11 May 2009

Suddenly Spring

The weather in Sarajevo took a long time to warm up... and to be honest so did my work for Musicians without Borders. Suddenly though both of these have swung into action with alacrity. In April, the snow finally stopped and the sun actually chose to shine- and May has been even more amazing, with one dizzingly gorgeous day after another. It's always hard to believe weather like this actually exists on a consistent basis, unless you're experiencing it first-hand. If I sound a bit giddy and manic right now, it's because I am.

And not only is the weather amazing just now- but work seems to be going well too. This is a departure from what I have come to expect to be the norm here because getting general information from some of my co-workers (ahem, my Bosnian male co-workers) is like pulling teeth. However, the month of April alone brought Winds of Change concerts (my last! hooray!), planning for a new Women's Singing Project in Srebrenica, and planning for additional activities in Srebrenica with the support of a UK theater (errr, theatre) company. I've been encouraged because of these last two developments to spend more time in Srebrenica, which so far has been a very exciting change of scenery and also an opportunity for me to work on my language skills a little more seriously. Unfortunately, it is telling that all of this work-related excitement is in conjunction with internationally catalyzed projects. The singing project is being primarily developed by Musicians without Borders International, and the other activities (as mentioned) are coming from the UK.

It seems without outside support and encouragement, most projects here either a) never get off the ground, or b) move slower than molasses in January. Visits from international guests seem to provide brief injections of energy and excitement, but all too often big plans are dreamed up without any follow-through; simple castles in the clouds. Some would tell you this because of the post-conflict environment, others would it's post-communist or a collective society. And sadly, it seems it's not just the projects of Musicians without Borders BiH and other NGOs which suffer from these maladies. The entire country in fact is in a state of paralysis- Mostar has no mayor and therefore no budget, the number of laws passed by parliament in the last year is laughable, and agreements which would make more EU money available to the country are going unsigned. Over and over this last year and these last weeks I find myself having the same conversations- whether with locals, internationals, residents or visitors. What is the solution? How do we fix this country, this government, how do we MOVE? Unfortunately, like the cultural projects of MwB which take place on a small scale and benefit from outside attention, the government of BiH is in need of increased international attention. Not that it isn't already getting this- but it needs to be intensified, amplified and sustained. No one would expect a band-aid to heal a gaping head wound. I'm all for taking responsiblity for oneself (or one's own country as it were), but when one realizes how invasive the lethargy is here, I think it doesn't take a genius to see that leaving the country more or less to it's own devices is not the answer. That was what Europe and the west seemed to think the answer was in 1992...

Oh wait, remeber when I said I was manic? Well, apparently there's a depressive side to that too... which is all the more strange when I resurface again to look out the window and see the idyllic beauty of spring. And the great thing about the culturally-based work I am doing is that to succeed, we don't have to solve all the sweeping issues of a post-conflict society in one fell swoop. Finding funding for theater costumes, bringing a local celebrity to Srebrenica, or just writing a simple report so one more person can learn what's going on - these are the small victories in which I am now taking pleasure. And in the meantime, I'll be sure to spend plenty of time outdoors...

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