World at Play in Livno, Bosnia

Greetings from a smoky internet cafe in Livno, Bosnia! Warning: in Bosnia, the y and z keys are reversed… if there is a z where there should be a y, please forgive the error. 

If you’ve never heard of Livno, don’t feel bad. It’s not significant enough town to merit mention in my Lonely Planet guide or for the weather app on my phone to give me the forecast. Despite the generally negative reviews we had heard (mainly just that it is a small and boring place), Livno is turning out to be a very charming place to spend a week – I love it here!

The drive here from Mostar was by far the shortest journey between host cities that we will make on this trip – it was just over two hours door to door. I settled into a corner in the back of the World at Play van and drifted in and out of sleep, stirring periodically to see the beautiful, diverse landscape we passed along the way. I am not sure how I had pictured Bosnia in my head, but I guess I was not expecting such a war-torn country to be so lovely. It’s quite mountainous, and there are fields, rivers, streams, and lakes aplenty as you move through the countryside. In this still predominantly-Croat area of the country, it is not uncommon to see Croatian flags, signs for Split’s Hajduk football team, or umbrellas advertising the Croatian beers Karlovaško and Ožujkso. As we got farther from Mostar, we started seeing less of the ruined or abandoned houses that cover much of the area in and around that city and the area around Zagreb. The houses around here are newer and don’t suggest a bloody past.

In fact, Livno is about as different from Mostar as it is possible to be. For one thing, its higher elevation makes it a hell of a lot cooler – we are actually spending time in our World at Play hoodies snuggling under sleeping bags! It’s surreal after a week of 110-degree weather in Mostar. Livno reminds me a bit of Cadiz, where I spent a summer in Spain – it is a pretty typical European town, with a main drag along which all members of the populace stroll, drink, and play at night. There’s a large plaza (where, again, the Croatian flag is flying) fringed by bars and outdoor eateries (one is called the Moulin Rouge, and another hosted a foam party last night – so much for claims that there is nothing interesting to do in Livno!).

We have our own cottage just outside of town. It’s a charming, whitewashed structure with three main rooms plus a bathroom and storage area. There are no actual beds, so we are rotating through the various pull-out couches and – literally – inflatable pool rafts. It’s a bit cramped, but it is also really nice to have a place entirely to ourselves and to get back into a routine of cooking for each other. We also have a little yard where we can have meetings, a well with fresh water, a cat that sometimes comes to visit, and possibly a ghost. During our first night, Martha and I woke up at different times and thought we saw one of our other teammates, Will, in our room – she thought he was standing near the kitchen sink (the kitchen is also our room) for an hour; I thought he was in bed with me instead of Martha. Our other teammate Dani also came through our room in the night and thought that Will was sleeping there too. Will slept soundly in a different room, so none of us are able to account for these strange experiences…

We have a more relaxed schedule here – after a three-hour session in the morning, we are free. We are planning to spend some of the extra time doing “skill sharing” sessions, which means we will take turns teaching each other about things that we each do well. I am running sessions on public speaking and social media (blogging!). Since we only have one session to plan, we can get planning done quickly and spend time doing things like leisurely drinking beer at one of the local bars (last night) and people-watching in the square.

Our role here is slightly different in that the majority of our time will not involve playing with disadvantaged children. We are working now with kids from the main elementary school as just a supplementary summer activity. We had about 60 of them this morning and had a blast. We are also mixing up our approaches to session planning, so I got to plan the entire session by myself, which was really awesome. I think this morning’s session is the best I’ve had as an instructor the entire trip. I’m working with the 11 and 12-year-olds, and they are great.

I have been inhaling smoke from the guy next to me for about 30 minutes now, so I am going to cut this short – more later, hopefully!

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