“So how is work?” my family and friends keep asking me. “Work? What’s that?” I keep responding. Although I was supposed to begin my internship last Thursday (and then Friday, and then again today) my NGO has been continuously giving me minor tasks and sending me away. They were waiting until another intern from Columbia University arrived to truly have me begin working, as our research will be largely complementary. I am happy to say that I will finally be starting my internship for real tomorrow, but during the past week I have simply been wandering the city.
And man, Zagreb is quite a city to wander. It has countless fountains and a massive amount amount of green space. And this green space does not go to waste. On every park I have seen, there has been some sort of accompanying festival. They have featured food, dancing, magic shows, concerts, and more, and I have done my best to glimpse them all. Zagreb is truly a beautiful and bustling city.
I kicked off the week by learning to grocery shop. Not exciting, I know, but as a rising sophomore this is a skill I have never acquired — I have always had my parents or a dining hall. Not to mention the massive market in Zagreb, Dolac Market, which creates a new twist in grocery shopping. On my first day here, my flatmate’s boyfriend (who was visiting) and I attempted to buy a few potatoes. 10 pounds of potatoes later we realized that we did not understand how kilos work.
Early in the week I attended a living library event with my flatmates where we first encountered a young journalist. He explained Croatian history to us, and spoke to us about the many problems in the Croatian education system. We also met a Nigerian prince, legitimately named Prince, who had to flee his country when threatened by an Islamic extremist group. Before fleeing the country, however, he witnessed the death of his brother. After seeing his brother killed, he had to run and hide in dirty water that, while it made him sick for months, ultimately saved his life. Although in the States I constantly hear about atrocities in Africa and Islamic extremist groups, I have never met anyone personally connected to these issues. Speaking to Prince reminded me that these issues have real faces behind the numbers and words of newspapers.
I also attended a protest this week regarding the aforementioned issues of Croatian education. Although I am aware that protests can be dangerous, this one was well monitored by security guards and was the repeat of a peaceful protest that happened last year, and it was very unlikely to become out of control. I feel lucky to be in a place where I can witness early forms of democracy take place without fear. With Croatia being such a young democracy, it was extraordinarily meaningful to see so many hundreds of people speak up for their beliefs.
Although all of this free time has been ideal for overcoming jetlag and discovering my surroundings, I am thrilled to finally begin working tomorrow. With week one under my belt, I am excited for my opportunities to continue to multiply as my time here continues and my internship begins.