In the two days we were there we also had two really great lectures. The first was by a guy who did research after the peaceful integration of serbs and croats into vukovar (the political history is interesting, after the fall, and if anyone wants to know I’ll fill you in). he interviewed people about memories and talking to their neighbors. The reintergration of western slovania (the part of croatia that was taken over by Serbia for a period of time in the 90s) is considered one of the most successful UN peace plans. However, until this day, which is 18 years after the fall of vukovar, Serbs and Croats do not talk to eachother and do not put their children in mixed classrooms. The second lecture was given by a guy who works for an NGO here that is starting a project called the Nansen New School, which would be a public school that would take children of ethnicities, however, it is not open yet. Between our two lectures we explored the town and visited the Croatian defenders cemetery. This was also the first time I have seen a landmines sign. The field surrounding vukovar are still heavily mined. In fact for miles of the outskirts there are no fields, just wil grass because of the mines. Our last bit of business in vukovar was the visit to a small town outside of vukovar were there was a mass killing of Croatian fighters and a memorial and museum at the site of the once mass-grave. At this point it started to rain and we proceeded back to Zagreb on our mini-bus.
All and all it was a strange trip. On one hand, it is really hard to image and therefore hard to relate to and another hand it is emotionally jarring. I mean, the streets themselves are quite because you do not talk to your neighbor here. There are still problems with trust. In addition it made me question a lot of my right to come her and study someone’s suffering. Am I just prolonging the process of moving on? It is obvious you are in vukovar to look at the damage and I have to wonder how that makes people who actually live there feel.
On a side note we stayed at a really silly hotel and played bananagrams all night last night with the bus boys who tried to play but just couldn’t really play a word game with broken English. This was all after a group dinner at the hotel that consisted of lots of laughs, a game of telephone with our professors and ended with chocolate-walnut pancakes (aka crepes). It made me happy that we have a good group of people and funny professors who are nice and really care about us. I think we all needed a laugh after such a weighty day. Today on the bus we took our break with Nicholas cage by watching national treasure, quite a silly movie. When we got back Zagreb had a light dusting of white snow and my professor, who lives literally in the building diagonal from my apartment was taking a taxi and offered me a free ride back from the bus drop off. It was a nice way to keep my toes warm.
Anyway, now I am back “home” and am seriously contemplating joining a gym due my diet here. I did about 5 minutes worth of crunches when I got back and pooped out. I have a group meeting tomorrow morning and class in the afternoon, but I will post this as soon as I get some internet time.
Hope everyone is doing well!
Ps 1. My ankle is all-better
Ps 2. I met a Bosnian who had been to st.louis
Ps 3. Vukovar kind of looked like cement-land, for those of you who know what cement land is.