Day Four of Retreat

Day 4:

We use the phrase Working Retreat with intention. It’s a bit of a mad week with all that we try to do and discuss. Joyce (Tanenbaum’s Executive Vice President) started before the day officially began with an optional breakfast session on NGO management strategies. Folks were clearly hungry for this type of discussion, for tips and first-hand experience on how to squeeze every ounce of efficiency and potential from their work.

Having said that folks are working very hard, this was the day perhaps most resembling a ‘retreat.’ We loaded our rag-tag group of scholars, activists, dignitaries, teachers and clergy (to suggest a few of the roles and personalities on board) into a bus and headed to Mostar. I’ve got to go buy fruits and nuts for an afternoon snack in a few moments, so I don’t have time to tell you much about this city. Suffice it, until you look it up on Wikipedia, to say that it is a UNESCO site with a famous (and beautiful) bridge that was destroyed during the war. Though the bridge was rebuilt, and we were all able to stand on it together, the city itself is still one of the most divided in Bosnia. Literally, one side of the river is Bosnian Croat and the other is Bosnian Muslim. We met a representative of the mayor’s office and with religious clergy, one Catholic and one Muslim. They told us about the wonderful work that is being done and also the tremendous amount of work that has yet to begin.

Walking through the city of Mostar, then returning to the bus deep in conversation during the drive to the River Buna, then hearing Imam Ashafa chant in a Sufi meditation center that is one of the regions’ most cherished places of prayer, I felt filled and satisfied on many levels. Did I mention the sun was shining? And then, as evening fell on this river that is one of the largest sources of clean drinking water in Europe, as we ate our freshly caught fish, I noticed that the moon was also full. 

–Heather DuBois


2 Responses to “Day Four of Retreat”

  1. Laura Says:

    Heather! It’s such a joy to read these blogs! Thanks for giving some insight and imagery to all of us waiting back in New York. The office is lonely without you. Keep writing!

  2. Thomas Butler Says:

    I have been to this old monastery (tekije) at Blagaj several times, and have felt the spiritual energy that resides in its rooms, the residue of many centuries of prayer. You were right to go to a Sufi center, for not only was Sufism an important practice in Bosnian Islam, it has always provided an appealing bridge between Christianity and Islam. The natural beauties, too, of this place call forth a spirit of regeneration and peace. A fine choice.
    Tom Butler
    PS I don’t know about the restoration on the bridge in Mostar as providing much hope about reconciliation, since as you say, the city of Mostar is tragically divided. If anything, the bridge convinces us that metaphor has lost its power in the face of such great tragedy, and that some other form of expression needs to be found.

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