Since being abroad, I have realized the magnitude of kind actions and patience. The fate of my mood relies greatly on the attitude of those I interact with on a daily basis, and the positive experiences are what inspire me to persevere in learning Bosnian. Of course, on the flip side, when people treat me unkindly and with little regard for the considerable effort it takes for me to communicate, it’s difficult for me to want to keep learning their language. Typically, though, most people are indifferent. People who work in shops usually encounter all sorts of foreigners who speak varying levels of Bosnian, which means that my case is nothing special. Regardless of this, today I had a GREAT time buying running shoes because of the woman who ran the store.
The shoes I brought here with me are completely shot, and I’ve been looking for replacement shoes for several weeks now. Female running shoes are few and far between in this city. Additionally, I’m used to wearing Asics, while Sarajevo seems to carry only Nike and Adidas. I’m not complaining (anymore), but it was another barrier I had to jump over in my search. Today I finally got around to buying a pair of shoes I’d spotted about a week ago (not that it actually matters, but they are Nike Free Runs and they are bright purple with neon green accents). I walked into the store and asked in my very accented Bosnian, “Where are your Nike running shoes?” then proceeded to have a long(ish) conversation with the woman who was working in the shop. She asked me how long I’d been here and where I was from, and told me at least four times that my Bosnian was “super.” I’ve noticed that younger people (like her) typically are negative towards me coming here, and ask me zašto, why, I would ever come to Bosnia. She did nothing of the sort, and even spoke a little slower so that I could understand everything she said. People like this who are thoughtful and genuinely considerate never fail to slingshot my happiness to a peak.
I regularly run into people like this, yet I’m always surprised by the extent of their kindness and interest in me as a person. Certain workers at the bakery near my school recognize me and remember that I always get cornbread, then ask me kako si, how are you? A complete stranger held the bus this morning while I ran to catch it, (but then proceeded to lecture me on punctuality and my youth. In these situations, the English phrase, “I’m sorry, I only speak English” is a great cover). Truly positive attitudes and sincere acts of kindness like this strengthen my faith in humanity and make me even more aware how possible it is to bridge cultural differences even non-verbally. Things like this are what make my stay in Bosnia and Herzegovina an incredible experience.