My heaven on Earth

 

I could feel it.

Feel the excitement pulsing through my veins.

Feel my legs go numb, unsure if this was because of the pure adrenalin running through my body, or the violent, shuddering train beneath my feet.

Feel the music cutting through my thoughts, making me wonder if I related to the lyrics too much.

Feel my eyes shutting close as my heart beat at an abnormal rate, not being able to grasp the fact that I am finally, after years and years of Christmas wishlists and prayers at several temples, am visiting one of the 7 wonders of the world, and my first wonder, Machu Picchu.

 

It was dark when we arrived. 45 international students, chattering and bustling about what was certainly a sight that attracted attention, but you couldn’t blame us for being so enthusiastic about visiting a place that we had been dreaming about visiting and had just completed a six day, strenuous, and extremely taxing trek for. If you had enough time to eavesdrop on the conversations happening in this big group of students and staff, all you would be able to hear would be excited whispers of “Machu Picchu!”.

Slowly making our way up the narrow streets, with tourists dining and shopping on either sides and locals selling llama keychains and Machu Picchu postcards, we finally arrive at a hotel located near a statue of an Incan King’s face that people couldn’t take enough selfies with.

“Here’s your money. Here’s your room key. Be back at the hotel by 9 pm as we are leaving at 3 am tomorrow morning.”

Now, this might seem dramatic, but my world came to a screeching halt when I heard the words “3 am”. Yes, with the “car-halt screech” sound in the background, like in a movie.

Alright, maybe not.

However, we shared panicky and confused glances before rushing out of the door and deciding on eating somewhere nearby, so we could get back to the hotel and catch a few winks.

We ended up eating pizza at a restaurant with a French flag.

We decided to not ponder on that too much.

Half-sprinting, half-walking back to the hotel, we realized that we only had 5 hours to pack for the excursion tomorrow and sleep as well.

Dammit.

All of us packed at an unnatural speed, took a shower that lasted for 3 minutes and flopped onto our respective beds and just when our eyelids were shutting down, ready for a sweet slumber….

Save me, save me, I need your love before I fall-

I jolted awake. My head was pounding, and my eyes were bloodshot. Not only was I tired, but I was also running on 3 hours of sleep and was so close to either yell at someone else or even myself.

Because within this pitch black darkness, you are shining so brightly…

Rather harshly, I pressed the stop button on the alarm which was ringing with a song too positive for this dreary morning.

With all the strength I had left in me, I pushed myself up from my bed, and tried very hard not to fall back asleep.

My incredibly relatable alarm that rang “save me” woke my other roommates as well, and to say the least, they were almost shedding tears through their bloodshot eyes, with dark circles underneath them.

I mentally kicked myself to get me to pack my leftover luggage and get ready for the trip. My headache was anything but getting better, and the clock struck 3 am indicating that we had to leave in 10 minutes.

10 minutes.

As if electrocuted, I ran around the room gathering my things and threw them in my hiking backpack before storming out of the room to the reception.

Looking broken and disheveled, I stumble into the reception, to see my other classmates looking half-dead as well.

I loved how we related so much to each other.

I do not remember in my hazy and weary memory, what happened between then, and us waiting for 2 hours at the bus stop. I know we walked to the bus stop, but it was dark and cold, and my mind can barely remember anything but me feeling like I passionately wanted to throw myself off the bridge.

The song cut through the chatters and snores while we waited at the bus stop.

 

Fly with me, fly, you make me begin.

 

I tried very hard not to fall asleep, but I don’t think my brain was comprehending where I was headed to. I was waiting at this stank bus stop for the past 2 hours, and I wasn’t feeling very positive about the entire situation until someone announced that the bus for Machu Picchu is leaving in 20 minutes.

 

I could physically feel the adrenaline wash over me, and I yanked the headphones out of my ears and turned to my friend and not-so-quietly whispered: “This is finally happening, yes!”

 

My friend simply looked at me and said: “You need to sleep.”

 

To be honest, I have never been that excited in a long time, and it was a surprise for people to see me jumping around and being energetic and bright.

 

Especially at 4 in the morning.

 

We hopped onto the bus 20 minutes later, with me chattering without a break about “How awesome Machu Picchu is going to be.”

 

“End it.”

 

“But Machu Picchu-”

 

My friend rolled her eyes at my enthusiastic babble and shoved her earphones in before going back to sleep.

 

I did not feel the need to sleep over the rush of adrenalin in my veins, so I simply sat there bouncing on my seat, not being able to grasp onto the fact that we were finally going to Machu Picchu.

 

Drinking about three bottles of water, I made myself survive through the long-ticketing line to Machu Picchu. The adrenaline and exhaustion in my body were having a battle, and I was not sure as to who would overcome me first. Finally,

 

Finally,

 

We made it through the ticketing line and walked towards the picturesque spot in Machu Picchu.

 

If someone cared enough to hear carefully, they could hear my heart beat so loud it seemed like my heart was ready to leap out of my ribcage any second.

 

At this point, I think my adrenalin overpowered my exhaustion, and I was practically running up the Incan steps, not being able to focus on my breathing, too exhilarated to think of anything but seeing Machu Picchu. To witness what I’ve wished to for years now.

 

It was covered in clouds.

White, mysterious, unreal, widespread and breathtaking.

The clouds slowly dissipated after a while to give me the most beautiful view of my entire life.

 

There it lay. The centuries-old ruins of Machu Picchu.

 

It was light brown, surrounded all around by gigantic mountains, clouds floating above and around it.

It was such an enchanting and dreamlike experience to witness such an unbelievable and spectacular creation.

I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact how this place was even built in the first place.

Not only was it just an unreal feeling to visit Machu Picchu and see how stupendous this place was, but it was also really difficult to understand the mechanics behind the creation of it.

 

I could hear our guide talking about historical facts regarding Machu Picchu, but I was too in a trance to listen to anything.

 

I had lost myself here.

I had lost myself in the ruins, in the lush mountains, in the distant sound of the gushing river and crickets,

I had lost myself in the eerie yet calming feel of this place,

I had lost myself in the cold pricking at my skin, yet the hauntingly alluring vibes sending chills up my spine,

I had lost myself yet found my heaven on Earth.

 

I’ve always heard people talk about finding their heaven’s on earth, and for me, Machu Picchu was nothing less than heaven to me.

The magnificence and beauty of this place had enchanted me beyond words, and I couldn’t believe I was experiencing this ethereal creation, that lay between mighty clouds and mountains.

 

These feelings overwhelmed me to a point where I could feel tears slowly rolling down my frozen cheeks.

 

I turned around to wipe them, to see another beautiful view of this place.

 

After years of waiting for you, I finally arrive, and you give me tears? I did not know my heaven would reward me with unchangeable feelings, tears and a view and experience that I would never be able to forget and would do anything to have another and every other chance to come back.

 

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“We exist because this world exists. It’s a responsibility of ours, whether or not anyone will remember it…and they will. Because we will return and make sure of it.” Magiano, The Midnight Star

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Pressed between several sweaty bodies, I watch the view blur past as the tram creaks its way through the city of Sarajevo. The temperature outside is freezing, in contrast to what it is in this tram stuffed amongst people consisting of more differences than similarities: men clad in suits, women wearing burkas, children in school uniforms and homeless people shifting about, begging for the least of values. Of course, the differences extended these boundaries. Nonetheless, they were all too visible and pondering on it too much, was all too painful. The snow crunched under my feet as I walked towards the school, or another temporary educational establishment for the next month and a half. Pulling the flaps of my jacket closer, I glanced at the grocery store to my left, and a smile spread across my face, as I remembered my addiction to the Bosnian chocolate cookies that I buy at this store.

It’s interesting I thought. How Bosnia and Sarajevo remind me of things that I would not have even considered if I had never been in the country, the media being my only source of external insight. I raise my eyes to look at the bridge I am walking on. Below, a river flows, the calm gushing sound grounding me. The clouds hanging overhead and the leaves gently rustling with the breeze. Street art brings the city to life; the burning bright red and yellows contrasting with the dull, and dreary gray walls; pink and blue hues bringing the dark, cloudy sky to life, making it seem like as if it was spring time. The cars rush past, the birds are flying overhead, and there is a sense of tranquility in the crisp, cold air around me.

Sarajevo is tranquility and groundedness for me.

But the bullet holes.

And the memorials.

The burnt factories.

The roofless houses.

The graveyards that disappear into the horizon.

The smear of burnt-black where streets meet.

The eerie silence at barren lands

The political tension.

The quivering gazes shared between people of the three different ethnic groups.

The refugees seeking solace.

The dried tear tracks on the scarred faces of the victims.

The mournful memories.

The reminiscent past.

The remorseful mistakes.

The lives this all cost.

This.

The war.

My feet come to a halt as I wait at crossroads, next to a group of schoolkids, too cheerful for this early in the morning. My train of thoughts doesn’t, however, come to a halt, in contrast to my feet.

Bosnia and Herzegovina. This country always meant this to people. This. The war. This is where it began, and this is where it ends. Bosnia as a country, Sarajevo as a capital and Bosnians as citizens solely mean one thing to the outside world: war-torn. And although it hurts me to witness it firsthand and see the remnants of war both in human and inhumane forms, I would still say Bosnia is not war.

Sure, there are bullet holes in the wall. Yet the murals on the walls seem like tulips have been planted in these holes. It’s like an ointment on wounds people thought could never heal.

But everything heals, and it takes time, and we need to give it just that.

The burnt factories, the roofless houses, the memorials are reminders of the catastrophe that occurred 25 years ago. These memorials exist to serve as elegies for the ones and things that were lost during the war. Nonetheless, it does not and should not completely define what Bosnia is as a country. And if it does, then ask yourselves this question- what is my country was nothing but equivalent to war in history?

The graveyards, the held breaths, and silences, the memories, the past slowly swallowing people in making them think, just think how they can turn this all over, make it never happen and they live with this burden, the grief for the rest of their lives. But life lik a river keeps flowing and new generations try to thrive in a country which the outside world defines as “war-torn.” They do not deserve to grow up under these accusations. I look at the school kids next to me. Their eyes shining with curiosity and eagerness to learn. These kids need our help so that they can attain knowledge and understanding and make this world a more peaceful place to live. They do not need our denunciations claiming this country cannot progress because it’s nothing more than “war.” We as the world are almost forcing these newer generations to never be able to grow, to make themselves something, that is not the past.

I start crossing the road, and I can see the school building ahead of me as thoughts race through my mind. There indeed is political unease in the country, with three presidents, and social unrest among citizens of the differing ethnicities in the country. Refugees are begging for a mere piece of bread, and the country is lacking basic amenities yet, the country is trying to develop. And we should give it a chance to. It took us almost 100 years in the western world, to industrialize and develop, and Bosnia is still recovering and growing, and it has merely been 25 years since the war. Instead of blaming and not allowing the people in Bosnia to advance despite the ethnic tensions in the country, is just making the situation worse. We, as developed nations I reckon, should help Bosnia by providing them resources that they need. By spreading the word for education and peace and understanding instead of isolating ourselves from the country. By avoiding regarding Bosnia as a “war torn” nation and giving the people in Bosnia hope that things will change. By standing with them, for them.

Political unrest does not mean civil unrest. Politicians make a living out of tampering with issues that are better left alone, and the people shouldn’t be affected by that. They should be given a chance to develop and gain mutual respect for each other. They shouldn’t be held back by limitations set by problematic politicians and least of us with mindsets as wide as a test tube. They need supportive, encouraging and helpful individuals who don’t force their pasts on them but rather help them learn from it and advance towards a better and brighter future.

A wave of heat hits me as I enter the building. The dim lights settles a warm feeling across my chest as I get on the escalators and tell myself with a new hope that suddenly overwhelms me,

The fate of the world lies in our hands. Comprehensiveness, open-mindedness, and advancement are ours to bring forwards. And we shall strive to be the ambassadors that will ultimately change the world for the better.

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