by - Monday, April 22, 2013

I just spent the last hour speaking with the girl that is working the front desk of the hostel.

She's 24, from a small town (that she is so proud of... she showed me pictures and also gave me a quick history lesson - I showed her pictures of Calgary and Banff), and is close to finishing her degree in Bosnian and English and has plans on becoming a teacher in her old high school.

She lost her father to the war in 1993. In five days, she will mark the 20th anniversary of his death.

Her mother raised her and her brother on €275 per month (€125 from her wage and €150 as compensation for losing her husband in the war). Her brother and her are at the top of their class in university... and they're paying for it themselves. She is taking some time off school because she can't afford the €500 per course fee for her last two university classes.

She is currently making €250 per month working at the hostel (her friends are in awe... she has one friend that works at a bakery in her hometown that makes €125 per month). Half of that goes to paying rent, and the other half is divided between her own living expenses and sending money home to her mother, who lost her job at the shopping mall awhile ago.

I sheepishly told her how much money I make. She's smart... she knows things cost more in Canada (we compared prices for things like loaves of bread, gas, rent, etc.), but she was awestruck that I could make that much money.

If anything, tonight taught me a few things. First, the Bosnians remember the war, but they don't want to be remembered by it. Second, in a country where there is close to 40% unemployment, any job matters. And third, I've gained perspective - one that you can't learn just googling the minimum wages or walking through town, but by speaking to someone that lives this life every day.

This young girl is going places. I can tell.

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