PLACE! -- Winner of $100.00
Written by: Amanda
“There’s no flight?”
“It’s Christmas Eve”,
the Croatian Airlines representative replied in way
of an explanation, as if anyone in Bosnia needed reminding
that most Croatians were Catholics.
“Something you might have mentioned
when we bought our tickets MONTHS ago!” I yelled
There was no way I was spending Christmas
in Sarajevo. Not after three months of driving the country
in crappy weather past destroyed houses and towns, not
speaking the language, and trying to convince traumatized
people to forget the past and start over. I called my
boss. “Can I take a car for a few days?”
An hour later, still seething, I took
a right and quickly spotted an anomaly for Sarajevo
-- a brand new police car with its lights rolling directly
behind me. “Sh-t!” I pulled over. The car
stopped, and the Robo-cop sized, newly NATO-trained
officer got out.
“Ne govorim Bozanski” (I
don’t speak Bosnian) was my go-to expression to
weasel out of all sorts of uncomfortable experiences,
from turning away beggars at my door, to ignoring questions
while I jogged, to haggling in the market. No doubt
it would serve me well now.
I rolled down my window and blurted before
he could say a word, “Ne govorim Bozanski!”
a bit too enthusiastically. “That’s ok”
the cop replied. “I speak English.” Busted.
“You went through a red light.”
“What? No I didn’t.”
“Yes, you did. That light”,
he said, pointing to it. “You went through it
“Impossible!”, I exclaimed.
But was it? I was in fury-induced autopilot, engrossed
with my morning’s misfortune, canceling the trip
to Prague, creating a new plan for Budapest. If I did,
I wasn’t going to admit it now.
“You come to station.”
Three rules I always abide by overseas:
1. Never walk around alone at night;
2. Never look a man in the eyes walking down the street,
3. Never, EVER go “downtown” with a huge
police officer in a former war zone.
“Can’t we resolve this right
here?”, I lamely drop, wishing the newly-trained
officers weren’t as honest as NATO hoped.
“No. We go to station.”
And then I felt them. The humiliating
tears welling up in my eyes. I choked them back, swallowed
and stammered, my voice reaching new heights; “No!
You don’t understand. My flight was canceled.
I have to go to Budapest now! Today is a special day
for my people! And, and…”, and then, what
if? Why keep it together? Losing it might not be such
a bad thing…
I let go. Scrunching my lips, putting
my hands to my face and sobbing in earnest. So much
for the tough, war-zone babe. I cried about that day,
about the shell-holes in the cement, about the ruined
economy, about the concentration camps of the 1990s,
about everything the country suffered.
“Aagh!”, he scoffed, rolling
his eyes. “Just go.” He turned on his heel
and walked back to his shiny, new police car. NATO hasn’t
taught them that trick yet.
Budapest, here I come.