedes-Benzes past Roma refugees, bowed begging for bread. Untreated sewage pollutes the aquamarine Neretva River.
These contrasts are personal because this is the second home I have learned to care for and love. Coming to Mostar from Portland, Oregon, where it is sacrilegious not to recycle and “Peace” is on bumper stickers, my senses cringe to see pollution and ethnic division. Contrasts reveal to me my privileges, give me hope for change, and compel me to act. My dedication to sustainability prompted me to initiate community care days removing the trash. Feeling what it is like to live in a post-conflict society, engaging in the process of reconciliation, evokes compassion and a deeply rooted commitment to honesty above political influences. The truly hospitable Bosnian people inspire me by their tenacity in the face of adversity. Through my window I see both the beautiful and the scarred, and the potential to change.