Trekking/Outdoor Education Trip to Kljuc, Bosnia
In the first week of September, a group of visually impaired people from the UK, including Kitaba’s Eeshma Qazi, undertook a trekking/outdoor education holiday to KLJUC, a valley in the far North West of Bosnia
Once there, the group met up with 6 sited Italians and six sited Bosnians in an effort to promote intercultural incite in breaking down the many stereotypes presented by regional differences and disability.
Eeshma, never having travelled with a group of strangers to a country torn by so many conflicting stereotypes, was apprehensive, but determined to put herself out of her comfort zone to help break down these prejudices. The Bosnians were extremely welcoming and everyone fell in love with their surroundings. Staying in a large house picturesquely nestled in the surrounding mountains, the group soon became one big family, each one looking out for the other.
Act global, the organisation behind the excursion, ran training workshops covering personal expectations of the trip, and regional stereotypes. These included to everyone’s amusement, the tea drinking English, the forever pizza eating, late arriving Italians and the sad tribe of surly, war weary Bosnians. A lot of fun was had in dispelling these.
Visually Impaired Children Taking Action (VICTA), a charity who helped sponsor the trip for those with visual impairments, also held workshops. These included blindfolding sighted participants, making them pour water into a jug, or letting them be guided down several flights of stairs by their blind counterparts. Simulation spectacles were available for all those who wished to see what it felt like to have a particular type of visual impairment such as tunnel vision.
Visits were made to some of the cleanest river water in the entirety of Europe, with rambles through the village itself, serene, though strewn with buildings riddled with bullet holes. It is said that every sixty years for centuries now, Bosnia has suffered an occupation of one sort or another and the marks of conflict are etched in both its nascent infrastructure and its resilient people.
A mosque was also visited, where the imam explained some basic Islamic knowledge regarding the five daily prayers, then invited everyone for coffee. All of the federated state of Bosnia and Herzegovina is virtually Muslim, so this visit helped broach the tricky subject of religion in the Balkans and its role in shaping identities. Other highlights included an afternoon of blind cricket, a morning of cooking vegan food, picking wild fruit whilst trekking and of course cementing friendships in the group.
The trip brought together a group of strangers of different nationalities, ages and races. It demonstrated that man made barriers such as culture, disability and race, are easily overcome if the will for unity is present.