Monday, August 28, 2006

Football for folies

I am in pain. I am sore. I am hurting, I am bruised, I am battered and I am not a football player.
Last weekend I participated in a football tournament. It was an athletic failure but a 'comraderish' succes. I decided to forget the scores, but in the 4 games we played, we managed to score one (1) goals. This one (1) goals was celebrated as a victory, much to the amazement of the onlookers. What it boiled down to was "We sucked. Bigtime". But we had great fun, although my legs still hurt.

Many things at the tournament were the same as with tournaments in Holland- quite a number of players were hungover, we did not have matching outfits, it rained, we lost, talks were about football all day- but ofcourse, there was a different twist to it, like to so many things in BiH. The tournament was organised by the German contingent of EUFOR, the European peacekeeping force in BiH.
Seeing German soldiers walking around here in their uniforms is very strange to me. Times have changed, they are the good guys now, and they are here to protect me (and the rest of BiH). I can not but laugh about the irony of it....

EUFOR, European Union FORce, is the successor of SFOR, the NATO Stabilisation FORce in BiH, which is the successor of IFOR, the NATO Implementation FORce, which is the successor of UNPROFOR, the United Nations PROtection FORce in BiH.
Currently EUFOR has about 7,000 military personnel deployed in BiH, where UNPROFOR had approximately 39,000 soldiers on the ground in BiH and Croatia (which puts the number of peacekeepers/ -enforcers which will be sent to Libanon in an interesting light....).
According to their website (a) their mission, code named ALTHEA is as follows:

The key objectives of ALTHEA are:
- To provide deterrence and continued compliance with the responsibility to fulfil the role specified in Annexes 1A and 2 of the Dayton/Paris Agreement (General Framework Agreement for Peace in BiH); and
- To contribute to a safe and secure environment in BiH, in line with its mandate, and to achieve core tasks in the OHR’s Mission Implementation Plan and the Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP).

So those men and women are here to secure the peace. And I still have not figured out whether that is really necessary. Their presence always makes me think of this story of a guy who is walking on his hands on the Brooklyn Bridge in NYC. A policeman comes up to him ans asks him why he does this. The man answers that he is doing it to keep the elephants from entering Manhattan. Surpised by this answer the copper rebuts by saying that there are no elephants in Manhattan . "Duh,", the man says, "that is because I am walking on my hands...". Maybe there is no war because they are here, but maybe they are here because they are here. Be it as it may, there is peace now, so maybe they are doing their job well....
A lot of my Bosnian friends are more than sceptical about the presence of EUFOR, but they also say that if it was not for them, the country would be in a more fragile state than it already is. They are the experts, so i believe them. The political rethoric in the time running up to the elections in October, rethorics that is heard on TV and read in the newspapers, feeds the tought that they might be right. In election time in Holland politicians throw mud at eachother- here old war wounds are opened again, and nationalistic cries are heard over and over again, even by politicians who during the war were quite moderate. Referring to ethnic differences results in votes, and the politicians realise it. The seem not to care too much about what it does nor the country as a whole. The bomb attack on the grave of Izetbegović is still not solved, but voices are heard that it is done as a result of all the political tensions.

Anyway, EUFOR is here. And most of its men seem bored. And organise a football tournament, in which I participate. The organisation is quite professional: there are halftracks to drive the German teams to the pitch, two armoured personnel carriers (APC's)are remodified to work as ambulances (we talk about 'ze lietle tanks', and the driver 'leftenant Grueber'), there is beer and free sausages. If it wasn't for them, there might be violence again, but for sure i would not have had such an enjoyable Saturday the 26th of August....

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


My neighbour Nenad is trying to sell his car. He is trying this for a while now. The car is a grey Volkwagen Golf I. This makes it an old car- it is over 20 years old. Before it was his, it belong to an elderly woman from Switserland; Nenand drove it from Switserland to BiH.
Nenad tried to sell it to me, and when I was not interested he tried to sell it to my friends. In my opinion the price he asks is to high, but Nenad assures me that 900 Euro for a Golf I is very reasonable; a Volkswagen is here the car to be seen with. It is the most wanted car amongst carthiefs, and it is equally populair amongst second-hand cardealers. There might be a connection there....
Not being able to sell it to me or my friends, Nenand has decided to try a different niche. The car is an automatic, and therefore ideal for people with a handicap, or to be more precise, for people with one leg. And that is the market he is aiming for. War vets with one leg- he tells me, without a trace of cynisism, that there are enough of them around, and that he is convinced that this car can help them.... I have to admit that I am impressed with his entrepeneurial spirit.

Nenad and I talk politics once every while. He is unemployed, and all he cares for is a job; regularly he asks me whether I can help him out. All he expects from a government is to create jobs. Although ethnically a Croat, he considers himself a Yugoslave. He detests the nationalist parties, and considers them a danger to the Bosnian society- a society he does not have much faith in anyway.
During the war he was a soldier in Sarajevo, in a predominantly Croat unit defending the city. He was guarding a part of the front very close to my house, and close to the Zoo. He knows what kind of work I do, and one day he tells me that he was imprisoned during the war in the building that I work in, for 40 days. He was arrested because he tried to smuggle his mother, who was in her eighties, out of the besieged city. Strangely enough he does not seem to hold any grudges against the people who arrested him.... for an outsider that is quite incomprehensible.

On a much lighter note: I read in a newspaper today, in an article with the title "I blog, therefore I am", that there are 7 million British bloggers. Seven million!! My god!!! ...And some of them have more than 100,000 readers a month (admittedly, the blog I am referring to is written by a girl who writes quite funny about sex- and that is always a good topic to write about if you are good at writing, one thing she clearly is good at, amongst other things...). Again though: my god!! Seven million!!! One in every 4 internet users in the UK is a blogger- when I read this article, I blushed... My enthousiasm about my own blog looks a bit pathetic now. Ah well, who cares....

Monday, August 14, 2006


Sunday, August 13, 2006

Rules of the blog

What a great invention, weblogs. I know that I am late with creating one, and I know that this remark is neither new, nor original, and even foolish but: Weblogs are the summum of democratisation. Every idiot with an opinion can have a audience of 6 billion people: quo patet urbis. Unbelievable. I never really realised what the impact of the whole phenomenon of blogging can be until I got myself (sort of) acquainted with. I think it is the same as with watching soap operas as a guy: once you start doing it you realise how many other guys do it, too, and how fun it is. The some goes for writing a blog. It is not unique at all....

In the light of the above, my blog better be interesting than- having an audience creates expectations and responsabilities. Henceforth this blog will for the time being be about Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) through the eyes of a foreigner. About things that I find interesting and worth mentioning; it is therefore not an objective journalistic blog.

I am interested in polictics. The political reality in BiH is rather different from the one in Holland, and I am being mild here (if you want to see how it is different, have a look at the following website, where the constitutions (!) of the country are published:
On the first of October of this year general elections will take place again, and according to people who know more about it than I do, the political situation is quite tense. The prime minister of the Republika Srpska, the Serbian part of BiH, wants to part from BiH, and uses old 90's retoric to get his point across, which leads to responses in kind from Muslim and Croat politicians. It reminds my neighbour and friend Nenad of the time just before the outbreak of the war in 1992.
The day before yesterday the grave and 'shrein' for the first President of BiH after the war, Alija Izetbegovic was bombed. The grave is gone, a 70 centimeter crater is almost all that is left. In the streets it is said that this is a done by Bosnian Serbs, who are outraged by a video that was shown last monday om Serbian TV, in which the execution of an unarmed man by Bosnian troops during the war was shown. Whether this is true, or whether it has anything to do with the elections I do not know. In the time leading up to the elcetions I will regularly inform you about it. My upstairs neighbour Nick is the BBC correspondent for the Balkans, and according to his assesment are the comming elections in BiH, and the decision of the UN Security Counsil regarding Kosovo the two big 'equalisers' for the region. If those go well and if the results are accepted without too many troubles, this region can look forward to a more prosporous future than it could in a long time

As said, fact is, that the electionperiod is a hot period. Hotter than summer in this country. When I left for Sarajevo two years ago (7 August 2004), my dad warned me that this is one of the hottest countries in Europe. Boy, was he wrong. Nenad told me two weeks after my arrival that winter lasts 8 months a year in Sarajevo. Trusting my dad more than I did him, I laughed away his words. While typing this blog I remember his words, and while watching out of my window I see rain. And rain. And even more rain. And I think of June 8 2005, when it was snowing in the mountains around town, and I can't stop wondering where my dad got his intel from.....

Friday, August 11, 2006

First blog ever!!!!

It is the 11th of August 2006, and I have finally entered the e- world. I have my own blog!!!

Big question will be now, whether I will be able to find my blog back once I have posted this message on the world wide web. Or do I post it on http://? I am completely computer-illiterate.....

Anyway, this blog, with the audacious name 'David in the world' (I will change it for something better, but give me some time- I need to get adjusted to the whole blogging phenomenon), will be both in Dutch and in English. It will be about me (I think blogging is for very vain people) and my life in Sarajevo. Once I will leave Sarajevo, it will be about me and my-life-in-wherevere-I-am-at-that-moment-in-time. Hence the title....

The blog will not be instead of my stories. i will keep on sending them through e-mail, but I will most likely put them on this site/ blog/ or whatever this is called...

Anyway, it is 14.19, it is Friday and by starting this blog I feel very 2006......