Saturday, December 04, 2004

Reality check

I can’t believe it’s already December. It seems like yesterday that I arrived here. No, really, it’s been three months. Tonight, it’s raining again. I have the metal shutters closed over my windows to keep the heat in, although it’s been damn warm for this time of year the past couple of days, and I have been lulled into staying home by the rhythmic plink plink plink of the raindrops. There was promise of a good party tonight, but somehow I can’t seem to pry myself out of my cozy little cave. I’m just not in the mood for socializing tonight. I watched The Deerhunter this afternoon, and it’s left me in a profound melancholy, pensive state of mind. It was like nothing affected these people. It was all so casual… “Oh we’re going to Vietnam tomorrow. Oh, we’re back except one of us lost his legs and most of his mind. Oh, Nick went nuts and shot himself in the head. God Bless America.” Nothing was the same but everything was at the same time. Something about that last scene really got to me. It seems like people that endure so much become absolutely numb and completely indifferent to the truly horrific. From my own experience, I can only compare it to the people here. When they talk about the war, it’s like it happened to someone else, like it was no big deal, like it happens everyday, because it did happen every day. A friend today was telling me a story about his life before the war. His family was very poor and they struggled for everything that they had. A group of men from his village needed to go into the woods to cut firewood for the upcoming winter, because firewood is not one of those things you go to the store and buy – you go cut it out of the forest. Except no one was allowed to be there - the woods were full of rebel soldiers and Serbian police. His job was to scout ahead and direct the cutters to unoccupied areas of the forest. One day he got caught by four armed policemen, and managed to talk his way out of it, saying he was looking for his lost cow in the woods. They let him go eventually, but held a gun on him until he was 100 meters down the road. He carefully circled back through the woods and got his people out of there. They could have just as easily shot him on the spot and no one would have been the wiser. 20,000 people are still missing from that war. I can’t even begin to imagine what these people have been through, it's like some kind of alternate reality. People’s adaptability to their environment is astounding to me. We moan and complain about taxes and inflation and unemployment, as if we have it bad, as if we truly suffer (And I know I’m guilty of it too.). We don’t know the meaning of the word. Living here is such an unbelievable reality check.

Through all the suffering and madness of the last five years these people are fiercely protective of their homeland, their way of life, their disappearing existence. For all the assistance the international community has given to Kosovo, it is also quickly eroding hundreds of years of traditions and values, as their society moves into the 21st century with the rest of the world. Some don’t even recognize that it’s happening to them, while others are deeply troubled by it, clinging to some last bastion of a memory of the way things used to be. Progress - it’s a strange thing. The Old World and the New World merging and becoming one… But at what price?

Ok, I’m getting myself all into a tizzy here. I’m going to stop for now, ponder the meaning of life some more, and get back to you when I come up with an answer better than 42. If anyone has any suggestions…

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