"Ey," said the voice on the other line. It was Safet.
"Willl you do me a favor?"
"Sure, šta?" naively thinking for a moment he actually needed a favor.
"Will you get dressed and wait outside your apartment in ten minutes? Amir, Alma, and I are going somewhere. So. Ok. We'll see you..." he was quickly hanging up.
"Wait! Where are we going??" I had just made a to-do list and had been planning on a productive Saturday. "Productive" is not a word used often in Bosnian. In fact, they have a common word that means precisely the opposite. ‘Čajf’ means to partake in an activity with deliberate slow pleasure. I'm instructed to do this a lot. "A little more čajf Rebecca," when they see me becoming restless in my chair after several hours sitting at the cafe.
"I have a lot of work to do," I heard myself mumble into the phone. Safet waited patiently on the other line for me to finish.
"Not work. Today is for vacation. Vidimo se. See you." He hung up.
It was a lot longer than ten minutes before Amir and Safet pulled up to the curb. I'd been waiting, sitting in what little shade I could find outside the pharmacy, trying to balance my daypack and a hot bag of white and dark kifle and kukuruzni hljeb (corn bread) for at least 25 minutes. I'd given one mark (local currency) to one of the women sitting on plastic crates outside the building. Today there were two, not more than three feet from each other, dressed in layers of clothes and scarves despite the warm weather, their small hands held out and faces wearing a similar polite toothy grin. Occasionally one woman would stand, bag in hand, her swollen feet too big for her wool socks and clogs.
Finally Amir and Sajo pulled up to the curb and Sajo jumped out. "Where are you going? Where are we going?" While sitting on the curb I thought the nice weather meant we were headed south to Hercegovina; a scenic route to the Adriatic dotted with villages offering fresh fruits, cafes and dramatic views of the Neretva River.
"We are going to Goražde," he replied smiling. "How much bread do you have?"
It was about a two hours drive. Usually it's a bit less but Alma ended up driving, and since she is a new driver, and the route is through the mountains, everyone was in favor of her cautious navigation around the steep curves and "crni tačka" (literally meaning "black point" these signs indicate the locations of common and lethal accidents).
"I know that the spades are the swords of a soldier
I know that the clubs are weapons of war
I know that diamonds mean money for this art
But that's not the shape of my heart..."
And then as suddenly as we came upon it, we were past Foća, the car speeding along the little road, the sparkling Drina at our side.
"There's a house there. Teci Drina, tecni i pričaj. Like the river that flows, so we must talk."
"About the war you mean?" I said, my neck craning out the window hands juggling my camera.
"About what happened." He said it casually, in his normal half-monotone used when speaking about the war. As we passed the sign, the blue sky and shimmering river beckoning us onward, to the naive outsider the sign had the appearance more of an advertisement than an echo of a recent tragic past.
After several lazy hours of sipping juice (the boys Sarajevsko beer), eating, napping in the shade, and then more eating, (a true afternoon 'čajf') we got back in the car and headed into the small town to catch the end of the day.
We stopped at a cafe along on the main street. Filled with teenagers, seemingly dressed for a night out but from glimpsing the town I realized that the cafe and the pizza shop around the corner might be their only destinations.
Before heading back to Sarajevo we sipped espressos and slurped ice cream scoops, breathing in the last rays of sunlight before saying 'good night / laku noć' to special Goražde.
NY Times Article September 1994
NY Times Article April 1994
Bosnia Beyond Words, Joe Sacco