“The Story: Some years ago, I met Bojan. He did not just want to become a doctor. He needed to become a doctor. I’d never seen someone pour so much passion into a profession choice and had to ask him why it was so important. He answered with a story of a war he had seen as a child and a home he left long ago in 1992. Then he told me that through this experience he learned that of all the things a man could do, being a doctor meant you could keep helping people, regardless of war or wealth.
My father too believed in investing his life in a helping profession. In 1989, he moved our family from a cozy American mountain town to a bustling city in Nigeria so that he could use his skills as a doctor to aid people there. Dad took care of the patients. Mom took care of his house – the doctor’s house – where she regularly hosted visiting medical and aid workers. My childhood in Nigeria was spent around a shared table where co-workers and friends from all over the world fast became family (…)”
I am tired. I can recognize it by looking into the mirror and seeing no glimpse in my eyes. By no energy to jump out of bed every morning to discover a new day and be enthusiastic about every every single trifle that happens. By finding no space in myself to discover new people.
I’m sitting at The Doctor’s House balcony in Sarajevo, looking far away and thinking: „That’s it, this is what you wanted. You wanted to come here, be, see, touch, feel. So here you are”. But much more than running and discovering, I prefer to sit here at this balcony at this very moment. Because this place feels like home and home is what I miss so much. A place like this one that encourages you to try things, gives you numbers of opportunities but also welcomes you to do nothing, if that’s what you want. When I arrived here yesterday evening I was welcomed by smiles and a cosy couch at the common room. Since the very first moment I felt safe. And maybe this is why I feel so strong about staying here for a while, eating my millet porridge with apples and cinnamon brought by Kamila from Poland, and just enjoying the sun.
I am looking at the taxis uneasily climbing the hill. I keep silent and talk to Jamie, the volunteer, from time to time about the (im)possibilities of traveling. I look at the chimney smoke from the house just ahead of me and at the minarets, churches domes and cathedral towers. I’m trying to find the synagogue but keep losing this game. I’m transcribing the interviews and I still miss Belgrade, which feels a bit like home because of so many people, places, moments, memories and emotions out there.
It seemed to me like my road, although full of corners, was temporarily, happily, without any crossroads. But it actually looks like there is a crossroad. A quite big one. I’m afraid of what’s coming next. Which road to choose. How to embrace the future. How to start from the very beginning again, once again.
I’m thinking about Kajtostany and their bike touring that lasted for half a year and finished a year ago. About Własną Drogą that they’ve been cycling already for 1,5 year, still on the road. And about Asia that she’s been already for two years in Central America, alone with her daughter Gaja.
I think that home is Poland. It feels a bit weird though, I don’t remember when such thought crossed my mind for the last time. Maybe it’s a result of our conversations and arguments about politics, identities and nationalities with Milan in Belgrade.
I squint my eyes because the sun bounces off the roofs of the houses I’m looking at. This view feels so good though.
I wonder if I will have enough courage to publish this text.
It’s been almost a year now. And I’m thinking about what has happened in this time. About all the meaningful dates. 1st January and 6th January. 15th March. 21st April. 27th July and 13th August. 15th September.
I think about all the e-mails that I should or would like to write.
The church’s bell chimes at 1 pm.
I’m being so close to the city center and I know already what surprises me the most – this city is quiet. There is no roar and no rush in it. Maybe this is why I also slack off. Belgrade was constantly rushing and it feels so slow in here.
Sarajevo reminds me a bit of a provincial town. I can see a big part of it from the balcony. It reminds me of La Paz because of the hills. But La Paz was enormously loud and here it’s nothing but silence. Unless there is a roaring Mercedes climbing up the hill.
I think about the promises I haven’t managed to keep. And that this journey happens here, at this exact moment, on this balcony, in this sun, with those roaring cars climbing the hill. Me, sitting here in my colorful dress, blue sneakers and green hoodie. My hair growing into some „extension cord”’s shape (which I hate) but I want to have them long, so I (suffer but) let them grow.
A man in a violet shirt and a leather jacket goes up the hill. A woman in a black coat goes down the hill.
Edina from the reception is checking on me at the balcony. She tells me that she is baking the muffins. And this thought just crosses my mind that I won’t be able to taste them because of my New Year’s resolution. Damn it!
Seven minarets, one dome, one church tower. Immense will to visit the Jewish cemetery.
A man in a dark blue & red polyamide raincoat goes up the hill. A young girl with blue backpack and long black hair goes down the hill.
I feel a desire to make a tattoo, which I can’t resist anymore, but I don’t know which one I want, so I can’t make a decision.
The sun hides behind the clouds. It’s getting colder, I will probably have to go inside soon.
I can hear two guys from the States, who have joined me today in my room, but I can’t hear what they are talking about. I think about Cat who opened The Doctor’s House some few years ago. How brave and amazing! And about all the other hostels owners I happened to meet over the last year. About my dream to have my own hostel too, one day. A dream maybe bigger than any other dream. But I’m afraid to speak it out loud so I keep silent.
I’m thinking that I would like everything, but I can’t have everything. Eat a cake and have a cake, as we say in Poland. I don’t want to give up. I try to be strong and fight.
Winter is the best time for traveling because it’s empty all around. The muffins smell incredibly. I have to stay strong.
Edina comes to me and brings two muffins. Warm. With raspberries. Served on the small white plate with golden border. Maybe this is what the joy and gratitude is about, I’m thinking. That you do something and someone is happy about it. The way Edina made me happy about the muffins. „They smell like spring” – she said.
My first memory of Sarajevo will be this one: mid-March, The Doctor’s House, the balcony, my colorful dress and the smell of Edina’s spring raspberry muffins. I decide to take the picture of them with those last streaks of sun. I eventually also decide to eat them, which means I need to grab a cup of coffee to make this experience full. I will add it to my sins list hoping that at the end of the year I will be able to say: I haven’t been eating the sweets for one year except two muffins at The Doctor’s House‘s balcony in Sarajevo that Edina baked and served them to me at the small white plate with golden border. I really, really couldn’t resist. Full stop.
“(…) I’ve been lucky to continue to travel the world while building my own career in hospitality and marketing. In every step, I searched for a place that I could call home. A place where I could build a hostel that would help local communities while building international communities. And, as life has its surprises, my search has led me right back to the country Bojan fled as a refugee in 1992. After gaining a wealth of experience in hostel and tourism management in Germany and the Czech Republic, I moved here to Sarajevo to open this house – The Doctor’s House. (Cat Norman, owner and manager)“
Come and check it yourself.
Sarajevo (Bosnia), 16 March 2016