Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Come join in the dance, Part 1-Bosnia

In my faith community of origin dancing was one of the things that was not exactly allowed. I never did quite figure out what the problem was, but I knew that I could not attend the school dances with my family or church's blessing. That is not to say that I did not go , but that is a story beyond the scope of this post. Although I am now an adult and have made my own discernment about the issue, this "training" does cause me to have the misgiving and feeling that my body does not want to dance. I no longer have the prohibition, but getting the legs, arms and trunk moving takes a lot of concentration and letting go.

However, I have three dancing stories. On these 3 times I have had the privilege of being invited by people outside of my culture, to join in their dance.

The first time took place on my first real trip outside of my comfort zone. In March 1994 I joined a group of young Germans to live in a Bosnian refugee camp in Split, Croatia for 3 weeks.  This was while the Balkan War was still taking place. The German  Mennonite Peace Committee (DMFK) organised groups to go to various camps with the mandate to play with the children. At that time schooling was not provided for the young  refugees and the adults were often so traumatised that they were unable to provide entertainment for the children, so a lot of time they were left without much to do. We loaded up a van with footballs,  craft supplies and games and set off on the two day journey.

We experienced extreme hospitality. Here they had made two large pans of "pita bosna" a traditional food made of very thinly rolled dough layered with onions and potatoes just for us.

The women did not understand how I came to come to their camp. It was so unusual that my husband would let me come. One day they delighted in dressing me up in the traditional loose trousers and head covering.

 I met this woman on the second day of our stay. It was also the day that she learned that her 21 year old son had been killed at the front. I spent a lot of time sitting with her.
She-Bosnian Mother
I have lost a son
Far off in Bosnia land
I will never again see him
Touch him, rock him, hug him to my breast
Just 21 years -now gone.
I sit here-so helpless
Nothing I can do
But silently weep into my kerchief
He is gone.
Me- Short-term Volunteer
I see an old woman squatting on the floor
Her eyes slowly fill with tears
She has lost her son
Two days ago she heard the news
Just 21 years-short life
My arms want to hug her, to cry with her
Is it acceptable to touch, to hug?
Three weeks I live with her-learning to sit still and touch.
Very little talking-I don't understand, she doesn't either
So we sit
Sometimes she cries into her kerchief
Sometimes she smiles
Together we sit---together 

Through the 3 weeks we spent a lot of time in the camp, Voljak. There were approximately 80 persons living there in the residential part of a cement factory. They were all from the same village which was near Teslić, Bosnia (north-central Bosnia Herzegovina). In the process of playing we grew to know the parents and other adults. We shared food and times of singing. One evening we sat together in a  room that held 12 bunk beds. Some of these held 4 people for the night. People were relaxed and comfortable. Through our young translators they told us stories of how life was before the conflict started.

They shared a video that showed a large dance festival that was held annually in their village. People of all the heritages came to dance together. They were obviously disturbed as they told of how these connections and relationships were severed as the war began. They had not danced at all since leaving their homes. They had never danced together in the refugee camp.We began to gently explore the possibility of learning a Bosnian dance.
One of the bunk beds being used as a couch.

Us: We are interested in learning a Bosnian dance.
Them: Oh yes, some day.
Them: Oh yes, but we can't do it tonight. Others are sleeping.
Them: Oh yes, but he has no one to dance with.
Them: Oh yes, but the music player is not here.
Us: OK, but we really want to learn a Bosnian dance
Them: Here is the music man
            Here is a woman
             Forget the people in the next room
             Let's dance!!

Arms on shoulders
Feet moving quickly, avoiding bed posts and coffee cups
Sweat, heavy breathing

Them: Come -- now you must dance

Slowly, then faster
Legs in and out
What a great feeling
We are dancing
They are dancing
For the first time since Bosnia.
We are dancing


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