Monday, September 05, 2011

Self-help in Sarajevo

On Tuesday evening, we met up with Alan who is leading the effort of setting up a stuttering organisation in Bosnia. He met us at our hotel and we drove into the surrounding hills to a restaurant with a superb view over Sarajevo. He showed us pictures of his sponsored trip to attend the ISA conference in Argentina.  Without any prompting on my part, he also had a picture of the ISA board meeting, and pointed to Thomas Krall, the German representative at ISA. According to Alan, Thomas was behaving out of place and
verbally attacking certain people. Alan added that he was told that Thomas "used to be a nice guy". It's good to know that the information I posted on TheStutteringBrain is backed up by another witness. Clearly, the German stuttering association must react, restore their reputation, and choose a new representative.

Alan also confirmed what I have always been saying about stuttering conferences: No-one ever says anything negative about anyone's ideas, projects, talks or research. It's an unspoken taboo to criticise or enter into a healthy debate. (And here I don't mean personal attacks.)

We then drifted into other areas. Alan, a chemical engineer doing his PhD and lecturing, was asking me about theoretical physics and the attempt to unify the laws of nature. So I explained the current attempts and cleared up some confusion. He then asked about the meaning of life. To which even I have no answer! ;-) I just said that science is about describing how the world works and not why it is how it is. And I said that our moral behaviour is most likely a product of evolutionary psychology. We are good because we need to live in social group, but we can also be aggressive because we have to defend ourselves against other tribes.

He had to leave early because his young son was ill. We spent the day sightseeing, and I really love Sarajevo. Of all the cities I have seen in the Balkan, Sarajevo is the most original and most beautiful. The old city is very relaxed with many cafés in an old style surrounded by beautiful hills.

That evening we met up with the informal self-help group of Sarajevo. Alan couldn't attend, but two people who stutter were there, plus one of their friends. In good Bosnian style, each of the three represented one of the three major groups: Bosniak, Serb, and Croat. I did not notice a difference in stuttering between them.

We went to a nice café. We talked about many things, among them the current economic and political situation. They were all pupils at the time of the siege of Sarajevo and lost some of their childhood to the war. And today they have or are just about to finish their university degrees in business studies and civil engineering. They said that many young people want to leave due to a lack of opportunities and the frozen political situation. That would be a shame, because their brains are needed to build up the country. Sarajevo certainly has a lot of potential, especially for tourism.

We talked about stuttering, too, or to be precise about their stuttering. None of them attended proper therapy apart from the usual treatment by clueless professionals who are no experts in stuttering. They certainly showed a willingness to meet up and discuss, but were still very much under the psychological impact of their stuttering. They told me of their fears to talk in front of people, job interviews, and addressing people. I was very much like them, and still am to some degree. They understand cognitively that there is no need to be afraid or ashamed as it's not their fault, but still they avoid talking or feel the shame and fear. I told them that stuttering should not decide on their life, but that they need to decide and speak despite stuttering. They should go into fearful situations and be more open about their stuttering. They agreed but at the same time said that they feel fear and discomfort.

Thanks for the hospitality and I wish them good luck for setting up an association in Bosnia! They are all bright and intelligent, and will succeed!


Norbert said...

Thanks for the article - I always wanted to visit Sarajevo.
I spoke with Martin Sommer (Chair of the BV) and they're quite clear that the BV's representative to IFA is Anja Herde.

Tom Weidig said...

IFA or ISA? I am always confused. Thomas was ISA representative. He was certainly behaving nice to me at the last ISA congress in Croatia.

Norbert said...

ISA, sorry.

alan said...

We realy had good time. Hopevto see you again. Alan