When we reached the border between Serbia and BiH, I felt suddenly at home. Yes, I felt that Bosnia and Herzegovina is home. I sighed with relief to see the yellow and blue flag. The landscape changed, too, and we were back in the hills, on the 180 degree curves, with the bus driver driving as if to make up time. For once, this bus had seat belts, which I used. It was, however, missing one of the emergency hammers to use in case you need to make an emergency exit through the window. Still, these drivers do this route all the time, and so they probably know every bend, every pothole. In the states, we are so sheltered and kept safe with our guidelines, seat restraints, and so on.
But this post was about finding home. I am now in Tuzla for a day. I was last here about 4 1/2 years ago, and I had vague memories of Salt Square but little else. The bus station was on the edge of the city, and for a few minutes,I thought we would be driving past Tuzla to some other town. There was only one other passenger; the once crowded bus had emptied out in the RS, and along the way, the driver dropped people off in rural bus stops. (When we started out journey, he was playing music quite loudly. usually, the bus driver has on the radio but it is so low, it is a murmur. One of the passengers must have complained because after paying a toll, he stopped the bus, and turned the music down. he walked back to the end of the bus and said, is that okay? Once the older women at the front of the bus left, he turned the music back up. Balkan pop music.) As I walked up the street, I passed a street of empty kiosks, which I remembered. Then I passed a mall, which is new. I found my hotel and wandered back out.
It took me a few minutes to orientate myself. I had been here in the summer, where the square was full of people. Now, it is winter and empty but for ice- skating and a few people wandering around. The beautiful square has half of its shops empty. I walked around the city, doing a loop back to the bus station area. The mall was full of the people who once might have been in the square. On the top floor was a food court, but a Bosnian one with cafes, and a fried chicken place. Here were the same shops I see in Mostar. I went back out.
As I walked back, I passed the Orthodox church, which is beautifully maintained. It reminded me of the unfinished church in Mostar, and once again, a reminder of the contested spirit of Mostar. But as I walked, I was also getting a headache from the air pollution, which was settled around the city. When it is polluted from coal and wood, I can feel myself struggle for oxygen. I suppose the body adapts.