Thursday, 7 October 2010

New Blog

Attention all 5 readers of this blog!

I will no longer be updating this blog, since I found a way cooler blog template on Tumblr. So from now on check and bookmark the following link if you want to continue following my Balkan life :)

Lana in Serbia continues here.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Makedonija Part 10

Saturday 2 October. Skopje – Beograd. 6 hours. 4 cars. 1 truck.

Just as I think life can’t get much better. Things take a turn for the worse. Let’s just say that last night didn’t exactly turn out the way I thought it would be. So this morning I’m on the road by 9 am. Hmm…what to do, the ride back to Beograd isn’t until 4 pm. Do I want to wait all those hours for a sure thing. Or do I want to take a chance and start hitching now and perhaps get back home earlier?

I decide to risk it.

I catch two fairly short rides with old men. The first one drops me off at the local gas station. The second one at the exit to the airport. Then a truck drops me off a few km further. And another car takes me a few more km. But I’ve still not left Skopje. And the road towards Beograd looks empty. It's eerily quiet. First car passes. Doesn’t stop. 5 minutes later I see another car. This one stops. A man. Late 30s early 40s I’d say. Says he’s going far. I ask if he’s going to Serbia. Niš. Or Beograd perhaps. He says yes. He’s going to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Yeah baby, I got a ride all the way back home.

This dude speaks fluent English. At the border he wants me to get out of the car and walk across the border. Says he had some real bad experiences with hitchhikers in the past. Hmm…I’m curious how bad. But I don’t dare to ask. So I get out of the car and walk across both borders and then get back on the car. We pretty much drive non stop to Beograd. Fine with me. The less we stop, the quicker I get home. We talk about his work. He’s in buying and selling business. In Dubai. Before that he was in Afghanistan. I spent a good 5 hours in that car, so we, I mean I, talk about all kinds of topics. This dude likes to listen, doesn’t want to talk much himself. Every time I stop talking for a few minutes. You know, just to catch my breath. He taps me on my knee to tell me to keep talking. Hmm…I’m tired, since I didn’t sleep much the night before, but then again, I want to keep talking to keep him satisfied. And I’d rather talk, then have him touch me again. Cause the last time he touched me, it was a few seconds longer than appropriate. So I talk about anything and everything that crosses my mind. You see this is the bad thing about drivers who do speak and understand English. In this instance, I feel kinda obligated to talk, since I speak the language. When I’m in a car with Macedonian/Serbian speakers I can just pretend I don’t speak the language. Well, I don’t really have to pretend. But then it’s OK to be quiet.

Then we start talking about movies. I name some of my all time favourite movies. I ask him to name some of his. He says: American Pie. Hmm…this dude is in his 40s and that is his favourite movie?! Anyways, I ask what else. Then he asks me how to call 'types' of movies. I say: genre. He then asks: is erotica a genre? I’m like, uhm… He’s like, I really want to watch some erotica movies...


I’m thinking are we there yet. This ride has been taking way too long.

Then when we finally reach Beograd, I couldn’t be more relieved. I can't wait to get out of this car. I mean, this guy was nice, we had some good conversation, but I guess if you spend a lot of time alone in the car with another man, no matter how decent they appeared to be in the beginning, no matter whether they are married or not, their mind just goes places. And they will try. They will always try. It’s sad, but I guess that’s just what men think who pick up female hitchhikers.

When I’m out of the car, I think to myself what it would have been like had I waited for the ride at 4 pm with the guys from yesterday. Would that have been a better ride? Would they have kept their hands to themselves? Would their favourite movie be American Pie as well? Well, I will never know. And I guess this is the nature of hitching. You never know who you end up in the car with. I ended up meeting some amazing people through this. And some that were not so amazing. It’s intimidating. It’s risky.
“The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live.”

-Leo F. Buscaglia

I totally agree. Can't wait to stick my thumb out again :)

Monday, 4 October 2010

Makedonija Part 9

Friday 1 October. Struga - Skopje. 5 hours. 3 cars.

I say goodbye to A. and walk to my HH spot. There, an old man walks up to me. Asks me where I'm going. I say Skop...Before he let's me finish, he asks for sex. Come on. Give me a break. But this freak doesn't want to leave me alone. The thing is I don't want to leave this spot, since it's a great HH spot. But this guy is blocking the path. He clearly isn't planning on going anywhere either. So, I get on the first car that stops, which takes me to Ohrid. Not really my way, but anything to get away from this creep.

The nice couple drops me off at the exit to Ohrid and I walk towards the road to Skopje. I stick my thumb out and first car stops. Two men. Going to Kicevo. Hey, that's my way. So I get on. They don't speak English though. But the driver calls a friend of his and gives the phone to me. Nacko, the guy on the phone, assures me that the guys are good people and that it's safe to get in their car. That I don't have to worry blabla...I tell him I already got on the car.

Silence on the other side of the line.

Oh, he says.

I guess he didn't expect that.

He tells me he wants to meet me in Kicevo. I tell him, I don't have much time since I've got to get to Skopje. He tells me to stay in the car with these two guys and just meet him in Kicevo. So pushy. Of course I stay in the car. So we get to Kicevo. Sit at some bar and we wait for Nacko to show up. Then he appears. First thing he says is: "I have to tell you that you are really brave". Uhm. I thought you said your friends are good people. So what's the big deal? But he is like there are so many bad people out there. Yeah, I know. Why do people keep reminding me of that? It’s not helping me at this point, you know. I still have to make my way to Skopje. And all the way to Belgrade. So stop saying these things and just let me be.

Anyways, we talk some. Actually I talk. Cause this Nacko guy is firing all kinds of questions at me. I know we don’t have much time, but there’s no need to interview me like I'm applying for some competitive job, y'know. But I like Nacko. His English is excellent (studies English Literature by the way). And he tells me his two friends are actually driving to Slovenia the next day. And if I want, I can catch a ride with them to Belgrade…Hmm…sounds like a pretty good deal. That means I don’t have to hitch. No hitching means less chance of running into more creeps. I know these guys already and they seem to be decent. So, he tells me that if I want to get that ride, to be at Continental Hotel at 4 pm the next day. They drop me off at a good HH spot and all get out of the car to wave me off. Ahh…they are really sweet. Good people.

At this time it’s late afternoon and I’m getting a little worried, since there isn’t that much traffic on that road and I still have a good few hours to go. But the second car stops. Small red car with two men. They are going to Skopje. Yippie. I get in. I meet Murat and his buddy, whose name I didn’t catch. They are army officers. Based in Ohrid and heading home for the weekend. Murat speaks fluent German (he lived there for a few years) Before that he was in Croatia for one year. And now he’s been working in Ohrid for the past 5 years. Before I get out of the car, he gives me his number. If I ever come back to Ohrid, he says, he can show me around all the nice places in and around the lake. I thank him.

WOW, I’m blown away by the generosity I experienced today. People were so incredibly considerate. Nice. Decent. Normal. That's so refreshing for a change. People really seemed to want to help me. And not want anything back in return. Today was a good day. And I even scored myself a ride back to Beograd the next day. Things don’t get much better than this. I'm loving life.

Makedonija Part 8


The next day is my last morning in Lagadin. I spent 4 wonderful days there, but as much as I want to stay in this lovely house with all these like minded people, I know it's time to move on.

So I hitch a ride with a couple back to Struga. Yes, Sruga again. Because I want to see A. and J. again (fellow EVS volunteers).

Speaking of the latter, I just happen to bump into him while I was walking the streets of Struga. I didn't tell him I was arriving that day. But I guess it's a small world. Speaking of a small world, J. tells me R. from Bitola is apparently in Struga as well. So that evening I tell J. to not tell R. I'm in town, so I could surprise him. But J. just couldn't keep it to himself and ruins the surprise. But it was still great to see R. and all the other volunteers together in Struga. We reminisce over Smokies and Rakija...

Makedonija Part 7

Lagadin Part Deux

On Day 3 four girls arrive. By car. From Rainbow gathering. 2 Germans, 1 American and 1 Lebanese. These girls tell me about Rainbow. Totally fascinating. Makes we wanna check out the next Rainbow meeting. We share travel stories. These girls are experienced hitchers and it was great swapping tales and experiences. The American and Lebanese have been hitching for years. Neither of them have experienced anything bad. Just a few unpleasant experiences here and there, but nothing too alarming. Hearing their stories makes me wonder what I was doing wrong my first time hitching...Maybe it was the fact I was hitching alone. And it was quite a long distance. You see, their first time they were hitching with others. And they weren't going far. Well, I guess I was just braver than they were. And stupider.

Makedonija Part 6

Monday 27 September. Struga - Ohrid. 0.5 hour. 1 car.

But the hangover wasn't so good. I walk to the end of the main road. Get a ride with a mini van. Thank God this dude doesn't talk. I wasn't in the mood for chit chat. At all.


So, I get to Lagadin (which is 7 km outside of Ohrid) and meet my next host. T. a lovely young woman with a big house with amazing views of the lake. T. is the kind of CS host that every CSer dreams of. She welcomes everyone with a huge smile and hug. And tells them to consider her place as their home. She hosts multiple travelers at a time.

So, when I got there, another traveler from South Korea had just arrived as well. He had been traveling for 4 months. On his bike. He started in Spain and had worked his way through most of the countries in South (East) Europe and was on his way to Greece. Totally weird guy. But in a good way. He was like the first Asian traveler I met in a long time. So when we were walking and exploring around Ohrid the next day, everyone thought we were together. I mean it's not like they see Asians walking around there everyday. So, I don't blame them for thinking we were a couple. Although I don't think we were exhibiting much couplish behaviour. Well. Maybe. We were kind of arguing. About vegetables. You see we were at the vegetable market discussing whether we should buy the veggies there or in a supermarket. I mean a supermarket can't offer the same quality a 'real' market does. But he didn't agree. So, yeah, this market dude selling peppers was staring at us, while we were debating the pros and cons of buying in a supermarket vs. real market. In English of course (so everyone who understood English could enjoy this spectacle). "Have fun tonight", he says...with a look that says everything. I don't know what he was thinking. Well, actually I do know what he was thinking. Let's just say, he thought me and my supposed lover were probably not doing much lovin' that evening.

But there were a few other travelers. D. was traveling with his mom. They were from Brazil. And this trip around Europe was his birthday present to her. nice. I didn't know these sons still existed. I mean, I cannot see many young men traveling with their mom around Europe for one month. Voluntarily. So, I was totally impressed and intrigued by this Brazilian boy. He lives in Manaus, which is right in the rainforest, near the Amazon. He invited me to come to Brazil. Hell yeah! Always wanted to go there. South America has never appealed more to me than now :)

That evening we all play CRANIUM. Awesome game that includes charades, drawing with eyes open and closed, humming songs, spelling, definitions and more. The Korean and I were a team. We showed the Brazilian/Macedonian duo what Asian power is all about and beat the hell out of them :) I guess we didn't make such a bad couple after all ;)

Makedonija Part 5

Bitola Day 2

At 13.00 I'm supposed to meet R. another EVS volunteer, at the Clock Tower in Bitola. At the fountain I walk past a group of youngsters who appear to be preparing for some kind of performance. I'm intrigued, but walk on to meet R. When I do, he tells me he is supposed to meet some other volunteers at the fountain. So we go back and check out this thing. Turns out to be a youth exchange on Dance. Around 40 youngsters from 8 different countries in Europe were together in Struga for 10 days to exchange practices on dance. They were giving their final performances that day. I stay around and watch them perform. Twice. They were not bad. Especially the two Albanian break dancers get a lot of cheers.

After the performance the organizer. S. starts to talk to me. He asks what I'm doing there. I say I'm an EVS volunteer and just happened to be there. He asks what my plans are next. I say I don't have any. He asks if I want to come to Struga with them. I'm like...hmmm...He's like, you can catch a free ride with us on the bus. You can sleep in the hotel. And you get food. I'm like, where's the bus?

So, I hop on the bus with these youngsters. Talk some more with S. He is an interesting guy. Actually, he works for Volunteers Centre Skopje. The NGO who has an interesting project I ALMOST chose. I didn't in the end. Do I regret my choice? Hmmm...Good question. I mean I'm pleased with my choice of Belgrade, but meeting these people makes me think I would have easily fit right in Skopje as well...

In the lobby of the hotel I meet a guy. Looks like Paul McCartney. Macedonian by birth. But he lived and studied in Belgium for ten years. He is all excited he gets to practice his Flemish with me. He plays guitar and sings. He says he's got a surprise for me. He starts playing Abel's "Onderweg". Didn't expect this. It's one of my all time favourite songs. Actually one of the few Dutch songs I like. He sang it so well. It gives me flashbacks. So many memories.

That evening S., Paul McCartney and I share conversation and red wine. A few bottles of it. It was good.

Makedonija Part 4


In Bitola I get invited to a handball game between Bitola and Skopje. It was the first time I went to a handball game. Or any game for that matter. Everyone was cheering for the home team of course. Except for me. I was (silently) rooting for Skopje. Why? Because I prefer red shirts over green/white ones. And they were slightly better looking. OK. They were A LOT better looking. Call me superficial. But that's really the only reason why women can endure watching hours of men pointlessly chasing balls. Well, for me it is at least.

Makedonija Part 3

Saturday 25 September. Skopje - Bitola. 4 hours. 2 cars. 1 van. 2 trucks.

First ride drops me off at a gas station in Skopje from where I catch my second ride, which gets me to the pay toll close to Veles. There I hop on a truck with a young dude. He is snacking away on Smokies as I get in. Throws me a pack as well. Asks for sex. I say no. He shuts up. That was easy. If only all pervs would accept my answer so easily. Drops me off at the exit to Kavadarci. There I catch a ride with a mini van. Really comfi ride. Finally a man who doesn't feel the need to talk. Or ask for sex. What a nice surprise for a change. Asking for sex thing was getting kinda old. Near Prilep I catch a ride with a trucker. Nice man. Doesn't talk much either. I like them this way. Gotta catch more of these rides.

Makedonija Part 2


In Skopje I stay with S. on my first night. A Turk from Istanbul. Says he thought I was Kazakh (?). He can't believe I am traveling on my own. A girl. Hitchhiking. He says he doesn't have the guts to do it. Let alone a girl. On her own. Also says, he can't believe I'm couchsurfing. On my own. Asks if I am not scared? I'm like, scared of what? He's like, I could kill you right now, and nobody would ever know. I'm like, no I believe in the good in people, I don't think about bad things. Think positive and you'll attract positive, that's always been one of my motto's. Then he continues to say, how he just cannot believe I'm not scared and that I should be. There are some bad people out there. Well, I wasn't scared. But if you continue like this, I might be.*

*S. was in fact a real good guy, a total gentleman, who spoiled me to death with Turkish hospitality :)

Makedonija Part 1

Thursday 23 September. Beograd - Skopje. 9 hours. 4 cars. 1 truck.

I take bus 29 from Slavija. I get off just after the bridge, take the stairs down to the highway and start hitching. A car stops within 10 minutes. Says he can drop me off at the pay toll. A man in his 30s. Speaks German and French, because he lived in Germany and Austria for a few years. Invites me for a drink with his friend. Then says he's actually going to Nis in a few hours and that I can catch a ride with him then. Asks if I want to wait for him...I'm like, no thanks, I can't wait a few hours. He's like if I were your boyfriend, I wouldn't let you go off alone...I'm like, it's a good thing you're not my decka then.

At the pay toll, I get my sign with "Niš" out and hold it in front of me. Within a few minutes, this trucker stops, opens the door and tells me to get aboard. He says he's heading my way. Daniel is 25, just came from Slovenia and is headed for Istanbul. His usual route includes Moscow to Istanbul. He said he stopped because he thought I looked Russian (?). We talk about his life as a truck driver and he tells me about the 3 main problems: 1. LAUNDRY (no place to do it in Turkey, but Russia apparently has excellent facilities), 2. FOOD (Russian cuisine. What cuisine?), 3. (lack of) GIRLS (and thus SEX). I tell him I really want to go to Istanbul some day. Says I can call him if I ever want to go to Istanbul, since he goes there every few months. Then asks if I have a boyfriend. I say yes. Daniel drops me off after the Macedonian border. I don't get his number.

Then I hitch 2 short rides with old men, who were friendly and dropped me off somewhere near Kumanovo. There I catch a ride with Dino, a 25 year old Albanian, studying law. I look at his windshield, it's kind of shattered. On my side. Hmm...this guy was obviously in some crash before. But he seems like a total respectable law student. Then he starts driving. Fast. that shattered windshield makes much more sense. The bad thing: I felt like I was in a 20 minute rollercoaster ride. The good thing: I arrived in Skopje in no time.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Hrvatska and Crna Gora Part 6

Saturday 18 September. Ulcinj-Beograd. 14 hours. 4 cars. 2 buses.

But of course I still had to make my way back to Beograd. So, I got up early, started hitching. Got a ride with two security guards who were totally cool and dropped me off in Bar. Car number two brings me a few kms further. 3rd car brings me some kms further from that point. And 4th car brings me to Podgorica. From where I catch the bus back to Beograd . I thought I’d give myself a break after all the hitching I did. And get a comfortable and relaxed ride home. Boy was I wrong. It was the most stupid decision I could have ever made. I mean, if I had taken the train, it would have left later. Given me some extra hours to roam around the capital. AND still got me home earlier. But no, I chose the longest and most uncomfortable ride home. Going through all kinds of villages and towns I didn’t need to see. And talk about winding roads. But then again, they call it Crna Gora for a reason.

Hrvatska and Crna Gora Part 5

Thursday 16 September. Herceg Novi-Ulcinj. 3,5 hours. 5 cars. 1 ferry. 1 bus.

I survive the night. Though slept with one eye open. Get up early and start hitching. First car is a fireman. He drops me off at the ferry. I ask how much the ticket is. The lady behind the counter says it’s free if I’m in a car/bus. I’m like, I’m hitching. She’s like, just jump on then. I’m like, cool! I walk up the ferry and this man asks if I’m going to Budva (he obviously saw my sign). I’m like, yeah. He’s like, well we’re headed that way. If you want you can jump on our bus. I’m like, I have no money. He’s like, oh no worries, there’s plenty of space. Turns out to be a tour bus from Poland carrying a bunch of teens for a ten day beach holiday. In the bus I speak with some teens. The first thing they do is offer me beer. I’m like, it’s 10.30! They’re like, do you want vodka then? I’m like, ?! Maybe this green stuff then, it only has 12% alcohol. I decide to give it a try. Not bad. We have some chit chat. They teach me some Polish. I won’t repeat what they taught me, except for this: kocham cie. I get off in Budva. Check out the beach. Too crowded for my liking. Can’t wait to get the hell outta here. Walk to the end of town. Catch a ride with a dude from Beograd, who owns a shop in Budva. Totally nice. Asks for my number. "To show me around Beograd some time.” He drops me off in the middle of the highway. But before he leaves, he arranges my next ride. I get in to this minivan. Dude in his twenties. No English. But asks for my number as well. To get a drink later in Ulcinj. He speaks not a word of English. And my Serbian doesn’t make for much of an exciting conversation. I wonder what he thinks we’re going to talk about. He drops me off in Bar. Next car I stop brings me all the way to Ulcinj. There, I meet my host, totally adorable dude who drives me around his scooter, feeds me some of the best pljeskavica I’ve had, introduces me to his friends, family and shows me around Old Town, beaches and let’s just say Ulcinj was wonderful. What a nice way to end my trip. After all it was my final destination…

PS. The minivan dude calls me.
PPS. I answer.
PPPS. He says something in Serbian.
PPPPS. I say something back in English.
PPPPPS. Awkward silence.
PPPPPPS. I hang up.
PPPPPPPS. Come on, this was never going to work.

Hrvatska and Crna Gora Part 4

Wednesday 15 September. Split-Herceg Novi. 9 hours. 8 cars.

Said goodbye to lovely host Igor, who hosted me two nights in Split. Get a bus to my hh spot. First car stops. Young dude.Waiter. Late twenties. Drops me off in Omis. Cute little town. He says it’s the best town along the coast. It has a river, beach, sea, mountains. And him. He really wants me to stay and says he has room for me in his place. Even though tempted, cause Omis really is gorgeous. I thank him for the offer. I stop car number two. Old man. We don’t speak much. Fine with me. Gives me more time to appreciate the beautiful scenery outside my window. He drops me of in Makarska. 3rd car (actually mini van) stops. Hippie dude. He says he will drop me off at a better hh spot. He does. There are more people hitching at this spot. I decide to hh with this polish couple. We stop car number 4. Old dude. Creepy type, my instincts tell me. As soon as the polish couple gets off (they were only going 10 kms), my instincts prove me right. But before he gets a chance to get touchy feely, I grab my phone and pretend to talk. For the next half hour. He manages to keep his hands to himself. I get off. Still 80 kms to Dubrovnik. Car 5 stops. He brings me some 20 kms further. Decent dude who spoke excellent English. Drops me off and I stop car 6. British dude. From Bournemouth. Thirties. On a cross country trip. Promoting his scuba diving social network. On a quest to personally visit all diving centers in South East Europe to get his site in the spotlights. Also does some charity work. Going to Africa to raise money for his charities back in Britain. Totally intriguing dude. Too bad he can only take me 20 kms further. He drops me off at a gas station. And at this point it’s pretty late in the afternoon. And not a lot of cars going down this road... I'm starting to get a little bit worried. I'm gonna need some luck to make it to Crna Gora. I stick my thumb out and first car stops. With a license plate from France. Old man. Says he doesn’t know where he is going. Hmm…doesn’t sound like someone I want to be traveling with at this point. But then he says he’s going to Podgorika or something. I’m like, Podgorica?! Really?! I’m headed for Crna Gora! And he says jump in, which I do of course. He is from Nice. A writer. And biology and geography teacher. Taking a 6 month sabbatical to travel through South East Europe and Afrika. And writing a book in the process. Very interesting man. He drops me off in Herceg Novi. But actually I need to be in Ulcinj that evening to meet my next host. It’s 19.30. And starting to get dark. I don’t want to hitch when it’s night. I hitch a short ride to the bus station. Turns out the last bus to Ulcinj had already left and the next one is the next day. I ask for a bus to Beograd. There’s one in half an hour. I’m like, what do I do now? Pay for a room and go to Ulcinj the next day or go home tonight? Then all these old ladies approach me, asking me if I need a room. I’m like, I don’t know if I can trust these people. I say I don’t have more than 5 Euros on me. At first they say no, but then one says yes. Is she for real? For all I know, she might lure me in some trap or something. But I do want to see Ulcinj and I decide to check one of the rooms out. Not very luxurious, but what do you expect for 5 Euros/night. I take the room. It has two doors. But no locks. Just to be sure, I block the doors and windows with the extra furniture standing around the room. I go to bed with my phone in one hand and pepper spray in the other.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Hrvatska and Crna Gora Part 3

Friday 10 September. Zadar-Split. 1,5 hour. 1 car. 1 boat. 1 Yugo.

I wake up early this morning and hike the 8kms from Puntamika to the hh spot. The long walk along the marina was totally worth it. It was just gorgeous. Got to the bus stop. And put my sign out. 40 minutes goes by and no car stops. This is unusual. This never happened to me before. I never had to wait more than 15 minutes for a ride. At this bus stop there’s a bunch of kids sitting and laughing. Probably thinking I’ll never get a ride. I want to prove them wrong. But then their bus comes. 5 minutes later a car stops. A guy. Engineer. Works in Zadar. Lives in Split. Speaks English. Totally nice dude. Even gives me his number, in case I need some help. Drops me off at the bus station. Spent that first day in Split walking around the ‘maze’ that’s Old Town.

Then next day I had just moved to my next CS host, when I get this message from another CSer that his friend, who is a skipper, has to transfer this boat from Dubrovnik to Primosten (a town 80km north of Split). He asks if I want to join. Hell yeah, do I want to join! I mean, how often do I get an offer to sail along the beautiful coast of Croatia? So, next day I meet these 3 guys and we take the ferry to Korcula. That night we party, drink and sleep on the boat. I felt just slightly claustrophobic. Next day we wake up late. And then we finally hit the road. I mean water. It was my first time sailing. And I totally loved it. Didn’t feel seasick at all. Sunny day. Beautiful clear waters. Swam a bit. And I even steered the wheel for about 1 hour. Totally loved it. And then we got to Hvar. Gorgeous island. But one night was really all I could afford. Next day we leave for the Blue Cave. Magical. After that the rough part starts. Wild seas, winds and a lot of rocking of the boat was going on. And definitely my stomach was turning and rocking. Couldn’t wait to get to land. And when we did, their buddy from Split drove up to drive us back. So there we were. 6 people. 1 car. A Yugo. Need I say more? Just getting out of the marina was challenging. You see there was this tiny hill. But we just couldn’t seem to get pass it. Two times we tried. And failed. So we drove back 50 meters and then hit the gas pedal. Hallelujah. This time we made it. That 1,5 hour ride felt more claustrophobic than two nights sleeping in a bunk. I was a sardine. In a Yugo.

Hrvatska and Crna Gora Part 2

Thursday 9 September. Zagreb-Zadar. 4 hours. 2 cars. 0 pervs.

Well, that thought didn’t last long. After a few wonderful days in grey and rainy Zagreb, where I stayed with 3 totally different, but all very interesting and special in their own way Couchsurfers, exploring their city, hanging out, talking, drinking and eating, I felt much better about that first hh day. So, I thought I’d give hh another go. Took the bus out of town and walked to the toll station. Made myself a sign and stood there for like 10 minutes, when someone tapped me on my shoulders. A lady asking me if I was going to Zadar. I’m like, yeah, that’s what is says on my sign. OK, I didn’t say it in that way. Anyways, she’s like you can come with us, we’re going pass Zadar. I’m like, hell yeah, that’s a first, someone offering me a ride! So I get in this minivan with this couple. They seem decent. And even spoke some English. They tell me about their daughter who is roughly my age. Time flies by. We make a stop near Plitvice National Park, have a drink and continue. We go through a 5km long tunnel. I am tired. I want to sleep. But I can’t. I need to stay awake. Even though this couple is totally decent up until this point, I’m still a bit paranoid after that first hh experience. I want to stay awake and be aware. I hear some strange noises beside me, but I don’t dare to look. I don’t want to know what they are doing there. I just pretend I’m sleeping. I will never know whether it was my mind playing tricks on me or if something indecent was going on next to me. They drop me off just outside the city of Zadar. And I get a ride from a nice man who drops me off in Zadar center.

In Zadar I couldn’t find a couch. So, I walk into Old Town hostel and ask for availability. They say they’re fully booked. But that I should try this other hostel on the other side of town. I’m like, I will see, I’m not quite sure if I want to pay 15-20 Euros for a dorm room. So I go around and explore Zadar. Go to the ‘white steps that sing’. But it’s super crowded. So I sit somewhere else for a while. Watch people. Look at the ‘greeting to the sun’ and then when most people have left the place. I finally take my turn and make my way to the white steps. I take my shoes off, walk down the steps and as I place my foot on the last step that’s covered in water, I slip. And fall hard. On my ass. Completely drenched I stand up. Look back. People staring and laughing. I’m like, argh what the hell, I might as well go all in, which I did. Then I walk through Old Town and I find 30 Kunas lying on the ground, just waiting for me to pick it up. Which of course I did. I’m like, maybe something ‘bad’ had to happen to me first (unintentionally entertaining tourists with my not so gracious fall) and now I’m getting something good back :)

Around 22.30 I’m thinking, hmm…maybe I should think about a place to sleep. So I go to the bus stop, but decide to hitch a ride to Puntamika where this other hostel is. I haven’t even stuck my thumb out or a car stops immediately. I’m like, hey I’m getting good at this. I walk over. Turns out he was waiting for his daughter. Oh. I walk away to the next bus stop to try and hitch from there. But then the same car pulls over and says: just jump in. Which I did. Drops me off at the hostel, but on the way there I saw many houses offering rooms, so I decide to give it a try there first, hoping that I could get it cheaper there. The first two houses I go to ask 25 Euros. I’m like, maybe the hostel aint that bad after all. But I want to try another house. This one is completely dark. Either they’re sleeping or not at home. I’m not sure if I should ring the bell. But I do. An old lady in her PJs steps out. I ask if she has any room available. She says yes. 25 Euros a night. I’m like, I don’t have 25 Euros. I only have 50 Kunas (7 Euros). She starts laughing. She’s like, that’s nothing. And at this point I remember that instance with the couple that said they didn’t have space in their car for me. So I put my best puppy face on. I start begging and…it works! She lets me in. I sleep very comfortably that night :)

Hrvatska and Crna Gora Part 1

Monday 6 September. Beograd-Zagreb. 4 hours. 6 cars. 3 pervs.

Yesterday I was talking to my guy housemate who is a hitchhiker himself. I told him about my plans to hitchhike to Zagreb. He was like, yeah cool, go for it, it’s easy to hitch in the Balkans. Then I speak to my girl housemate who was like, NO DON’T DO IT, it’s dangerous, there are so many creeps out there. Hmm…who do I listen to? I am torn, but go to bed thinking I will know what to do in the morning. This morning I wake up. Late. I remember my guy housemate telling me that you should start early when hitching. So, I was like, well, I guess the train it is then. I get ready and go to the station and ask for a one way ticket to Zagreb. With student discount. 33 freaking Euros! I’m like, no way I’m paying that! It was 10.30. So, at this point I was like, should I go for it or not? Will I dare to go out there. Alone. A girl. Hitching for the first time? I was like, f* it, I’m gonna try. It takes me another two buses and 1,5 hour later I arrive at my hh point. Well, actually I got off one stop too late. In stead of getting off at the highway, I end up in the middle of the next village. To get back to the highway, I stick my thumb out for the first time that day (for the first time in my life for that matter). A car stops almost immediately. An old man. I get in. Of course he spoke no English. And I still don’t speak much Serbian. But with the little I know, we have some small talk, before I know it we’re back at the highway (it was only a 1 minute ride). Wow, that wasn’t too bad. That went quite well actually. So, I’m pumped up for the next ride. I stick my thumb out and first car stops. A red car. Another old man. And again no English. He says he can take me to the toll station. I get in. we have some chit chat. Then he starts to look and get real excited telling me how he’s never met an Asian in his life. Let alone sit so close to one. In fact, the dude is so excited, he starts making me some ludicrous offers. Asking me for my hourly rate and shit. I’m like, WTF? I pretend I don’t understand him and try to direct his hands back on the wheel and eyes back on the road. But this creep doesn’t give up. No he pulls the car over to SHOW me what he means. I’m like f* it, I’m getting outta here. So there I was in the middle of the highway, toll station still a few kilometers away. Do I go back to Beograd? Or do I continue? I mean I’m pretty shaken up by all this. But I’m like I’m not letting this weirdo ruin this for me. So I stick my thumb out again. Car number 3 stops almost instantly, but about 100 meters away. I walk towards it. An old man gets out, leans against the car. He asks: so, do you want to work for me? I’m like, no not again. Why am I getting all these sickos? I don’t even stop and walk on. Thumb out. Car 4 stops. It has a Ljubljana license plate. Yeah, I think, this dude will go far, passing Zagreb probably. And yes. He says he will go to Zagreb. I get in. Again old man. No English. But he seems decent enough. We talk some. We stop at a gas station to get some gas and he buys me a juice. We continue. We talk some more. But then I’m pretty much talked out. I mean with my limited Serbian, I can only talk that much. So an awkward silence follows. And then Mr. Decent turns into my 3rd freak for the day. Getting all touchy feely and wanting more than just my sweet smile. No, this dude wants company. I’m like NE DIRAJ ME. NE JE NE. But this a*hole apparantly forgot all his Serbian. He is quite persistent. Then I get my phone out. Pretending to dial the cops and talk on the phone (you have to know that I don’t even know the number for the cops. Let alone where I was at that point. So it wouldn’t have made much of a difference if I knew either of the above). Anyways, this pretending to be on the phone keeps him quiet. And his hands to himself. For the next half an hour or so I keep ‘talking’ on the phone. Then he slows down. He goes to the exit, I’m like, now he’s either gonna take me into the bushes and kill me there and then, or he’s gonna kick me out. Clearly it was the latter, else I wouldn’t be sitting here telling you this story. He’s like, I’m not longer going to Zagreb, since you don’t want ‘to put out’. I’m like f* you, I can’t wait to get out of this car. So there I was halfway to Zagreb in the most abandoned of gas stations. But I didn’t care at that point if and how I was going to make it to Zagreb. I was too shocked. Come on’ 3 out of 4 cars were total pervs. The kind of people my lovely girl housemate warned me about. So, I take a few minutes to myself and freshen up. I get out of the toilet and I see there’s a car parked in front. An older couple. I ask where they’re headed. They say they will pass Zagreb. I’m like, can I please get a ride. They’re like, no, we have no space. I look at the backseat and there’s indeed a huge suitcase there. But I also see some space beside it. I’m like, I don’t care, I can squeeze my bit larger than average size ass in there. They’re still like, no, no space. Then I start to look desperate with puppy eyes and all (and I was really quite desperate at this point, knowing that not many cars stopped there) and start to beg to the lady. She starts to feel sorry for me. She looks at her husband with questioning eyes. Then they say yes, jump in! Yeah! This puppy eyes thing works! The next two hours were totally awesome and comfortable. We talked some. And before I knew it, we were at the exit for Zagreb. I get off. And thumb out. 6th car stops immediately. 2 guys. Thirties. Bold. Wearing sunglasses (and it wasn’t sunny in Zagreb ). Black leather jackets and pants. They ask if I’m alone. I’m like, do you see anyone standing beside me/hiding in the bushes? They’re like, if you’re alone, then get in. I’m like, should I..? I was like, f* it, I mean after those 3 creeps this morning, these guys can’t be all that bad. A few minutes into the ride, I’m starting to think I might be wrong, as they take a sharp left turn. “I just need to drop my friend here off at this warehouse, cause his car is parked here”, says the driver. I’m like, OK… Then we return to the main road. A few minutes later he takes another sharp turn to the right. He’s like, “actually I have to drop this car we’re driving in off, cause it’s a company car. But no worries, we’ll go to my car and I’ll drop you off in the center.” I’m like, OK…So we walk to his car and I’m like, I have a choice now. I can thank him for the ride and just leave. Or I can walk with him to his car and get in. As we approach his car, I look at his backseat. There’s a baby seat. I’m like, this dude has a kid. He can’t be all that bad. And he wasn’t. He was totally cool. Spoke English and delivered me in one piece at Zagreb’s main square. There, I sit down. And for the next half an hour or so all I do is just sit. Breathe. Look at the sky. The people. And basically just appreciating being here. Being alive. Having made it to Zagreb. Despite the many rides and a perv or two/three, I managed to get here quite quickly. It only took me a bit over 4 hours. Not bad at all for a first timer. But I say to myself: I’ll never hh again ;)

Saturday, 4 September 2010

What are the odds?

So, I was on my way back from Peja, Kosovo and I get stopped at the border. Turned out I was reaching my max of 90 day stay in Serbia. Next day, out of all the places I could go to (Timisoara and Osijek were some of the options) I get sent to Vukovar, Croatia because, well, why not?

In the bus to Osijek, I am starting to get nervous once we approach the border... Just give me a stamp already! But Serbia doesn't stamp me... Luckily Croatia does. But the stamp is so vague - nobody else could read it except for the guard who stamped it ("You see, you just have to flip your pasoš upside down and there you go"). I asked some fellow passenger if he could read the date and he looked puzzled. That's not a good sign. But the guard assures me that on the way back, his colleague will stamp it again, so I shouldn't have any problems... I get back on the bus, not feeling too sure, but well, the guard didn't want to stamp it a second time, even though I practically begged him, so what else could I do?

Back in the bus I start a conversation with this fellow passenger who helped me translate (because yeah, my Serbian still sucks). Conversation was good. So good so, that when we reach Vukovar I had to literally jump out of the bus, because we were so into it. As the bus drives away and I look up, I see it's gonna start to rain any second. I reach for my umbrella. Too bad I left it on the bus.

I check the return times of the bus and there's one at 14.00 and another one at 18.00. I decide to take the latter one, since well, I'm already here, why not explore this exciting town. I walk along the river and I hike up the hill to the church. Then I get a text message from this couchsurfer I contacted the night before. I didn't expect to hear back from this person, since well, my request was very last minute, but I gave it a try anyways and I only had enough time to contact this one couchsurfer.

So, the couchsurfer meets me at this church and the moment he walks up I'm thinking, this dude looks familiar... But I figured it was just because I recognize his face from the profile picture. We start walking and talking... And then we realize we were in the same city, in the same hotel, attending a similar training the week before! He remembered seeing me and I get an "Aha!" moment - this is why he looked so familiar. But we didn't talk then, no, first I had to get stopped at the Kosovo-Serbia border, then I had to travel to this random place on a whim, contact the first couchsurfer that showed up on the search - then we talked. And it turns out to be somebody I should have met a week ago! If that wasn't enough, we run into some of his friends on the streets (because well, Vukovar ain't that big, in case you didn't know) and turns out his friend and I have some common friends in Croatia, Serbia and Belgium! Don't tell me that this ain't a small world after all! I don't normally believe in coincidences, but this was one hell of a coincidence.

So, just before six this couchsurfer walks me back to the bus and we have some small talk in front of the bus, I look back at the bus and recognize the driver - same dude from this morning and he obviously remembers me as well as he makes this frantic 'stamping' hand movements. Yeah, I am that silly girl who begged for the guard to stamp me again.

I say my goodbyes to the couchsurfer and get back on the bus thinking, hmm...the driver is the same, so maybe the bus is the same. I look for my umbrella, but didn't find it. Then the driver walks up to me... with my umbrella :)

As soon as I sit down two dudes start talking to me, turns out they just came back from Osijek from some tennis tournament. One is a tennis player (he says he is the next Djokovic) and the other one is his personal trainer... We have some chit chat - they try to convince me they are twin brothers (one is tall, blond and blue eyes, and the other, well, let's just say the exact opposite ;)) and insist on taking me out for a drink. I guess you can say these are players alright ;)

Back in Belgrade, I sneek out of the bus before the players wake up from their beauty sleep and I think to myself: what a random day this turned out to be.

PS. Oh on the way back at the Croatian border - same guard from the morning.
PPS. And yeah, the stamp was really vague again.
PPPS. But this time he stamped me twice.
PPPPS. And I didn't even have to beg for it ;)

Californian Menu

Not so long ago MEC participated in the workshop "Animate It!" in Peja, Kosovo. It was part of the Anibar 2010 festival. The city was lovely - the mountain views were to die for. I could wake up admiring that view every single day. But there was something else that was to die for: the menu at restaurant California.

You see, you never got what you ordered, so you never knew what you would get. After a little while though, Vid, Maciek, Elena and I figured out the 'code':

Parmesan cheese = red chili sauce
Grilled salmon = poached white fish
Spaghetti Bolona = spaghetti Carbonara
Eurokrem = strawberry marmelade
Ice tea = hot tea

Unfortunately we never figured out what to order to get the things we wanted... And that was only the food we ordered. Imagine what other surprises the menu has in store :)

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Looking back

The 5th IYMS is over.

It all worked out in the end. In the words of the great master Vid: it doesn’t matter how we got there, we got there in the end. My group struggled, fought and battled our way through and managed to have a finished product in the end. Though, I am usually one of those who think the journey is more important than the end, in this case, I couldn’t wait to get there! All in all, I am pleased with what we delivered. All though the story we had in mind had a different ending, due to time constraints, we chose for this one. And it is a good alternative. Please give a big round of applause to Boca for his drawings on the first day, Vid for his drawings every day, and Nikola for the post production! I wanted these guys to be on the credit list, but unfortunately post production told me they had no time to fix it. Just know that I really appreciate your contribution – we couldn’t have done it without y’all :)

The other PSAs looked really good! What a great job they all did. Here is my rundown on the other 6:

Discrimination: loved the concept. Simple idea, but tells the story effectively. Great acting (didn’t know Diego could give such nasty looks ;) ) And boys, it looked like you had a hard time keeping up with Miomir ;)

Environment: wow, what a smooth animation that was, nothing compared to Democracy, but then again, with such a stellar team behind it, I didn’t expect anything less. Love the message and great sound effects by the way, Lael, didn’t know you could make such a convincing girl ;)

Health: loved the over-the-top, cheesyness of it all. If you’re going to make a comedy out of it, then go all the way, like the Health group did! It was definitely the most amusing one. The message was very clear and the actors: kudos guys – great job!

Poverty: loved the intercutting between the rich and the poor guy, very nicely done. The contrast – between the bright supermarket lights and the dark parking lot, big-ish guy (sorry) and skinny Vid, speed of walking from both guys etc – it was speaking volumes. The music really fitted the message as well. Great job Poverty – one of my favourites!

Violence: great soundtrack, message and acting. Vid, seriously dude, you should maybe rethink your career ambitions. Acting seems to come so easily and naturally to you. If you are one of the lucky ones who have seen some of the footage that wasn’t used – hilarious! Lea, the dog, really steals the show in those :) All in all, this PSA looked really slick, it was a complete package, from start to end with the animation, sound and credits. Definitely another one of my favourites :)

Youth: kudos to the post production team – the special effects in the dream scenes looked really amazing. It was nicely shot, so well done Youth!

And last but not least, here’s a shout out to the Documentary team: awesome job guys (and girls ;) ) Loved how you put everything together in the end. The flow and the soundtrack made the whole thing look really smooth.

So, that’s it for the 5th Summit. I enjoyed being part of it. I am pleased with my contribution and proud of the final product. It will be hard for the 6th Summit participants to top our PSAs – but I have no doubt they will.

PS. I will add the link to the documentary and PSAs as soon as it is available online.

Boys will be boys

The weather is hot and sticky. The work rooms are noisy and messy. I am frustrated and at the verge of having a nervous breakdown. This can only mean one thing: the IYMS is in full swing.

You see, I am ‘in charge’ of a group of 3 boys. Now, I do love kids (as you may have read in previous posts) and I love these kids, but boy what I would do to get rid of these bunch of ****s (I couldn’t come up with an appropriate word to describe them, so it’s up to your imagination how you finish those 4*) ;)

Boys being boys, they need supervision. I wish I could just leave them for two minutes to continue to work on the PSA, but unfortunately, when I leave the room, they think that’s a sign for Facebook or do whatever it is that boys do these days. They depend on me, which is a shame, because I know they can do it. What’s more, it is their voice that should be heard, their message that needs to be seen, not mine. With some (huge) amount of luck, we might just start animating tomorrow and who knows – we might even have a finished product by the end of the Summit. The quality and standard of that product though…well, let’s just say I’ll be more than pleased if these bunch of boys can come up with something that animates. And God, could I use some animation right now ;)

Keep your fingers crossed for the Democracy team :)

Monday, 9 August 2010

Final Catalog for the IYMS

Have a look at the final catalog that Vid and I designed for the IYMS which is starting in a few days...

Livin' On Tara

(These are the lyrics Sabina and I wrote to the tune of Jon Bon Jovi's Livin' On A Prayer, while we were on Tara. We planned to record it and make a music video. Unfortunately, circumstances prevented us from finishing the work. If we ever decide to finish it, you'll be the first to know :))

Friday at 6 we got on the bus
We had the whole day
To eat and play, it's tough...
So tough...

Then everyone gathered around
Thinking about a plan
What to script and film, for peace...
Oh peace...

We've got to hold on to what we've got
It doesn't make a difference if we make it or not
We got each other and that's a lot
For peace we'll give it a shot!

Oh, we're half way there
Oh oh, livin' on Tara
Take my hand, we'll make it I swear
Oh oh, livin' on Tara

The Greeks had an early start
The Iranians worked so hard
The Austrians looked the part, so smart
Oh so smart...

The Serbs were nice enough to open their arms
They invited us here, and someone promised
There's much music
But no sleep...

We've got to hold on to what we've got
It doesn't make a difference if we make it or not
We got each other and that's a lot
For peace we'll give it a shot!

Oh, we're half way there
Oh oh, livin' on Tara
Take my hand, we'll make it I swear
Oh oh, livin' on Tara

We gotta hold on ready or not
We live for the peace when it's all that we've got

Oh, we're half way there
Oh oh, livin' on Tara
Take my hand, we'll make it I swear
Oh oh, livin' on Tara

I left my heart in Tara Mountain...

I just came back from Tara. Spent ten days on a mountain with hundreds of kids (and even that was not enough)…

And I enjoyed every single minute I spent with those kids.

At times I did feel like a circus attraction, but I totally understand that for most kids I was the first Dutch person they had ever seen in their young lives. So, it wasn’t uncommon that whenever I stepped out of the door, I was surrounded and followed (one little fella even dared to follow me all the way into the toilet – don’t know what he was expecting to find/see there) by kids. Most of them were just curious, perhaps even flabbergasted by this strange looking creature (me). They didn’t get further than "Hello", but there were a few who were really fascinated and they tried to strike up a conversation.

The first little fella that approached me was Marko (a 13 year old – though he kept convincing himself that he was already 14 – he was born in '97 – call me crazy, but I think that makes him 13). Anyways, Sabina and I were sitting at the Windmill (one of our spots on Tara) and were chatting away, when Marko approached curiously and started to talk to us, in Serbian of course. I could get some of what he said, but the rest…that's what Vid is for! Marko was always ready to introduce me to his friends and explain to them that my knowledge of Serbian is limited. He was my personal little bodyguard.

Then there was Nebosja, 14, and he spoke fluent English. I was really impressed with his language skills and that of a lot of other youngsters that I met. I couldn’t speak English when I was their age, so I am really really impressed. Nebosja was a determined little fella, always waiting and ready to strike up a conversation. He wants to be an English teacher when he grows up. He was my personal little translator (and stalker).

Milos was another great 14 year old. Didn’t speak English, but always ready for a talk. I remember one of our conversations, where Sabina and I literally had to use our hands and feet to understand eachother. He was an orphan and currently waiting to be adopted. He was a really well-behaved little fella, with a love for cats and dogs. He helped me save the 3 little puppies that Sabina and I found somewhere in the bushes. He also enjoyed playing football. His big dream was to become a bus driver. He was my personal little hero.

Super sweet and very mature for her age Milica (12) kept making me little artistic thingies and drawings. She was my personal little fan.

Another very cute little boy was Aleks who joined his brother who was in the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra. He was only 11, but his English was perfect. Amazing! He made friends quickly with the rest of the MEC youngsters. He was my personal little cutie pie (if he was up for adoption, I would have adopted him immediately ;))

Every time I saw these little kids outside my building or running around the camp they greeted me – it was so cute and I will never forgot how welcome they made me feel. This is what I will be taking back with me from Tara.

The kids! They totally stole my heart.

Friday, 23 July 2010

In other news...

I was in the "news"!

Here, here and here.

The IYMS Catalog Part Deux

And here are the final-ish pages :)

The IYMS Catalog

This is what I have been working on for the past few weeks. It's the catalogue for the IYMS to be held here in Belgrade from 11-20 Augustus.

Vid helped me with the design and texts are written by all the volunteers.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

What's it gonna be?

It's too hot to write, so instead, I'm gonna leave you with some tunes. Summer tunes to be more exact. I am undecided. What kind of summer is it going to be?

Is it going to be a Cruel Summer?

because of The Boys of Summer?

Maybe The Summer is Magic?

Only time will tell... :)

Friday, 9 July 2010

We are the champions, my friends...

Just one more game left, and what a game it promises to be:

Spain vs Holland

If there are any two teams who deserve to be in the finals - it's gotta be these two. Both have shown some incredible football over the years, but neither have ever won the world cup. It was about time these two got a chance. Spain and Holland are considered two of the best football teams in the world who have never won the ultimate title in football.

And the irony: they are playing each other.

So, come Sunday one of them is going to grab the illusive cup. The other...will have to try again next time around.

Some of you may be surprised, but my bet is on Spain - wouldn't it be great if they could be the European as well as the World champions at the same time? That would just complete them.

Entonces, Vamos Espana!

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Team Jacob

The Twilight mania is in full swing and with Eclipse breaking all records, I figured it was time to get down to business and answer THE question: Team Edward or Team Jacob?

Without a doubt Team Jacob and this is why:

1. Wolfpack = 6 x 6 pack = 36 pack!
2. Who wants cold white folks like the Cullens, when you can have extremely
HOT, sexiness oozing wolves?
3. They eat. I eat. And besides blood is not really my thing…
4. They are alive.
5. They can turn into these awesome big ass wolves
6. Oh, and did I mention their 6 packs?

The only good thing about Edward is his awesome house, I mean that house is pretty ridiculously cool, but other than that, it’s Jacob all the way ;)

Friday, 25 June 2010

Democracy is YOU decide

This is my take on democracy for the 5th IYMS (International Youth Media Summit) which will be held in Belgrade from 11th to 20th of August 2010.

"Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home, so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person: the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world." -- Eleanor Roosevelt

Democracy. It’s such a powerful word. But what does democracy mean to me? What situations do I encounter that involve democratic treatment? Or don’t. How does it affect my everyday life?

Let’s say my friends and I are planning a girl’s night out. We are getting ourselves ready and discuss where we want to go and dance the night away. I want to go Plastik, but my girls prefer to go to Akademia. Who decides then where we are going?
In one scenario one person will ‘have to give in’ and do something they don’t want to do and in the other 3 people are doing something ‘against their will’. Is this a case of majority rule (after all it’s 3 against 1) or should every single person’s will be respected?

How would we solve this situation? We would probably make a compromise – going to Plastik first and then to Akademia or vice versa. This is a problem that’s easily solved.

But let’s look at another situation, one that’s a bit trickier:

Ben is 17 and just finished high school. He wants to take a year out/gap year, as he isn’t sure what he wants to do with his life. He is not sure if and what he wants to study. He just needs a break and he thinks the best way for him to get his priorities straight is to go backpacking in Australia for a year. His parents though, don’t want him to go. They think it’s too dangerous, irresponsible and besides they want him to become a doctor and insist he enrolls in medical school. But this is not what Ben wants; he wants to go to Australia. His parents tell him that if he wants to go to Australia he will need to pay everything himself, he will have to get a job and find another place to live. As long as Ben is living under his parents’ roof, he has to do what his parents want, they tell him. So, his parents enroll him in med school, even though this is the last thing Ben wants…

He is still a minor, so he has to do whatever his parents tell/want him to do, right?

Well, does he? I mean, doesn’t his opinion count just as much as his parents? Doesn’t he have the RIGHT to pick his own education/future? Yes he is still a minor and living under his parents' roof, but he should at least have a say - his parents should at least consider his will. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. Most of the time, the parent(s) will decide. And this is too bad.

To me democracy means having the possibility to determine your own life and future. The focus could be the youth’s RIGHT to VOTE for their PREROGATIVE. Democracy is YOU decide.

Democracy is one of the new issues introduced in this year’s summit. The society cannot ignore the power of the youth – they are the adults of tomorrow. They should not only be included in the society but have the opportunity to participate. And this is where the IYMS comes in – it gives them a chance to express their viewpoints and get them heard on a worldwide platform. This is why democracy is one of this year’s 7 issues.

The other 6 issues are directly related to democracy. There are countries where women are still seen as the inferior sex, whose traditional role is at home taking care of the kids. They still don’t always have the same possibilities when it comes to climbing up the ladder in the work environment. And I haven’t even mentioned the lack of women in politics. Women should have equal opportunities – it’s DISCRIMINATION if they don’t. Furthermore, it should not matter what your gender, age, ethnicity, culture, religion, education, and sexual preference is or whether you have a disability or not – everyone should have fair treatment. Each and every one of us should have the same rights and possibilities to access HEALTH care, whatever their financial situation is. Still too many people in the world are living in POVERTY and are experiencing hunger. Every person should have enough food, water and a roof over their head. Every single one of us should have the right to live in a violence and war free environment. VIOLENCE doesn’t sort any problems. If anything, it just creates more. We should all take care of the ENVIRONMENT by taking responsibility to reduce our ecological footprint, so that we all have access to clean water, food and air. What’s more important, we should make sure that future generations can enjoy a healthy planet.

Today’s YOUTH is tomorrow’s future. Therefore, it is important that young people are aware of the issues facing our planet. They should have the right to receive education, information and opportunities to develop themselves. They should have the right to have a SAY. After all, they (and their children and so on) are going to be the ones who have to live on this planet that we are destroying. And the beauty is that they have the numbers and the power to really have an influence and bring about a change. The big shots can’t ignore them if they all stand together and speak their mind. All the youth needs to do is get up and just do it.

"Young people should be at the forefront of global change and innovation. Empowered, they can be key agents for development and peace. If, however, they are left on society's margins, all of us will be impoverished. Let us ensure that all young people have every opportunity to participate fully in the lives of their societies." -- Kofi Annan

I hope that the participants will come with an open mind yet at the same time with ideas of their understanding of democracy and proposals for the PSA. It’s their VOICE that should be heard – it’s their voice that matters. And it’s their future that’s on the line. So it should be their choice what direction they want to go with regarding the PSA. After all, democracy is YOU decide.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Get Rid of Me!

Yeah, you heard me right, I want YOU to get rid of ME!

The good folks over at On The Go Tours are giving away a 6 month trip covering 18 countries. For FREE! They even throw in visas and pocket money! There's one catch though...

You've got to fess up to your sins. What is it about you that people can't stand? What makes them want to see the back of you?

Well, this is why YOU should get rid of ME:

So vote for me here

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Wax on Wax off

Those were the first few words that I learnt.

-OK, that’s not completely true, but it sounded nice.

The Karate Kid was the first film I ever saw. My older sister was completely and utterly in love with the actor playing the main character Daniel. All I heard every day was how cute Ralph Macchio was. When the movie was shown on TV, she of course taped it. And from then on, for the next two years to come, the only thing I would see on TV was The Karate Kid. I had no choice but to watch it.

-Heck, there was nothing else on TV, for all I knew.

Amazingly enough though, I didn’t get bored of it. It's surprising how much you can stomach as a child. I mean, you can play the same video over and over again, and still they don't get bored. Gosh, wish I could have kept some of that childlike endurance.

Despite the fact that I have seen it so often (I can basically cite you every single line in the film), I still like the movie. It’s just a feel good story. I always enjoy stories where the underdog wins. I cheer for the underdog. They rule.

Mr Miyagi. Daniel San. Bonsai trees.Catching flies with chopstick. Cobra Kai.You’re the best. The crane...

-Fond memories. They bring me right back to my childhood.

So, now they decided to remake the film. First thing that came to my mind: God, I’m getting old. Second: Don’t touch the Karate Kid – it’s perfect as it is. Third: I am so old. I just watched the new Karate Kid. It’s not a bad movie, and mini Smith is adorable and doesn’t do a bad job, but he and the film cannot compare to the original. It just cannot measure up. It may look much slicker in every possible way, but give me the original. I just cannot relate to Dre, like I could to Daniel, after all Daniel brings me right back to my youth. And Dre? Well, he just makes me feel old.

-I think it’s time to wax off.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Wake me up when September ends

OK, I am just going to say it: I miss snow! I love snow. I want snow. Like right now.

As much as I hated it this winter - this heat is ten times worse. It's suffocating. It's killing me. I mean, if you're cold, you can do something about it. Wear some extra layers. But when it's 35+ degrees outside...I mean you can take off all you want, but it doesn't make any difference. I still sweat like a horse.

I am not used to this heat. I am from a country where it rains. A lot. A place where it gets to 30 degrees max. And that's only from mid July to let's say mid August. And only for like 3-4 days in a row tops. Then it starts raining again. And there's usually this nice breeze, bringing some much appreciated FRESH air from the sea.

That's the kind of weather I am used to.
Not this. Not what I'm experiencing here in Belgrade.

I mean, how do you cope with this? Really, I would like to know.

All I am doing right now is surviving. I am doing my best to avoid the outdoors during the hottest time of the day. That means I leave home at around 8.30ish and get back after 18.00. In between, I'm mostly hiding in some building. Preferably air conditioned. The supermarket has become the hottest place to be. It is like one of my favourite places to hide out. And in particular the freezer section.

Yeah, I know that sounds pretty pathetic.

There is one thing I don't understand though: The overcrowded buses/trolleys.
Why would anyone put her/himself through that?

I mean, in the winter, OK, I get it, not everyone likes to walk in snow. But now, when I see all those people stacked on top of one another, it gives me the chills. All I can think about is stickiness. Sweatiness. BO.

Just thinking about it, makes me wanna jump in the shower.

It's Friday night and here I am sitting at home, while everyone is out, partying and what not. Do I feel like I am missing out?

Hell no. I'd much rather lay on bed, in my cool room, reading some good shit, then sweating my ass off in some stuffy bar. I'm going to hibernate until the summer ends.

In the words of Greenday:

Wake me up when September ends.

PS. If you need me before September, you can find me at Maxi. At the freezers just on the left.
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