Pustolovina: adventure in Serbian

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Jesus, please save me from your followers

I have another film to add to my recently-started list of films that a soon-to-be returning American should probably avoid: ‘Jesus Camp.’ It’s an amazing, powerful, fascinating, horrifying documentary about American Evangelical Christian children. Can people really use war metaphors for spreading the word of God? (The literal translation of the Serbian title of the film is ‘Jesus’ Soldiers.’) How can religious leaders instill such guilt, shame, and obedience in ten year olds (A lot of it seemed to be approaching emotional abuse?)? What sort of theology could call Harry Potter and far-from-scary ghost stories sinful? How can religion make no mention of love and justice in this world?

Thankfully, there was a brief respite from the frustration when a pre-scandal Ted Haggard preached hypocritically. I don’t feel good about taking pleasure in other’s downfall, but schadenfreude was a welcome change from outrage. (It was too bad that there was no mention of the scandal in the film; I am sure my fellow audience members would have loved to have known about it.)

While ‘Sicko’ left me feeling small and helpless, I left ‘Jesus Camp’ feeling energized. My future plans involve studying theology, working for ecumenism, and strengthening my own small church, a church will encourages questions, mixes rationality and faith, respects others' beliefs, and encourages members to seek justice in the world. I still have doubts and fears about this plan, but seeing this film reminded me of how much need there is.

Monday, November 12, 2007

enter doubts

On Saturday night, I saw ‘Sicko,’ which was interesting and depressing. The first half of it—before a tour of a British millionaire doctor’s home and the romanticization of the Cuban medical system—is probably my favorite thing that Michael Moore has done, possibly because he is in it so little. I was really annoyed by the way he introduced Hillary Clinton, though, making comments about her appearance that just wouldn’t be made about a male politician. (That immediately preceding the screening, I had a long talk with MK and J about how Clinton is scrutinized in ways men are not [her laugh] didn’t help things.)

It was a hard film, probably not the best choice for right before I return to the states (at least my health insurance will last until February). The final lines of the film, in which Moore’s voiceover says something along the lines of ‘most countries think in terms of “we,” while American’s think about “me”’ struck a chord. Do I really want to be returning to that?

As I was gathering my things, I overheard the conversation of the people sitting in front of me. A woman said (in Serbian, of course) that ‘America is only for the pretty, the young, and the healthy.’ Again, words resonated. I walked out of the theater feeling much more daunted by the prospect of reintegrating into American culture.

Start spreading the news. I’m leaving next week.

Last week, coworker N took K and I out for some jazz. We went to a kafana in Zemun where a group of jazz musicians congregate every Tuesday. It’s an older crowd – at the beginning of the show, K and I were the youngest ones in the place by at least 20 years, but the people watching, excellent music, and N’s hospitality more than made up for it.

I rarely listen to jazz, which is ridiculous, as I really enjoy it. I recognized many of the standards they played from my high school jazz band career and, remembering my own lack of skillfulness, appreciated the music even more.

A highlight of the night was the last song. Somehow, the singer—probably the best scatter I have ever hear—learned that there were a couple of Americans in the audience. He announced this fact and sang, ‘New York, New York’ in our honor. It was really lovely to be serenaded and made to feel welcome by a roomful of mostly senior citizens.

It was one of those ‘only in Serbia’ moments. It will be strange to return to a life in which being an American is not distinctive.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Three Costume Day

Yesterday was Halloween, one of my favorite holidays, but unfortunately one that isn’t really celebrated here. Still, I managed to. And I managed to wear three costumes, a Halloween trifecta that I have never achieved before.

On the Women in Black calendar, October 31 isn’t Halloween, but the anniversary of the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which calls for women to be involved in peacemaking and a gender perspective in peacekeeping missions. To mark the day, we had a press conference, street performance, meeting with members of the Serbian Assembly and network meeting.

I participated in the performance. Eight of us began dressed in roles assigned by patriarchy: a bride, a priest, a soldier, numerous housewives (I was a pregnant housewife). We then faced a mirror, asked if that was what we wanted, and transformed into something else – activists, feminists, politicians. I became a futbalerka. I dribbled my ball around the square, amazed that I had retained some muscle memory of how to do such things, slowly getting soaked by the rain.

And then in the evening, another transformation. A few friends and I decided to throw a Halloween party in a small café. We invited nearly everyone we knew. I was impressed with the number of people who showed up and the number of amazing costumes. I was a fairy princess: wings, wand, crown, polka-dotted sun dress (pictures coming soon). If there had been a costume contest, I would have given prizes to Cruella De Vil (who somehow made half her hair white) and MK and B, who were Tymoshenko and Yushenko (complete with a creepy dioxin-poisoned face), respectively. Definitely the most creative costume idea. (And my friends and I further reveal ourselves to be big nerds.)

I throw parties very rarely. I was nervous about this one, wondering if anyone would come, thinking to myself early in the night that if I didn’t care so much for Halloween, there was no way that I would go out on such a dark and stormy night. A few hours into the party, though, J, A, and I looked around the small café, full of witches, a devil, a gangster, a French woman, a vampire, and a number of people not in costume, and called the night a success.