Friday, 20 June 2008

"I love this jungle city"

Sarajevo, December 27th.

We have to say goodbye for now. Matteo's love is coming to town, so he found a room in Baščaršija for both. It's a lovely hostel near Sebilj, ruled by the most alcoholic man in the world. As I am closing the door, I took a look at the living room. Empty bottles of Vranac, Sarajevo navigators, some wrinkled t-shirts, full ashtrays... rests of an intense week. (It's the beginning of a beautiful friendship, you know...)

It's cold, damn cold. It has been snowing from Christmas eve. We walked down the stairs, trying not to slip. We arrived to the crossroads between Splitska and Radnička. We hug and say see you later, call me when you're free. He took Splitska and I took Radnička, the opposite direction.

Ten minutes later, I am near my office, listening to some music. A yellow taxi passes by me, and I see someone waving inside. I take a second look and I see a mop of dark curly hair. It's Matteo, and he's waving at me. Inside a yellow taxi in Grbavica. I wave to him, while he's reading in my face: "What the hell are you doing here? You should be in Baščaršija now".

Five minutes later, I'm having a coffee in Caffe Centar. And I receive an sms which I still keep in my mobile. It goes like this:

" Don't worry, I'm not paying now. Cabdriver has to take his wife at home. I'll start to pay in Zagrebačka. I love this jungle city".

Samir found me laughing and ordered another coffee for him.

OST Šaban Bajramović - Đelem đelem

Friday, 9 May 2008

Fast food

We were sitting in a Ćevabdžinica in Baščaršija. We were obviously eating ćevapi with kajmak. When we finished, she took a crumpled paper from her jacket. It was a poem in Serbian. I need to study it for my exam tomorrow, she said. Then she started translating to me:

Wait for me, and I'll come back!
Wait with all you've got!
Wait, when dreary yellow rains
Tell you, you should not.
Wait when snow is falling fast,
Wait when summer's hot,
Wait when yesterdays are past,
Others are forgot.
Wait, when from that far-off place,
Letters don't arrive.
Wait, when those with whom you wait
Doubt if I'm alive.

Wait for me, and I'll come back!
Wait in patience yet
When they tell you off by heart
That you should forget.
Even when my dearest ones
Say that I am lost,
Even when my friends give up,
Sit and count the cost,
Drink a glass of bitter wine
To the fallen friend -
Wait! And do not drink with them!
Wait until the end!

Wait for me and I'll come back,
Dodging every fate!
"What a bit of luck!" they'll say,
Those that would not wait.
They will never understand
How amidst the strife,
By your waiting for me, dear,
You had saved my life.
Only you and I will know
How you got me through.
Simply - you knew how to wait -
No one else but you.

Then she asked me if I liked it. I just said Yes, it's very beautiful. She nodded and sighted.

This is from the old hard times, you know, she told me. Everything was dark, hard, scary. Even looking through the window. Not to talk about going out. If your mother went out for water, and it took to her 5 minutes more than usual, then all nightmares came to my head. All was sad. But everything had a meaning. Important things were measured and valued just how they worth. Now things are different. Everything is like fast food. Like ćevapi. Everything must be done right now. And love is not fast food. We don't know what it's important in life anymore. So we are confused and frustrated.

I didn't reply. We took a look at Sebilj. It was snowing again.

(Few days later I discovered that this poem was written by Konstantin Simonov in 1941. He was Russian. All that made me feel a bit disappointed. Few weeks later, Sarajevo celebrated its liberation by Tito's Yugoslav Partisans on April 6th 1945. The same year Simonov wrote the poem, the city was occupied by the Nazis that used the Croatian Ustaša government as a puppet. Then the image of the Russian poet in the war front missing his lover Valentina came to my mind).

Dedicated to you for all the inspiration.

OST Some Skroz song I like on Radio Sarajevo

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Blue and Red

There are some things in life that you just cannot explain. I heard many times those are the best things that can happen in your life. I don't know if this statement it's true or not. I just say that they are things that are hard to explain.

For example, I like football. Very much. I know it's just a sport, a game like any other games in the planet. But if my team scores, I feel euphoric. A discharge of adrenaline travels all around my body. I feel happy for a second. And also if my team, Barcelona, loses like it did yesterday (4-1) against its biggest rival (Real Madrid) I can't stand my rage for a while. I feel sad. And then I realise that it's just 22 guys running after a ball. They are millionaires and they will still be millionaires today, they don't care about you and your frustration, said someone. And then my mind switches to some of my daily worries.

I saw this graffiti for the first time few months ago. It is just in front of Grbavica Shopping Center, which is next to my office. It's been a long time that I wanted to talk about it, and I think this is the best day. It's a good evidence of Bosnian sense of humour either. (Note: the pronunciation of Barca in Bosnian is similar to the original Catalan word Barça, refered to FC Barcelona).

There are 2 football teams in Sarajevo, both playing in Bosnian Premijer Liga: FK Sarajevo and Željezničar, also known as Željo. The FK Sarajevo plays in Koševo Stadium, the biggest one that hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics inauguration, its colour is red and it is more popular in the center and old town. Željo was founded by some rail workers in 1921 (in fact its name means "rail worker" in Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian), its stadium is located in Grbavica and blue is its colour.

You probably will think that fans from both teams hate each other. I thought the same till I saw fans from Sarajevo and Željo walking together to see the local derby at the Quarter Finals of the Bosnian Cup. During the match, hooligans from both sides compete to be the noisiest. They insult each other following the long tradition of Bosnian swearing. But when the game is finished, they leave the stadium together. Don't be surprised if you see a bunch of blue and red flags together in the trolleybus stop.

But it may happen that the any public transport is working after the match, due to that some hooligans destroyed once some tramways "celebrating" a victory. It's a hothead action we also saw in some other Western countries like the USA or the United Kingdom. In Sarajevo you might hear about some hooligans knocking a tramway down. What is very hard to find in the newspapers is the chronicle of a fight between hooligans of Sarajevo and Željo.

Blue and reds share a passion for a sport that probably they cannot explain either. But at least all of them understand one thing: they are only rivals in the stadium. Because football it's basically just a sport.

I think some hooligans from Spain or Italy should come here to see a Sarajevo-Željo match.

OST Zoster - Hercegovina

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Ljubljanized! (17-20 April)

I had the great opportunity to go to the General Assembly of the European Volunteer Centre (CEV, acronym in French) that took place in Ljubljana (capital city of Slovenia) from 17th to 20th April. CEV is an European network of volunteer organizations all around the continent. I went there as the representative of SEEYN, new member of CEV. The main topic of the conference was Putting volunteering on the economic map of Europe. For that reason, the main speech was done by Lester Salamon, director of the Johns Hopkins University Centre for Civil Society Studies (USA). This institution works for the recognition of the economic weight of volunteer activities by the ILO. After a long day of discussions among their members, CEV agreed to urge EU countries and EUROSTAT to measure the economic value of volunteering. And it was great for me to be a part of this.

What to say about the city? Ljubljana is a beautiful quiet city, more similar to Austria than to a Balkan city. Coming to the tidy capital city of Slovenia from chaotic Sarajevo is the perfect way to notice it. "This is not a Balkan country, or at least we're somewhere in between the Balkans and Central Europe", a local guy told me. The city center is smaller than I thought, so you can reach everything on foot. And it is really nice to walk along the river, crossing the Triple bridge. Sitting on a terrace on a sunny Sunday and take a look at the castle. Then walk again to enjoy the coloured buildings and the wide squares. Everything is so beautiful and perfect that you have the feeling that you're in a fairy tale, waiting for some blond princess to appear in the balcony of the Town Hall. (The fact that it didn't happen to me doesn't mean that it could happen to you. Who knows. Everything is possible).

But if you're tired of this ideal and romantic atmosphere, then head to Metelkova. This autonomous social center is located on what used to be the Slovenian headquarters of the Yugoslav People's Army. There you can find seven buildings: art galleries, bars (a gay bar included), and also the popular Hostel Celica. This hostel won several awards basically due to its special origins: it was a former prison redecorated by some local artists. So you can live the unique and claustrophobic experience of sleeping on a strangely beautiful cell. But at least you're free to go out whenever you want, and enjoying the wide offer of drinks in Metelkova bars: you can chose among a can of Union or Laško beer. I strongly recommend this place because of its originality. Every detail on the walls calls your attention. Some of the people I was with compared it with East Berlin.

And if you have a car and a free day, don't miss the lakes Bled and Bohinsko. Just 40 minutes far from Ljubljana, Bled is another fairy tale place, with its church in an island in the middle of the lake. And the castle on a hill over the lake. Amazingly beautiful but too touristic for me. I preferred the pure air of sea-coloured lake Bohinsko. "This is the Caribbean", Nicola joked. (It was cold and rainy. I smiled, thinking to myself: well, there is something from the Caribbean that I miss now...).
Back in town we enjoyed the Saturday night life on a huge club in the center. Then you are aware of the Balkan halve of Slovenians: girls and boys dancing pop and turbo folk songs in Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian, Macedonian... and of course Slovenian. An special suggestion from Lluch, the great discover coming from Barcelona: talk to the Bosnian taxi drivers in Ljubljana. "They are nice and funny, and we were talking about politics", he told me. By the way, that was at 5am after the party.

Lake Bled

Dedicated to all the nice people I met in Ljubljana, especially Lluch and Nicola. I'll be waiting for you in Sarajevo!

OST Some shitty country song on Radio Sarajevo

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Postcards from my palace

I still think that this is a wonderful city. Full of life, full of hope.

I just needed some time to settle. Now I have some new energies.

First of all, take a look at the views from my new house over Alifakovać cemetery.

Because we worth it. Yeah.

Vidimo se sutra.

OST Some sevdah song which I don't know the name...

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Mister Sarajevo (Becoming a local celebrity)

I was only a week at home, but I didn't waste my time.

First of all, I was with my family. I saw them after for the first time after 3 months. It really charged my batteries. Especially knowing that I'm gonna be an uncle soon!

I also saw some friends. You're great, guys. Thanks for being there for me once more.

Besides, I started a bright career as a local media star. First of all, I was interviewed in a local radio emission, along with European volunteers who are in my city now. We all shared our personal experiences as a part of European Voluntary Service. It was funny to see that no matter what are you doing, where do you come from or where are you working, we all have been through the same states of mind in the same period.

Apart from this, I am glad because for the first time someone has dedicated me a post on his blog. It only could be one of my most loyal fans, Jose Luis from Carafur. The post it's called "Mister Sarajevo" and it's in Spanish. But if you can't read it, at least you can check the Miss Sarajevo clip he add there. This song was recorded by U2 in 1995, and it talks about a beauty contest held during the war in the besieged Sarajevo. In fact the winner was crowned Miss Besieged Sarajevo. And all of this happened in a place where the sound of mortars and snipers shots where the everyday soundtrack. Where crossing the street was risking your life.

Here you have another evidence of the bravery of Sarajevans. That was a time for beauty queens too. Now it's time to enjoy life. And Sarajevo knows how to do it.

(Thank you Jose Luis).

(Dedicated to everyone that lived in Sarajevo during the siege).

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Brand new world

Don't worry, guys. I'm fine. I just was on holidays. But now I'm back in my belowed Sarajevo.

It's been almost a month since my last post and many things had happened in the Balkans while I was having a great time in Dominican Republic and Spain.

Denis, 16, was killed in a tram near Holiday Inn. For no special reason, some guys stabbed him among all the people that were there. It was around 3pm. That caused the biggest civil protests in Sarajevo from the war times. And that happened on February 9th, while I was walking around Madrid with my sister.

I was swimming in the Caribbean when Kosovo declared the independence from Serbia. I was happy although I had a hangover of the wedding the day before. I obviously didn't care about the rest of the world on that day.

I saw on TV how some Serbian nationalists burned American and Croatian embassies in Belgrade. I was having dinner with my parents, and my father asked me if that was the city where I live in. That's Serbia, dad, not Bosnia. He just nod and keep on eating.

It seems that many things have changed during the last weeks. I closed a cycle and I started a brand new one. Just like the Balkans: Kosovo's independence closes a circle that was opened with the Kosovo Albanians protests during the 80's and continued with the Balkan wars in the 90's.

OST Beirut - Elephant gun

(Dedicated to the happy just married guys, and all my friends from Alejandro Bass. I just love you so much. Now... ¿cómo lo hacemos?)