|One of our Gostivar delegates at the model UN|
Nations are rather like football teams. We proudly proclaim our allegiance, identify with our nation, and become 'different' from others not from our country. Yet it is a fairly recent phenomena. The United States acquired its boundaries in a number of ways, through wars that we won or reached a compromise about and through outright purchases. How did the people in those areas feel when suddenly they became a territory of the US instead of France of Spain? Americans felt we had a right to much of the land through 'Manifest Destiny'. Our country isn't even contiguous but hop-scotches around. But now our boundaries aren't contested, and we are Americans.
Other places weren't so lucky. Nations that didn't exist before were carved out by winners of conflicts from empires that collapsed or were defeated, often for political gain. People living there had little say. How did Afghanistan come into being? Do the Pashtuns and the Waziheris consider themselves Afgans, or is that just a citizenship dreamed up by Western nations. Have the Western powers forced this concept of nationhood onto a world that doesn't identify that way? How about Hungary? The Magyars didn't arrive until the 9th century, long after the Slavs had come through, and they are considered recent arrivals by the Greeks. Why isn't it called Dacia? Many problems in this region and in the world are caused by these artificial lines. But how else can we organize our world? I don't know. Anyway, enough meditation for today!
|Looking up at the King Mathias Church in Budapest|
|Looking down the forest path on Snake Island|
|Yep, there are snakes on Snake Island|
|View of Albania and village from the Island|
After coming back, Kerry and I along with a couple of other volunteers went down to Lake Ohrid and Lake Prespa on the southwestern border of Macedonia to visit the Museum of Water and Snake Island. The weather was perfect and the lakes were crystalline clear. We had to get a taxi from the nearest town and drive over a mountain on a dirt road to get to the village closest to the island and then hire a local fisherman to ferry us out to the island, which is part of a national park, and it all added to the adventure of the day. We tromped all over the island seeing turtles, Roman and byzantine ruins, nesting cormorants, and yes, snakes. It was a glorious day!