Our final, and biggest assignment, of this study abroad is our Disputation. It is essentially a form of debate where three teams are set up to debate in pro, con, and judge. The question that my group was fortunate enough to receive poses the question about the executive power of the Office of the High Representative (OHR) and its role in BiH. The OHR was written into the Constitution with the Dayton Accords, nearly twenty years ago. They were sent in to keep an eye on BiH leadership and corruption within the gov’t. They were able to exercise their rights of Bonn Powers which meant they could remove anyone, even a President (there are three [one Bosniak, one Serb, and one Croat] at any given time) from office. However, they gave up those powers in 2006 and have done very little for the country since. Our disputation question asks whether or not they should pull out and what the consequences would be for BiH. The Pro side will argue for OHR to pull out of the country, the Con side will defend the role of OHR, and the judges will pose difficult questions to both sides.
Naturally, this is a very difficult issue that I have not even really begun to explain, though have done my best to sum it up clearly in as few sentences as possible. We are unsure of the side we will have to take , so in preparation we must research all sides. This is a very interesting and tedious task, one I am not used to as I have had very little experience with similar activities. I am absolutely learning something very new everyday and, depending on how the final goes, I am considering joining ModelUN this fall!
However, this does not mean that each day has been easy. I am in a team of five, each person who is unique and has a lot to offer the team, yet we really struggle to perform at our best everyday. Our Professor spent part of a lecture on how groups perform and the pattern in which that will come. First you form, then storm, norm, and finally perform. Though we had some very harsh storms at the beginning, we began to norm, yet we still seem to be on the brink of storming and performing, which seems to have become our default norm.
Trying to write one cohesive paper, let alone form an excellent debate is a new challenge everyday. Throughout all the work we have done together, we always seem to run into the issue of appearing to see things from different points of view. There always seem to be anywhere between two and three view points. It is constantly flip-flopping, but today I had quite the realization. We are Bosnia.
We all come from different backgrounds and have different opinions, yet we manage to form into two or three groups and storm against each other until one decides to give up and let the other two have their way for the time being. But then the next day, another problem comes up, and without compromise, one or two groups get their way by steamrolling everyone else.
And this is exactly what we have been studying for the past four weeks. We have had so much dialogue about why and how it got this bad. We have even gone so far as to write an entire paper on a plan for BiH to begin to have a more civil society through civic duties and conversations. Yet here we are, sipping our espressos and eating our sopskas, so far removed from the situation, falling into the same trap that they have. I am mortified at our hypocrisy.
Tomorrow, I would like to moderate my group with the hopes of finally being able to integrate everyone into one conversation without the idea of being on different levels or opposite sides of the coin.
Today, we visited The Communist Museum here in Belgrade. It was actually inside the former HQ for Communists and their interrogation needs which was eery, but it was very interesting to learn more about how Communist Yugoslavia really affected the citizens in the region. After reading “Burn This House” I saw Tito portrayed as a hero and savior to many people. I had no idea, I suppose this is my fault since I did not even bother to google it, that more than 56,000 people were killed and many more were placed in Tito concentration camps. As many people were affected by the good side of Tito’s Communist Yugoslavia, just as many were losing family members overnight to camps, or being given away as traitors by innocent family members, who just wanted the torture to stop. It was similar to other memorial museums I have been to, yet I was not prepared in anyway. Of course it wasn’t nearly as bad as the Holocaust or Srebrenica memorials, but as I was expecting a museum praising the communist times here in Belgrade, I was definitely a little shocked.
On a lighter note, we found a 24 hour falafel place that I am addicted to. Two of my favorite jewish folks I’ve let here told me it is the best they have had out of Tel Aviv. I’ve been thinking a lot about the foods that I would like to be able to make at home, and though it’s not necessarily regional, falafel is definitely one of those foods, as I`ve realized how shitty the dining hall stuff is…. Fauxlafel as it has been officially dubbed by Jennie. Regionally, I will definitely be eating a sposka salad everyday for the rest of my life, but would also love to learn to make burek, trufije, and koh. Burek is a sausage wrapped in filo dough and deep fried, very specific to the Balkans. Trufije (sp?) are boiled apples filled with walnuts an cream and are to die for. I can’t even begin to describe koh but it is heavenly and when I figure out how to make it, you can all try it (all i know is there is dough and cream involved).