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After five months in the Middle East and far too many hours on airplanes, I’ve settled in for a summer with Americans for Informed Democracy. I’ll be AIDemocracy’s Global Development Campaign Intern for the next two months before starting my final year at American University. If it weren’t for the frightening level of humidity, I’d be overjoyed to be back in Washington.

View of Cairo, Egypt

At this point, I’m smiling before people have even finished asking me where I studied abroad. If mentioning my first semester in Nairobi, Kenya, doesn’t cause people’s eyes to pop out of their heads, telling them I’ve just arrived from Cairo, Egypt, certainly does. When they’ve recovered from their shock, most people smile and ask me how I liked Africa and the Middle East. I can’t help feeling that they’re inwardly wondering why a sweet girl like me would choose to live in the big, scary, developing world with the Muslims, starving children, and deadly water-born diseases. Maybe that’s just my own paranoia.

I’m frustrated, I suppose, that my study abroad choices generate so much surprise. First of all, Kenya and Egypt are not scary places. There are certainly dangerous conflict zones in Africa and the Middle East, but there are many more beautiful places full of kind people who will draw you into their homes and lives with both arms. Second, these are the two regions about which Americans know the least—aren’t those the places I should be going as a student? I was in Nairobi following Kenya’s violently contested December 2007 elections, in Egypt following Obama’s inauguration, and in Syria for his historic address to the Muslim World. How could professors, government officials, or the American media possibly teach me more about global politics, ethnic and religious conflict, and the perspectives of people in other parts of the world? We should really be surprised that more students aren’t studying in Cairo, Nairobi, Damascus, Accra, Amman, or Abuja.

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In the almost two weeks since President Barack Obama has been inaugurated there has been much speculation and debate on the strategy that he will pursue with the Islamic Republic of Iran.  Countless bloggers, analysts, and talking heads each have their own personal solution for how and when the new President should approach the Iranian leadership, about whether or not he should impose preconditions, and even about how far Iran is from producing a nuclear weapon.  Among all of this important and worthwhile debate, a different story caught my eye this week (although I did find Roger Cohen of the International Herald Tribune to be particularly insightful).  The key player in this story was neither a policy analyst nor a political operative; it was the well known travel writer Rick Steves.

Steves is the host of his own travel television show on PBS and he recently filmed an episode about Iran in an attempt to promote understanding between the U.S. and Iran.  I have not yet viewed the show itself but Steve’s travel blog describes his experiences and insights.  Some of his observations are cliché to the point of almost being insensitive, for example when he notes, “when I travel, I’m struck by how people—regardless of the shapes of their noses—are so similar the world over”.  One would hope that, as a travel writer, Steves would have stopped making assumptions about people based on their physical appearance a long time ago.  However, despite the occasional platitude, I found Steve’s description of his trip to be very interesting.  He appears to have made a genuine effort to explore Iran beyond the usual tourist sites and to connect with ordinary, every-day Iranians. He also seems to have tried to portray Iran completely and fairly (a rare occurrence in American media coverage of Iran): filming the anti-American murals but also stating, “I have never traveled to a place where I had such an easy and enjoyable time connecting with people”.

Steve’s most touching insight comes from his trip to a Martyrs’ Cemetery, one of the burial places of the millions of young men who died in the Iran-Iraq war.  Observing the profound loss suffered by Iran during that conflict he reflects, “it would be dangerously naive for America to think we could “shock & awe” those people”.

Steves concludes by focusing on the similarities between Iranian and American society, noting that “[p]oliticians come and go, but the people are here to stay”.  This message of commanalities rather than differences and of dialogue rather than the “us versus them” mentality is an important one.  I am glad that Steves has brought this perspective to American television viewers and I hope that it will be the begining of an increased interest in cultural sharing and dialogue with Iran.

Something a bit lighter than usual:

Now that being international is sexy again, here is a simple tip for first time travelers visiting a new country – know your social etiquette! Knowing the proper manners and customs can be the difference between being considered an “international visitor” or a “foreigner.” We are so used to our own social rituals that it is easy to forget styles of greeting, meeting, and eating vary drastically from place to place. For the same reason, we are prone to subconsciously judging others who are unfamiliar with the mannerisms, speech patterns, and social rituals we consider normal.

The same applies domestically. It seems that what is sometimes mistaken for an ethnic, racial, educational, income or some other divide is in fact cultural. Social interactions have a very different pace in urban areas compared to rural areas and ideas of hospitality vary North to South and East to West in the US as well as around the globe. So whether you are traveling the country or traveling the world, pay close attention to local etiquette and do your research with handy guides like Behave Yourself!: The Essential Guide to International Etiquette (Michael Powell). Not only does it prevent you from offending others by incorrectly displaying your feet or shaking with the wrong hand (the left is for wiping …), you’ll be able to interpret local gestures and cues better (friendly ones and not so friendly ones…). And even if you’re not traveling anytime soon, it makes for some pretty entertaining reading.

So I was going to tell you all about my visit to the Victoria Memorial and the Kali Temple (Kalighat), and how a visitor to the former approached me and shared his views about the existence of poverty in America (blaming it on minorities), the tremendous pollution of New York or San Francisco compared to Kolkata (so not true, you can actually breath fresh air in NY or SF!), and how 80 percent of marriages in India are still arranged and he cannot marry a non-Brahmin (out of his caste) – but I’m not.
What I experienced today trumps all of that.

Today TEN’s Center opened. Five girls from a shelter and three from a community center are been given the opportunity to work outside of their communities for the first time; that is, to hold a job outside of the neighborhoods where they have been victimized, rescued, or are vulnerable to traffickers or slave handlers. You don’t need to understand Bengali, Hindi or Urdu (and I didn’t) to know that they were happy. As we sat on a mat and rugs in the room that will become the office, and Becky and the leader of the shelter explained to the girls how they will be paid and based on what, there were giggly, full, and shy smiles all around. As they introduced themselves they spoke their names and some of the things they liked, including famous Bollywood actors (e,g, Sharuk Khan and Shahid Kapoor) just like we have Brad Pitt or George Clooney in Hollywood.

Because the aim of the Center and the program is to empower them and enable the girls to be economically independent, the girls were the ones who decided where their Singer sewing machines would be placed, who preferred to do what job (e.g. embroidering versus cutting the fabric), and once the fabric was spread, how to cut it using the patterns. It doesn’t do them any good just to tell them what to do without encouraging them to use their own initiative and become independent in their tasks.
Becky asked me to take pictures of the girls so that they can be placed on top of their working stations.

They went crazy, with one of them becoming the substitute photographer when some of the girls wanted me or Becky in the picture; she was actually very good too. On this aspect they also made their own decisions. Several pictures were taken and they decided which one they wanted, either of the head, the torso or a full body shot. For the girls’ own protection, though, I cannot show any of the pictures.
The fact that I’m tall (5’10) did not go unnoticed. One of the girls kept measuring herself next to me and pointing to how tall I am. Indeed, unknown to them I often bump my head in the cab’s ceilings (and airplane luggage compartments too) over here because there is so little space or sometimes I just slouch in my seat because I don’t quite fit. I’ll try explaining through Becky next time; they’ll get a kick out of it.

The people are very friendly and helpful. If you speak to them in English they will do their best to communicate with you, and if they can’t they’ll find someone who can. Many ask you where you are from and are very curious about America.

Unfortunately there are also those who try to cheat you: buyer beware of some taxi drivers. On my first day around the city a cab driver almost cheated me out of 150 Rupees. When you read the meter you have to multiply the quantity there by 2 and add 2 more. For instance, if the odometer says 17, then you must pay 36 Rupees. A bystander next to the taxi noticed what was going on and started arguing with the driver, and translating for me. The latter actually told him that I had agreed to the price when I got into the cab! And when I said no way, the guy just drove a couple of several meters away from the bystander to see if he could continue to cheat me. The other man actually followed us and made sure that I was not cheated. Furthermore, he took a rickshaw with me, gave me instructions on what to do (I was trying to go to Kalighat), and what each person would charge me for it. Another man seating in the rickshaw volunteered to show me where the other rickshaw stand was and made sure they understood where I wanted to go.

All of this, from a conflict analysis perspective, is fascinating. In the US, for instance, if a third party would have intervened you would have probably asked him/her to mind his/her own business. But in India intervention by third parties is the norm, not the exception. I was advised, for example, when taking a bus or in any situation in which a guy gropes me (I’m absolutely avoiding buses at any cost) or behaves in a demeaning way to reprimand him and ask other people for help; most likely they will also chastise and argue with him. The process is similar to how Dr. Mark Davidheiser and fellow African students at NSU have described the intervention of third parties in The Gambia and other places in Africa.

The sound of Kolkata: honking. The traffic system is unruly over here. Per se there are no lines in the street the way they are divided in the US or other nations. Plus, the sidewalks are in such bad conditions sometimes and so filthy that it is better to walk in the middle of the street. Ergo, cars, rickshaws, cyclists and buses are constantly honking at one another and at people walking.

The smells of Kolkata: polluted air and sometimes garbage. People urinating in the streets, feces (human or animal) and dirt are not as bad as the overall pollution of the city. That is what is really getting to me. Try pulling your boogers out and instead of the green slimy little ball what you get is a black paste.

Hello:

My name is Aniuska Luna.  I am one of the student members of Americans for Informed Democracy.  I’ve been raising awareness about modern day slavery and human trafficking for the past couple of years.  This summer, between semesters, I am volunteering in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), India, with The Emancipation Network.  I asked AID to allow me to blog about my experience here and hopefully show the need for other fellow students or people to participate and volunteer either overseas, in the United States, or any other region you are in with organizations that help in the rehabilitation and rescue of either victims or vulnerable populations. The posts will encompass not only observations and experiences related to the volunteering experience but also my encounter and familiarization with the context (including the traditional tourist visits).  Autumn is allowing me temporarily to post under her name until I am provided with a password of my own.

Brief background on modern day slavery:  There are approximately 27 million individuals held under slavery today.  According to the Department of State, about 600,000-800,000 of them are trafficked worldwide and 14,000-17,500 into the U.S. 

Anyone is vulnerable, slavery is no longer rationalized or legitimized on the basis of creed, race or gender because it is now illegal everywhere.  What is important to the slave handler is that you are vulnerable (e.g. you have a low self-esteem and can be easily seduced and then forced into prostitution; you are poor; come from a broken family… you name it). 

If you want to know more about the facts of modern day slavery let me know and I’ll post a couple of useful links.

With that said, here’s the first entry:

Kolkata

15-17 July 2008

15 Miami-London (7-8 hrs flight), 16-17

London

New Delhi

(8-10 hrs flight), 17 New Delhi-Kolkata (2 ½ hrs flight)

I was late to check in my bags at MIA so instead of flying Miami-Boston-London-New Delhi-Kolkata, and staying one night at a hotel in Boston between flights now the American Airlines staff arranged for my traveling directly to London, staying there for about 12 ½ hrs between flights (no sleep) and then following the trip on its original itinerary, with another 6-7 hours between flights in New Delhi. By the time I got to my first stop in

India

and into the plane for Kolkata I was so tired that I – who never sleep in airplanes but for very small intervals of time – could barely keep myself awake until the flight began. Then my neck went on a 45 degree angle to my left without my ordering it and before I knew it I was asleep, with my head against the window. The flight attendant broke my mojo time when she woke me up and explained that because I was sitting on an emergency exit I would have to stay awake until the airplane was in the air, plus I had to agree to follow the emergency exit instructions and take on the responsibility of pulling the leveler. Yeah, yeah, yeah, as long as I get to sleep, sure, sure, sure – no problem I told her. At that moment I thought of the film ‘Mr. Bean goes on Holiday."

Thought about his going to Cannes, driving with the French actress and the director’s son, and how he had slapped and burnt himself with a cigarette burner (that was out of the question for me, I already stood out as a foreigner last thing I needed was someone calling me a mad woman or restraining me); I wished I would have had the sticks to tape to my eyes and hold my eyelids from closing. I managed temporarily and as soon as it was possible me went to sleep till we arrived in Kolkata. It was sweet and smooth.   

Although the trip was a long one, I actually appreciated the transition it allowed me to go through. From a multi-cultural city such as Miami, with a predominant Hispanic community and an increasing number of non-Spanish speakers and people from other parts of the world (e.g. India and Brazil), staying for nearly 12 hrs at Heathrow allowed me to become familiar with other sorts of diversity. It was there that I saw a lot of airport personnel wearing head turbans, several Orthodox Jews with their traditional clothes and hairstyles, the men dressed in black from head to toe and the long curly bangs hanging in front of their ears; there were Indians there too with many women dressed traditionally and other Asians; and people from all over speaking in different languages you don’t often hear in Miami.

Then I get to New Delhi and the transition continues. Here are some things that you notice that indicate that the place you are has a different context and needs from the one you are coming from:

  • Colors:  The airport guards and policemen don’t wear a definite olive green, or navy, or beige uniform – I can’t quite define it. Theirs is more like a mixture of beige and a light, yellowish green (?).
  • People:  Guards have rifles or pistols inside the main terminal, and there are posts with them every so many meters around the perimeter of the airport. In the States I think I only saw such a situation during the year after 9/11 but nothing like this. Becky (from TEN) explained that it is over concerns of terrorism given the situation with

    Pakistan

    and additional regions in and out of

    India

    .

  • Situations: I noticed in

    New Delhi

    that a lot of the passengers were men, and there weren’t that many women. To my surprise when the time came to go through the security check I was told to go through the women’s section; that is, an enclosed rectangular box (like an over extended door frame) with curtains at the entrance and exit where one woman checks you.

    • The next day when I took the metro another ‘separate gender’ situation occurred. The train cars that had gone by had the women seated in the center and the men at either side. I figured it must be something traditional, but it is actually more like a law. Once I sat down in the section, across from me and below the window there was a sign that read “Ladies.” It was explained to me that it is done for females’ protection so that they are not groped or abused by the men. Apparently Indian feminists support such measures precisely because it deters their abuse. I wonder though if it should be a measure of deterrence by separating the sexes or of punishment for violators and reeducation of the public while aiming for the integration of both genders. Doesn’t perpetuating separatism also perpetuate misogynism and inequality? – seems like a ‘what comes first the chicken or the egg’ kind of question.

§ Paper work and bureaucracy (which is extraordinarily cumbersome over here) also reflect the gender difference in status. For instance, while getting a cell phone I had to include my father’s information along with passport and visa copies.  To sign up for Bengali or Hindi classes I must find a male sponsor to include in the application.

§ Women and men cannot be roommates if you are renting a flat unless they are relatives.

§ When the shuttle was taking us from one terminal to another in

New Delhi

I saw cows walking among cars in a parking lot.

§ Realized at some point, as I was waiting for the flight to Kolkata, that I was looking for friendly Western faces, people who seemed to come from “The West” and the world I left behind. In other words, some one with whom I could identify. It seemed too early to start doing that even if unconsciously. 

 

I’ve decided to switch to the present tense for the rest of my travel posts. I just think I write better in it.

November 25th: My classmates and I reach Belgrade in the late afternoon. As we approach the city, grubby country-side gives way to grubby suburbs. Brick and cinder-block houses sit on plots of land that, for the most part, inexplicably do not have driveways. Rusting cars and farm equipment lurk in tall grass. No one seems to be around.

As we get even closer to the city, we pass grim Communist-era flat blocks, and squatter settlements. In one, children are playing around a fire, throwing small sticks into the flames and dancing absurdly. The outskirts of Belgrade have a surreal quality to them, as if we’ve passed through an inter-temporal, inter-dimensional portal and landed in some post-apocalyptic 90’s dreamscape.

When we reach the city center, we begin to see clear evidence of the war, and the NATO bombings. Several buildings we pass were obviously targeted. It appears that the missiles went in through their roofs and blew them out from the inside. Now they sit, charred and sagging, on piles of collapsed foundation. Around the bombed-out buildings high fences have been erected to keep people out. The current government lacks either the money or the will (or both) to clear away the rubble. Nearby buildings stand defiantly intact, but flying debris has left them pockmarked. Clearly even the smartest smart bomb cannot be control once it has hit its target, I think.

I notice that the city buses passing us on the highway are shiny and new.  At further inspection, I notice the Japanese flags on their sides and stamps that read ” A Gift from the People of Japan.” I nudge one of my Japanese classmates and point this out to her. She smiles.

We arrive at our hotel, the Hotel Slavija. It is something to behold.

Inside, it is clear that nothing has been replaced –or cleaned for that matter– since at least 1990. In front of the elevators there is a huge advertisement poster for the now defunct Yugoslav Airlines. The elevators themselves scare the daylights out of my classmates and I. None of them have all their walls. The one I get into does not have a door. Sometimes they stop on a floor, sometimes between two floors. Sometimes they drop a few floors unexpectedly. The Hotel Slavija quickly earns a nickname from its American guests: the Tower of Terror.

When I get to my room, it is small, dark, and cold, but clean. However, my sheets do not fit my bed, and I realize this will become a problem when I finally decide to pass out. I’ll deal with it in a few hours, I decide, and go to wash my face before going out to explore Belgrade with my friends. When I turn on the tap in the bathroom, the water comes out in a powerful spray. A little too powerful. I try to turn it down, but the faucet won’t budge, and the water is coming out faster now, and soaking me and the room. Great, I think, this damn thing is probably forty years old; it’s survived five wars, and I’m the one who finally breaks it. I call my roommate in, and she can’t turn the tap off either. Finally, she runs downstairs and tells the front desk. A few minutes later, a burly man in his twenties shows up at my door. I sheepishly usher him in and point to the small inland sea forming in the bathroom, and the broken tap feeding it. “I think you may have to add this to the long list of things Americans have broken in your country.” The comment just slips out. I slap my hand over my mouth, in horror. It wasn’t meant maliciously at all, I swear. The man just looks at me like I’m a jerk (which I am), and grabs the tap. He twists it closed in one motion. Suddenly, it’s working perfectly again. The man looks and me and pantomimes moving the tap back and forth. “Off, on, off, on,” he says very slowly, and makes creaking sounds (errrr-eeeee errrr-eeeee) in case I didn’t understand what he was showing me. Even without a mirror, I know my skin tone matches my bright red Cypriot scarf.

And so begins my Belgrade adventure.

Last Tuesday, my enclave finally got the go-ahead to leave Cyprus. Our wounded compatriot  was well enough to be left behind (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, see previous travel posts), and we had to resume our scheduled trip through Hungary and the Balkans.

On the flight from Cyprus to Vienna, I reflected on what I’d seen and learned. I was instantly more at ease once I felt the plane left off the ground. Being in Cyprus made me jumpy and irritable. I was offended by the Cypriots who tried to drag me into their conflict and make me choose a side, and I didn’t appreciate how I’d been snapped at by an employee at the Foreign Ministry of the Republic of Cyprus for asking an honest, innocent question (Does the Greek Cypriot government really think it can get the Turkish Cypriots will agree to move everyone who came to the TRNC from Anatolia after Cyprus was divided back to Turkey? How would that even work in………reality?)

I’m sure if I spent months there, my irritation would turn to determination, as it so obviously had for the UN people my program had met with in the Green Zone. You do as much as you can, because that’s all you really can do, and, if you don’t see success overnight, you can still sleep well, knowing you contributed to something bigger. Reaching a single person can make all the difference in the world.

In Vienna, my enclave met up with our bus driver and boarded a bus bound for Budapest, Hungary. By the time we arrived, it was dark out, and Budapest lit-up was breathtakingly beautiful. I had expected a dreary but endearing post-Soviet city, but Budapest was a combination of Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian splendor. It was love at first sight.

To be continued…

At last, I have fast wireless access! Now, I can fill you in on what my trip to Cyprus is all about.

Balanced information sources on the Cyprus conflict are few and far between, but cyprus-conflict.net, a web site recommended to me by a very helpful UNDP employee, is certainly one of the best.

Here is a short summary of the Cyprus conflict from cyprus-conflict.net

The Mediterranean island of Cyprus has suffered a long history of foreign domination,  violence, and civil strife.  Since the 1950s, when still a colony of Britain, Cyprus has been a battleground between its two main ethnic/religious populations—Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.  The history of the conflict includes a militant confrontation with British imperialism, a set of treaties giving a limited form of independence, the breakdown of that constitutional structure, ruthless meddling by the Greek and Turkish “motherlands” and the major powers, a Greek coup d’etat and the Turkish invasion that divided the island as it is today, and fitful attempts to negotiate a just settlement—all set against a background of communal violence, terrorism, and intimidation. Equally true, however, is a record of cooperation and peace between most Cypriots, and, since 1974, the growth of indigenous efforts across the lines of hostility to reconcile.

Today, the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) is stationed in the Green Zone, the no man’s land that lies between the Republic of Cyprus (the Greek Cypriot part of the island) in the south, and the internationally unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) to the north. Nicosia, the capital of both states is a beautiful but sad city, divided by a high cement wall topped in many places by barbed wire and surrounded by dilapidated buildings that have been left to rot in the frozen conflict.

In 2004, an ambitious plan created by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan failed to reunite Cyprus before its admission as a full member of the European Union. Now, the Republic of Cyprus is an EU member state, and, technically, all the Turkish Cypriots in the north of the island are EU citizens, though the aquis communautaire is suspended in the TRNC. Currently, negotiations are stalled, but both Greek and Turkish Cypriots remain hopeful that a permanent settlement will be reached in the near future, and the island’s two peoples will finally be able to leave their painful past behind.

Una

On Friday, my European Defense Policy professor told my class a story I’d heard before. It was the story of Zvornik, a town in Bosnia where a war crime so grotesque was committed that I can’t bring myself to describe it here. If your morbid curiosity has to be satisfied, you can look it up. The first time I heard this particular war crime story was several years ago in a large lecture class on civil wars. I was one of three people who fainted during that lecture. This time around, I didn’t faint, but I did feel dizzy. When I looked around the room, I saw some of my classmates swaying in their chairs, eyes fixed, mouths agape.

Later in the day, my professor sent me the link to a BBC news story about how a new mass grave with 100 bodies has been unearthed near the site of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, where more than 8,000 Bosniak men and boys were killed. Yesterday and today, the families of missing victims have been picking through the clothes and bones to identify their loved ones. It’s a grisly task I can’t even begin to imagine, and my heart goes out to them.

I will be in the Balkans on an academic trip for two weeks, starting on Tuesday. I’ll be heading first to Cyprus for a few days, and then to the countries of the Former Yugoslavia. On Thanksgiving, I will be in Sarajevo. During my trip, I will meet local government officials, ordinary people, UN, NATO and OSCE staff, and probably many others. Though I haven’t received my final itinerary yet, I can safely assume I will be visiting Srebrenica, Zvornik, and other places where major war crimes took place. That will be difficult.

There is no war in the Balkans now, but as my professor so succinctly put it, “the war is everywhere.” The countries of the Former Yugoslavia are still weighed down by depression, poverty, instability, and intense resentment. Things are improving, slowly, but it will be a long journey. The political status of Kosovo has yet to be decided (its currently under UN administration), and, if the Kosovars vote that it should become independent (instead of being a province of Serbia), there is a possibility that violence may break out again. This prospect has many people worried.

But, until then, life must go on, and the rebuilding must continue in all senses. The European Union is pouring money into places like Bosnia. The OSCE is heavily involved in a range of projects in the region (its largest mission anywhere is in Kosovo) and is committed to remain indefinitely.

Recently, I read about the following hopeful OSCE project in Kosovo.

Digging for a Source of Unity in Kosovo

Marigona Ademi and Jehona Ferati took part in an OSCE-supported multi-ethnic archaeological youth camp, which aimed to help 50 Albanian, Roma and Serb students learn about their common past, 23 September 2006. (OSCE)

"The aim is to make young people understand that the history of Kosovo is not just a matter of the last hundred years and to help them see how much they all have in common." -Kemajl Luci, archaeologist from the Museum of Kosovo and the camp’s co-ordinator

The archaeological camp

Charged with strengthening democracy in Kosovo, the OSCE Mission is an integral part of the UN administration. It is helping build inter-ethnic confidence to enable members of all communities to live peacefully side by side. Part of these efforts is an annual multi-ethnic archaeological youth camp.

For three years, young Albanians, Serbs, Roma and others have gathered for two weeks at the beginning of the school year in September to dig for remains of the ancient Roman city of Ulpiana.
"Every time we come back to the camp, we learn about our common cultural heritage," says Kemajl Luci, an archaeologist from the Museum of Kosovo and the camp’s co-ordinator. He set up the camp with OSCE financial support.

"The aim is to make young people understand that the history of Kosovo is not just a matter of the last hundred years and to help them see how much they all have in common," says Kemajl.
He explains that many different groups have occupied this territory over time and the people living there now should be proud of and preserve their common cultural heritage.

Jehona Ferati, an 18 year-old Kosovo Albanian, was one of the first teenagers to attend the camp in 2004 and she keeps coming back. "For me this is a unique opportunity to learn more about our common history and find concrete evidence of ancient cultures."

At this year’s camp, 50 young people – 33 Albanians, 12 Roma and 5 Serbs – unearthed remains of Ulpiana’s public works such as cemeteries, a basilica with mosaic flooring and the city gates.

"As we uncover more, we get a better picture of how people once lived here," said Marigona Ademi, who also attended the camp. "The old structures we find are common to all people living in Kosovo."

Jovan Cepkenovic, a Kosovo Serb from Gracanica, a village midway between Pristina and Ulpiana, joined the camp for a second time this year. He heard of the opportunity through the Red Cross office where he volunteers. "I come here to preserve the history of the area," he says.

Old hatreds die hard, but this is the work the future is built on. Treaties end wars, but they don’t amount to peace. Peace is made person to person, face to face, between individual people –you and me. One day, I hope to be involved in community peacebuilding projects like those the OSCE runs in Kosovo. I can think of few things more important than helping the next generation create a culture of peace.

Una Hardester, Senior Political Analyst

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