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from TRAVELING ON A WING AND A PRAYER by CORA ANN

Copyright © 2020 CORA ANN

A UNIQUE GIFT FROM A POOR BOSNIAN WOMAN
It wasn't offensive. It was a gift.

When I retired from the Army in Vilseck, Germany, I found a job working for City Colleges of Chicago. This job required that I deploy to Sarajevo, Bosnia to work in the CCC Education Center. I jumped at this chance to travel to another county. While there, I had several incredible experiences and was fortunate enough to meet many amazing people. To this day, I have never regretted my decision.

When I arrived in Sarajevo, Bosnia, I was assigned to a US military base called Camp Eagle near Tuzla, Bosnia. I lived in a pre-fab wooden cabin for quarters. A short walking distance from my cabin was the education center, which served the educational needs of military and civilian personnel. Other than military and emergency vehicles, no other cars were allowed on the post. Deployed personnel enjoyed most of the comforts of being back home in the USA. There was a church, a small movie theater, a gym, a cappuccino bistro, a post office, and even a tiny food court. The dining facility served tasty meals daily. The convenient laundry services were fantastic.

A large warehouse served as the laundry facility where military and civilian customers dropped off and picked up their laundry. Inside the warehouse, long wooden counters lined a wall on the left side and a wall on the right side. The right side was for dropping off laundry. The left side was for picking up laundry.

The clerks behind the counters, who took care of the laundry flow, were local Bosnians. They had lost everything they ever owned in the Bosnian-Serbian War. This brutal war started in 1992 and ended on December 14, 1995. The Dayton Peace Agreement ended this war. The agreement was reached at an airbase near Dayton, Ohio in the United States on November 1, 1995. It was formally signed in Paris, France on December 14, 1995. Though the Bosnians had been through literal hell, I never saw any of the Bosnian clerks operating the laundry facility without a smile. They always gave friendly greetings to each American customer.

Whenever I visited the laundry facility, the irritating smells hit me at the door and almost overwhelmed me. I was not sure how the clerks worked in there all day without getting sick. I couldn't avoid the unmistakable odors of laundry starch and detergents. But I also detected the lingering, bitter stench of other unidentifiable chemicals. I hoped that they were not toxic to humans or detrimental to the atmosphere.

One day, I dropped off a bundle of military uniforms and some civilian clothing. Two days later, my stuff was ready to be picked up, so I headed to the laundry facility. As I approached the counter on the left side of the room, a young female clerk greeted me with a big smile. I gave her my laundry ticket, and she went to retrieve my items from a large rack behind her. She returned and handed me my things which were either pressed or folded to perfection. I smiled with satisfaction.

As I was heading for the door, the young clerk stopped me before I could leave. She told me that I smelled good. She wanted to know what perfume I was wearing. I told her it was White Diamonds and that I had been using this perfume for years. She repeated to me that it sme...






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