Apr 25, 2006

BIHAC, Bosnia – I quit the job. To celebrate, we go for lunch in Bosnia. Mainly because the town's name tickles our fancy: after all, "playing hooky in Byotch" does have a certain ring...

Just past the grim border – pockmarked with craters – a mosque rises over bombed-in terracotta roofs. Turkish rugs air on wrought-iron balconies. Ornamental statues stand guard: birds and lions and unicorns. We clearly are in another country, an alien culture, despite traveling just 20km.

A muezzin drones over loudspeakers in Bihac. The noon salah – call to prayer – competes with cafes blaring Let the Sun Shine In, a pop remake of the hit from Hair, the "American Tribal Love-Rock Musical" of 1967.

My uncle, John Savage, starred in the movie version. So I grew up singing along to a scratchy tape of the soundtrack. And now my childhood's echoing down the street in this Balkan country, so recently torn apart by Serbs, Croats and Muslims.

Some days, you travel halfway around the world and swallow your own tail like an ouroboros.


The sun's especially shiny today, in fact. We cower under a cafe umbrella, watching the Bihacians stroll and sip coffee (the top two pastimes in the Balkans, best we can tell).

Two friends pass. One girl teeters in white go-go boots and a pleated micro-mini. The other wears an orange crocheted poncho and a scarf-swathed bun, very "Islam-meets-1970s-Cosmo".

The brazen babe chats up a teenage boy. Her more religious buddy edges to the outermost orbit of the conversation, then waits politely. Yet they leave together, arms linked.

Yes, the sun's shining in Bosnia. Shining right on in.

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