Julia Dowling

Julia Dowling (Bosnian Family – BOSFAM): Julia studied Classical Vocal Performance at Temple University, Irish history at University College Cork in Cork, Ireland, and Comparative Colonial History at Smith College. She graduated with a Bachelors Degree from Smith in 2009. Julia served as Chair of the Smith Student Global AIDS Campaign for three years, educating the student body, advocating to local decision makers, and connecting local HIV+ communities with the campus. Julia has also lived in Durban, South Africa, where she studied Reconciliation and Development with the School for International Training and spent three summers as a participant and program assistant for Global Youth Connect in Bosnia and Herzegovina. At the time of her fellowship, Julia was working at Jubilee USA, a network that works for economic justice and debt cancellation for poor countries. After her fellowship Julia wrote: “This fellowship …has broadened my understanding on a personal and professional level of what reconciliation and justice mean… It pushed me to step out of my comfort zone and challenged me intellectually like never before. I would say that these past six months have been the hardest, yet most rewarding period of growth I have ever experienced in my adult life.”

Sretan Bajram! Enjoying Eid the Bosnian Way

01 Sep

This Tuesday, 30 August, was Eid ul-Fitr, otherwise known as Bajram to Bosnian Muslims.  Eid comes just after Ramadan, when Muslims all over the world celebrate the end of a month of fasting.  I admit, I felt both badly and amazed for my Muslim friends who fasted this year – it’s August, so the days are very long, and it was incredibly hot.  The dedication they had, fasting without even water for 9 or 10 hours, is admirable if not a little bit crazy (but in a good way!).

Tuzla has been astoundingly quiet for the last month because of this very combination: Ramadan, the obligatory August vacation everyone seems to take “on the sea” (in Croatia mostly), and the blazing heat (we’re talking 98 F every day for two weeks).  Today when I went into town though, the city had transformed itself – like it had come out of hibernation with renewed energy and vigor.  Everyone was out looking happy, walking with friends and relatives, washing cars, eating ice cream, laughing loudly, getting ready for their big meals and night of drinking homemade rakija (plum brandy).

Baklava from Bajram

So while I didn’t fast, I did get in on the post-Ramadan festivities a bit with some of my BOSFAM colleagues.  I had a lovely lunch of homemade lepina (a special type of bread for Ramadan), homemade kajmak (think fattier, more delicious sour cream to go on said bread), and beautiful, local tomatoes.  Since receiving the invite the day before I had been a bit nervous – these are great women, but they don’t speak English and I barely speak Bosnian.  I kept wondering what would we talk about?!  Instead, I felt completely comfortable.  I understood a good deal of what was happening, even if the details were often hazy, and when I spoke they understood me as well!  Even when there was silence, it was the roomy, comfortable type.

This heartening experience came at the heels of several satisfying days of accomplishing a lot for work while also meeting up with new Bosnian friends (a real social life, finally!).  Sunday night a friend and I got dinner and, because I am comfortable with her, we spoke half in Bosnian and half in English.  And I actually understood!  Not only was it exhilarating to feel minorly more competent in the language, but it was great to feel a close friendship developing.  Within those couple of days I also had a stimulating and eye opening conversation with another friend/colleague about nationalism, extremism, and Tuzla as a multi-ethnic city.  I can’t describe how happy I am, not necessarily at discussing such difficult topics, but that my friendships are growing into a phase that we have a foundation that allows us to have those types of conversations.

In a way, I feel like I had my own version of Ramadan fasting for the past couple of weeks – albeit far less spiritual in the traditional sense.  Since Quinn left on 20 August, I have been adjusting to living alone, something that I’ve never actually had to do before now.  With more time on my hands now that Quinn and I aren’t watching silly videos online in the evening, I have been committed to studying the language more formally.  While a necessary evil, the process has proved to me just how little I know and how much I want to learn.  I hate feeling so limited by language, but then again it is coming steadily and slowly.

Socially and intellectually the past weeks have been a bit like emotionally ramming myself against a big, granite wall…. and these not-so-pleasant realities hit as my apartment reached nearly 100 degrees for days on end.  But then, just as Ramadan was winding down, things seemed to shift.  The heat broke.  I had plans for the weekend with various friends.  I was starting to incorporate newly learned words into my vocabulary.  Maybe I’m starting to sync with Bosnia’s unique pace of life, or maybe it is just a coincidence that these things occured at the same time.  Whatever the explanation, I am happy that my own personal steps forward have come as the Bosniaks of the country celebrate Eid.

Posted By Julia Dowling

Posted Sep 1st, 2011


  • Emily Miller

    September 1, 2011


    A shift. Ahhh. Breaking the fast, breaking thru feelings of isolation. The foods look yummy. Any goat sacrifices?

    • Julia Dowling

      September 5, 2011


      Em, not any goat sacrifices that I saw. Not sure they do that here, especially in Tuzla? Mostly they just played loud, traditional music (including an old man on my street strumming on the guitar in the evening) and drinking homemade alcohol to make up for the month of fasting.

  • pegah

    September 1, 2011


    I am so happy to hear that you are breaking through the language barrier!I was born and raised in the US but my family is from Iran so my mother worked very hard to teach me farsi. If my mother had not been so persistent on speaking to me only in farsi I don’t think I would speak farsi as well as I do now. When I would speak to her in English she wouldn’t respond and would only do so when I spoke in farsi.I think that having a friend with you made it easier to speak English; and now that you are being forced to speak the language you will find yourself picking it up with ease!

    ps do they break fast with dates in Bosnia too? thank you for sharing your eid el fitr with us.

    • Julia Dowling

      September 5, 2011


      They sure do break fast with dates! I love them so much – I think my first encounter with dates was an Iftar at my college. Also, thanks for the props with the Bosnian, though I think I am only moderately becoming competent in the language. Hope you are well!

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