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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

Eastern Europe retroblog: Brčko, part 1

Toward the end of our Eastern European adventure Kate and I arranged to volunteer at a children’s summer camp in a Bosnian town called Brčko (pronounced ‘Birch-ko’– and if it’s not then we were saying it wrong the whole time). There would be children of all religions and ethnicities here, and the idea is to foster friendship and cooperation between them. It was a very positive experience overall–thanks to our lovely volunteer coordinators Dina and Sanjin, other new friends Briony and Mujke, and a bunch of really sweet kids–but as with every other volunteer experience I’ve had, there were definitely aspects I found ineffective or at least inefficient.

Monday, 18th June 2007
Thoroughly frustrated…yesterday we passed three boys rooting through the dumpsters at the far end of our block, and of course one of them approached us and asked for money. THOSE are the kids who need help, but as Dina pointed out, the Roma don’t want or think they need any help. They don’t
want a better life for their families, and that is totally incomprehensible to me.

We were there less than two weeks, but we quickly settled into a routine of workshops and coffee afterwards at Dina and Sanjin’s favorite cafe, Jazzwa.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007
The workshop this morning was quieter but still a success–we did the ‘pass it on’ story exercise and illustrated a few of the stories afterwards, and of course most of the kids got plenty of laughs when they were read out. We started with ‘Once upon a time a brother and sister left home with their pet goat in search of adventure,’ and though the goat dropped out of pretty much all the stories (never featured in Dina’s quick translations, anyway), there were still a few gems. ‘The boy squeezed the bird and mayonnaise came out’; ‘they ate five kilograms of chocolate and had diarrhea.’ Lots of farting too, naturally. Our favorite illustration was a marsupial dragon–a ‘dragaroo.’

At three we were treated to a tour of the town library, which is housed in a crumbling but wonderful imperialist Hungarian building dating to 1892.

Two views of the library:

There’s so much to say about Brčko that I should split it into two posts. Next time: fresh (and not so fresh) produce, other people’s toothbrushes, and an unexpected early-morning visitor.

2 Comments to Eastern Europe retroblog: Brčko, part 1

  1. Pare's Gravatar Pare
    June 17, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    "The boy squeezed the bird and mayonnaise came out." I HATE it when that happens.

    Speaking of the Roma, have you read Bury Me Standing by Isabel Fonseca?

  2. Kate's Gravatar Kate
    June 18, 2010 at 2:31 am | Permalink

    The experience was definitely not as helpful as I thought it would be, but it always sounds really impressive when I tell people that I helped foster religious tolerance in Bosnia . . . is that awful?

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.