This summer I accomplished my personal goal to see every country in the Balkans (okay I still have Slovenia but they are pretty much central European at this point anyway so I don’t count them). And during my last trip and subsequent 16 hour bus ride back, I got to talking with a PCV friend of mine, and we came up with the most awesome analogy that I just had to share with you. It’s probably more of an extended metaphor, for you English buffs, but whatever. I’m calling it an analogy for simplicity’s sake.
So here goes. The clump of countries we loving call home in the Balkans are really way too similar to a typical high school class in the states. We decided that each country in the Balkans has it’s own distinct feel; it’s personality, if you will. And they all line up pretty well to American stereotypes.
You have Croatia: the pretty one. She’s beautiful and she knows it. So she struts the hallways showing off to the world. She won’t settle for anything less than the best and doesn’t have time for people she considers to be beneath her.
Next in line is Montenegro: the rich girl whose daddy takes care of everything and she’s had a credit card and cellphone since she turned 8. Naturally endowed with all the good things in life, she’s had very few struggles. People are always trying to be her friend since she has the best of everything, but she’s been stung a few too many times and is careful who she associates with.
Then you have Serbia: the bully. She’s the one who thinks she’s better than everyone else, even though deep down she’s no different. She’s constantly trying to tell other people what to do, and the sad thing is that most people tend to listen. And when she gets caught doing something she’s not supposed to, you’ll never see her confess. She always finds a way to spin the story to her benefit. She’ll never admit she’s wrong.
And then there’s Bosnia: the mixed kid who tries to fit into every clique in school and therefore fits into none. He tries really hard but never fits in, even though he’s actually really cool and later in life will be known for his good looks and intelligence (once he grows into them).
Farther south you have Albania: the poor kid who sits quietly in the back of class and doesn’t talk. The one who watches everything from a distance and never gets involved. Everyone makes up stories about him because no one knows the truth; he’ll never tell. He could be the coolest kid in class if only he’d stand up for himself and show his true colors. Meanwhile everyone just passes him over.
Albania’s only real friend is Kosovo: the one who always gets picked one. He’s the smallest in the class and the most vulnerable. Everyone wants a piece of him. They all use him as a punching bag to make themselves feel bigger.
On the other side you have Macedonia: the exotic one. She’s from out of town and everyone is curious to hear her story. She seems different on the surface, but deep down she’s just the same as everyone else in class.
Next to her we have Bulgaria and Romania: the twins. These two seem to do everything together. They look the same, talk the same, and dress the same but will swear til the end of time that they’re fraternal twins and not identical. They come from a middle class family that’s the ideal picture of America- 2 parents, 1 son, 1 daughter, 1 dog, 1 cat, and white picket fence. Compared to most of the others, they’ve got it pretty good so you’ll never hear them raise their voice (for good or for bad).
Last but not least (depending on who you ask), we have Greece: the stuck-up one. She thinks she deserves everything and is constantly trying to prove how good she is to the others. She wants everyone to like her, so most people in class think she’s trying to hard. She always wears the most fashionable clothes and shoes, even if she can’t afford them.
So there you have it. Just a humble world-traveling PCVs opinion on what the Balkans would look like if they were a high school class in America.
Disclaimer- ho hard feelings and no offense intended! If you read my blog you know just how much I love it here!
“It’s not better. It’s not worse. It’s just different.”