BELGRADE

After a 18 hours of flying, we finally made it to Belgrade in the early evening. We were originally supposed to have a group dinner together at a traditional Serbian restaurant but after 12 pieces of lost luggage and hours of waiting at the airport, everyone was just ready to go to the hotel. We stayed at the Hotel Slavija which is an old Soviet style hotel with a certain charm and character that you can’t quite understand until you stay a night there.

We unpacked quickly because we were all starving and ventured out into the city to find something to eat. Of course, since it was out first night in a new country we wanted to try something typically Serbian but once the sky showed that it was about to pour rain, we settled for a simple American style hamburger. This was our first experience with the language barrier that we would be dealing with for the next two weeks. Since none of could actually read what came on any of the burgers we all ordered by faith and just hoped for the best. Like I said, we were beyond hungry so we would’ve eaten anything at that point. Our burgers weren’t bad but they didn’t come with anything on them and in typical American fashion, we asked for ketchup right away.

Since everyones sleep schedules were messed up, we all woke up pretty early. Instead of trying to fall back asleep, a group of us went to find the one thing all tired travelers need…COFFEE. We found the cutest coffee shop on accident called Pizza del Caffe that soon became our favorite spot. We walked in and and we so surprised to find such a chill atmosphere. Oh and the high speed wifi was also a plus. At first, we were all going to order a basic drink but thanks to someone asking what a drink was on the menu we all became OBSESSED with the Cappuccino Med Pomordranza- an orange honey cappuccino.

Next up was our sight seeing tour of Belgrade. The first stop was The Church of Saint Sava which is one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world. We went on a good day because there was some sort of performance going on with a lot of cute dancing children so it was a nice glimpse of Serbian religious culture!IMG_4196IMG_4213IMG_4216IMG_4199Processed with VSCO with v5 preset

After this we took a short lunch break and my friends and I went to a place called Burrito Madre. It was essentially a Serbian Chipotle but much much MUCH cheaper and I’m sure a a lot healthier. We continued our sightseeing by walking to Sava River. The view was so gorgeous especially since it was right in the middle of the day.

From the Sava River we walked to the Belgrade Fortress AKA where everyones new Facebook profile pictures were taken. The view from the fortress was amazing! The sky was so blue and clear so you could see for miles and miles.

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We ended the day by walking around the city to Knez Mihailova which is the fancy shopping street and then went to dinner at a traditional Serbian restaurant. They brought out HEAPS of food so all of the many miles of walking we did all day was worth it.

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Our second day in Belgrade we went to the Palace of Serbia and had a tour of all of the different rooms. We also spoke with some people from the Ministry of Youth and Sport about different programs that Serbia has to keep its youth engaged and learned more about Serbian life from the governments perspective. We also went to the National Bank of Serbia and got a tour of the museum. No pictures were allowed but if you’re ever in Serbia I would definitely recommend going! I never knew the history of currency and the Serbian economy could be so interesting.

We finished the day with dinner on the river and while we had a lot of struggles ordering food since we didn’t know Serbian and the waiter didn’t know English, in the end we all enjoyed our meal. It really served as a reminder of the importance of having some basis of a country’s language before you visit. It’s easy to assume that someone somewhere will always speak English which is true in most places, but it’s always best to be prepared  to tackle the language barrier.

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On our way walking back to the place where we got taxis, we passed a skatepark with this on the opposite side. For some reason, it took me by surprise that Serbian teens were so much like Americans when it comes to the different social scenes and pastimes, especially with something as niche as skateboarding. IMG_4296

We left Belgrade for a week to go live with our host families in different cities but we came back and spent some more time in the city afterwards. We went to our favorite coffee shop one last time and ended up at the Museum of Yugoslavia. I definitely went crazy with how many pictures I took there so I’ll post those in a separately. One of the things I loved most about Belgrade was all of the graffiti around the city! I know very few Serbian words so I’m not sure if any of these walls say explicit things but let’s hope they don’t! IMG_4405IMG_4406

This piece of Serbian flag colors was one of my favorites because of how simple yet powerful it was. One thing I learned about Serbians is that they are super proud to be Serbian and they know a lot about their history and language. There’s such a rich and long history of Serbia and its people and they take pride in their culture and are so ready and willing to share it with anyone who is interested. Anytime I asked a question about something that happened in Serbia or the surrounding area recently or thousands of years prior, someone had an in depth answer. IMG_4410

I can’t wait to go back to Belgrade because there’s so much more I wanna see and so much more food I wanna eat!

-Kanisha Lucille

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I WENT TO ITALY….KINDA

When I saw that our layover was in Rome, I couldn’t have been more excited! Even though I know we would be stuck in the airport for 2 hours it’s still Rome right? Our first layover was in Miami and we flew Alitalia and I guess I didn’t realize that we were flying an Italian airline so I was shocked when a majority of the flight was not in English. It was so weird to not have my native language be the primary language but I know a little Italian so I could tell what was going on for the most part. It was nice (and refreshing) to be reminded that not everyone in the world values English over everything else.

IMG_4180Of course, I had a middle seat right between two older men. They spoke very little English but they were super kind! One of the men was more talkative than the other and he asked me if I was moving to Rome. I told him that I was only going to Rome for a layover and that Serbia was my final destination. He looked so concerned and a little confused when I told and immediately asked “Do you parents feel safe with you going to Serbia?” I tried to explain to him that I was going with a group from my school (we weren’t sitting together so I looked like a lone traveler) but something got lost in translation and he was convinced that I was going to Serbia to meet up with a foreign lover. The flight itself wasn’t bad and the 9 hours went by quickly. It was a mixture of watching movies, trying to sleep sandwiched between two men, and feeling really fancy that I was able to order wine on the plane with no ID. 

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We landed at Fiumicino Airport and I immediately started saying “Ahhh, it feels so good to be in the city of Rome!” Of course I was saying it a bit sarcastically since we couldn’t actually leave the airport. Fiumicino was literally like a high-end mall so it was easy to forget that we were in an airport. We found a nice coffee shop to give us somewhat of an authentic Italian experience and the cappuccino was AMAZING (and cheap). Unfortunately, the airplane food filled us up and we didn’t have the stomach space for any pizza. I can’t wait to visit Italy one day and actually visit something other than the airport. Until then, I can say that I had Italian coffee in Rome!

Ciao,

Kanisha ❤

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I’M GOING TO SERBIA

Zdravo priijatyelijoo! If you’re reading this that means I’m in the process of making a very long (18 hour) journey to Serbia!!! I haven’t told many people but for the next  two weeks I’ll be participating in a cultural exchange with other delegates from my school. I’m so excited and thankful for such a unique way to explore Serbia. I know what most of you are thinking…. Why Serbia? I had that same exact initial thought so below I have the purpose of the program.

“We aim to build bridges between US American youth and Balkan youth through cultural immersion, fulfilling service, mutual respect, and active research with hopes to foster sustained dialogue on political, social, and economic issues.”

As Americans, we typically have no clue that countries like Serbia even exist. Our focus when it comes to Europe is centered on Western countries like France and the United Kingdom but there’s so much more to the continent than the Eiffel Tower and London Eye. Now don’t get me wrong, if you know me you know that I ADORE France but I do think its important to learn about Eastern European countries as well.

While in Serbia, of course I’ll be taking a million pictures to share with all of you! I’m also going to be keeping a journal of my experiences and hopefully transfer those into blog posts!

Peace out America!

 

SELMA

“They held no elected office. But they led a nation. They marched as Americans who had endured hundreds of years of brutal violence, and countless daily indignities — but they didn’t seek special treatment, just the equal treatment promised to them almost a century before.” – Barrack Obama 

The District of Columbia

Washington D.C. is without a doubt becoming one of my favorite cities! The first time I visited was on a family trip (so basically nothing but monuments and all of the touristy things you can do in 2 weeks time). It was hot, crowded, and I didn’t have much I wanted to see besides Georgetown Cupcakes and everything JFK related the city had to offer. During my most recent visits, I’ve been able to see a more authentic side of the city and I absolutely love it! From all of the international food and cute coffee shops to the sensational cultural scene, there’s so much more to D.C. than the historical landmarks and government buildings.

 

MLK Day in Birmingham

I’ve found that going to school in Alabama definitely has it perks, especially when it comes to visiting historical sights. I’m guilty of placing Atlanta at the center of the Civil Rights Movement but so much happened in Birmingham and really Alabama in general. This past Sunday (also Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday), I had the privilege of attending a church service at the 16th Street Baptist Church. For those unfamiliar with the history of the 16th Street Baptist Church, in 1963 the KKK bombed the building and killed 4 little girls attending Sunday school and injured around 22 others. Today, the church stands as a National Historical Landmark and continues to have weekly services.

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Being in this church reminded me just how important the role of the Church as a meeting place and  Christianity itself was during the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was not just a well educated activist, he also attended Crozer Theological Seminary to become a minister. We all know about his speeches and his marches but I think we often times forget that he did this with a Christian conscience. Does that mean that all of his beliefs came straight out of the Bible? Of course not. He studied numerous philosophers like Aristotle, Plato, and Locke and was influenced by the writings of Marx and the teachings  of Ghandi. But he did all of this with his faith in mind. He said himself that “the Christian doctrine of love, operating through the Gandhian method of nonviolence, is one of the most potent weapons available to an oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.”

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The most important thing to take away here is that social justice and Christianity go hand in hand. We see this not just from Martin Luther King Jr.’s life but also by looking at how Jesus lived his life. He didn’t just come to preach a message of salvation, he came to help those who weren’t being helped by their governments and religious leaders. Too often today, social justice is equated with a liberal way of thinking and looked down upon in conservative circles. These same circles that look down on social justice also claim to be Christian. But Christianity is more than just going to church and living your own personal life according to what you deem to be a moral standard. God explicitly tells us we have to care about other people. As if “Love one another as I have loved you” didn’t make it clear enough:

Micah 6:8 “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

This verse was mentioned at the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration service at 16th Street and it just so happens to be one of my favorite. It’s one of those verses that doesn’t need a bunch of dictionaries and interpretations to understand. God doesn’t just WANT us to act just justly, love mercy, and walk humbly, but he requires it! This doesn’t mean we all have to be out in the streets protesting and shutting down highways  (because it’s not for everyone) but it does mean we have an obligation to speak up against hate speech and injustices around the world and care for those who have been overlooked or targeted by society and help in anyway we can, just like Jesus did back in his day.