If Hank Green hasn’t used ‘having a hankering for _____’ as a pun the world is a dark place.



"I’ve really tried to understand the Israelis. I used to work on a farm in Israel. I speak Hebrew. I watch their news. All the time they talk about fear. How they have to run to their bunkers to hide from the rockets. How their children can’t sleep because of the sirens. This is not a good way for them to live.

We Palestinians don’t talk about fear, we talk about death. Our rockets scare them; their rockets kill us. We have no bomb shelters, we have no sirens, we have nowhere we can take our children and keep them safe. They are scared. We are dying.” — Mohammed al-Khoudry, a Palestinian farmer, said in 2012.

According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, 98 Palestinians have been killed so far and over 600 injured in Israel’s assault on the besieged coastal enclave. In the deadliest single attack since the offensive began, at least seven Palestinian civilians, including five children, were killed when Israeli warplanes bombed several homes in a densely populated area where the victims were sleeping. Bodies were pulled from the rubble of at least three homes and neighbouring buildings. (x)

A Palestinian journalist was killed in central Gaza after his car was bombed. Video footage shows it had been marked as a media vehicle. The Israeli military says it has dropped 800 tonnes of bombs on 750 targets throughout Gaza, more than during its eight-day assault in late 2012. Hospitals in Gaza have been overwhelmed with victims and are running low on basic supplies. Egypt has opened up the Rafah border crossing to evacuate some of the wounded. (x)

All the pictures above were taken on July 10, 2014. Pictures on the left are from Israel and pictures on the right are from the Gaza Strip.

See the captions below:

First row:

1. Commuters wait for a bus in central Tel Aviv. (Finbarr O’Reilly/Reuters)

2. Palestinians standing behind the gate of Rafah crossing hold their passports as they try to cross into Egypt. (Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters)

Second row: 

1. Israelis take cover in an underground car park in Tel Aviv during a rocket attack by Palestinian militants from the nearby Gaza Strip. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images)

2. Palestinian mourners carry the body of five-year-old boy Abdallah Abu Ghazal during his funeral in Beit Lahiya after he was killed in an Israeli air strike. (Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)

Third row:

1. A woman takes a photo with her mobile phone of a car damaged when the remains of a rocket intercepted by Israel landed in a Tel Aviv neighbourhood. (Finbarr O’Reilly/Reuters)

2. Palestinians search in the rubble of a destroyed house where eight members of the Al Haj family were killed in a strike early morning in Khan Younis refugee camp. (AP)

Fourth row:

1. Israeli soldiers ride on a tank to a position near Israel Gaza Border. (Ariel Schalit/AP)

2. Palestinian mourners chant slogans as they carry the bodies of eight members of the Al Haj family, who were killed in an Israeli missile strike early morning, during their funeral in Khan Younis refugee camp. (Khalil Hamra/AP)

Fifth row: 

1. Israelis take cover as siren sounds during rocket attack fired by Palestinians militants from Gaza in Tel Aviv. (Dan Balilty/AP)

2. Palestinian relatives of eight members of the Al Haj family, who were killed in a strike early morning, grieve in the family house during their funeral in Khan Younis refugee camp. (Khalil Hamra/AP)

(Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

How do we get to ‘peace’?


     The WARM Festival has come to a close, and while the planes bearing participants and presenters homes to France and Libya and everywhere in between, the roles of films have stopped turning at Meeting Point, and fewer people slow as they pass the Cartooning for Peace banners along the river, my thoughts are still marked by the work I did, the people I met, and the things I saw. I study conflict. War. Genocide. Identity turned into armor and knives. How the scars of grandparents mar the baby smooth flesh of new generations. And I study how to stop conflict. How to heal. How to remember and when to forget. This conference positioned me at the precipice of great opportunity for working on these issues in this field and has strengthened my resolve in doing this work, but sitting through a film that had experienced war journalists and photographers leaving mid-screening for respite is bound to leave it marks. So while I can’t imagine dedicating my life to anything less than addressing this unbearable suffering borne by millions every day, I am also left with great sorrow for all our failures to actually succeed in doing so.

     The mission of PCRC is to cultivate an environment for sustainable peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the greater Balkans region using creative multimedia projects that foster tolerance, moral courage, mutual understanding, and positive change. Wonderful. Works with local and international groups and actors, including journalists, photographers, researchers, filmmakers, non-governmental organizations, and educational institutions to contribute to a brighter future for this country and the region? Excellent. Empowers Bosnia-Herzegovina’s internal resources for peacebuilding while helping to maximize contributions made by the international community? Inspired. But to understand the broader problem that PCRC works to address requires first a discussion of a number of crucial definitions.

     First, what does it mean to be ‘post-conflict’? According to Junne and Verokren, post-conflict is a “conflict situation in which open warfare has come to an end. Such situations remain tense for years or decades and can easily relapse into large-scale violence.” Essentially, and as I have heard numerous times in reference to the present situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in post-conflict areas there is an absence of war, but not essentially real peace. Lakhdar Brahimi states that “the end of fighting does propose an opportunity to work towards lasting peace, but that requires the establishment of sustainable institutions, capable of ensuring long-term security.” It is within this window of opportunity that PCRC is working to rebuild Bosnian society and communal relations towards a true and lasting peace.

     But then what is peace? The limitation holding back the efforts at reconstruction and reconciliation in Bosnia and other post-conflict states is often the extended use of a negative rather than positive definition of peace. Negative peace is at its most basic refers to the absence of outright violence and conflict, such as the peace established with the signing of a ceasefire agreement. It is called ‘negative’ because it is used to describe the absence of something, such as extrajudicial killings, oppression, censorship, political incarceration, etc. Positive peace, however, is used to describe the presence of something, such as restoration of relationships, the creation of social systems that serve the needs of the whole population and the constructive resolution of conflict. State institutions in Bosnia have failed to implement changes that would build towards a sustainable positive peace, such as supporting the full range of transitional justice mechanisms to redress the legacies of massive human rights abuses, including criminal prosecutions, truth commissions, reparations programs, and various kinds of institutional reforms.

     All of the concerns of modern Bosnia-Herzegovina are inherently the concerns of a post-conflict state and are therefore of interest to PCRC as they engage in efforts for peacebuilding, reconciliation, transformation, and justice. This mission—building sustainable peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the broader Balkan region—is as ambitious as it is important, and it could certainly be extended beyond these borders as conflicts rage and states struggle to recover from their aftermath around the world. While I’ve been struggling with my own questions of what can and should I do to address these problems, it is more important to ask what can PCRC and organizations like it do. First, they have to work together—there must be cooperation with other individuals, NGOs, international and local actors, etc. Second, raising awareness and educating the public is among the most important actions they can take. It is crucial to teach younger generations so that they can move beyond divisions and hatreds to support change and peace. But it’s not just the youth that need to be educated, to have the reality of life in countries such as Syria revealed to them. I can’t imagine that anyone would remain passive and voiceless to the plight of the citizens of Aleppo or Homs after viewing Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait. Which connects to a third action PCRC and similar organizations can do to bring meaningful change—lobby governments to take action either on the national or international level. Demand intervention into the Syrian conflict, demand religion be removed from state schools, demand that national minorities be allowed to hold high political offices.

     But these are just examples of some of the things NGOs can do to impart change. Broader changes in general and globally need to take place for the positive peace to be effectively and truly established. The first and most important is a change in the way individuals think about themselves, their communities, their countries, and the world. Suffering is allowed to persist when we allow our universe of moral obligation to be shrunk by lack of understanding, manipulation of politicians, or simply fear, when we can only sympathize with the pain of people of our country, region, ethnicity, religion, or class. You can’t support a war when you can imagine and feel responsible to a family who might die because of it. Other broad social, technological, and cultural developments need to take place as well. Strides must be taken to move from a negative to a positive conception of peace, utilizing the previously discussed distinction. There must be greater collaboration and cooperation between the government and civil society. There must be universal respect and protection of human rights and freedoms. And there must be disarmament. Essentially, there is still quite a bit of work that needs to take place before PCRC and organizations like it will be rendered obsolete, and there is still a lot of growth and change that we need to go through. Let’s hope that this change will happen soon.

Street art Sarajevo.

Street art Sarajevo.

Street art Sarajevo.

Street art Sarajevo.

Street art in action.



I was driving past a business here in the Houston Heights, when I glimpsed this painted on the side of the building. I recognized that iconic WWII poster before I realized it was not just any woman, but 14 year old Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who was attacked for wanting an education. The words next to her are her quote, ( “I don’t mind if I have to sit on the floor at school.) All I want is education. And I’m afraid of no one.”

This is gorgeous.



I was driving past a business here in the Houston Heights, when I glimpsed this painted on the side of the building. I recognized that iconic WWII poster before I realized it was not just any woman, but 14 year old Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who was attacked for wanting an education. The words next to her are her quote, ( “I don’t mind if I have to sit on the floor at school.) All I want is education. And I’m afraid of no one.”

This is gorgeous.


Recent work from street artist Ernest Zacharevic

     Work at the Post-Conflict Research Center can be best classified by uncertainty—you know that you don’t know and that’s okay. By this I mean that our work differs from week to week and is frequently unpredictable and chaotic. Days at the office are brief and certainly don’t comprise a majority of my experience working for this NGO. Having just finished a day at the office, we’ve gone to meet Velma for coffee and to plan what’s happening next. The result of this meeting being a cancellation of work in the office the next day—a Friday—because we had a meeting with the Office of the High Representative, the European authority within Bosnia. Some days we busily type transcriptions for the duration of our time in PCRC’s Grbavica located office, others I have passed carrying large photography prints up four flights of stairs or attending workshops, forums, and exhibitions. We are also planning on spending three days in Srebrenica next week to work on events surrounding the anniversary of the massacre that took place there 19 years ago.
     While this flexibility and fluidity of the work that we do can sometimes be frustrating and difficult to get a grip on, it has also been incredibly rewarding. Because of their openness to new ideas, variety of tasks and initiatives, and reliance on self-motivated and -guided work, it is extremely easy to pursue your interests and passions. For example, this internship has corresponded rather perfectly with my interests in international relations and development and post-conflict studies. First, compiling of transcriptions of interviews about youth unemployment, corruption, and perceptions of transitional justice across the region have not only be of interest to me but have also frequently been pertinent to my own research. I have been able to take this further through Velma and Leslie’s encouragement of pursuing interviews and topics that enable me to write about things that I’m passionate about including not only my academic interests but my passions beyond this as well, such as social movements, street art, and the art of a good macchiato. 
     We are currently in the midst if the first WARM Festival here in Sarajevo. The WARM Foundation—War Art Reporting Memory—is an organization founded by a group of journalists, photographers, artists, and historians who worked in Sarajevo during the siege who wanted to create a foundation that would foster integrity and excellence in war reporting and documentation, and serve as a meeting point for like-minded professionals to collaborate, support on another, and archive the work of those who report, study, document, and research war. An element of this festival was two galleries—“Grozny: Nine Cities” and “Chris Hondros: Testament”—which I had the opportunity to help set up. I carried the large prints upstairs, assisted in their organization for display, organized the second gallery, and assisted throughout opening night. I had been marginally involved in arranging for an art installation at the Open Space Visitor’s Center almost four years ago, and curating had never really been an interest of mine. Art and photography, yes, but their management, no. Not only was I able to learn enormously from the curator Anna about balance, matching of composition and color, and ways to use the space to its greatest advantage—all of which will come in handy when I work as editor of the literary magazine again this coming year and into the future—but my passion for photography as a means through which to communicate and connect was reinvigorated. Chris Hondros was a war photographer who died in 2011 in Libya. His photos were inspirational, not only for his courage which was readily evident in all of his images, but in their artistry and clear focus on the art and purposefulness in documenting the realities not simply horror or tragedy.
     As well, Velma and Leslie have encouraged all of us who are simultaneously in the process of conducting our own research for our theses to take advantage of the resources and contacts of PCRC, and to—whenever possible—use the interviews we do for them interchangeably with the ones we are doing for our research. This crossover ultimately benefits both us and the organization. While we are able to hit two birds with one stone, the articles and reports we write are full of greater passion, more care, purpose, and expertise, and this makes them more interesting to both write and read.
     My three days and nearly thirty hours of work in the galleries has certainly opened my eyes to new possibilities for directions that my studies and passions could take me. And working in the National Gallery hasn’t been the only experience during my time in Sarajevo with PCRC to broaden my ideas of what I can do or what form my future could take. Journalism, photography, youth work, festival and conference organization, government and policy lobbying, research—all of this and more have fallen under the umbrella of the work of PCRC and could therefore be a direction I could take as I move forward. To a considerable extent the uncertainty I deal with daily as an intern for PCRC is in alignment with a deeper feeling of uncertainty in my life. My post-graduation plan is no clearer now than it was when the Spring semester ended and I was asked for the first of many times, “So now that you’re a senior, what are your plans for after you graduate.” And while the uncertainty is still at times daunting, my time thus far at PCRC has broadened the horizons of possibility of where this degree and my interests can take me. Brenda Shoshanna wisely said, “A time of uncertainty, of not knowing exactly where we’re headed , or what kind of choice to make is a Zen moment.” And who knows, with more than a month left, perhaps I will have a better conception by the time I set out for America. 

Working at the First WARM Festival to set up the “Grozny: Nine Cities” and “Chris Hondros: Testament” exhibitions has been incredibly educational and fun. Who knows, maybe war photography and/or curation are in my future.

Two journalists and an NGO founder from Syria who came to Sarajevo to speak at the Peace Event about the situation on the ground, what can be done moving forward, and the role of the international community more broadly.

Please please please learn about what is going on in Syria. It is without a doubt one of the worst conflicts of at least the past several decades.

Visit Syria Deeply for excellent coverage and analysis, including a good archive if you want to learn more about how the war began.

     This past weekend I had the opportunity to participate in the Sarajevo Peace Event, where more than 2,500 people hailing from more than 60 countries gathered for four days of 150 workshops, cultural events, roundtables, and exhibitions. Attending these events and meeting so many new people it was made strikingly clear the identities and roles I claim—student, intern, NGO employee, American, woman, Sarajevo resident. Every identification came into play, both alone and in conjunction, as I conversed, discussed, and learned much over the nearly 50 hours of the conference.
     I attended a workshop titled “Who do You Think You Are?”, and focused on identity in post-conflict communities or amid conflictual relationships. It defined identity as “an abiding sense of the self and the relationship of the self to the world. It is a system of belief or a way of construing the world that makes life predictable rather than random.” Identity is both internally and externally defined, and the importance of any particular identification can wax and wane from context to context and over time.
     The process of living abroad is one of the most effective means by which to become aware of these identities. Yes, in referring to the infamous ‘culture shock’. Michael Wesch, an anthropology professor at Kansas State University, said during a visit to the College of Wooster that culture shock is best understood as the complete and utter loss of self. So much of who we are is dependent on our ability to communicate who we are through gesture, dress, and speech, and to understand the context in which we are existing. Abroad, these norms and contextual understandings are lost, and our ability to communicate our ‘self’ is lost as well.
     I haven’t been experiencing culture shock in the typical sense, first because I am almost always speaking English and interact with quite a few Americans, but also because the identities I hold in the United States were nearly instantaneously replaced with new, Sarajevo-relevant ones—the identities of undergraduate student, NGO employee, American, woman, and Sarajevo resident mentioned above. I am often able to walk down the street without anyone questioning whether or not I belong. Earlier this week a woman stopped me on the street and asked me in Bosnian if the trams were working—they weren’t, and I was able to communicate that in horribly broken Bosnian. But in that moment, I felt almost as if I was a local, a feeling which resurfaced several more times during the conference, as I could offer directions, help people order at cafes, and occasionally speak to the atmosphere in Sarajevo and Bosnia-Herzegovina according to locals I had spoken with.
     Alternatively, there are many occasions when I feel completely out of place. Sometimes it is because I am entrusted with the responsibility of being able to speak as a representative of an entire population—as an American—a situation which requires navigation of a minefield of images of the United States, both idealized and demonized. Other times it feels as if I’m in a parallel universe, everything the same but slightly different. I am an undergraduate student in both contexts, but the meaning of being an undergraduate student here is different. I am the only undergraduate student intern at PCRC, though there another intern my age who is a local taking a few years before starting his studies. This leaves me feeling like I have something to prove, that I am not only as qualified to be doing the work but that I too have experience, creativity, and ideas to bring to the table.
     Working for PCRC, as an NGO in a post-conflict state, as the relationship between NGOs and the community is an interesting one. There is a considerable amount of distrust and resentment of the international community, or at least this has been my experience. Yet PCRC is fairly well known and has escaped this labeling because the two co-founders are American and Bosnian and PCRC is an organization specifically focused on and tailored to the wants and needs of the community it serves. Because of my connection to the organization, its notoriety has influenced the way individuals and organizations have interacted with me, particularly when I have been reaching out to set up interviews. As the Bosnian-Herzegovinan system is very much structured around having the right connections, my internship with PCRC has placed me in this system—both benefiting me and changing my circumstance from representing myself and my research to now being an emissary for the organization.
     Despite this involvement with a local NGO, we interns (or at least most of us) are not locals, and I’ve been thrown into recognizing this nuance when approaching the work Velma and Leslie want us to do. We are blogging for the PCRC web page, but also for their Balkan Discourse initiative, which most of us feel uncomfortable with. The original intent of the site was to train young Balkan students in conducting proper journalism, to think critically about the region and how it is portrayed in the international media, and to find their voice. While we don’t think we should be the ones blogging for the site—or at least not in conjunction with Balkan students—we’re stuck because even though I had an idea for a solution, the question is whether it’s our place to challenge their decision. Additionally, we also want to take more initiative and start a new program that we would all be invested in and that would produce a lasting impact. But how do we, almost all as foreigners, come up with a project that would be desired, appreciated, and beneficial to the community.
     My current experience of living in Sarajevo is considerably different from last November. First, I spent the majority of my time with my two roommates, both of whom were part of my study abroad program and also working on their independent studies. My contact with locals and even expats was much less, as my focus was almost completely devoted to the process of gathering and writing up my research. In addition, my brief internship last time was nothing compared to this, as I worked alone and only once was a fellow intern working in the office at the same time as me. I was an ongoing student last time with meetings with an adviser and due dates. This time I feel like I really live here, this is my life—unlike previously, there is no impending expiration date pressuring me to rush to do everything. Navigating these new roles and their nuanced meanings in Sarajevo is a daily process, and some of them remain under negotiation. Non sum qualis eram—I’m not who I once was, but who I am here is informed by this prior self and my fulfilling of those roles, just as the roles I will slide back into when I return will be filled by the person I develop into through this process. Before I become nonsensically silly sounding, I’ll stop here, owning who I am now and cognizant that it will change. 
     I have consistently found that it’s necessary to trust that things will work out or at least have faith in your ability to cope with whatever does happen. And while this philosophy has served me well on a number of occasions, it has never held promises of a smooth ride. My arrival in Sarajevo was preceded by catastrophic flooding across the Balkans as three months worth of rain fell in just three days. My first days in the region were spent with the news coverage of the efforts at rescuing those who were stranded continued in Obrenovac playing in the background. Every conversation made its way to the catastrophe, and its weight bore down on every room. Faced with this tragedy, people across the region came together, donating to collection centers, piling sandbags, and traveling by the thousands to help the most affected regions.
     It was because of the huge response from individuals and organizations across the region that my internship was delayed a week, as my contact was out in the field and all efforts were being focused on the relief fund that the Post-Conflict Research Center had set up. I used the extra week I had before starting to become reacquainted with the city gather my bearings. Sarajevo is nestled amid a ring of hills and mountains, and with a population only around 200,000, it’s a considerably small city. Easily walkable and bustling with activity at all times, it is one of my favorite places. It was strange and pleasant to walk the same streets, return to favorite cafes, see familiar faces. But, in the end I spent the week almost completely alone, as my main friend in the city has been out of town.
     As is often the case, my first day at PCRC didn’t go quite as planned. From my alarm not going off to not knowing which flat the office was in, it was a bit of a struggle even getting there in the first place. Because of my own challenges with anxiety and introversion, I called the one phone number I had—Tatjana’s—for half an hour as I climbed all eleven flights of stairs to see if any of the doors were labeled with the PCRC logo (none were). All of this rather than asking one of the almost dozen people who walked past me. Little did I know, one of the women who walked past me several times was a PCRC employee who I had not yet met. If I had stopped her or even someone else and asked where the office was, it’s very likely that they would have know. Additionally, because I didn’t know that I was expected to bring my laptop with me, I didn’t have it and therefore there was nothing for me to work on in the office that day. While I was able to do the work from home, this just drove home the importance of asking questions. All of these missteps and failings came together to demonstrate to me how crippling professionally and personally it can be to let anxiety prevent you from reaching out—be it to ask directions, question what expectations are, or simply make a connection. While believing that things will work out or that I’ll be able to deal with whatever does happen, this first day was a testament to the necessity of taking control, of knowing what you want or need and pursuing it fearlessly.
     This week also shifted my preconceived notions of the work I am to be doing this summer. While it is an adjustment I don’t think it will be a problem and it may even come to be a greater opportunity. I am not only to work on revising the youth workshop handbook for the “Ordinary Heroes” project, but I will also be conducting interviews and blogging on topical issues of interest to me. This is a great opportunity to contribute original content to their blog that will be translated in BHS (Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian) and published in both languages. I will be able to improve my writing skills, make connections, and learn more about topics of interest to me, if I am able to make something out of it without anxiety or fear. Additionally, I may be able to use it as a springboard for my research for my senior thesis, which I desperately need to get started on.
     I am worried about working enough hours each week, as I will only be expected to go into the office two or three times a week for only about five hours each time. Much of the work can and is frequently done out of the office or from home, such as transcribing, research, conducting interviews, and attending events. For example, this coming weekend, June 6-9, there is the Peace Event in Sarajevo—it is a large conference of individuals and organizations from around the world, gathering to present lectures, workshops, films, and exhibitions on the topics of Gender, Women, and Peace; Militarism and Alternatives; A Culture of Peace and Nonviolence; Reconciliation and Dealing with the Past; and Peace and Social Justice. PCRC will be showing one of their films (I believe it’s one of the “Ordinary Heroes” films), and we will all be attending a variety of the workshops, roundtables, and lectures. I am extremely exited for this event, and I look forward to it and all the other work that I will be doing this summer.