The People We Meet

All of us on the team, being from Saint John’s Saint Ben’s, know what it is to be Minnesota Nice. People from the Great White North will greet a stranger with a polite smile and do everything they can to help them out, except when they are on the hockey rink that is where they let out all of their aggression. Here in Kolkata, India we run into a similar type of kindness. Most of our taxi drivers are not fluent in English, but when we cannot find the place where we want to go the driver will pull over and ask someone on the street to interpret our western accent on the Hindi language. The people we meet are always happy to help. It is like “Cash Cab” in India, and we always reach our destination.
The people we are interviewing for our upcoming documentary are as polite as they are inspiring. Their stories about themselves or their families dealing with mental illness in a country that doesn’t have enough facilities to properly aid those in need is both heartbreaking and heartwarming. Heartbreaking for the incomprehensible challenges they had to face. Heartwarming for their ability to overcome those challenges and their absolute kindness towards others in the aftermath. Not all stories we hear are success stories. Some are still facing formidable circumstances that will not be changed overnight or even the remaining time our documentary team has here in Kolkata. Without enough suitable facilities people with mental illnesses in India are looking at a much longer time before their circumstances are addressed. Hearing the stories of individual struggles and the constant fight to stay positive in negative situations gives us great confidence that all individual’s can reach the standard of living they only now dream about.

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Is there better way to experience a new culture than through their food?

While in Bosnia, I took a picture of everyone’s meals. The presentation, different ingredients and complexity of each dish intrigued me.

This is the quick slideshow that I made of the photos. I am hoping to make a more refined version if I can figure out which program looks the best. Let me know what you think!


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Standing right in front of me

We awoke before the sun, to flakes of snow falling gently on the cobble stone streets of Sarajevo. Our driver was already waiting for us. We all loaded into the Mercedes van and prepared for the journey. We had been warned many times that this drive was on a two lane road that winds around mountains, through valleys and along cliff edges. The journey was made even more treacherous by the slick conditions created by the falling snow. Dino, our driver, seemed up to the task. As our van navigated the “gentle” curves, we seven ETL members were lulled (were rocked in and out of sleep) to sleep. When we awoke 4 hours later, we found ourselves in Bratunac, a small town just outside of Srebrenica. Our driver informed us that our tour guide would be arriving shortly. We rubbed our sleepy eyes and prepared to step out into the cold, unforgiving weather of winter in Srebrenica. Our tour guide, Hasain introduced himself. He explained our plan for the tour and we were on our way. We walked to the giant cemetery that lay before us, unsure of what stories were about to unfold. A giant granite sign marked the entrance and told us that we were about to enter a cemetery dedicated to the victims of the Genocide in Srebrenica that occurred on July 11th, 1995. Hasian set the scene by telling us that he is a survivor of Srebrenica.

With that one comment, my mind was sent reeling. In highschool and my FYS class, I read books, short stories and personal accounts of World War II. The stories of concentration camps and Nazi occupation are well told and understood. Like a soldier who has experienced the horrors of war, the victims of genocide have experienced atrocities that no human being should ever see. Now, I was standing in front of a man who had lived through a horrific event that is still under told and is not completely understood around the world. The stories of WWII have always seemed distant because I had never been able to connect them to anything in my schema. This man, in front of me, within arms reach, had lived through one of the most horrific events of our time. His physical presence added to his compelling story. There was a harsh reality about Hasain. This man, whose childhood was stolen by a conflict that also took his family, was standing before me.

As Hasian walked us through the graveyard, he revealed details of his experience. Like layers of an onion, with each passing minute, it seemed as if we were getting to deeper and deeper levels of Hasain’s story. Details that were revealed with time include the fact that his family members, father, brother and twin brother that were all killed in Srebrenica. He continued with small details of how he escaped through the mountain passes, with his feet completely covered in blisters, to Tuzla, which is a 100km walk away. We also learned that, only a few short years have passed since the partial remains of his uncle were found in a mass grave, identified and finally laid to rest. The moment that made the experience real for me was when Hasain pointed to his twin brother’s name on the granite wall that contained the 8000+ names of the Srebrenica victims. I could see the pain behind his eyes as he read the letters that formed the name. What must it be like to survive such an atrocity without your twin brother? How many times has he asked himself “Why me?” I cannot even begin to fathom the emotions that he has experienced- Fear (from the shelling and shooting), physical pain (from the long and arduous walk), sadness (for his fallen family members), and joy (for reaching Tuzla, against all odds, alive).

It takes a special person to do what he does. On a nearly daily basis, he is forced to think of that time in his life, a time he would probably rather forget. However, as I pondered this precarious situation, I realized that this may possibly be his way of honoring the 8000+ men, women and children. What a wonderful way to honor them. Only through education can we discuss the events and make sure it never happens again. With the pain that only a parent can feel, a Mother of Srebrenica once said: “Cry my children. It is better for you to cry now and learn to not allow Srebrenica happens to nobody, anywhere. Our sons were in your age when they have been taken from us, forever. I love all the children of the world, while my own ones are lying beneath our feet.”

This is only one humble opinion from one person. I feel that the other 6 ETL members should have the opportunity to share their impressions, ideas and thoughts on our excursion to Srebrenica. So I will now turn this blog over to the other members of the team. Goodbye for now.



This is most likely a story many may have not heard and should. There is really no enacted drama here; it is a raw statement of human life and suffering. After experiencing Srebrenica, it is something you simply can’t forget.



In Srebrenica, the sun shines wearily, as if it is tired of having to light up a place that has seen such horrors.  Seventeen years later, workers still cut into the tired soil to bury more brothers, fathers, uncles, cousins, nephews, friends.  For those who lived through it, and those who were brutally taken away, Srebrenica will never be forgotten.



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Moving up in the world

ETL and the U.S. Ambassador to BiH

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Black and Gray, Black and Gray, Black and Gray

Just taking a stroll in his darkly colored rain coat

"Wow, you look nice in black!" "Oh hey, you look great in gray!"


Sometimes, even Derik is stylish!

Looks like all their hooded black clothing is in the wash...


If you think you look sharp in black and gray, come to BiH!

Whether it is a black jacket, gray sweater, black boots, or gray hats, the Bosnian and Herzegovinian people wear these colors well.  I was informed by one of our friendly Bosnian friends that the Bosnian style follows the weather. Thus, in the summer there will be bright colors and fun clothing and in the winter it will be dark and gloomy, like the weather. Unless you were in MN yesterday and enjoyed the high of 59 F….tough life.

After all this analysis of the Bosnians…I was thinking, “Hmmm, Evan how do we fit in with our personal styles in the lovely land of Bosnia and Herzegovina”. Don’t worry…I made a list. (Also, I usually don’t talk to myself this much)

-Derik’s baseball cap is the only baseball cap style that has been seen on the streets of BiH. Stylish!

-Katie’s brown boots have led to a few trips and stumbles on the rocky roads of Mostar and Banja Luka. Unstylish.

-Hannah’s ponytail has been boppin’ and weaving in the brisk breezes that swoop through the valleys of BiH.

-Trang’s classy heels allow us to keep track of her in all of our adventures about town. Click clack.

-Lindsey’s light packing has created no repeats on attire (we were all worried).  Also, you wouldn’t believe the looks a redhead gets when she speaks a Bosnian phrase or two.

-Ashley’s blazers keep her sophisticated, yet able to party at any moment.  This has been a repeating trend whenever you talk about local produce and homemade goods (they love to make their own drinks over here).

-And of course my style is trendy, perfectly balanced, and basically a week ahead of what is on all the covers of the major magazines in Europe. I wouldn’t lie to you.

If you haven’t been able to decipher my cryptic writing, we blend in as much as a wine spot on a white comforter. The looks – well actually, the staring – is enjoyable. I feel famous.

I hope this adds a bit of color to your day!


Also, hopefully the photos provide some visual evidence to the trends in BiH…

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As current as it gets, we are in Vares and it’s snowing!


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Our lives packed for Sarajevo


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