Make The Mostar’v It! Our Trip To Bosnia And Herzegovina

The magnificent pink and blue hues in the sky, which had not dawned upon us yet, foreshadowed for the beautiful journey that we would soon embarked on. Our 30-hour bus trip was dotted with multiple borders, from Austria to Croatia, all in the crispy midnight air, a seemingly perfect rest break between the stuffy bus rides.

Amongst the crinkles forming around our eyes as we laughed, amongst the crumpling of chip bags and amongst our drowsy, heavily lidded eyes during this long bus ride, we would learn our first lesson, before we would even reached our destination.

Each time the driver trudged up the small folding steps to the upper-bus level, we would scramble to gather our passports and clumsily knot our shoelaces. We would wrap ourselves tightly in our jackets to shield from the brisk morning air and clamber off the bus.

We lined up for passport control, poking fun at each other and drawing chuckles and glares from the rest of the passengers, who pulled out lighters and cigarettes and aimed cumbersome gazes towards the long queue.

Our passports were different colors, like navy, red, green. Some opened from the left and others from the right, and proved we were citizens of Germany, the Netherlands, the U.S., Egypt and Jordan. The first three passports were often handled instantaneously, whereas the last two always seemed to be met with scrutiny and suspicion; requiring an extra effort in questioning and a close observation of each and every page.

It was appalling how our friends were met with blatant racism. Now, it seems even more shocking that we had been so surprised and naive in a world with such a prevalence of xenophobia and fear.

However, it is during times like these where we remembered how fortunate we were to not only believe in global unity, but to have lived in a community where people are more than their nationalities and where live together in harmony. And so we looked forward to a more hopeful future and remembered the importance togetherness in a world so divided.

Mostar had a sunny disposition, despite the distinct war remnants remains a city that pushed through and persevered, like an undying spirit that refused to be bottled away.

The Stari Most, better know as the Old Bridge, stood proudly in the city of Mostar. The bridge balanced two sides of the city on her shoulders; one predominantly Christian, the other predominantly Muslim. This bridge has been destroyed multiple times, as it stands as a symbol of unity between the two cities with different faiths. Despite all the blows, its glory still stands today.

The first time crossed the bridge, we met a friendly local who enthusiastically engaged himself in a conversation with us. He commented on the beauty of our group, which consisted of Europeans, Middle Easterns and Asians. The man guided us around the city and recounted the haunting and still visible history of the city; of the division that dragged the people into war.

The Stari Most symbolizes a city where people were and are able to coexist and overcome conflicts.

He commented on the bleakness in our world today, where most wake up to a screen and fall asleep to a screen, as opposed to his childhood, where the day started with sunlight falling through the windows and the nights ended with the rhythmic chirps of crickets. He reminded us to stay present and remain critical, and avoid being rendered mindless against all the information being shoved into our attention. In his words, becoming “sheep.”

The Stari Most stands as a symbol and reminder of a history where people became “sheep”; their minds clouded with false notions against the favor of the people themselves, because a division results in weakness, and thus people are driven against each other as a strategy to keep the power elsewhere.

He made us realize how lucky we are to interact with so many different people; how beautiful that is. And, ultimately, he taught us how crucial movements such as UWC are right now in a world that seems seemingly filled with despair. So, don’t just take a photo, a selfie and move on, when you are lucky enough to travel. Take a moment to stop, look, and learn.

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Ellen is a New Yorker who's love of travel started when studying at United World Colleges (UWC)'s Robert Bosch College.

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