homejournalphotoscontact

I promise this weather isn't my fault!

Humility has a pecking order. It ranges from the modest "Humble", down towards the Scottish "Self-Deprecating" and finally down to Listening To Venga Boys On Repeat While Putting Salt In Your Eye "Masochistic". And somewhere below that are the people of Tuzla, in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Tuzla is a pleasan town, with a population of a quarter million and a spacious park smack dab in the middle of the city. Not exciting, but certainly had its charms. The residents, mind you, were slightly more modest about their town, responding that the name of their river was "The Sewage River", which, to be fair, was remarkably appropriate. As for places to stay, when I arrived in Tuzla, Chad had been recommended where to stay by a local on the street:

"You should stay at the Hotel Tuzla," I was told. I shook my head. "I don't need the best place." "That.s ok," came the response, "It's not the best place. It's just the best place we have."

And so it was. But still I didn't stay there. Damn you, traveler's budget!

On a trip into the countryside with five friends, we made it to the Tuzla bus depot to get on the one o'clock bus to Gradacac only to find out that my friend Rana had lost her purse somewhere in the city. Another friend, Chad, and I prepared to go back to the city to help her recover the wallet, but when we sought to get Karima, Maxime and Eric off the bus, we found out that it had already left and with the three of them on it.

Undeterred, Chad, Rana and I attempted to make our way back into the Tuzla to call Visa and cancel Rana's credit card. We jumped into the first available taxi and were greeted by a glaucomic octogenarian who spoke no discernible language. Giving up on trying our Bosnian with him, Rana handed him a piece of paper with our hotel's address on it. The cabbie looked at the paper sideways, shrugged his shoulders, handed the paper back and started the car. Then he smiled, mumbled something unintelligible and attempted to adjust the rearview mirror which fell off the windshield at first contact. I buckled up. Tight.

We arrived in the city unscathed and made it to the local post office so Rana could place her call. She attempted a collect call to Visa which seemed easy enough until we learned that Bosnia has no operators, thereby making placement of a collect call sufficiently more difficult. She paid a small fortune out of pocket, we went back to the bus depot, got the bus to Gradacac an hour behind the others and I nodded off to sleep.

We were greeted in town by a virtually empty bus station that was occupied only by a crazy middle-aged Serbian man wearing leather tassels and who was haranguing us to get into his taxi, which also happened to be a florist's van.

Being vastly irrational, we got in the van where our new friend drove us to the hotel where Karima, Eric and Maxime were waiting. Chad and I dropped our bags in our room (our budget allowed only for three cozy double beds for the six of us) and we all went out for some beers. By one a.m. all the others, save Rana, had already gone home and I decided to follow suit. I stumbled in the dark to my room and fell asleep beside Chad in our bed. Around 4 a.m. Chad got up and turned on the light and I instantaneously pulled my blankets over my eyes. Chad grabbed some things, turned off the light and left, leaving me wondering if I had been snoring too loud. When he never returned I was sure it was so. At 9 o'clock I got up and rubbed my groggy eyes before looking around the room. Where's Chad?, I wondered. And where's Chad's stuff? And where's MY stuff? And who's stuff is that?

Oh. My. God.

It seems that while we had been out at the bar, the hotel owner had switched up everyone's rooms but I had arrived too late to find out, managing to still get into what had once been my room and plop into bed beside a perfect stranger. Nice. Two weeks in the country and I am already picking up!

The next day we left Gradacac and headed back to the city life of Sarajevo. This was a much more difficult task than we had anticipated, though. The greater part of the country had been under a constant torment of rainfall for days at this point and nearly the entire country near us was flooded, roads and highways everywhere becoming undriveable. We got out of Gradacac and aimed for Tuzla where we would transfer and make it to Sarajevo. Very quickly, however, the bus driver realized he could go no further and once more we were stuck. As the rain continued to pour down, various weather reports were related to us, all of them telling us about the weather in the city Mostar, which seemed rather odd as that was not where we were going. Strong-willed, and mostly just tired of waiting, our bus driver passed the line of cars and opted to drive through the problems. It was then that we saw what was really happening.

The flood was unbelievable. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before, save for on the news. Real Act-of-God type stuff with bridges destroyed, houses submerged and cars floating down river. The water coursed through the hillsides and over the fields at speeds that would have easily topped 80 km/h. It went on for mile after mile and there was no end of the destruction in sight. It was impossible take your eyes off the water pouring in heavy from the mountainsides. After having his fill of rapids eye movement, our driver decided he would not be stopped from getting to Sarajevo and drove on a bi-way, hundreds of kilometres out of the way, in order to make it back safely, which we did. With a name like Noah, you would think I would be well-versed in the world of floods, but the singularly Bosnian vision I had as we drove past the city of Doboj, of three tanks trudging their way through a flood, is one that is so foreign and so bizarre I can't think that I will ever forget it. For bad or good, it is an experience like that which is why traveling is so incredible. This one might be for bad, of course.