Čiste namjere / Pure Intent

One day the misery will be defeated....and we will be the parents of many children of many races

05.03.2008.

Bijeli Karton


Hmmm, I'm not sure what to write about today. I have a few things in mind. Why, for example, haven't i been to the protests. The joy of registering, or trying to register, oneself as a foreigner at the local police station. The fun I had translating, or rather interpreting, Laka's eurovision song. The snow storm that has nipped us in the butt. So hard to choose. I usually have a 'need' to write about something...but today is different for some reason.

Let's try my day(s) at the police station. Here it goes.

As a foreigner here in BiH, we are obliged to 'register' ourselves at the police station. Of course,at no point or time does anyone ever inform you of this. You have to figure this out all on your own. So when you cross the border or fly into Sarajevo, there is no mention of this 'legal' obligation to register yourself and get this coveted white card.

After figuring out which police station i had to visit I made my first of many attempts to 'register' myself. When I entered the station across from Tito's Barracks in Sarajevo there was a big sign on the reception door that insisted 'you must check in here before going further.' I, logically, did so. The cop looked at me like i had six heads...shrugged his soldiers and curtly asked me 'so why are you asking me, that's in room 4!.' Well, i thought, at least i got the information i needed. Room 4!

Off to room 4. I pass several no smoking signs screwed into the wall, barely noticeable from - you guessed it - the smoke filling the hallway from every single policeman that i encountered. So much for law and order huh. But the real treat was soon to come. Room 4. Just opening the door sent smoke bellowing out into the hall. A lone woman, chain smoking, handed me an uplatnica and a sort of guarantee letter that my 'host' had to fill out for me. So basically i had to get a notarized guarantee letter that I would be staying with my fiance and pay 5 KM into their account. What efficiency. So off I went.

So because the flat is registered to my punac and not my draga, i had to ask him to get the guarantee letter signed and ovjeri-ed in the municipality. Fairly painless. Got it done by the next day. Returned to the smoky station. This time, however, i went directly to room 4 like i was told last time. Out comes the same guy from reception, yelling at me for not checking in with him. Confused, i apologized, try to explain and figured it would be better to shut up and just get to room 4 as soon as possible.

This time the boss was there. The woman, still chain smoking, sat in the other chair....not doing much of anything. I handed in my paperwork, just like a school kid who had finished an assignment on time. He looked at me bewildered. "What is this?' he asked. "the papers you require for me to register myself' I replied. He shakes his head. Pulls out a list. Hands me a carton and a checklist of papers i need. "when you have all this, then come back.' I looked at the woman. No reaction. I told the gentleman that i was there yesterday and this was what the woman gave me. No further instructions. No checklist. No bijeli karton.

She flat out lied and told him she told me everything I needed the day before and went back to making love to her cigarette. I was given the bijeli karton, a form that was proof that my host was actually the owner of the property where i was staying - which, of course, had to be ovjeri-ed at the opstina. I needed a copy of my passport and a copy of the page with the stamp signifying which date i last entered BiH (if one did at all receive a stamp upon entering).

Hmmm. More than I thought. The Croats have a simple and effective system. Why are we so complicated. Then i chuckled at myself. We love to make things difficult for ourselves. We employ half the country with our difficultness.

So off i went back to my punac. To the copy kiosk. I went back for a third time a few days later. Two ovjera's, two photo copies of my passport and my stamp, one bijeli karton. All done. I was told to come back in a few days to get my stamped bijeli karton. We love stamps here. Nothing is real without them.

I thought I would be able to run in, grab my stamped bijeli karton, and get on with my day. The line was out the door and down the smoky hall. Several people cut in line and just went in ahead of all the people queuing. I knew that all i had to do was go in, take it and leave. I struggled to bring myself to just go ahead of everyone and do it. I started and stopped. Started and stopped. I couldn't do it. Damn America. They programmed me so i can't even skip the queue for christ sake.

So i waited. And waited. Observed the smoking policemen upholding the laws of the land. When i got close to the door i noticed two things. First, there was a complaint box - one that not only had never been opened but that had complaint box (for foreigners) written in Bosnian and cyrillic. That helps, huh. The second thing i noticed is that this department for the registration of foreigners had ALL the instructions, ALL the documents, EVERYTHING written only in Bosnian. What the hell, i thought?! What about all the Turks, Chinese, Germans, Americans, French? How the hell could they figure out anything? The simple answer is, they couldn't. You're screwed.

But if we get pulled over whilst driving by a lollypop holding drot, we have to produce a bijeli karton. And most foreigners ask 'But what bijeli karton?' And then the policeman snidely remarks ' you know you have to have a bijeli karton to be here!" So even though we don't need a visa to be here...we sort of do. And to be quite truthful, its almost more difficult to figure out how to get a bijeli karton than to process a visa.

So I listened to foreigners from close and afar complain about this 'system' and how it didn't make any sense. But dzabah...we all had to stand there nonetheless. My turn came. I entered to see the chain smoking woman - guess what - chain smoking. She wasn't doing anything, again or perhaps still. The friendly man handed me my bijeli karton with a smile.

I left the police station, smiling and smelling like an ash tray. It was as if i sat in a podrumski kafana for six hours. But i had my bijeli karton. Next stop - biro za zaplosavanje. I can hardly wait. Wish me luck.

peace

Čiste namjere / Pure Intent
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What is cista namjera
Although i have become an honorary balkanite, one thing that truly bothers me is how distrustful we are of each other and how quick we are to criticize without necessarily knowing all the facts. I will certainly criticize...and rant & rave about the environment and other things that get ispod moj koze. But i promise to do it with the pure intent. No lies. No bull shit. And entirely open to criticism.

about me
I am a semi-nomadic global activist...bosnaphile, ecologist, hiker, writer, new yorker/sarajevan. Bosnia and Herzegovina has been my home after i hitchhiked from Germany to BiH on Christmas day 1992. People always ask me what was the hardest thing about coming to Bosnia during those times. My answer is always the same...'leaving!'

What about you?
This blog isn't about me. It's about us. I'd love to hear from you...your comments, complaints, suggestions, passions, fears, whatever. What I'd rather not have is a stupid nationalistic exchange on who did what, when. I'm not interested in finger pointing but constructive dialog. If you happen to be one of those negativci...leave your negative energy somewhere else please. Hvala.

BLOG REQUESTS
I have already received comments from some of you asking me to write or comment on certain issues. That, in fact, is what this is all about. I welcome requests to write about certain topics...and if i can, i surely will. Feel free to ask me to address specific topics.

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