Today I was reminded that some people are very skeptical of blogs and I found myself questioning the purpose of this site. About eight months ago, I started to write with very low expectations in terms of readership. No one is more surprised than I am to see that there were over twenty-eight thousand visits so far, and after more than forty posts, I think this is a good time to question my objectives.
Looking through my past entries that differ greatly in topic and style, I certainly consider some more successful than others. When I first moved to Poland and began writing, it was impossible to overcome my perspective as a tourist and this is reflected in early posts on museums and Krakow in general. Some of my later posts merely point out an artist that I love, such as Dan Perjovschi, or a book that I could not put down, like Love Thy Neighbor by Peter Maass. Although I was hardly critical, these entries were meant to make recommendations to others with similar interests, and later even influenced some brief correspondence with both the artist and author. My family at home loved reading an entry explaining Polish Christmas traditions, and writing it certainly put me in the holiday spirit. Sometimes although not often, I just feel like sharing a funny video with my East Europe-loving friends, like The Estonians, or I am happy to see that people worked very hard to compile a bibliography specifically on Bosnia, and I want them to have as much publicity as possible. Entries on Ante Pavelic or the Jewish community in Bosnia took on a historical perspectives and after my vacation to the Baltics, I felt like making some hostel and restaurant recommendations to other travelers. None of these posts are meant to seem very original, but they reflect what I am thinking about or considering at a particular moment.
Least successful posts are the results of moments of excitement, like when I first thought about education in Bosnia. Readers probably wondered what point I was trying to make in the stream of consciousness found in Teaching Nationalism. Although the post is not very successful in itself, this initial brainstorming led me to my master’s thesis topic, which is on the international involvement in education reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Later I would excitedly come across an interesting article about the new textbooks in Kosovo, and with only one source about the study, my post ends up summarizing. This is probably not so useful. Sometimes I am responding to current events in the region and merely adding to the mainstream media already available, as in the case of the post Arbeit Mach Frei (after the sign was stolen from Auschwitz), or A Long Road for Serbia… (after Serbia finally submitted its EU membership application).
On the other hand, I am particularly proud of some of my posts. For example, Child of a Dictator explored the life of Valentin Ceausescu, discussed recent history of Romania, and commented on a news story from Bucharest all in one entry. A Need for Truth is my most clicked on post, and it combines personal experiences with many current issues in the Balkans, and expresses my hopes for the future. Writing about my experience in the Tolerance March in Krakow generated some interesting commentary from readers, as did Waste of Space, on the Parliament Palace in Bucharest. My mouth watered as I wrote about barbeque in the Balkans and my friends seemed to enjoy reading the descriptions of burgers, so sometimes I think a little fun is okay. Also, it was a pleasure for me to speak with Savo Heleta after reading his book. This conversation provided a nice addition to the site, as well as a memorable experience in my exploration of Bosnia.
So…what exactly is my point with this site? I’m certainly not trying to present myself as an academic or authoritative source on the subject matter, and some posts are more original than others. Sarah, a PhD student who blogs at Café Turco wrote about the sense of community that stems from blogs like this one that has a small audience. Her site provides a great model for me in the way that she combines personal experience with well-researched articles. Mark O’Hoare (Greater Surbiton), a professor and author of several books on the former Yugoslavia, teaches me a lot through his highly analytical and academic articles. A friend of mine who writes in Spanish at Balkanidades impresses me and amuses me with his insightful thoughts on the intricacies of society in the Balkans. Also, I have connected with other master’s students (Historiographic Anarchy) and travelers (Gina’s Polish Complex, Jeff Warner). Sometimes its lonely having a marginal interest like the former-Yugoslavia, but writing this blog has made me realize that other people share my passion, and I learn a great deal from these connections.
Reading over past entries made me assess my goals with this website. Because I am constantly and enthusiastically reading about this region, I will continue to recommend my favorite books, artists, Balkan meat dishes, and tourists destinations, hoping to spread my love of East Europe. Eventually I would like to develop a page of resources on the internet for others interested in these topics. Also, I would like to continue to connect with other people interested in the former-Yugoslavia, and East/Central Europe in general. I strongly encourage comments and criticisms, which can be added to the left of each entry. Also, I would like to track my own learning as I try to navigate through this field. As the title implies, this site reflects my educational and personal journey. I spent four months living in Serbia and I am now in my tenth month living in Krakow. Soon I will move to Bosnia to stay indefinitely, and I look forward to learning and experiencing much more in the region in the near future. Although currently a novice, I would like to challenge myself to comment on politics in the region and to be more critical in my writing. Expressing my opinion on this site (even with varying degrees of research or success) has taught me a lot so far. Someday in the future while living and working in Bosnia, I hope to look back on these early entries and cringe at my naivety. For now, I will continue this project and keep on learning.
Thank you very much to those reading, and as previously mentioned, feedback is always very helpful.