Well, this is it. This was it, I should say. This was our last meeting stateside. When we left each other last night, we didn’t say goodbye, but instead said things like “See you in Mostar!” and “Travel safe!” Uhhhh, wha? Really? The next time we come together as a group, we will be in Bosnia. Yes, my friends, this indeed really is it.
The meeting proceeded as you might imagine it would. Lots of logistics, some minor freaking out, some refining of the little details that we tend to focus on to soothe our unease about the bigger picture. We talked about food and eating and schedules, and, no matter how you slice it, we’re just this side of clueless about how this is all gonna go down. Will there be a kitchen? Dunno. Will there be a cafeteria? Dunno. Will we be in taxis? Who, exactly, is going with us and where are we going? Dunno and, yup, you guessed it, dunno dunno. We expect that we’ll be working with families from around 9-1, having a break from 1-3, then heading back out and about from 3-5. While they’ve told us that we can work with the families until 8, we’d like to be back in our rooms by that point, churnin’ and burnin’ through sheets of laminator film and rolls of Velcro.
And speaking of laminators (ahhh, smooth segue). . . we’re bring what might best be classified as a ton of stuff. Laptops and laminators, communication books, switches, whirley-gig toys, personal hygene kits with gloves and sanitizer and such, chewey-tubes, binder rings, Oregon chocolates . . . the list goes on. All of this must be transported, so we had a lively horse-trading session to see who would take what, during which Gina confessed that she actually stepped on the scale holding the batteries that she’s providing to see how much weight they would add to her bag. Much of it we’re leaving there, but some of it must come home, and I think we’d all rather fill our bags with Bosnian goodies to bring home rather than left-over laminating film. Or maybe that’s just me.
There was a signature pep talk from Soliday — “Dial your anxiety down to nothing and just be excited,” she lovingly advised. We heard a little bit from Wendy and Traci about the phone call they were able to make to one of the families. In Wendy’s words, the child sounds as if he has “classic ASD,” with perseveration on a certain bus route and verbal output that is based almost solely on that topic. Mom is worried about the onset of puberty, and we were reminded that yes, even though we don’t know these kids, we know these kids. We know this mom too, because really, I’ve yet to meet a mom (myself included) who isn’t worried about the onset of puberty. We talked briefly about the Tuzla University students who we are paying to bring along even though some folks in Bosnia don’t quite understand why. They don’t understand that we were students once, all of us with a fiery, unquenchable thirst for all things SLP or OT. We were lucky. There was water to quench that thirst in the form of professionals in the community who took us under their wings, whispering the trade secrets in our ears, preparing us to fly on our own some day. I wonder if they know that those wings are now carrying us halfway around the world, and that their trade secrets, so lovingly passed on to us, might now be used to shape the foundation of our professions in a country just beginning to find it’s way toward supporting people with disabilities. The work we do with families will be important, but no more so than that which we will do with the students.
I would be remiss if I didn’t briefly mention the discussion we had about the Roma (aka the Gypsies). I believe it is adequate to say that a) we’re all considering buying bling to replace our valuable jewlery, b) we all need Peter to set up the erase function on our phones like he did for Kira, and c) we shall not be catching any babies that are flung at us. I am actively projecting a Roma-free zone around myself at this very moment. One apparently cannot be too careful.
We ended with a 1-word check-in. Manic. Motivated. Thrilled. Excited. Anticipatory. Revved. Better. Bipolar. Cautious. Curious. Fine. These were our words. When Brooke and I got in the car to drive home, we added a few more: flush, heart beating fast, a little short of breath, fight or flight setting in.
A beer sounded mighty fine at that moment, so we headed over to 4-4-2 on Hawthorne for some chevapi and Nektar. The bar is owned and operated by an older Bosnian gentleman who, upon hearing that we would be in his home country in a week, wasted no time regaling us with tales of the sheer genius of the Bosnian people, “the smartest people on Earth.” He brought out a Life book from the mid-1960s titled “The Balkans,” (want!), and glossy magazines about the Bosnian pyramid and these crazy round stones from Atlantis. His thundering Bosnian bravado was tempered ever-so-slightly by a younger Bosnian man who sat at the bar. He shook his head and chucked as we were regailed with some highlighs of the long and storied history of the region, nodded somberly when the conversation turned to the topic of former school-mates turning against each other in war. Both men gave us useful tips for our trip (“Don’t eat in places with pressed napkins!” “You must drink coffee 3 times a day!”), not the least of which was, “Don’t smile so much and don’t be offended when they don’t smile at you. Why would they smile? They don’t know you.” Among my many hopes for this trip, I now count among them that our hosts will think well enough of us to smile back by our last day.
And so, I will say to you now, dear reader, what I said to my colleagues last night: see you in Mostar.