Assessing the Purpose of this Blog

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.

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    • David Ehrenpreis
    • May 26th, 2010

    NEVER apologize. Especially when you do something original, thoughtful and gutsy. You better not look back at cringe. You’ll look back and be impressed at how you had the courage to stand behind your convictions and think through complex issues and ideas in a public forum. “Wow” you’ll say, “I did good!”

    • Uncle Ed
    • May 27th, 2010

    Chris, I “cringed” when I read the word “indefinitely”. As your Aunt would say,”you go girl”.

    • Iza
    • May 27th, 2010

    I think it is not a bad idea to include something like this in your blog. Since it’s been several months and many posts since you started, it makes a good marker and evaluation point. It’s also a very nice summary of what you’ve done so far, pointing out some of your ‘greatest hits’. This makes it easier for newcomers to find these fantastic entries 🙂

    I also hope you can get some feedback from other bloggers and their thoughts on evaluating themselves. Since I’m only a reader and not a writer, I can’t really comment much more…

    Keep up the good work! It is definitely helpful for someone like me that is interested in Central and Southeast Europe but limited knowledge of the Balkans.

    • Oscar
    • May 27th, 2010

    I’m not surprised at all by the success of this blog, I knew you needed a way to take out your thoughts and collect them, and also a vehicle to share it with other people interested in the region.

    I think you’re doing an awesome job, despite the sin of being in Krakow and not not writing anything about the death and funeral of Lech Kaczynski 🙂

    • Christine
    • May 28th, 2010

    Thank you for the encouragement! I was hoping to hear which type of entries were most interesting to readers, as I am trying to figure out the direction this site should take. I received some negative response and felt like I should evaluate my goals here.

    @ David – Perhaps ‘cringe’ was too strong of a word choice however the Balkans are complicated. Hopefully in a few years I will speak the language, have work experience in the region and have an in-depth understanding of the history and politics.

    @ Uncle Ed – Miss you!

    @ Iza – Your comments are always appreciated. Feel free to suggest Polish or terrorism-related topic ideas 🙂

    @ Oscar – Thanks for encouraging me to start this website in the first place. And as for the Kaczynski funeral – I had the memorable experience of attending the events with the rest of Krakow and I will never forget that day. Still, I was/am not able to speak about the feelings of the Polish nation. I tried several times to write about the plane crash and never could finish it.

    • Cait
    • May 29th, 2010

    Bravo Chris, Bravo! Even if you do ever look back and cringe that’s OK. Life is a learning process and you have learned a lot. And you still have so much more to learn. I do miss you daily and will continue to miss you but you got such an amazing opportunity with going to school in Poland and now living in Bosnia. I am proud to call you my cousin. Good Luck.

    • Christine
    • May 30th, 2010

    Thanks Cait! I certainly have learned a lot in the past year. Thanks for reading. I miss you too!

  1. Wow. I’m blown away by the quality of your writing, Bednarz! This is all completely over my head, yet I find it incredibly interesting. Take that for what it’s worth, and keep challenging yourself!

    • Sarah Correia
    • July 13th, 2010

    Your blog is really good, and very much worth reading. Besides the sense of community that I mentioned on the post you quote, there is also the brainstorming that blogging stimulates, the development of writing techniques and especially the sense of satisfaction of an accomplished task every time we post. Keep on with your excellent writing, I only wish I’ll soon have a bit more time to catch up with those of your posts which I haven’t read yet…

    • Christine
    • July 16th, 2010

    Thanks for the encouragement, Sarah!

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