You know when you wake up in the morning and say, Let's drive to Bosnia today. Of course you don't. Because no normal person ever wakes up and thinks Let's go to a recently war torn country just for funsies. It'll be like road tripping down the Pacific Coast Highway, except instead of the occasional crack den and taco stand, you have entire neighborhoods of crumbling, abandoned cement buildings left over from guerilla warfare and genocide. And there aren't any tacos. Even if there were roadside tacos you couldn't go get them, because landmines are everywhere and I like having all four of my limbs available for use because you can't have funsies without legs.
But since we all know by now that normalcy is no longer a relevant term for my current life, my friend Ross (heretofore to be referred to as Dr. Humbao Broth, ESQ. III. Don't worry about it.) and I got in a car and went to Bosnia. We had the car to begin with because Broth is a big fan of road tripping and he needed to practice his stick shift skills. He's from Silicon Valley and works in tech, so I imagine he likes road trips so much because he spends all his time under overhead fluorescent lighting and is massively deprived of vitamin D. I'm sure his company has some sort of portable Vitamin D IV drip that they bring around to their employees after they've had their fill of a local, organic, poached cod with parsley coulis and artisanal doughnuts. They probably all go into a little room for a complimentary foot massage, grab the Vitamin D IV drip, and then skateboard back to their communal picnic table to log in another twenty hour. It's basically a breezy beach vacation and they never even had to leave the googolplex. That's how smart people make the internet, right? Or maybe not. I tend to black out when anyone mentions the words "coding" or "open source technology" or "there's an app for that."
So we're driving to Bosnia along the Croatian coast, as you do. To our right was the Adriatic sea, still and sparkling in the afternoon sunlight. To the left, endless rocky mountains with plots of olive trees, clementine trees, and vineyards. Small town after small town is built into the side of the mountain, and for hours we were driving in a post card. We stopped on the side of the road for a bag of clementines and a little olive oil, which provided us a little snack when we got stuck behind either a funeral procession or a wedding procession on the way to the border. All we know is that we were stuck behind a line of about 20 cars, all of which were moving at about half the speed limit. All of the cars had their hazard blinkers on which strangely tripped my anxiety switch because all I could think of was how annoying it must be to be in those cars with the tick tick tick sounds of the hazard blinker.
And then we got to Bosnia. We somehow missed the first checkpoint and had to make a U-turn to try again, but we got stuck in a parking lot while the car stalled out and all of the Bosnian border patrol guys were yelling at us to bring the car and come back to the checkpoint. It was one of those things were we wanted to jump out of the car and say, "I'm sorry. We're idiot Americans. Can you please direct us to the nearest automatic transmission and local Wal-Mart?" Or rather, Broth was thinking that. I was just cracking up and filming the whole thing and eating clementines.
We hit the Bosnian countryside around 3pm, just as the sun started to set. A forest fire in the distance cast a pink, smokey hue on the landscape, and the eery stillness of the area crept into the car. We drove in silence, wondering if the abandoned buildings were a casualty of human negligence or a casualty of human brutality. The temperature dropped significantly after turning inland and at some point, and we realized that we didn't have a working SIM card or any Bosnian currency. My mind briefly wandered to the possible scenarios that could happen in this strange country, especially given that the transmission could just fall out of the car at any moment. Perhaps we should turn around. Perhaps we should have planned better. Perhaps this was a mistake. The golden pink light brought me back to the present and just as quickly as these thoughts came, they went with the setting sun. Because today we woke up and said let's go to Bosnia today. And so we did. And this place is magical. And this place is tragic. And this place is real. And I am here. And you are, too.