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Letters from Mostar

A collective ethnographic exercise by the young people of Mostar and beyond….

Haris

By Adna

When I first met Haris, I thought that he was an ordinary teenager. He has a short black hair and dark brown eyes. But as one says, we mustn’t judge a book by it’s cover,and that’s definitely the true. I was very surprised when I found out that he’s  an artist. He enjoys in all kinds of art, especially in music. He is 14 years old and he’s attending Music school in Mostar. He told me, that music represented life for him. He grew up watching his dad playing the piano, and that are some of his favourite moments of his entire childhood. His dad is his biggest inspiration and he supports him the most, when it comes to playing music.Music is a “place“, where he found his inner peace, the place, where he found himself.  Like his father, he has been playing piano 6 years from now, and he is very good at it.

Then I asked, what his plans for future were, and did he see himself in Mostar for ten years. He stopped talking for awhile and then he said, and with some sadness in his voice, he said that, even he loved this country with his whole heart, he didn’t see the future in it. He told me, that he was going to follow his dreams, even if that mean leaving comfort zone, his friends and family, who are living here,  and engaging in something new.

Also as he said, the big problem in this country were people, who were still living in the past, precisely in the war, which ended 20 years ago. One of the main consequences of it, is people getting poisoned with nationalism, and people doing absolutely nothing for prosperity of our future. I think that he’s a very realistic person, aware of the situation in this country. I mostly agree with him, because the country, we are living in, doesn’t leave us a lot of space to be ourselves, does not allow us to do the things we love, but mostly it doesn’t allow us to follow our dreams.

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Lejla

By Antea

Her name is Lejla. She is an 18 year old girl from Mostar.  She is a beautiful girl with brown hair and brown eyes whose outer beauty  matches the beauty of her soul.To pursue her love for helping others she attends a medicine school. Culture plays an important role in her life because, as she says : “it reflects on our lives and you lose your identity without it“.

Although Mostar has a special meaning to her, she would like to travel all around the world and learn new things. Wherever life takes her it will always have a special place in her heart. This program allowed me to meet her better and find a lot of similarities between us, from music and taste of humor to our love for McDonald’s. She is a fan of techno and house music and her favorite movie is Focus.

Spaghetti is her favorite dish. Her sense of justice shows her maturity and ambition to follow her dreams. She is a person who knows what she wants and is ready to fight for it.

Azra

By Mia

Azra is really beautiful girl, with long lighter hair and very bright smile. I didn’t know her before attending this programme, but it wasn’t hard to notice her. When she gets in new environment, she obviously doesn’t wait for someone to come to her, she actually rather goes to meet those people first, while being very friendly. I found that out during the first week of Mostar Summer Youth Programme. After a while, we started to hang out and I finally met her as I wanted to. We were talking about many different topics, and shared our experiences with each other.

Azra told me that she often makes herself think about situations she went through, she wonders if it could be any better or different in some other ways, so it makes her a bit insecure. If she could change any habit that brothers her, it would be her stubbornness, even if it didn’t cause some situations that made her regret because of the mentioned habit. We were also discussing about this programme that we both attend and it was a very common topic. She told me that she feels accepted by those who surround her. As we can see , she is usually communicative and friendly person, so that is her way to build many friendships. But she also has experience with people who were not accepted by their society, and she was the one who made them feel accepted and also made them feel like they belong there, so she helped them to feel more comfortable.

Azra is very kind and modest. She loves her hometown Mostar, and it is the place that she would never leave. She likes to compare other cultures with the culture of this place when she goes somewhere else, and that makes her realise how much she loves this town and how beautiful it is. She recommends everyone to visit Mostar, and I share the same opinion as well. It is one of the most beautiful towns in this country.

Xochilt

By Adnan

When I first saw Xochilt I noticed that she doesn’t look like a pure indigenous. She had the features of a Spanish person and a indigenous person. She has thick black hair, round head and a small nose like a indigenous person from Nicaragua and she is taller and she has lighter skin like a Spanish person. That makes her a mestiza. A mestiza is a person that is mixed race, the race of a indigenous person from Nicaragua and a person from Spanish origin.

I have seen that people in Nicaragua have a very close relationship with each other. When they greet each other they walk up to each other, hug and kiss the air next to their cheek two times. Traditional dance in Nicaragua is very friendly. The girls have very wide dresses and wave with it and boys have cowboy hats that are related to the Spanish people. Xochilt can see that Mostar is a victim of war. She also noticed that the people of Mostar are trying to rebuild the city.

I learned form Xochilt that I always must be open minded and that’s very important.

Adi

By Xochilt

Selam alejkum”, says Adi with a bright smile on his face while extending his right hand towards me. I smile back and he instructs me to respond “Alejkum selam” to his greeting while I shake his right hand with mine. “This is how we greet each other in our culture, and it is in Arabic” he adds, explaining the meaning of the greeting, “Selam Alejkum means peace with you and Alejkum Selam means god bless you or peace with you too, this is how we show respect”. This is how Adi introduces me to his world, a world filled with hope and optimism, a world that started in the outskirts of Mostar, where he grew up, surrounded by nature.

When asked about Mostar, the smiley face of Adi changes a bit, as he says that Mostar means everything to him, but he feels pain every time people mention the division that characterizes the city, because he believes in unity. He lives in the west side of the city, in what he describes to be a “mixed neighbourhood”,  with people from all religious backgrounds, with whom he celebrates everything together, from Christmas to Ramadan. He wishes more people would do that, share and learn from each other, just as he was taught by his mother and older sister, and just as he tries to teach his younger sister, in what he called “the circle of life”.

Adi’s wishes captures the spirit of Mostar’s youth, a spirit willing to write a new history based on unity and acceptance, willing to rewrite “the circle of life” to imagine a new future in which the river banks no longer mean division but the opportunity to cross borders and celebrate difference.

Mia

By Jelena

It is in the basis of ethnography to understand and get to know people near us. As Malinowski said: “to judge something, you have to be there.” During this short time I spent at MSYP, I met a special and extraordinary person, Mia. It is not hard to recognize Mia as she simply radiates positive energy. One can notice a spirit of a reasonable and patient person in her big, brown eyes. Mia comes from Konjic and she is 16 years old. Konjic is a small and nice town 1 hour away from Mostar. As she came to Mostar,she came across a new culture. Even though Mostar is not her birthplace, she feels nice and accepted there. “I like the culture and the structure of the city. The society is very friendly and kind. The approach in Mostar is great ; people from Mostar are an open nation.”­ she says.

Mostar changes her culture; likewise she changes Mostar’s culture. She adds new world views. While encountering new world views, she accepts the principle of being open and accepting everyone as they truly are and she hopes to bring the principle back into her culture. While I was observing her as a subject she felt weird and honesty make her open towards others, in contrast to most of her insecure peers. She feels insecure about the future, like me, but we both move forward bravely. After all we are humans, we are all made out of flesh and blood and our spirit makes all of us different. She is ready to advocate for excluded and threatened ones, e.g. Roma people. She follows Malinowski principle and judge others only once she gets to know them.

She is a wonderful person inside out. 🙂

Antea

By Rory

Antea says that MSYP has enabled her to experience a wider variety of cultures. This is the case because many of the teachers and coordinators are from many different countries, such as Xochilt who is from Nicaragua or Kenichi who is Japanese and American. Furthermore, I am from Northern Ireland and this has also helped Antea experience and study other cultures. In addition, Antea, through all of her experiences, including MSYP, has become more open minded and more tolerant. She hopes to pursue being open minded and tolerant by intending to go to university in Berlin in september. Berlin is a hugely multicultural city and Antea would be able to experience and interact with more diverse and different cultures. If Antea does not go to Berlin, she would like to study in Zagreb, Croatia which is a city that she really likes. In university, she wants to study International Development which is a subject that would be very interesting.

Antea has said that Mostar plays an important role in shaping her personality. She says that, unlike many of her peers, she feels that there is something magical about the city and that, despite all its problems, it is a very friendly place and an easy place to live. However, Antea has said that, for a certain period of time, she would like to live somewhere else, so to gain more experience but also because there is very high youth unemployment in Mostar and thus a lack of opportunity.

Myself and Antea share some similarities. Firstly, we are both open minded and believe in respect towards all people, regardless of ethnicity, culture, religion etc. What is more, we both like travelling to different places and seeing the world, and in the future Antea intends to do more traveling across the world to gain plenty new different experience. Moreover, both of us like learning new languages, although Antea is probably a better linguist. Antea speaks fluent German and fluent English whereas I only speak French. However there are some differences between us. Most notably, Antea is from Mostar and I am from Northern Ireland. What is further, Antea is lucky in the way that she has finished school. I, on the other hand, must do another year of school, which is a great shame. In addition, a further difference between is somewhat cultural one. I like going out and getting drunk from time to time, whereas Antea only likes to drink very little alcohol.

Rory

By Matea

Something that marks Rory is his sunscreen. Rory is from Ireland, that is country of cold temperature, but warm and friendly people. These are characteristics of his city that he likes the most. Here in Mostar he found same things. Derry and Mostar are quite similar, that similarity Rory loves, historic city, warmness. He came in Mostar because of the MSYP. But because of the people he will come back. MSYP gave him opportunity to explore, to learn, to find friends for life. Even if he doesn’t like school he likes this kind of program. Rory was amazed about what this program offers. His favourite subject here is international relations, Kenichi and Bede teaches him about the foreign policy of different countries and the role of the international community. To him that is very interesting because he wants to study history and politics. His wish to study history woke up in him when he went to US. Rory likes travelling, movies, and the band Arctic Monkeys.

He describes himself as a loyal friend, hardworking but somewhat disorganized. Nelson Mandela inspires him in perseverance. When he go to Ireland he will really miss Cevapi. Our cultural food that he will carry home in his memories. And in my memory will stay some words that he taught me, like Dia duit, that means hello on Irish language. In my personal opinion he is a great person, and I am glad that he loves this city as much as I love it.

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Kenichi

By Adi

I’m a lucky man to have the honor to present to you someone from Japanese culture. In this text I’m going to present our differences and similarities between us. His name is Kenichi. He was born in Tokio 25 years ago.

Kenichi’s family is very traditional. In his family he is the ”kid with blue eyes”. Just like Japanese culture he is very mysterious, traditional and interesting. He lives in New York City, but his home town is his favorite town. He graduated from TUFTS College in 2012, and now he works with African children and he think that education is a powerful weapon. Kenichi has an adventurous spirit. His dreams are to jump from space and skydiving. He loves traveling and his wish is to break his father record in traveling, which is 55 countries. Other fun facts about him is that his favorite food is sushi (rolled tuna), his favorite movie is “Spirit way” and his favorite band is called Natural milk hotel, and his hobbies include playing tennis, snowboarding and cooking.

For him our culture represents beauty of our people. Also, he thinks that we are unique and very traditional, and he likes the temperament of our people. The most important part of our culture is food, and he likes our food, especially the way that we prepare ”teletina”.

I learned lot of things from Kenichi. He taught me a lot of his culture. Now I know how they greet each other in Japan when they meet in the streets. Also I learned how much private space is important in Japan, and if you do something wrong it reflects on whole community.

For Kenichi teaching in Mostar represents new challenge, and he loves challenges. For him Mostar is united town. He doesn’t feel differences between west and east side. For him we are united and we are one nations. That is positive thinking. We can learn something from him. I wanna say “thank you” to Kenichi for everything he did for us in this 3 weeks.

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