Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Day 3 in Sarajevo

I’m currently in Sarajevo with The Healing Hands Network. Having arrived late on Saturday, I’ve had a day to find my bearings, a day in the clinic and a day on outreach. So time for some initial impressions, and photos.

Sarajevo market in the old town
Market in the old town
The old town of Sarajevo is very pretty, and a lot is pedestrianized so it’s easy to wander around. A fellow therapist here told me that last year a lot of the pavements were dug up, being repaired from (we presume) the shell damage they sustained in the war. Now they’ve been completed, but sympathetically with the surroundings. Sarajevo really does live up to its billing of being where East meets West – when I feel I’m in a Middle Eastern souk, something European jumps out as an incongruity, likewise looking at it as a European city there are exotic touches that stand out. In places it’s busy and vibrant, but you never need to look far to see the scars of the war, there are damaged buildings still, and shell marks in the walls. 
Sarajevo damage to building
Reminders of the past

I climbed a little out of the centre by the river to get a better feel for the city's situation – and it really is stunning. To the north and south, mountains rise seemingly vertically, with houses clinging on to the slopes as they rise, and eventually giving way to deep green forest.

View over Sarajevo
View over the city
On Monday I was in the clinic in Sarajevo, just round the corner from the house that we (myself and two other therapists) are staying in. The days all follow the same schedule – 4 clients in the morning, from 9.00 to 1.00, and 3 in the afternoon, finishing at 5.00. Then we get everything ready for the next day, and head home with a bundle of sheets and towels to wash.

Healing Hands Clinic in Sarajevo
The clinic in Sarajevo
Today I was on outreach, which means I travelled to a site out of the centre of Sarajevo to see clients there, in a borrowed room. There are 4 areas we visit throughout the week. The facilities were basic, but I was reminded of something my teacher in Thailand said. “A nice treatment room is lovely, but if the massage is good people will come back to a basic room; if it isn’t good they won’t come back to a lovely spa.” I hope the treatments I gave today justified the clients coming to visit us.

Sarajevo - some of the clients I've treated
Some of the clients I've treated so far
Our clients come through the Concentration Camp Victims Association, the Civil Victims Association, the Mothers of Srebrenica and the Women’s Victims Association. They come with a variety of issues – some psychological, some physical (I saw my first bullet scar). Some of the problems are more familiar – back pain from working hard, or lifting children – there have been many years since the war and “normal” life exists here, but things are still very hard. Progress in rebuilding the country has been slow, unemployment is high, and many people are still hurting. One client was looking after her two grandchildren as her daughter is too ill psychologically to do so (and looking after her daughter).

So, 2 days done, and 12 to go (with a break at the weekend!). I’m tired, but now I’ve got the feel for how it works I think it’ll get a bit easier. So lets see what, and who, tomorrows brings onto my couch. 

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