If there is anyone waiting to wake up when September ends, well, it is time. Rise and shine!
As the autumn weather has turned the leaves to flame, I have turned myself into a superhero whose superpower is keeping her personal and professional responsibilities in balance.
After surviving two successive wedding ceremonies in two different cities located in two different parts of the country, I found my way to beautiful Sarajevo for a five-day academic visit to the University of East Sarajevo.
In between August 26th and September 6th, my duties as a big sister and a brand new sister-in-law included running a zillion errands. But most importantly, helping my mother, a.k.a the brand new mother-in-law, to keep her cool while a lot went on behind the scenes between the two families.
Luckily, I already prepared my lecture presentations for Sarajevo during what should have been my summer break. However, since just compiling notes on a computer does not mean that you are prepared for making speeches in front of an audience on an advanced level, I still had to cross some t’s and dot some i’s while also trying my best to manage the wedding nonsense.
My journey to Sarajevo started from Adana. During check-in at the airport, the gentlemen at the Turkish Airlines counter asked me if I was coming back to Turkey. While the question didn’t make any sense at that time, I nonetheless answered in the affirmative. He was still not satisfied with the answer though. He checked his computer, saw my return tickets on the screen, and then finally let me go. The attitude I was confronted with was a little bit weird, but I didn’t make a big deal out of it and kept going.
When I was waiting at the gate for my second flight from Istanbul to Sarajevo, this time, the Turkish Airlines ladies made an announcement which read “Turkish citizens! Please prepare your passports, one way tickets, and return tickets.” People holding a Turkish passport who didn’t have their return tickets with them were being questioned as if they were in a consulate visa appointment. What is the purpose of your visit?Are you going to Sarajevo as a tourist or for work? Do you have a work permit? Thanks to the old lady standing just a couple of people ahead of me, all this interrogation suddenly made sense. The truth of the matter is that Turkish citizens started using visa free Bosnia&Herzegovina as a stop over in fleeing to Europe, and Turkish Airlines came up with such a clever solution to try and stop this. However, anyone who has the intention to flee from Turkey would simply buy return tickets and never come back anyway. Just saying!
My first visit to Bosnia was in 2018. I was invited to attend a conference dedicated to the seventieth birthday of Professor Milenko Pikula. I spent the first two days in Sarajevo wandering around the city, and the rest of the time in Trebinje where the birthday conference was being held. My talk and follow-up discussions went very well and as a result I was asked to join Professor Pikula’s research group by Professor Pikula himself. This is how the story of my first internationally collaborated paper started.
In just four years, I had interacted with a diverse array of people, and expanded my collaboration circle well enough to have written six more papers with six different people from three different countries. I am not trying to brag. I just think there is no harm in looking back and realizing how far I have come.
Sarajevo is not a “been there, done that” kind of a city. This small soulful capital, lounging along the Milyacki River, is a harmonious melting pot of cultures and religions. It is so compact and comfortable that you can easily stroll right through the city without breaking a sweat. The balance between history and modern life makes every step forward feel like a step back in time. If you get tired of walking, you can partake in what is perhaps the most Sarajevan of activities: sitting at a cozy cáfe and people-watching with strong coffee in hand.
The ceremony and dinner celebrating the 30th birthday of the University of East Sarajevo allowed me to meet some incredible new people from Greece and Japan. After some chit-chat and getting to know each other better, the topic shifted to the godson of the Greek professor whose dream job is to be a famous footballer. Then we started talking about how being an academic does not make sense to today’s generation.
After a few minutes and a few more words, the professor from Greece summed up perfectly when he said “Well, I am an academic. Yes, I cannot make a lot of money, I do not have a celebrity lifestyle, but thanks to how I provide for my life, I am able to sit at a table in this very beautiful restaurant with a couple of colleagues from different countries and be able to talk about philosophy and mathematics, and other things which makes full sense to each and every one of us around this table, and I love it. No money can give me this, no fame, nothing.”
His words have continued to echo in my mind to this day and I don’t think it is ever going to stop echoing. This road I have been walking as an academic since December 2009 has not always been a bed of roses. To be honest, it has almost always been a bed of thorns. However, no matter the challenges I have faced, I have always felt so fortunate to have been placed here. I have reached a point where I can look back with satisfaction and know that everything that happened helped me to become the person I am today. Namaste!