'A modern day journey through the wild western Balkans'

Friday, September 29, 2006

sarena revolucija

Thailand - coup d'etat. Hungary - protests and riots. Chile - massive student rallies. Bosnia and Herzegovina - rainbow painting the presidency. We all snap from the unjust practices of our governments. For the lies. The suffering. The poverty. Damming our fresh water supplies. For the horribly imbalanced distribution of wealth.

Bosnians are immeasurably patient or pitifully apathetic. The pure thievery and lies that dominates every single aspect of political life here is absurd. Yet the people have yet to rise. Until two days ago that is. Two days ago a group of youth - Croats, Serbs, and Bosniaks together - were finally fed up enough to do something about it.

Here in BiH the military is extremely tame, and always under the watchful eye of occupying NATO forces. So a coup d'etat is near impossible. Its also a police state in many ways, with the police force being the largest employer in the country. Protests and riots like the ones we saw in Budapest are also highly unlikely. Massive student protests here are unimagineable. Unimagineable simply for the fact that this is perhaps the most apathetic group of young people i have ever come across in my many years of revolution. It's sad really, so no real chance of matching the protests witnessed by Chile's youth.

What we got was 'Tutto completo.' A manic youth organization from Kakanj - a town smothered by both a highly polluting cement factory and coal plant. One won't find a single rooftop that's not blackened...so you can imagine what their lungs must look like. Anyway, these group of youngin's have been driving their revolution in the most peculiar of ways. With paint. Yup, they're painting thier way to change. And it just might work.

Two cars pull right up to the presidency -- without the police even blinking an eye. Then out come the plastic bags not filled with explosives, but with paint of all colours of the spectrum. This building, for many representing the lair of the criminal beast, then became victim of a barrage of paint bombs. And boy was it pretty. They hauled countless bags of paint all over the entrance of the Presidents den....and managed to do so for quite some time without the security forces figuring out what to do with these menaces to society. Before the violence could start - coloured revolution was spray painted on the front door.

The state security forces then arrived...skirmishes followed, and the paint terrorists were then beaten up (on camera) by three policemen. No surprises there.

The real surprise came the next day. The 'Dosta' movement (enough!) announced a peaceful protest at the same spot of the coloured revolution against police brutality. Low and behold the next morning hundreds appeared, and the largest number were pensioners!!! The action seems to have widespread support - at least amongst the urbanites.

People are fed up. God bless them they are finally fed up and ready to do something about it. Hasta la paint bombs siempre companeros!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Proof of payment

I went to Zagreb yesterday to drop off a companera at the airport. The Croats have this strange complex -- they claim to not be - in any way, shape or form - part of the Balkans. Most beg to differ...and as a Yugoslav intellectual once said 'god save us from Serbian pride and Croatian culture.' No culture on earth really needs to defend its value to society -- each and every culture, purely on their own and in their original form, are priceless. The Croats haven't figured that out yet -- and constantly need to negate and degrade other Balkan cultures as unworthy ones. By doing this they seem to think they are going to boost their own culture...which strikes me as such a balkan concept, doesn't it?! The apple never falls far from the tree.

I must say though that its a joy to drive in Croatia. Croatia built over 400 kilometers of beautiful highway over the span of 5 years. Bosnia and Herzegovina managed about 15 kilometres in that time. Oh well.

On the way back, though, I had two interesting encounters. The first one was at the border crossing between Slavonski Brod and Brod - which used to be both Bosanski Brod and then Srpski Brod, but we'll get to that later. The Croatian border officials were typically cold and uninterested. But when i got to the bosnian side, it all changed. Granted, it was a quite a bit more sloppy than the Croatian side...but i was greeted with a smile and as the border cop reviewed my shabby passport he engaged in exchanging common pleasantries with me. He even informed me that due to my age i was long overdue to get married and i should find a good Bosnian woman and do so immediately. I felt like i should pull over, find the first woman and run to the clerk of court for a marriage certificate. He was great.

A bit further down the road...as i was absorbing my re-entry into Bosnia amidst the stunning number of bombed out homes, i was pulled over by the police of Republika Srpska. One thing i truly love about the Balkans is that policeman, who can certainly at times be assholes, usually behave like humans. You can talk to them...get out of your car without a gun being pulled on you...and even argue if the mood is right.

Anyway, they say i was going 77 in a 50 zone. Close enough i guess, so i pleaded guilty. That always sends them for a loop. I admit it, i was speeding. They have no idea what to do now. They are so used to bullshit stories defending their ancient radar guns or why the person had to drive 160 kilometres an hour in a 40 zone. So in the end I said, just write me up partner, I'll pay my dues.

What i didn't know was that there has been yet another change in Bosnian law. Reform is great, but one needs a daily gazette just to keep up with all the changes. The new law, aimed at rooting out police corruption, issues you a ticket that you do not pay on the spot. Good law i say. I have to take some form with me and pay it at a certain bank -- a little inconvenient but i can deal with that too. I then found out that not only did i have to go and pay at a certain bank but that i am required to bring the proof of my payment, in person, all the way back to Brod - 300 kilometres away from where i live. And there is no other way to do it. Has anyone ever heard of computers? When i started laughing at the ridiculousness of it all both coppers were a bit defensive. But when i engaged them in a conversation about it they started to realize just how absurd it all is.

Fill out a form. Go to a specific bank to pay it. Get proof of that payment. And drive 300 kilometres to give you that proof. I prefer the bribing days and coffee money to get them to leave me alone. After a bit of giggling and 'what do we do now?', he instructed me to slow and down and hit the road.

Again, the beauty of Balkan police. I get off scott free, get to argue and laugh with a policeman...slag off the system with him as he wishes me a pleasant drive back to sarajevo and the only damage was missing my favourite song on the radio.

I sped all the way home, making the trip in record time.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The wanderer...

As i wandered the streets of Sarajevo alone this chilly evening...I realized that life without ones tribe is not really a life at all. I'm not sure it matters how we structure or define our tribe - its the sense of belonging and being understood that matters so much to us.

Then there are freaks like me - who claims to do things 'for the people' when, in fact, doesn't really have a people. He's alone. And he put himself there. Maybe he thought it would be easier to set the stones of revolution in a land where he was just a wanderer. He could fight the good fight without a single sole around. Ranting and raving about how good things could be, 'only if we...'.

But he's always told himself the real revolution is the one which occurs from within. But that he has put on the backburner and now asks himself why. Is the common good above all - even when the commons don't really give a shit (until its too late of course)? Can one work for the common good if he/she is not working on oneself? Can one honestly love others without loving themselves?

So maybe this external revolution is just bullshit. And maybe the evolution of the mind only comes with the warming of the heart. One cannot happen without the other. Not to say his heart is cold - but in a sense towards himself it is. So che continues to peel away the layers of bullshit that he complained about some time ago. And hopes for some peace of mind -- and heart.

Am i the only one who thinks about this stuff?

Friday, September 22, 2006


The older I get the more funerals I seem to attend. I'm grateful none of them so far has been mine. Today was a dear old woman, bony and wrinkly Tetka (Auntie) who, quite honestly, had mostly lost her mind in her 89th year on this earth. Today is the evening of Ramazan, the holy month for Muslims, where they fast during the light hours - intended to cleanse, focus and contemplate. Its also tradition to visit the graves of the deceased...and so we visited the grave of my loyal companera's grandmother. Her resting place is an ancient graveyard on the hills high above old Sarajevo. Spectacular view. When we arrived they prayed, and as they did so the call to prayer resonated from the dozens of minarets that dot the sarajevo skyline. Everything just seemed sort of synchronised. Call me crazy, but not a bad to be laid to rest...

Its also Yom Kippur. Another day of fast and contemplation for our Jewish brothers and sisters. I stand proud in the middle of all these faiths, embracing none of them yet all of them.

And being that its a time of contemplation...and being that we are in the midst of a revolution....i have decided to join the month long fast with my Muslim brothers and sisters. It will offer me insight and time to contemplate this growing rift between all of us. A rift that I understand, but just plain don't get. It's all such nonsense. It serves no purpose except to reinforce our fears. So today I am a Muslim. Tomorrow a Jew. The day after a Christian. And each and every day I am me - and you are you. Regardless of the labels we place on our foreheads, we are flesh and bone. That flesh and bone gets lefts behind, put in the ground for safekeeping by Pacha Mama whilst our spirits soar.

Ramazan Serif Mubarek Olsun to my brothers and sisters in Islam. Do contemplate. Do cleanse. Do realize the end of separation. Do feel the oneness. Hasta la ramazan siempre.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Mental Blocks and Anarchy

Sometimes I get the very best of ideas to write about just wandering around this town and observing the vast madness of Sarajevo's drivers, pedestrians, shoppers, coppersmiths, and the various groups that percieve themselves as the 'Jet Set.' I get a sensory overload from some of the most phenomenally creative characters i have ever seen to the most absolute idiotic individuals on this dear planet of ours. Ideas flow furiously until i come here, to my little desktop in the foothills just north of Sarajevo. Here it all somehow goes blank.

I wish i could understand my mental blocks more. Why and when creative juices flow and then dry up like a desert stream. Today I had at least two fantastic themes and ideas...and now they are gone, vanished, nowhere near my fingertips as I type this nonsense onto my blog.

Something tells me i need to slow down. Soak it in more. Relax a bit. Maybe even carry a notepad and pen with me every now and then. The things i witness here on a daily basis are novel worthy be rest assured. Its just these bloody mental blocks that are killing me.

If i could just slightly relate to you the wonderful anarchy that I witness on a daily basis. The blatant disregard for rules or regulations, the exciting ability to argue and curse at policemen, smoking in the courthouse in front of a no smoking sign that is barely visible due to all the smoke, parking literlly in the middle of the street just because you feel like and don't give a rats ass if its the main road through the city, pedestrians walking in the street with small children despite the empty two-meter wide sidewalk just beside them. Its a wonderful place these balkans.

Despite all the mental blocks, its a place I'm glad to call home. Now we must get on with the revolution. Hasta la anarchy siempre.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

who shagged my dog

My loyal companera's underbelly has, in rapid succession, began to sag. Her nipples are three times their normal size, her lovely coat sheds a bit each day, she eats like never before. With the exception of one 24 hour span - Reilly has been by my side. Its obvious that i've got a family on the way...but i still want to know who shagged by dog!?

She's a purebred Tornjak, an endemic shepherd dog from Vlasic mountain in central Bosnia. I have an eery feeling that it might be Bobby who stuck his little pecker in her. Bobby is this tiny little grey poodle that can go through the bars on the fence. I found him on many occassions in her big house. The neighbours seem to think it was cute. Let's see how cute it is when i take a box of little shitty grey poodle pups to their doorstep.

I still wonder though, how could he do it. I mean she's a big dog. A big dog. And he, well...like i said, he's a little shitty grey poodle. There's also the chance that her 24 hour jaunt around Sarajevo resulted in any one of the thousands of street dogs getting laid. They swarm around outskirts of the city like a pack of hungry wolves. It's one gang i certainly wouldn't want to run into late at night. Paramilitaries are nothing compared to this lot.

She was in heat...a stranger opened the gate to read the water guage and off she went like a whore at the world cup. What could i do? Now i just have wait. Time will tell I guess. And before long at least i will know who shagged my dog.

Puppies anyone?

Friday, September 15, 2006

Bring back the old Pope god damn it!

I've got so many silly, ridiculous, frustrating, funny, infuriating things to write about that I'm not quite sure (as Dan the Mexican would say) whether 'to shit or go blind.' Now what that means, I haven't totally figured out - but anyone that knows the Mexican will understand.

Although Pacha Mama is my church, temple, synagogue, and mosque I still get nostalgic every now and then. Don't tell my companeros, but where the hell is the shaky Pope John Paul when you need him? OK, he was the Pope, but the man brought a good message around the world and certainly never inflamed over a billion people. Why the Vatican let a bloody German in, one that was accused of being a Nazi sympathizer, is beyond me. We've got Bush who's pissed the Muslims off enough for them to make joy rides into tall buildings, Danish cartoonists creating riots around the world by insulting the prophet, and now the Crout taking the piss out of Muhammed (a.s.) and his holy wars. I mean how on earth could the POPE criticize anyone on holy wars? Jesus Christ, (he's mentioned in the Q'uran more times than Muhammed by the way) the Catholic Church slaughtered grasshoppers that wouldn't convert in the old days. They hung and burned our women, the healers, and accused them of witchcraft.

Now I grant you, some Muslims have gone way over the top with the cartoon thing. And they seem to be ultra-sensative these days. But have the slightest inkling of cultural sensitivity Father Benedict. If you have a time bomb in your hand, do you throw it about or lay it gently on the floor and walk away? If you have a nervous, angry and potentially aggressive tiger in front of you do you kick it the head or chuck it a beef steak?

The bottom line is that the west just can't fathom the east and the east can't fathom the west. I've had the gracious opportunity to taste the best and worst of both worlds. I must tell you companeros....we cry the same tears, laugh the same laugh, worry the same worries. We all have the desire for good and healthy lives. We all want our children to grow up in a happy home. We all want a comfortable place and secure job to support our families. For fuck sake, we shit the same. Piss the same. Fuck the same.

So maybe that's part of my mission, to bring these two so-called drastically different worlds into perspective. Sure, we have our differences. But man I'm telling you, we all want the same thing...we just do in a slightly different ways. I'll do my best to bring the fences down...and shed a bit of light. I fear, though, that the clash of the civilisations that we have created in our heads has a blue print made of permanent ink. Let's see if Che can spur a little revolution...which is the evolution of the mind.

And Pope Benedict, watch your fucking tongue dumb ass.