Trip Start Apr 14, 2006
102Trip End Jul 2008
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It was especially amazing to be so welcome in Nikola's home as I learned more about the politics in Serbia. Serbians have an ambiguous relationship towards America it seems. They're very open to American pop music, movies, etc (who isn't.) But historically they've leaned towards Russia (think WWI) and many people still hate America and Clinton for bombing Belgrade over Kosovo, as I had learned from Milos when hanging out and talking with him during my first stop in Belgrade. It was eye opening for me to hear that since when Kosovo happened it was presented in the American press as a humanitarian mission to protect the Albanians of Kosovo. That was the first international event that I was aware of in a real sense - I was 15 or 16 years old when the crisis started. Since at the time I was pretty young I never thought critically about what happened, and never questioned the American media's interpretation or thought of the Serbian point of view. It was really incredible to be so welcome with Nikola's family because his grandmother used to live in Kosovo, but was driven out by the Albanians as a direct result of NATO (led by the US) bombing Belgrade in 1999.
After some delicious dinner with the family, dishes that are the same as Bulgarian ones only with better quality meat, Nikola and I went out with a big group of his friends. Arandjelovac turned out to be quite a party town, with tons of people out on the street and in the bars. after a couple hours we ended up at a friend's house til late at night. I found out the next morning that the boys were quite impressed with the amount of alcohol i consumed. what can i say, that's what you learn when you go to college in America. We talked about all sorts of bullshit and of course the conversation turned to cultural differences and politics. I didn't ask anything inflammatory but did ask one question about Kosovo - why did they not care about Montenegro becoming independent (it became so in June of 2006,) but are so against Kosovo doing the same? the boys told me that serbs consider Kosovo the heartland of Serbia, not so for Montenegro.
One eye opening moment came when one of the boys asked me how I felt on September 11, 2001. I answered that I felt sad. He then told me that he felt happy, because it was like what had happened in Belgrade 2 years earlier. Not all the boys agreed, and one even shushed him. I actually didn't get upset, maybe surprisingly, I more just thought about how I had never expected anyone to say that to me, especially while I was in Europe. I think I was glad to be learning that there are these feelings out there that I never suspected, that maybe I had been naive. But he also did say that it was in the past and that I was welcome in their homes today.