Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Visit From My Director

          This past weekend, my director from Switzerland came to Osijek to visit me. She visits every project in Europe once a year and she always comes to the Balkans around Thanksgiving time. It was fun having her here and showing her around Osijek as well as letting her see what my daily life looks like. She arrived on Thursday night and left early Sunday morning. During that time she came with me to work, sat in on my Croatian lesson, and explored the city together. Friday afternoon we went to lovely place called Cookie Cafe where we drank tea and ate cookies. We ate out on a boat restaurant on the Drava before meeting up with the professor who arranged for me to come to the seminary. We learned about the different peace projects she has been involved with as well as met a man who as a child, spent 260 days in a concentration camp during the war here in Croatia. He now travels around telling his story. He was very inspiring and I plan to write more about him after I finish reading his story.
         Saturday, we went to the center of town and visited the tourist office as well as the bus station so Kristin could buy her ticket for the next day. We then took part in a small protest that was happening on the central square. The Croatian government is voting on a referendum on December 1 that would add "marriage is for one man and one woman" to the Constitution. A rally of sorts was taking place in support. However, we met a group of young people that were speaking out against the referendum. I was very happy to join these protestors in action against the referendum and show my support as an ally. I also befriended one of the young people and learned about the NGO he works for, called Youth Initiative for Human Rights. I am hoping to be able to do a sort of internship with them during my time in Croatia as they are opening as office soon in Osijek.
          Kristin and I then explored a little bit of the old city. We got to climb on the city walls, which was really great. I have learned to love climbing on city walls through my experiences in Derry, Northern Ireland, Diyarbikir, Turkey, and Istanbul. After a time of exploring we met up with the man I will be working for when I move to Zagreb. It was great to be able to talk with him a little bit and hear about the work I will be doing for the next two years when my official placement begins. Saturday afternoon was spent drinking tea inside out of the rain and cold, then venturing out for dinner. It was so nice to have someone who knows me more to talk to and be able to process my first month with.
          The reason that Kristin comes to the Balkans around Thanksgiving is to have the BVSers of the region come together for the holiday. She visited one BVSer in Split Sunday, Monday, and today, then tomorrow will head to Mostar, Bosnia to visit another one. I am following in her path and will take a night bus to Split tomorrow night. I will arrive Thursday morning and will spend Thanksgiving exploring the city on my own. I will stay with the BVSer there, then the two of us will travel to Mostar together on Friday. It will be so nice to explore new places and spend time with other volunteers! On Sunday morning I will take a bus up to Sarajevo where I will visit a friend who is with Mennonite Central Committee and stay with her until Wednesday morning. I will then make my way back up to Osijek. It will be nice to have a week away and see another part of the region. 

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