Gee, mom, I don't wanna go... back to Ontario

It turns out the Sarajevans don't make a very big deal out of Canada Day, much to my dismay. It seems that, to them, July 1st is more of a significant body as the anniversary of some archduke getting shot on some bridge that started some World War.

Now, this is interesting (as opposed to the rest of this entry which contains its usual dosage of inanity):

Bosnia, though predominantly Muslim, still has a great deal of Serbs in it. The Serbs and Muslims, for the most part, are not integrated at all and Bosnia-Hercegovina remains divided into two fairly autonomous regions, the Bosnian Federation and the Republika Srpska, or Serbian Republic. Many conflicts still arise in the Republika Srpska and the UN warns visitors should keep out.

The inter-ethnic tensions are still high here and each bit of history learned teaches you of more strife. I found out that the sniper who shot Archduke Ferdinand in 1914 actually became a revered war hero all across the former Yugoslavia and had his hand prints put into stone beside the bridge where Franz Ferdinand was killed. The prints remained there until 1992. At that point because, despite being a national hero, the sniper was a Serb, locals blew up the stone where the handprints lay, thereby destroying the monument. And thus, this historical body passes by here with no fanfare and the bridge stays with no outward signs of its significance.

Back to the mundane: Realizing that I was missing my second Canada Day in a row, I decided to call the Canadian Embassy last week and see if there was anything going on in honour of our festive national day. As usual, I was calling extremely late (only a half hour before they closed for the weekend), so they told me that they had one leftover pass to a private party on the SFOR base on the weekend. I snatched it up.

Up Sunday morning and down to catch a taxi, I told the driver "SFOR" and away we went. A few minutes had passed when he turned to me, smiling a jolly smile.

"Where's SFOR?" he asked in Bosnian.

It became apparent that neither of us had a clue where we were going, but him being the driver, I held him more responsible. He had been asking me a few questions in Bosnian, none of which I understood but to all of which I had agreed (OK, so this part may have been slightly more my fault). I realized that things had begun to gang aglay when I saw a sign that read, in big, bold, letters:


We hadn't just left the city, but the entire province! We went over a hill and then BAM!, cyrillic alphabet. We had entered the Republika Srpska. Now I was sure we were on the wrong track, the track to hell - next stops the Congo, a Turkish Prison and Winnipeg - and I started to get nervous. The driver, though also confused, tried to reassure me by constantly saying "No problem" to me in German. It wasn't helping.

Sure enough, he found the base after re-entering Sarajevo, so I paid him and he left, only for me to find out that my name was not on the list of people who could enter the base. It was four 18-year old Turkish guys working the front gate, all unsure what to do when they couldn't find my name. The thing was, my invitation had written on it "VIP" in tiny letters - I think everyone who came was a VIP, even those on KP - but these kids were yelling at each other, pulling out their hair and screaming something about me being a VIP. Finally, worried about the repercussions of not allowing a big-wig such as myself onto the base, they just let me in.

I spent the day wandering around and the base really struck me as being quite strange; there were bars, a barber shop, a Burger King, a Popeye's Chicken & Biscuits, a classroom for Chicago City College, but all were surrounded by tanks and a landscape of camouflage green. The day was mellow, just reading and watching videos sent over by MuchMusic to the base.

Dinner, however, was spectacular - Alberta T-Bone Steak and Nova Scotia Lobster with fresh corn and potatoes. And free Molson's. Army life, here I come! I spent dinner talking to the U.S. Political Advisor for Bosnia who was perhaps the most soft-spoken person I have ever met; I could barely hear him across the table. Speaking softly (even with a big stick) seems out of character for American foreign policy, so I had a very interesting conversation with him before having the Turks help me sneak aboard and SFOR bus and back into the city.

Though it isn't Nova Scotia lobster, I am beginning to really enjoy Bosnian food, the sausages and pastries and massive meat plates. The oddest thing is that a dish costs the same whether it is at a local fast food joint or a fancy restaurant. Beer ALWAYS costs three and sausages are always 4km (which is often not far enough away from me after combining both the sausages and beer). Their side dishes are delicious as well: Kajmak is an excellent sour cream-esque side that goes well with meat, and Ajvar, an eggplant and pepper dish, is fantastic with bread. If I have but one complaint, it is that I am losing my sense of mystery.

I often like to order things I don't know and on Tuesday I tried it out, picking an as-of-yet unknown meal.

"Bubrezi," I ordered from the waiter, and, like most good waiters do, he brought it to me. And it was testicles. Again. I am beginning to wonder if I am having bad luck or this is Bosnian humour. I think I will keep away from comedy clubs until I know better.