I am just about at the halfway mark in my Fulbright experience.
One thing that is stressed about living here is to be flexible and patient. Very true. If you expect to live according to western European, or American standards, then you will be chronically frustrated. Sure, you can buy peanut butter in the shops, a juicer, and even a treadmill but the reality is the day to day life. My husband remarked on his visit that BiH is a labor intensive country. Very true. Everyday you go to the shop, and every few days, it is time to do laundry so it dries. He was shocked that people don’t use dryers. Here in Mostar, when the sun shines, clothes dry quickly or today, as the wind picks up, they dry and land on the ground.
There is a different rhythm to life here, which you have to accept, if not adopt. I still cannot spend time in the cafes due to the heavy cigarette smoke but I enjoy watching it. And I also find the scores of unemployed youth sitting around there and the betting shops depressing.
You can’t trust the map or any information on the internet for Mostar. On the map, there is a star indicating a synagogue. I went to find it but only found a corner stone set in 2001, 12 years ago. The site is a vacant lot with the single stone. Where did the money go to rebuild this and the Orthodox church, both destroyed in the war? Few of the streets have signs here in Mostar and I generally find my way by landmarks. Still Mostar is a small town, and impossible to get lost, but it is also two cities.
Everyday, I try to go to a new place, or try a new food or a new route. One thing I really like are the vitamins, which are bought in a tube and placed in water. They fizz up like Alka-selzter. Rather inexpensive. I am taken by the large number of shoe shops, and beauty stores. Every block seems composed of a shoe shop or two, a small market, a cafe or two, and often a betting shop.
On a sunny day, Mostar reminds me of southern Colorado, with the mountains and the clean air. On an overcast day, the constant presence of the war ruins creates a sadness. Here on the eastern side of the river, you can’t go far without seeing a ruin. My little block has been rebuilt but at the end of my street are a series of destroyed buildings. These buildings are unfinished memories. they echo in your imagination throughout your walk in the city. If you, like most tourists, stick to the restored bridge, you see a quaint Mostar. If you walk from one side to the other, you see the past, like ghosts all around you.
There are new malls but the synagogue, a planned center for Peace, remains a single corner block.