How is life in Sarajevo, Kathi?
After living here for three months now, I thought it’s time for another life update. Here are some questions you asked me in the last days and weeks.
1 || how are you right now?
If got my ups and downs.
The insecurity is what’s hardest for me, really. I am not a person that needs their life to be all planned out. I can go with the flow – but even I can only go with the flow so much. And right now I am not feeling very floaty, I am more stressed than excited about what might wait around the river bend.
I know that we are all in the same boat when it comes to planning this year, but we have been in a limbo since March and it’s really draining for my health – mentally and physically.
Some days I just feel so exhausted that I cannot get myself to do anything. I have personal belongings in three different cities and two different countries and I just never find anything. My visa situation in Bosnia is complicated and we haven’t even thought about the South African one.
I am not a person that complains a lot normally and I am still grateful for the time here and positive about what will come at the end of the year. But I also think that we force ourselves into gratefulness sometimes too much!
Yes, I can be grateful for my job, my husband, my life in Sarajevo and still struggle with the insecurity, the financial strains and the pandemic playing with my future. I can still be devastated and exhausted some days and happy and optimistic on other days. And that’s exactly what I am – in a constant limbo of good and bad days. And that’s okay.
2 || Why did you have to move and how much longer will you stay in bosnia?
My husband and I were supposed to move to Cape Town for his job (it’s also the city where we met and lived in 2016 and 2017). As visa processes always take their time, we decided to spend the summer in Sarajevo, where my husband’s family lives. We wanted to leave Munich to save some money for the move to Africa and I always wanted to stay in Bosnia for a bit of a longer period and get to know the country better. So we figured those six months would be the perfect opportunity.
But now, with the whole covid-situation still being very insecure and the South African borders still being closed, we will just have to stay here and wait until we will be able to move to our final destination.
3 || how do you spend your days – and are there a lot of other epxats?
Working from home actually gives me the possibility to travel around in Bosnia a bit, even during the week, and to explore a lot of places. I also work a lot from cafés and use it as research for the column I’m writing for Sarajevo Food Dictionary.
The evenings I either spend with walks around the city (camera always in hand!) or with my husband and his friends. I am really happy that they welcomed me but I sometimes miss the exchange with other expats.
Normally there are quite a few foreigners in Sarajevo, working for different NGOs and government organisations but due to Covid most of them have been ordered to return to their home countries so there’s actually not that many expats to hang out with here right now.
4 || What are the bosnians like?
Loud! When I first came here, I couldn’t believe how loud the music in every café was, how loud the people spoke, how openly they were laughing and shouting on the streets. I feel like it’s a country of extroverts and that can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming – especially when people just show up on your doorstep or you meet them in the city and then end up spending the whole day together even though you had other plans.
But in general, the Bosnians are very welcoming, happy and friendly. They are always up for a joke or to spend time with friends. Sometimes I have problems with people turning me away because they don’t want to speak English with me, but I think it’s more out of shyness than rudeness.
5 || what is the hardest for you to get used to?
I don’t like how judgmental people are here! Everything is about where you are from, what kind of job you have, what you’re family does and what your name is – and then people will just put you in a box according to these informations.
It’s still very important for many people to know if someone is Croatian aka catholic, Serbian aka orthodox or Bosniak aka muslim. I don’t like how ethnicity and religion are intertwined and used to spread nationalist theories and hate by the politicians (and also by normal people) here.
Also, there is the ongoing refugee crisis on the Bosnian-Croatian border that is just heartbreaking to read about. I’m seeing a lot of refugees here in Sarajevo every day and it pains me to know that their situation here is pretty hopeless. Partly also because they are stuck in one of the poorest countries in Europe – a country that won’t even take care of its own residents.
6 || do you feel like Sarajevo changed you?
Living in a foreign country can change your perspective tremendously – if you let it happen. I like how people here don’t worry about things they can’t change. And if there’s something they can change, they have a more solution-oriented approach than thinking about why something might not work.
This is definitely something I would like to do a bit more.
7 || what plans do you still have for your time there?
We will go to Albania at the end of this week and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s not your everyday travel destination but it’s one of the few countries we can enter so we took the opportunity.
I would love to visit my friends and family in Germany and the Czech Republic but the quarantine and travel regulations make it very difficult so I actually think I will pretty much stay put for the rest of the year.