I find that as my time in Italy races forward, the more I live in the moments presented and spend less time writing about them. I know I am going to regret this if I don’t get my thoughts down for future reference.
A few weeks ago I went on my fourth stage and my first stage outside of Italy. I traveled to Bosnia and Croatia to study how ethnobiology in these regions was affected by war. As we loaded onto our small gold bus, no one really knew quite what to expect, including our professor. We covered 4500 kilometers in 6 days, crossed 5 borders, acquired a stigmata, stayed in a Croatian campground, 2 Bosnian homes and on a remote island about a three hour boat ride from the mainland. It was mind-bending. I never would have taken this trip on my own. I was barely becoming an adult when the war in Bosnia began. I remember thinking that it sounded horrible but seemed out of my sphere. I knew nothing about Bosnia really. And years later, I was here.
To reach my first residence in Martin Brod, we had to cross a bridge that had been blown up and replaced…sort of. Bosnia is beautiful with forested mountains and rivers crossing and falling down sides of wild landscape. It was hard to imagine how brutal the war was here. We were forbidden to wander off the roads because there are still several minefields, yet in many places, I would watch young children running across fields to school. I hoped they knew more than I did.
While being hosted by a group of women in Bosnia, we learned about what it meant to survive. Of the 80 women in this support group, 30 of them had lost children. The majority of them lost their husbands. They fled from their homes and foraged for sustenance to feed their families.
After the war, there was nothing left but to pick up the pieces and move forward. Many people didn’t know how to do this. How do you come home to a land that has been violently turned upside down? Without the support of each other, many of the women we met returned alone and broken. To create a community, these women gathered and began working on tactile projects; they began preserving and weaving and cooking. They also began to heal, slowly. I had to honor of looking into their eyes while they told me their stories. How could I not be moved?
The bus was small and we had lots of rain and mud. However, I am here to learn what I can and have been given these moments to take what I want. I am choosing to take a little bit of humble grace and gratitude. I am also the happy owner of a small hand woven rug, knit from old clothing.