“Get ready to hit the ground running once you arrive to Belgrade.”
Rachel Long, an American interning for the Women in Black Network in Belgrade for the last eighteen months, wrote these words to me in an e-mail shortly before I departed from the U.S. I didn’t really believe her until I arrived to Serbia and saw myself doing just that. My experience thus far with the Women in Black can best be described as a high speed chase. They’re running ahead, and I’m just trying to keep up behind them.
On Saturday morning, Rachel and I took a four hour bus ride to the city of Bôr in eastern Serbia to meet with the other members from the Women in Black for a conference on fundamentalism. The women instantly greeted us with kisses, hugs, and warm handshakes, very happy we had arrived.
One woman asked me what I did in the states and why I had chosen to come to Serbia to work with the Women in Black. Knowing that I had Rachel as a translator, I gave the woman the only answer I could come up with. I told her, “I work for the Advocacy Project in DC. We’re a non-profit organization that sends graduate students abroad to work with grass-roots organizations in order to help strengthen their mission through information dissemination.”
Not realizing I had used every buzz word in the book, they both broke out into uncontrollable laughter. “Fancy” was her response. “Your organization sounds very fancy.” Rachel then confirmed my thoughts by saying that “fancy” has a rather pejorative connotation in Women in Black. “Great,” I thought, “this is a great start.” I worried, “how am I going to get my thoughts across if I can’t even cross this language barrier?”
After that cultural stint, I realized I had to change my tactics and to simply lighten up. As I met each woman, I realized how fiercely independent, intelligent, and incredibly good-humored each one is. They loved to complement me and poke fun at me, almost simultaneously. It was really great fun – and I’m very excited to work with such an energetic group of people, each determined to make a difference.
Posted By Gail Morgado
Posted Jul 1st, 2007