I have now called Skopje my home for two months, 8 whole weeks of immersing myself within the culture of not only Macedonia, but of the Balkans, and countries outside the region as well. I’m trying to think back on the moment I boarded the plane in Salt Lake City that would start my journey to this country, and I can’t even remember it. I think that’s a good thing though; I’m living here in the moment.
For some reason, over the past few weeks, I have become more cognizant about what it means to be an American in the different countries I’m travelling to, whether it’s on the streets, in the office, or within the social scene. In a bit of a funny way, I was literally faced with these thoughts when I was in Budapest this past weekend: a shop selling traditional “American” food. I put American in quotation marks because, as you can see….. there’s British flags on the window. I didn’t have a chance to pop into the shop, but the window told the story of Americans loving soda, junk food, sweets, etc.
It actually made me laugh, to look at the window, filled partially with products I had never seen before and others that were on the shelf of every Walmart, but it actually sparked a serious thought in my mind of what people think about Americans here in the Balkans. I find that it’s so easy to slip into talking about what I miss about the USA, what is different, and what is life like is there. This is especially true when I talk to my coworkers in casual conversation. So much about what they think about Americans is shaped by the media they consume, which isn’t always totally accurate. Then again, the media we consume about other people isn’t always accurate either.
Work has been very busy, and a project I’ve been working on is now coming to fruition. I’ve written an article about the effects of social media on the visibility of human rights issues in Macedonia, and what the future might hold. Part of this article is comparing the growth of social media and its presence here versus that in America, which is just another way I’ve been reflecting on what it means to be American. The article is due on Friday, and I’m just about done with it. Updates to come when it is done!
This past weekend, myself and Halle (other UMich intern) took a flight to Budapest, Hungary for a three day weekend. Everything about the trip was amazing – Budapest is a city filled with just so much to do and not enough time. Every other trip we have done so far has been planned by Halle (shout-out to her for being the best!), but I took the reigns on this trip and things actually turned out well! The food we ate was incredible, the art and architecture we saw was incredible, and I am now counting down until the next time I can visit. Pics of St. Stephen’s Basilica can be seen below.
Overall, I am looking forward to coming back to the USA. All of this travelling and living abroad has made me appreciate the ease of living in your home country. While it has been fun to get out of my comfort zone, I’m ready to be back! Only a few weeks to go, and until then, Skopje will still be my home.