Last weekend my partner in crime, Quinn, flew back to northern California to finish her last semester of a masters program. When she left, I admitted that I couldn’t bring myself to write her a note – it was both too hard to think about not having her around, and the time we did have I wanted to spend with her instead of writing to her. It may seem a little odd or a little too touchy to write a blog dedicated to her or our friendship on the Advocacy Project website, but I promise I will convince you of why this is an important subject by the end of the entry.
For the past three months, Quinn and I have worked, lived, and traveled together. After only three days of our pre-departure AP training in DC were we thrown into the challenges and joys of working in Bosnia. Whether or not we liked it, we were pretty much stuck with each other. Luckily for me, I have honestly come to love, respect, and admire Quinn as a friend and colleague. Even if my fellowship had nothing but hardship besides this friendship with her (which, of course, the fellowship hold much happiness and adventure innately), I would gladly accept the challenge so that I would be blessed with the opportunity to meet her.
Without Quinn I’m sure much of the Bosnian grammar would remain a mystery to me…. She came in with previous knowledge of the language. Yet, not once did she make me feel unintelligent or embarrassed during my slow and sometimes painful language-learning process. Together (though, mostly her), we were able to figure out the majority of what people were saying to us by the end of her fellowship, and we proudly completed three interviews with other Srebrenica-based organizations without the assistance of a translator.
Over the months we’ve shared experiences that can be challenging to convey to others. We have laughed a lot, tried to cook in our modest kitchen, we have met interesting characters, and traveled through Bosnia and into Montenegro. I will always hope that we can spend more times as funny and fun as these again, but what I really value was how supportive Quinn came to be during the difficult moments. In Potocari, during 95 F degree weather and mourning women fainting all around, she grabbed my hand and led me through the crowd as I cried. She was always there to hug me or cheer me up or tell me that I was doing ok with language. She was honest but constructive with me if I was being overly abrasive, or when we’d hurt each others feelings.
The truth is that I want to be more like Quinn. She is open hearted, sensible but sensitive, and giving. She is loyal, intelligent, and takes life with a grain of salt. I think that she was a blessing in the BOSFAM center and, as the women keep asking about her, I know that she will always be remembered as a friend and welcomed back with open arms.
So why does all this gushing really matter? It makes me think about a number of things that I have learned and will continue to learn during my fellowship. Mostly that relationships really, deeplymatter in one’s life. They are the substance of life, which is why it is so hard to lose them, whether through death, a breakup, or a close friend moving away. Another lesson is that relationships can sometimes be very hard, but in the end the work you put in is usually worth it.
My friendship with Quinn just clicked – we shared an odd sense of humor that allowed us to weather the big, sometimes startling differences in the culture (including lack of air conditioning on our long bus rides!). Other friendships in this country have taken a little more work and a lot more time. The language is a barrier, and so are our own cultural norms. Yet, as I embark on a new phase of living in Bosnia during my AP fellowship, one without my compatriot Quinn, I realize from these reflections that I want to put in the effort it takes to make new friends and deepen already-existing friendships. If I am able to build connections with people that are even half of what I’ve gained from Quinn, then it will be a monumental and long-lasting achievement.
Posted By Julia Dowling
Posted Aug 23rd, 2011