I just read that a think tank called Freedom House has identified many of the Balkans countries, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, as “partly free” meaning they are complicated by corruption, ethnic conflict, and so on. It is an irony because I spent all term trying to discuss the concept of equality as seen by the Enlightenment ( and Jefferson) with my students.
But how does this affect me, day to day?
Well, I live in an house that has zero insulation, and one heater. My bathroom is about 40 degrees, and the hot water heater runs out of water after a 3 minute shower. There is no heat in half of my apartment. I tried a space heater but the circuit breakers couldn’t take the load. A lot of the new construction here is being built without permits or expertise. A large proportion of the east side of Mostar was destroyed in the war, and there are still numerous buildings with serious damage that are inhabited. So, there are few rules for construction.
I have a washer now, but my clothes are all air dried. So, during these winter months of damp and cold, my clothes are damp until I dry them on the heater. Then they smell a bit overheated. Of course, after walking around, I end up smelling like wood smoke, or cigarette smoke. And that brings up the problem of pollution here. There are no rules or regulations. I am lucky not to be in Zenica or Tuzla where the pollution has been quite bad this winter. The factories burn coal, without filters. And many people there and here use wood stoves for warmth. When there is no wind, the smog just sits in these valleys, seeps into your house, and lungs. It can cause lung problems, no to mention terrible headaches from the carbon monoxide.
I have a street cat now living with me because someone threw her out. She’s adorable but so are the many cats I see digging around dumpsters, and the dogs curled up in the cold. It probably seems a waste to feed an animal when the average salary is well below $600.00.
Speaking of food, that is one bright spot. All the produce is local, and luckily, sweets are a favorite food here, as is coffee. There is nothing like a cup of Bosnian coffee in the morning, along with some Bosnian bread and fresh butter.
However, right now, the garbage collectors on the East Side are still on strike. There is no sign of it ending. So, the bins overflow, and it rains. The lack of adequate storm drainage leads to floods, and now floods of dirty water. And the wind came through, blowing debris everywhere.
Because I don’t have a car, any travel I do is by intercity bus. This is relatively affordable, for me, but complex. Traveling through and around the federation (BiH) is fine, but attempting a trip to the Republic Sprksa or Serbia requires some complex scheduling. I walk everywhere here, carrying my groceries. So, I shop every day, in small amounts. I could take a cab, because Mostar finally has a taxi service, but it is easier to walk.
I wonder what I will think when I return to the states in a month? The day to day here takes so much energy, it seems hard to plan too far ahead. At home, the day to day chores are so easily completed. But then again, I can sit here in Mostar next to my cat, drink my coffee and watch the beautiful birds that are searching for food outside my window. There is no pressure here to rush anywhere. There is nothing more important than to bird watch with the cat.