Saturday, April 2, 2011

A View Through My Window

Each morning I awake to the call to prayer, sounding from mosque minarets, joined by chickens cackling and a rooster crowing.  These sounds drift through my bedroom window overlooking Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Below, crumbling stone walls encircle bombed-out wreckage.  Leaning out the window, I still expect the freshness of home after rain; instead I smell pungent, burning garbage.  Colorful houses, smattered with bullet holes, line the narrow pot-holed street.  My eyes sweep upwards to the surrounding mountains I climb, which once hosted snipers and landmines.  Neighborhoods intermingled with white-stoned cemeteries rise up the hillside.  It is a beautiful scene marred by war and negligence. 
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.  

4 comments:

  1. This is so well written! :)
    I can't wait coming to Mostar this summer!

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  2. It is exciting to find another UWC student from the Northwest. Right now I am a first year studying at UWC-USA and am originally from Washington State. I noticed that you also are a winner of the National Peace Essay Contest. Congratulations. Enjoy the rest of your time in Bosnia-Herzegovina! All the best. Phia.

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  3. I had determined from that verbal exercise of his that he was a gas bag. Thats when I decided to leave. I had met you, TL, and many other fine folks. I had accomplished what I'd set out to do. Sadly, the wind bag did not provide me a good ending to my Mercer visit.
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