10 things I miss most about Bosnia (while in America)

I openly admit it. I am schizophrenic about where I want to be and when at the moment. What is a man to do? Two great choices. Well, an infinite number of choices. Right now I dabble with two. So as I sit here in 25 degree weather (or 77 if you wanna talk F), with a subtle warm breeze coming in from the ocean, I ponder what it is that I like about home. Home is Bosnia. At least for now. I think I got a little too philosophical with my pondering. I could’ve just as easily said I miss Delikates cafe, Noovi restaurant, hiking in Umoljani, brainstorming with Tarik Samarah, skipping stones on the water with Alban, trying out all the new yummies at Ujedinjena Hercegovina, stumbling upon Pedja at Europe (his home away from home) and daydreaming about when, if ever, will we finish our eco-house. Daydreaming I can do here. So I’ll just philosophize. It’s what southern Slavs do.

1. Coffee. There are a million different brands here in the states. All offering ridiculously large and rather mediocre cups of joe. It’s not the quantity but the quality. I have to travel 45 miles for a good espresso. And it’s not really all that good. Bosnian coffee, both due to the way the coffee is prepared and the quality of water, is second to none. I hear people discussing whether Dunkin Donuts or 7-eleven coffee is better. Are you kidding me?! I’m drinking tea for the rest of the month.

2. Family and friends

3. Time. The western world, especially America, is always on the run. People work hard. Too hard in my opinion, or at least too much. I certainly don’t have the gall to applaud Bosnian work ethic but one thing I do appreciate is the collective ability (generally speaking) to find time for each other. Even if it’s just a ritualistic coffee. Another thing about time that I have learned (it took me many, many years to accept and learn) is sabur. The ability to slow down, contemplate and not always be heading in six different directions at once is – when utilized properly – a tool for success.

4. Modesty. One of the things that I find discouraging about the states is how the entire society is seemingly set up to do one thing – spend, consume and waste ( I guess that’s actually three things). America is 6% of the world’s population and uses 40% of its resources. Ultra consumerism is the way of the world here. It is not sustainable. I have a problem with it. I have a deep appreciation for Bosnian’s mostly modest lifestyles. Consumerism is more based on what we truly need rather than what we want. And we are usually able to recognize the difference. Things usually get used until they can be used no more and, even then, someone will find a common sense use for it.

5. Nature. Pacha Mama is wonderful wherever one goes. But Bosnia and Herzegovina definitely tops my list as the most beautiful swath of mother nature in southeast Europe. What I love most about it is how wild it is. I went hiking in Switzerland some years back…saw chamois…beautiful views. I thought it was me and the mountains. When I got to the top it was a circus. Paragliders, trains, hotel, hundreds of people – all had come up from the other side. Bosnia’s nature is wild, pristine and still largely untouched. For those of us fortunate enough to wander in the outback – it’s a treat that not too many places in the western world can offer any more.

6. Creativity. Perhaps the insanity of the Bosnian ‘situation’ is a catalyst for Bosnia’s creativity. Ne znam. For such a small place I find the creative talent to be utterly remarkable. Inspirational even. My creative juices, however sour, are definitely more fluid whilst embedded in the Bos. The pain, injustice, fatalism…which undoubtedly stem from the fun years of war…have been the foundation of the new Bosnian cultural renaissance. Whether it be film, literature, music, theatre, arts…I’m proud to be a part of what I consider Sarajevo’s better side.

7. Cejf. Bosnians have mastered the art. Thoroughly enjoying the things we love most and doing them as often as possible is the rule rather than the exception in BiH. Narcissism at its finest. I particularly like the cafe culture. Sipping a strong espresso or creamy cappucino over a long chat about war, politics or who slept with who. Mezze is an art form. It’s a magical melange of munching on fine cheese, dried meats (or meat of any kind, Bosnians are the definition of carnivore), an olive or two all carefully washed down with good wine or the local firewater – often both. Cejf almost always involves number 3.

8. Challenge. The war sort of gave us a blank slate in 1996. I don’t find the transitional period to be only a frustratingly painful one. I find it challenging as well. Bosnia and Herzegovina is still not defined as a nation, and I don’t mean politically. It is still taking shape as a new society. It’s identity still unknown although so many centuries old. When I see Bosnia I see potential. And with potential there is always a challenge to realize that potential. I think we’re doing a shitty job of it at the moment but there are those who have genuinely embraced the challenge of creating a new Bosnia. In the states I feel like it’s all been done. I don’t feel the pressing challenge to do or die. I like that rush. It’s certainly worth getting up in the morning for.

9. The fight. Directly related to number 8. The forces that tried, and almost succeeded, in ripping this nation apart at the seams in the early 1990’s have not by any means gone silent. They are still at it. It’s sort of like good versus evil, although I’m not to keen to throw anyone into the evil category. There’s still a good fight to be had…and it’s with our hearts and minds (now I sound like an American military strategist :) instead of the sword. I think it’s easy to walk away…and in all honesty I’ve contemplated it many times. But Bosnia and Herzegovina will only survive if there’s enough good people putting up a good fight.

10. Food. This may seem strange. I think I surprised myself. The choice of foods are very limited in Bosnia, true. But the thing i truly appreciate in its simplicity is the quality. Locally grown food is mostly organic by default. Cows actually graze. GMO’s are virtually unheard of (although Monsanto are trying to creep in the back door). You can buy a liter of milk or some cheese, unpasteurized, from a local farmer. Food is also very seasonal – so we eat what mother nature gives us when she gives us. Tomatoes taste like tomatoes. Apples taste like, well, apples. No perfectly waxed reddish wonders that taste like cardboard. Strawberries are only available for about a month or two per year. Simple isn’t always bad. Locally grown is always good.

back to the sun in sunny South Florida. Vozdra raja. Adios hermanos/as. Nos vemos. peace


14 thoughts on “10 things I miss most about Bosnia (while in America)

  1. Mr071

    Very romantic, makes one nostalgic for the bygone days when endless coffees at Obala could dim the anxiety of persistent kokuzluk.
    The reality is that the life in Bosnia is super hard for a large majority of the population. The South Slavs tend to work around the hardships of daily living by sticking to this list and in the process challenge Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in a very serious way (us Bosnians probably most of all).

    1. Mirsada

      I think you describe Bosnia so well.Specially CEJF and FOOD, people mentality to always find the time for eachother,but lets not forget this,in BiH working time is 8 hours per day and you do not lose the time in trafic so there is always time for CEJF and RAJU.

      Greetings from İstanbul :)

  2. Halida Nasic

    You are great!! As Bosnian (who due to the war had to leave, to Sweden, and since then worked and traveled everywhere, now working in Geneva as Human Rights Officer at OHCHR) – I totally agree, especially in regard to: always having time for friends and family; time and just being; creativity; the nature is wonderful; and great appreciation for organic food is there – it is quite a hedonistic way of living and i really miss it!!!

  3. John

    The last point about the Bosnian food is hilarious:

    Tomatoes and strawberries are actually from the Americas, not from Bosnia! If there is a “Mother Nature,” she had never foreseen for them to be grown in Europe, it’s humans who brought them across the Atlantic. It’s also humans who bred today’s sweet apples from sour wild apples that originated in Central Asia and who bred today’s cows from Middle Eastern aurochs; none of these would have arisen by themselves (or “naturally”). Do Bosnian apples taste as sour as the, well, real wild apples? And the aurochs are extinct, so no way of doing any comparisons there…

    Given all these far-reaching interferences with “Mother Nature,” what’s wrong with e.g. GM corn? Cultivating conventional maize in the Balkans is not very natural (as it, again, originates from the Americas), so given this big change to the natural order, if you so wish, where’s then the difference between spraying Bt (an organic, pest-specific insecticide) on the crop or using modern breeding tools to breed maize that expresses the Bt protein itself? (And pest pressure of corn borers is rising in the Balkans, so Bosnian farmers may actually welcome an additional option to control it; it’s still up to them to decide if they want to spend a bit more on the seeds and then save on insecticide, labor and worries, or not.) Also, being organic by default means that productivity is lower and income is lower – unless the farmers can afford to pay for expensive, western certification, after which they can charge a premium for their produce, which is then exported to satisfy the lifestyle of hipsters elsewhere. (But, while I do not know, I can hardly imagine that Bosnian farmers work their fields with the hoe, weed by hand, use scarecrows, and only apply manure as fertilizer?)

    As to unpasteurized milk, that’s a key risk factor in Listeria, E. coli, and Salmonella, all of which can be lethal and do kill people! Admitted, the risk is small, but given that it can be eliminated with pasteurization (which is not the same thing as homogenization!), why run this risk? Especially with kids and the elderly who are particularly vulnerable to food-born diseases…

    Finally, if locally grown is always good, how comes Bosnian coffee is so great? Where do you grow your coffee – locally?! Perhaps Colombia grows good coffee, Spain grows good strawberries and perhaps Bosnia does, too, the US produce good corn, New Zealand raises great lamb, Argentina produces good beef, Italy good olive oil, etc. but not one narrowly defined locality can do all of this (and the more they try to do, the less efficient they will be as quality and yields are bound to suffer). Using imported coffee and cultivating alien species (basically all of what was listed) and then claiming to eat what Mother Nature provides? Well…

    1. friend

      Oh my dear dear John…all the things you said are correct yet wrong, you forgot the main ingredient “cejf” … trust me you cant make cejf you have it or you don’t. ..Bosnia has it, we own cejf, its ours cant sell or buy it nor genetically engineer it…it fights viruses makes tasteless taste heavenly. ..cejf

    2. manina

      hey…….. John is just an ignorant american…….and there is no sense in explaining or arguing, he will never get it…… met to many of them…….
      I am german, married to an american for over 20 years, two kids, two grandkids, have lived it the US, left, even though I had an unlimited green card!! I have visited Bosnia and lots of other countries, more than once….. have friends there, as I do all over the world.
      is is a beautiful country with lots of nice people………
      never, ever would I have to live in the US again, rather in south america, specially with all their GM junk food, most do not even know what real food is, and what it tastes like, or how to cook well.
      so some of these plants originate there, so what…….
      you people there, all orginate somewhere else
      what would you guys eat, if it was not for ital. pizza, asian rice and pasta, mexican food, etc.? if you guys ate, only what was there from the start, you would not be eating a lot….
      and you are totally wrong, about the milk thing……. all these things done to milk are the reasons for allergic reactions and intollerances
      who says humans were ever meant to even drink other animals milk at all?
      so what if productiviy and income is lower?
      better check the statistics on food and stress related diseases and deaths in the US, specially obesity, heartfailure, etc….. and check some studies concerning GM food………. they have been proven to kill people and make them sick. also if all ate less, you would not to overproduce……… more than half of all the food gets thrown and thats a disgrace to all the ones starving

  4. Megan

    After returning to Chicago after living in Sarajevo for 10 months, these are exactly the things I miss. And one more thing: comedy/Bosnian sense of humor. I think I spent at least half of my 10 months there laughing.

  5. Emira

    John, way to go off on the author about organic/non organic food. Your comment is rediculous. The author was simply writing zbout what he enjoys about Bosnia and not about the agricultural practices or what not you went off on. Your enthusiasm is misplaced. If you have something to say about cejf, please do so.

  6. AngryHamster

    reading this article without reading
    makes no sense.

    i used to miss bosnia very much, but then i realized that cejf, keeping in touch with friends and family, and time (according to the author’s definition) are things that every person is able to establish and organize for themselves regardless of where they live. i am awfully fortunate in that i am able to chose where i want to live. i chose the country where people smile to each other in the street, where i can go to a soccer game and enjoy it without a fear of violence, where different races and religions live together in a relative harmony contributing to a productive society, where one’s potential and hard work are recognized and supported, where one does not need connections to get even the simplest things done, where problems get recognized and resolved.

    it is true that bosnia and herzegovina will only survive if there’s enough good people putting up a good fight. however, the bosnian constitution does not even recognize bosnian people! so i do not know if this romantic bs offends my intelligence or if it makes me really terribly sad.

    1. mT

      lol, I wonder if he’d miss BiH if he lived there again… and you think constitution is giving pain in the ass only to bosnian people, it screws up basically everyone, aka, our constitution as of now only exists like that because our politicians made perfect little criminal state. Simple as that.

      So yeah, I agree with everything you wrote in there. I’d probably miss some stuff too, but it’s up to you what you make it world. Place of birth shouldn’t define person and if you’re looking to make it someday, you would make yourself comfortable even in goddamn Antartica.

  7. Adela

    As I Bosnian who lives in Bosnia I don’t agree with most of your points.
    1. Bosnian Coffee is so bitter. The way we drink is another point.
    2. In regards to family in friends – very few you can call this any more. They use you as much as they can be. You can’t get any support from your closest ones.
    3. Modesty – people are modest because we are poor and we are sick of this modesty.
    4. Nature – Yes Bosnia is pretty but don’t tell me other countries are not. You need to get out and travel more. Next time you come to Bosnia please visit river Bosna, take photos of those plastic bags and share it with your friends.
    5. Time – More than 40% of population is not working thats why we have time!
    6. Challenge – what are you talking about??? You made me laugh a lot man!
    7. Fight – what fight. Have you seen the latest demonstrations against the government. In Sarajevo not even 100 people came out . And most of these were retired poor people. We are lazy and only capable of cracking some stupid jokes and expect people to laugh at us!
    8. Food – may be if you live outside you miss cevapcici, sarma, buker ispod saca.

    Next time come to Bosnia and look at it from the point of people who live/suffer here. Last year more than 15,000 people left Bosnia. Bosnia is not a place for normal live.
    Greeting from Sarajevo.

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