Contributed by Carmen Cox. Check out more of her posts from this summer here.
Here comes yet another introduction of yet another blog post written by some college student who thinks she knows it all because she has taken a philosophy class and is able to use the word “whom” correctly in a sentence. Here are the tellings of her tales of study abroad, an “amazing experience” saturated with selfies, #foodporn and a painfully sincere use of the phrase “self-discovery”.
I hesitate to write this, mostly because I do not know how to. If it is not already clear, I am rather hesitant, if not downright cynical, towards blog posts (kind of like my feeling towards national pride and Coldplay lyrics). I am suspicious of the reasons people have to write such personal experiences in such a public domain and I am suspicious of the belief that the vastness and subtle intimacy of an experience such as being in a foreign country could possibly be condensed into a 750 word blog post without being grossly simplified.
Alas, I am far too lazy to try to make myself sound smart by noting worthy counterpoints and will instead ignore my own insufferable pessimism. I will grudgingly continue with my blog because one, I don’t really have much choice given the obligation of my program and two, I do want to narrate my stories if not for you to read (partly because I doubt there are many “you” out there anyway) but for me to write.
I am currently in Belgrade, Serbia working with an NGO called YUCOM which deals with promoting and protecting human rights and I will be working specifically with the issue of discrimination against the Roma (on a completely serious note, the derogatory name for the Roma is “gypsy”, which, unfortunately, may be the more recognizable term). Perhaps it may strike one as a bit odd that someone who clearly doesn’t have the social skills beyond that of a doorknob (what’s probably shocking to hear for no one is that I’m a math major) would decide to spend her summer learning about, working with and helping out other human beings, and I would wholeheartedly agree. I am not sure what to expect really.
However, if there is any goal in this absurd notion of documenting my dumb thoughts on the internet, it is intimately woven with the reasons I have for being here in the first place. I am here to observe, to become aware of my awareness, to learn kindness, to remind or convince you and myself that I am, in fact, not a robot. I think writing will help me to at least segue into all that.
And so, I shall end what I just realized to be a rather self-centered initial blog post with a list of odds and ends I have picked up in the whirlwind that has been this past week. I think that would be the most honest description of the many half-thoughts and unfinished observations I have had the past few days.
- Apparently, yogurt is considered a drink here. My host mom offered it to me the first time I had dinner with my host family and I was convinced there was something lost in translation. However, it’s actually a totally normal thing here.
- I have learned two whole words of Serbian (“zdravo” which means hello and “hvala” which means thank you) and still managed to mess them up. Not only did I use each word when I meant the other, I’m pretty sure I also made up (and used) the word “zvala”.
- One only has to walk about ten feet to find a bakery anywhere in this city, which is completely fine with me.
- I am learning the Cyrillic alphabet and it feels like I’m writing in a secret code when I practice it. I really like Cyrillic because it has math symbols, like pi and phi, and an E that looks like it’s taking a nap and oddly enough a 3.
- The city is full of graffiti and some of them are pretty cool. I managed to find not only Robin Williams but also what I believe to be O-Ren Ishii from Kill Bill.
- I attended my 7 year old host sister’s birthday party and it was pretty rad.
Hopefully, my ramblings next week will be a little more coherent.