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Published: April 5th 2006
Today I decided it was time for me to speak my mind. Usually when I am confronted with a controversial topic, I tend to let the other person speak their mind, and if I disagree, I usually just keep quiet. I've been here in this small Austrian town now for about 7 months, and frankly that's too long for me to let people make perpetually offensive/racist comments and let them go on with their lives without thinking that they had said anything offensive.
Im Gegenteil! Tonight I was horribly offended by the dinner conversation. For Easter Break I intend to travel through the former Yugoslavia with 2 other people, both whom I would describe as highly intelligent. I would never step into such a foreign realm without being sure that I was in safe accompaniment. We plan to go to Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia, and we're planning on skipping the touristy deal on Croatia's coast, where mostly Austrians are. And now I'm really feeling I need a break from Austrians.
Anyway, my company at dinner tonight has been trying to convince me to go to Croatia (which we will undoubtedly do), and specifically only to the coast. Cool, the coast is nice, but I don't want to sit at a resort for 10 days and let Croatians serve me drinks with a saccharin smile, pretending they enjoy their life of servitude. I'd rather check out places where people don't have to pretend, that is, where people are people because they just are.
Somehow the conversation turned to communism and then to how it is sad that people are losing traditions, that only smart people hold onto their traditions, and finally that "America hat keine Kultur". I was following everything up until the discussion on communism (which means I wasn't ever following), and when the last comment was made, I raised my voice and pounded my fist on the table. For the first time I found myself seriously defending America as if I really felt it. I can't stand it when ignorant people make judgments. Then, the woman, who sort of played the role of Austrian mama to me, made a horrible generalization about people in the Balkans and I again couldn't help but tell her that I wasn't about to hold a Blatt vor dem Mund because I've been keeping silent long enough, that is, for 7 months. She shut her mouth immediately and stood up, cleaned the table, and stopped contributing her usual ridiculousnesses to the conversation. Instead, her husband continued, but when he made a dumb comparison with Africa we both felt it was time for me to leave.
A handshake and a superficial "viel Spass in Jugoslawien" later I was out the door, flabbergasted at the past hour's happenings. She made a very cheap play on words as I was walking out the door: "Serbien ist Sterbien" which for all you non german speakers, means "Serbia is where people die (out)". I'm not even sure what she meant by that. Ist eh Wurscht!
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