A Time I Felt Alone: Sarajevo 1996

You see this hole in my sock? It is from this time. When i’m holed up in the house of Save the Children USA on a steep hillside neighborhood of Sarajevo.

My burned sock.
The sock, 14 years after being burned on a Sarajevo lightbulb, and still keeping my foot warm... well, mostly.

I am here because i’m looking for adventure and what do i have to keep me company but a turning chunk of cheese and a half-loaf of thick white bread. Why i am here in this house? I’m waiting for the driver from Save the Children to get back in touch with me. I’m waiting for some return phone calls from several other NGOs – a Bosnian woman, a Norwegien veteran of a half-dozen other major relief operations, an American conflict resolution trainer best known back home now for his affairs with trainees and students. But me, a 23 year-old male grad student with barely a clue or any similar post-war experience, i’m inconsequential. The phone doesn’t ring. It’s a drizzly May day, but even though i want to, i can’t go out to play.

The driver eventually comes by. Be barely speaks any English, even working for an American NGO. He tries German. I know only a few dozen words. Still we can smile and laugh, recycling the few words we share, “okay”, “brot” “telephone.” And he leaves again.

I get impatient…venturing out in the drizzle, i gaze at the highly mascaraed faces of the women downtown, the shops for which i have no money, the bombed out buildings still five months after the cease fire, just waiting to be rebuilt.

No body talks about the war, except the adventurers like me who came here to gawk. I walk back up the hill to the house, passing under a cable that still holds remnants of a tarp that protected people from being seen and killed by snipers. It’s all still fresh…and silent.

I walk into the empty house, stripping to dry off. The socks are the worst; i foolishly brought just one pair for these two weeks. But at least there’s electricity on now. At least there’s light to read by.

I hang my socks next to the glowing bulbs on the chandelier. Then dive into my book….

Ten minutes later, i smell a terrible burning odor, like plastic. I rush from my book to discover that my sock has fallen on the light bulb and melted a hole in it. Hey though, it’s salvageable. I can still wear it, and go on with this crazy trip.

So here it is. I guess I’m still going on with this “crazy trip.”

A recounting from May 1996, written as part of a series of contemplative writing exercises in the Lancaster Friends Meeting, March 2010.