Is it the unseasonable cold, I wonder, curling under my only sweater? Maybe the cigarette smoke lingering in the corners of the office? Perhaps it is this rain that settles in my hair in the morning and slides off into blue skies in the evening… just in time to reveal the sun kissing the river as I walk the long, straight road home. Whatever it is, I am restless. I fidget in my chair and bounce between news sources, an attention-deficit chipmonk among the acorns, filling my cheeks with nuggets of news-worthy. But then, only a matter of days into my new internship at the Dženo Association, less than week into my residence here in Prague, “settled” is not what I should expect to be.
I was nervous before I arrived. Nervous that I did not know enough. Nervous that I didn’t understand (the issues, nevermind the languages). New-kid nervous. So I read a book someone recommended, poured over my organization’s website, and tried (unsuccessfully) to cram some key Czech phrases into my head. None of that matters now.
Everything I thought I understood about Romany issues (and Czech phonics) has another side I had not considered. “Travellers” are not necessarily Roma. And the Roma are not necessarily travelers. They are the Romany People, not the Romany Community. (The word “Community,” it is said, is a dividing strategy.) Etcetera. But then, I guess that if anything, to be unsettled really is what I had expected. To learn and relearn.
I spend my days at the office plowing through dozens of news alerts on Roma, Gypsies, and Romany-anything, weeding out the articles on Rome’s soccer club, pizza joints, and tomatoes. (How can there be so many people writing about tomatoes?!) I research and cross-research the subjects. And I write. I write a lot. I’m actually very excited that the pieces I’m working on are all being published on Dženo’s website. Apparently others, however, fail to share my excitement.
I received a chiding just-cool-enough-to-be-professional message today from a member of a British local council regarding an article that I had written. The article dealt with Roma being evicted from their own land in the UK. Naturally, the gentleman pointed out, I did not understand the issue. My first reaction? An enlightened “racist” under my breath, followed by a “humph”. What did his council really do to “help the families find an alternative”?
My second reaction? He’s right. Regardless of whether Roma and Travelers are being discriminated against all over the UK and Europe, and regardless of whether this particular council did wrong this particular time, I still really don’t understand every side of the debate.
Or of any of the debates. It’s impossible. I can plan an article that criticizes the British government in the morning, and realize I may not have looked at every facet in the afternoon. I can wear a sweater against the rain in the hours after dawn, and squint into the sunshine in the evening. I can learn and relearn. With certain issues, I realize – issues that go back centuries, issues I have never lived with or near – I may always be a “new kid.”
Posted By Stacy Kosko (Czech Republic)
Posted Jun 18th, 2004