La Vie En Rose for 2008 February

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[Comments] (1) I need to start paying attention (underground version): I accidentally got on the northern line at euston yesterday. How, I have no idea. It was a complete surprise to me when I ended up in Camden town and had to backtrack. Then today TWICE I looked up from my book to see we'd made it all the way to my stop without me noticing.

: Wow, it's bed time, and I still haven't done two very important things I meant to do this weekend: type up my IWM handwritten notes and write about Rome before it goes the way of Belfast. (no link there because I still haven't done it.) How does this happen? I did spend the afternoon in the worthy task of back-uping up my files since I have been happily reunited with my external hard drive, and clearing out space to make room for some things essential to planned projects on my computer. And trying to work out why Zotero wasn't working, something in my mozilla profile (what words! I've had quite an education) is broken and until I figure out what, I have no bookmarks or anything, but at least I have my research notes. However. An equal amount of time was spent chatting on gmail. In conclusion, I fail, so it's straight back here tomorrow for laundry and writing.

It's a good thing this woman never had to experience modern air travel:

After the most maddening delays at last we got on board. Our passports had to be inspected our luggage passed through the customs, our passports inspected again and yet a third time as we stepped on board. At this end our passports were again inspected and stamped and we had to fill in a card stating our reason for coming to England and as I came from Belgrade my home address had to be taken as well – some idea about my coming from a locality where there was infectious diseases. Then the customs and finally the train.

[Comments] (1) My voting experience:

Henry Fitch, My Mis-Spent Youth: A naval journal: I leave you with this interesting tidbit, brought to you by the British Library and see-through plastic bags.

One day the Admiral sent me out to General Jivkovitch to demonstrate a trench periscope and to tell him that, if the Serbians wished, we would order 20,000 from home. The General, who was seated in a leafy hut in the garden of his headquarters, spent a pleasant afternoon putting the periscope round the door-post and startling approaching Staff officers by speaking to them before they actually appeared in sight. It became his inseparable plaything. He went into the town to take tea with a well-known hostess. When she apologized for her late appearance he said, "It is quite all right, Madame, I saw you bathing in your courtyard – by means of this little toy with which the English have presented me." My propagandist mission was a failure.

[Comments] (3) Sympathetic tears: Probably I am too sensitive if someone posting senior cat food on freecycle makes me want to cry.

Pointy: All roads lead to Rome.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone: that is all.

[Comments] (6) Damned if you do, damed if you don't: [In which the muddled thoughts about these "troubles" come forward] I am not a political scientist. I am not a contemporary history. I am not what anyone could consider an expert on this topic. I am, however, more educated about south-eastern Europe in general and Serbia specifically than your average person, and I do have an opinion. What follows is my opinion.

To start with, I don't think there's any right answer to the situation in Kosovo. I have thought about this and worried and puzzled long and hard, probably unnecessarily because even if I did think up a solution there's nothing I could do about it. But I don't think there IS a solution, unlike the Kosovars who think independence is the answer and the Serbs who emphatically think it's NOT. That by definition means there is no solution. That said, the entire thing is going much better than I imagined it would. This is because, being a First World War history student, I imagined the Serbian reaction as what it would have been 90 years ago. These are the people who walked across the mountains of Albania and Montenegro rather than surrender, half of them dropping dead from exposure and starvation in the process. To say they are not very good at giving up would be a bit of an understatement. So you can imagine why I was very worried indeed. It looks as though my fears were somewhat misplaced. I really hope that's true.

I think a lot of people in the west, particularly Americans, misunderstand the situation in Kosovo, for a number of reasons. Another disclaimer, aside from my non-expert status: I love Serbia. I love being in Serbia, I love talking to Serbs, I love the culture and the food and the scenery. While I enjoyed my time in Albania, I don't have the same warmth of feeling for the place as I do for Serbia, and I've never been to Kosovo. That does not mean, however, that I can't recognize national flaws and destructive politics when I see them, and it's kinda hard not to see that when looking at Serbia. (And maybe I should also mention that I'm being trained in a profession where distance from bias is not only desirable but necessary.) But I do believe the Serbs have been portrayed unfairly in Western media. I know that the average American's opinion of Serbia is definitely not favorable. There's a very simple logical reason for that and it goes back to the propaganda poster I once wrote an essay about for my AP European History class, or probably much farther. You have to demonize a people if you want your population to support a war against them, so if we were going to bomb Serbia, they had to be the bad guys. So no one's going to talk about the ethnic violence that goes both ways, then and now, and no one's going to mention that the population imbalance in Kosovo is at least partly due to Serbians leaving the area because of violence against them, and the huge gap in birth rates between Serbians and Kosovars. No one's going to try and understand that Kosovo declaring Independence would be like Philadelphia and Washington D.C. declaring independence from the US. The national mythology may be just that but unfortunately in these matters, truth is less important than function (this is the problem historians face all the time when they try to dismantle traditional national histories).

I suppose to a lot of people is it a clear cut matter of self-determination. 90% of the population in Kosovo want independence, so they should have it. Wilsonian ideology is still going strong, and it sounds pretty in theory but put on a map -- not so much. The idea of self-determination caused more trouble is areas of mixed population than I like to imagine. Nationalism is responsible for as much violence and hatred as other destructive ideologies such as imperialism and fundamentalism... It's frustrating because it shouldn't be necessary for different ethnicities to have their own nation. The US may not be perfect but we are managing to more or less get along with all kinds of people as our citizens. The only reason other places with mixed populations can't do the same is because they're manipulated by age-old ideas that says they can't get along, they can't forgive the past and certain factions won't let them forget that "they" killed "your" grandfather. I wish everyone would go read Hobsbawn's Nations and Nationalism and realise what is important is not this constructed identity that is, at the very base of it, a political tool, but the more day-to-day realities of jobs, family, neighbors, and quality of life.

This is what makes me such an optimistic Europeanist. Not because I believe in the ideology of a greater Europe or something like that, but because it's quite clear that the only thing keeping a lot of people from tearing apart their neighbors with their bare hands is if they have something to gain economically from NOT doing so. Peace for economic gain might not be a pretty as peace for the sake of peace, but it has a better chance of sticking around. If the EU can bring peace to the Balkans then I'm all for it, whatever the inconveniences or criticisms may be. Maybe other areas will follow this lead. The fact that at least 50% of Serbs think it's more important to have better relations with the West and opening doors to EU membership than to hang on to a backwater province, whatever the emotional baggage, tell me that it working. Now if only the other 50% would hurry along.

I'm sure it was a very small fire: Things are getting a bit worse is Serbia, causing much nail-biting and worrying of worriers. Come on guys. Let's not get too out of hand.... Yow.

I advise you to read the weblog of my friend Kent who has been in Novi Sad since September. His observations and on-the-ground reporting are way more interesting than anything I could say.

[Comments] (1) As per request: Wishlist

World peace. But I'll settle for peace in the Balkans.
Flight to Athens and/or Prague
Microchip for Tonks
Foyles gift certificate
Casablanca DVD zone 1
A nice set of waterproof, multi-colored ink pens
Something like this
Or this

Me: do you think this sounds like a good paper proposal: Stabbed in the back: the Balkan League and British/Serbian attitudes towards neutrality in 1915
Susie: why write a paper, the title says it all

[Comments] (1) Curses! foiled again!: I've just realized that one of my travel goals -- to visit every country in the former Yugoslavia -- has been UNCHECKED from my list!

How dare they! If for no other reason than this!

[Comments] (3) Where I go, earthquakes follow: Totally felt this. The jiggly bits woke me up. But then I thought, I'm in London, must have been my dream, and went back to sleep!!

Blah: The grant I was planning on applying for to go back to Serbia this summer doesn't cover language tuition. How did I miss that?

Would you like some ketchup with that chip?: Here with L. a great time so far. Unrelatedly I feel like everyday I am learning more about British culture. Apparently leap day is the day where it's "okay" for women to propose to men. Like pancake day, I had to listen to a couple of references feeling like I was missing something I really should know about before someone explained it to me. Not even wikipedia knows the whole story, but that postcard is awesome, and supposedly if your proposee turns you down he owes you a present! great way to amass presents. Actually I feel a romance novel coming on. And one more random fact that I now know about, so I can feel more part of the gang one four years from now. If I'm still here.

In other news I have also now become one of those people who refer to wikipedia for everything. I tried to resist, it's just sooo ... easy.

La Vie En Rose for 2008 February

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© 2002-2010 Rachel Richardson.