Almost every day I would walk to work along the river.  I would walk down Banja Luka past the high school girls on the way to the Turkish High School, some of whom wore head coverings, down the long stairs toward the river.  I would always wonder when I saw a young girl covered and in conservative clothes walking with a friend in tight jeans and a revealing top how they reconciled their religious differences and what their parents must think.  I would walk along the river toward the pedestrian bridge, with a 1 IKM always ready to give the woman who would be standing there almost every day with an expectant smile on her almost toothless mouth and a knob in gratitude.  She was different than the obvious plants of the criminal networks who placed old, covered, humble looking, distraught old ladies along the road as beggars.

 

For several months, I passed the children’s playground in transition.  It was an ancient ground with old rusty swings and slides and seesaws, looking as tired and worn as the still shot-out buildings of Sarajevo.  In the first few days, I wondered why the men working there were laying a concrete strip across the one pathway to the playground and right through the swing set.  I thought that this was the typical Bosnia dysfunctional approach to everything and dismissed it as another irrationality of this country that cannot seem to get its act together.   A few days later, as I passed the park, I noticed that all the old rusty playground equipment was gone.  I wondered what they were going to put there, perhaps another café, which is the hallmark of Sarajevo life, one being built every few feet, especially along this portion of the river bank.  For a few days, I wondered as the workers cleared the ground.  Several days later, I watched as the men installed a 5 ft high wire fence around the parameter of the space in the concrete strips that they had laid a couple weeks before.  Still, no clue what they were building.  I felt happy that at least whatever they were going to put there, the space would be off-limits for the packs of street dogs that hung out by the river.

 

I went out of town for a couple of weeks and renewed my morning walk along the river.  As I passed the playground, my heart skipped a beat.  It was filled with brand new modern playground equipment, still untouched and not quite ready to use.  The fences had been completed and the gate was locked.  No entry yet.  The ground was still raw.  As I walked by the playground on my morning commute over the next few weeks, I saw a new creation being built step-by-step.  First the large circle of sand to catch the landing of children whizzing down the new slide.  Then, the grass seeds that started to sprout as spring finally came to Sarajevo.  Then I saw the gardeners planting beautiful flowers, arguing as I passed one morning, apparently criticizing each others’ ability to plant correctly.  They were obviously taking their work very seriously.  The gate to the playground was still locked and several times I saw children trying to open it, trying hard to get into this new lovely world of fun.  Time passed to let the grass grow and the flowers bloom.   Finally, one day I passed and children were playing, looking so happy and content.

 

Watching this new creation being built gave me such hope and raised my spirits so much.  I wondered who had financed it – some benevolent donor or the government.  I couldn’t imagine the government paying for this, given everything I had heard.  I reflected on the impact of a new creation such as this playground on the human spirit, seeing something beautiful created out of something so worn and old gave me hope that things would change in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Every time I passed the playground after that and saw it so full with children and their parents I felt happy, like life had been renewed and would finally prosper in Sarajevo.

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