Contributed by Cole Johnson. Check out more of their posts from this summer here.
My first full week in Belgrade, Serbia has been an exhausting, exhilarating time. From the daunting language barrier to the tense international political interactions that I’ve taken a part in, nothing comes without a challenge in Serbia.
Just today I had an argument over the correctness of American textbooks in addressing Tito, the former Yugoslavia communist dictator. My Bulgarian co-worker argued that Tito was an awful person who was only idealized because Yugoslavia received foreign investments and reasonable stability during his reign. The Serbian coordinator denied that Tito had any human rights violations. My Syrian and Iraqi colleagues then berated me for believing anything the American government has told me.
Clearly there exist ideological schisms here in Belgrade, no one can deny that. However, people here seem to be able to ignore major disagreements and welcome me into their culture. Everyone I have met so far has convinced me to try traditional foods or pronounce Serbian phrases. Serbians are very proud of their history and love to impress their cultural idiosyncrasies on foreigners. I am more than willing to approach my next seven weeks as a blank canvas and find out what exciting things are next.