I’M AFRAID OF AMERICANS

Attention, attention. Air raid. Go to a bomb shelter immediately. Open the windows, lower the shutters, turn off the power supply, turn off the gas, and take only the bare necessities with you. If you are in a vehicle, park it on the side of the road and head to the nearest underground shelter. Air raid, please follow the instructions provided by the Information Center. Over.

On March 24, 1999 at 7:45 PM CET, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) launched air strikes against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), composed of Serbia and Montenegro, during the Kosovo War, with the bombing of Serbian military positions in its southern province of Kosovo. An uninterrupted 60 second signal tone denoted a state of emergency that lasted until 5.30 AM the next day. We heard bombs rumbling in the distance. I remember the panic, the terror, limbs going numb, heart racing, squatting in the middle of the living room and holding each other tight. An ‘imminent threat of war against Yugoslavia by NATO’ was declared on national television right after the fist bombs hit, along with a list of instructions on what to do when air raid sirens go off, followed by a huge mobilization of troops and resources. As of day one, the creepy music of penetrating warning sounds was played on a regular basis, giving us chills every fucking time.

The following day, the sirens start wailing at 1.30 PM. Once again, we switch off the lights and electrical appliances, open the windows wide, and lower the shutters, blocking out the sun, rain, wind, life. Wrapped in a blanked the color of veins, I’m kneeling on the floor in the dark half of the hall in the central part of my parents’ house, listening to the indistinct voices of the street, the voice of a mother, a grandfather, a brother, a husband, a toddler, whimpering dogs, and bewildered roosters. In the night between Mar 25 and 26, I heard the deafening noise of swarming planes for the first time. Deadly mosquitoes buzzing endlessly in the skies above made our blood run cold and caused us to develop an arrhythmia on the spot and chronic insomnia and noise phobia with time. The sound produced by warplanes, especially when flying low at high speeds and perceived as danger, is hard to describe. Your body reacts without conscious thought, seeking cover, and you feel its intensity in your nostrils and your throat, it chokes you, it makes your knees tremble, it vibrates in your stomach, turning your bowels upside down, it incapacitates your legs, paralyzes your spine and tongue, blurs your vision and messes with your brain. The lights have gone out, candles being a rare commodity these days. We have only one left which we decide to keep for a rainy day. I close my eyes for a few seconds and feel a wave of claustrophobic darkness wash over me.

Three days after the bombing had started, the wise men of our small tribal community decided we should start hiding in the basement of a shaggy old house at the end of the street. Most towns didn’t have a proper underground bomb shelter so that people were mainly hiding in house/apartment building basements. The decision to leave your house and join a bunch of strangers isn’t the one you’ll make lightly. However, the elderly think it’s necessary when the unthinkable occurs. Choosing your emergency shelter supplies is not easy either as you have no idea how long the air raid could last and what might come out of it. Most importantly, you need something to keep you comfortable and well-fed during the time you’ll spend there. A sandwich, enough drinking water and blankets were a must. But, as no one could imagine a temporary visit to the shelter would turn into a prolonged stay, a couple days’ worth of non-perishable food, let alone the first aid kit, wasn’t on our mind. Everyone thought about how to make it that very day. Tomorrow was too far away.

Our new temporary shelter was a centenarian, which made it the oldest fella in the neighborhood. Stone, and blocks made of mud and straw were protruding everywhere. In today’s world of advanced architecture, such a home would be considered healthy and safe for a living after some additional renovations, but no house can be safe enough to protect you from bombs unless it’s a proper fallout shelter. In spite of this, at the time being, we find comfort in sharing our plight with others, although we don’t really know each other. Ironically, a couple of decades later, I’ll read about a video game, the war and post-war world of the underground nuclear fallout shelter that will prove to be massively popular on mobile phones and PCs, which will be downloaded by millions and earn staggering $5m in its first two weeks on sale. It’ll be described as ‘a highly addictive building and management game in which you construct your own vault and carefully manage the people and resources to create a thriving sun-free community.’ They suggest stockpiling granola, as well as salt, pepper and other spices. Oh boy! If the game makers had known half of what we did about the shelter, they would have never come up with such a dull pastime because it’s impossible to turn an apocalyptic hell into a home.

I walk into a dungeon I’ll be sharing with my neighbors, cramped in a matchbox with wooden benches on the side, waving hello to wrinkled faces of the elderly, kids chit-chatting, serving tea and sweet coffee, sleeping, acting out, a two-year old girl who can’t stop crying, and her older sister who has a hard time being called by her nickname (Nato), preschool and elementary school children with their parents who cling to the hope that this frenzy will soon come to an end and a charismatic guy in his late 60s apparently skilled at making everyone feel better. I’m trying to avoid close encounters, unnecessary remarks and compulsory smiles, turning my head not to feel bad breath coming from teeth they haven’t brushed in days. It’s terribly cold and smells of mold. I’m wearing a T-shirt, an undershirt, a sweatshirt, a woolen sweater, a warm hoodie, a winter jacket, thick tights, two pairs of woolen socks pulled over my knees, and sport shoes. I take a seat on a bench without backrest, feeling cushions underneath, and cover my shoulders with a blanket. After a few hours of uncertainty, the sirens blare the end of danger and we all go home only to head back to the improvised bomb shelter as soon as the ear-piercing screech goes off again. We’re back to black: drowsy kids, worried parents and toothless old women in PJs who hurried back, obviously forgetting their teeth at home. They don’t feel like prattling any more, and place their hands over their mouths when laughing wholeheartedly. Leaning against the wall, I’m closing my eyes to catch up on some sleep but wake up at the slightest sound. From a heavy sleeper, I turned into a light one. A pin dropping two rooms away behind a closed door would startle me awake, let alone a truck driving by or honking.

I’ve been dreaming a lot lately. I had a dream that all people were created equal…

 

bombs.PNG


 

* Originally published at Morality Park

I’D LIKE TO PLEAD NOT GUILTY, YOUR HONOR

not guilty.JPG

In my last post, I sort of started my body (i.e. brain and heart) scan. This is what my online self study showed.

BEST CASE SCENARIO (can’t get better than this):

My body language says I’m a super observant. I hate banality; therefore, I tend to add zest to monotonous work or try to avoid irksome, dull, and arduous aspects of life.

According to the Internet, I might have a vaginal problem (you don’t say?) or need to pee quite often (hence shielding myself).

I am talkative, open, sincere, humorous, creative, and laid-back. I love to entertain. I’m an extrovert (read: an outgoing, friendly and socially confident person, energized by being around other people).

Moreover, I’m action-oriented and efficient (never a procrastinator). I’m a decision-maker, a good communicator and negotiator. I deal with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations. I love rules, thrive on certainty, and ache for security.

My slips of the tongue (and of the pen), along with my misreading and mishearing (or selective hearing), occur more often when I’m tired, anxious, tipsy or stressed out (not comforting at all).

I repeatedly moisten my lips because: my mouth and lips dry up quickly, I’m dehydrated, I have been using bad cosmetics or I misplace my lip balm all the time so I keep licking them (bad girl). What is more, dryness is making my skin itchy; hence the scratching. Maybe I should listen to the tip given by beauty/skin experts and ‘smear some (manuka if possible) honey to the lips and let it sit for 10 minutes’ (manuka??? – look it up later).

not guilty 2.JPG

I’m a lax hair-twirler (not a fretful nail-biter). I twirl my hair to relieve stress and when relaxing. I do it when reading, watching TV, inside, outside, when alone or in a group, whenever.

I’m the Female Alpha, its good side being that I love to be the leader. I don’t only practice it in my home (which isn’t really a plus), but also in the business environment. When female alphas are gone, ‘either conversation stops completely or the group disperses.’ This just had the baking powder/soda effect. What a confidence booster!

OK folks, these were the PROS. You’d better stick around for the CONS NEXT TIME. Hang on, bumpy road ahead.

LIKE A CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF

A cat....JPG

I wonder why we are all unique in one way or the other. Because of who we are? (Too shallow). It’s because we are throughout our lives shaped by our experiences, people we meet, people we don’t, schools from which we graduated or dropped out of, careers we pursue or stopped pursuing, trains we caught or missed, dreams we thought would never come true and the ones we have yet to fulfill, our fears: the fear of dying, flying, aging, loving, not being loved, being paralyzed, imprisoned, abandoned, rejected, not respected, the fear of mutilation, separation, humiliation and finally shame. According to surveys (source: Wikipedia), some of the most common fears are of demons and ghosts, the existence of evil powers, cockroaches, spiders, snakes, heights, water, enclosed spaces, tunnels, bridges, needles, social rejection, failure, examinations, and public speaking.

We are influenced by births and deaths, jobs we’ve done enthusiastically or half-heartedly, past lovers, loves of our lives, unrequited loves, crying over spilled milk (it’s no use), spilling the beans (once, many times), people we trust, people we don’t, people who betrayed us, people we deceived, people we lied to, people we have been lying to, people we could never lie to, truths yet to be told, our friends, our families, our acquaintances, our neighbors, our parents, in-laws, strangers in the night, our soul mates, people we have nothing in common with, best sex ever, worst sex ever, public sex, private places, words spoken, messages between the lines, messages taken, messages misread, secret glances, memories (good and bad), diaries, photos, galleries, books, songs, funny jokes, lousy jokes (why laugh then?), witty people, boring chores, errands to run, demanding bosses or just bosses, a wish to become a boss but knowing deep down you’ll just go on being bossy without being someone’s boss, perfectionism, a lack or ambition, excuses, secrets and regrets, drunken parties, camping sites, starry nights, starless lives, falling in love, falling out of love (will I ever love again?), falling apart, falling, falling…

We are molded by being polite for no reason or for a good reason, not offending somebody, offending somebody, being offended by somebody, meeting somebody, fancying somebody, dating somebody, getting married, having kids, getting divorced, getting back together, our first kiss (cat got your tongue?), first sex (painful), last sex (don’t remember), sleepovers, confessions on the dance floor, estranged siblings, estranged partners, being born again, food to die for, girls and boys to die for, dirty hospital linen, good doctors, bad doctors, cramped buses and deserted beaches, moments of utter happiness and profound sadness, embarrassments, school trips, day trips, bicycle rides, journeys we took, places we visited, going to visit, about to visit, shall never visit, paying a visit, being visited.

Images take turns before my eyes, images of big beds, empty beds, small beds (who mentioned small beds?), snoring, hiccuping, does somebody out there still think about me sometimes – wishful thinking, wishes coming true, wishes we stopped wishing, cruelty, poetic justice, paradise found, paradise lost, paradise regained (maybe), breathtaking waves, breaking the waves, empty stomachs and full hearts, full stomachs and empty hearts, a carousel: an amusement ride with seats for riders, how amusement stopped being amusing. When did amusing turn into amused (if at all)? I love you’s, don’t forget to take out the trash, why didn’t you take out the trash? I am happy. I am unhappy. (Are you happy?) 2 in 1, a baby bump, 3 in 1 (when are you due?), light, who turned off the light? I can’t see (light at the end of the tunnel).

 

DID I LET THE GENIE OUT? OUCH!

Back in the olden days, as Peppa Pig says it nicely, I used to take notes about everything and anything when I was younger: diaries, random thoughts, essays, short stories, arguments, romantic ideas, secret longings and so on. I remember even keeping a war journal during NATO’s air strikes against Serbia, a painfully honest, and rather hard to swallow testimony of a time from the perspective of a 22-year old English Language and Literature student back in 1999. Interestingly, this speaking straight from the shoulder is the only thing I never ever went or wanted to go back to. I do know where the book’s hidden though. The thing is – I’m still not sure what I might find there, what horror, shock or disgust for once the genie is out of the bottle, there’s no going back. Actually, I got my mind set on pulling it off the shelf this very summer. It’s gonna take time, a whole lot of precious time, it’s gonna take patience and time, to do it, to do it, to do it…to do it right child. Whether I’m going to do it for real this time or wait another 20 years is yet to be seen. Anyhow, I’ll keep you posted.

I loved spreading my thoughts on a white piece of paper, and decorating the page with dried plants, drawings of my own, intriguing quotes, book excerpts and magazine cutouts. It was liberating, truthful, direct, maybe not always virtuous, but certainly done with a good intention even if unsuccessful or foolish at times. Some notebooks I kept, some I gave as a present to my high school darling at the time, some I shared with the class as a part of a regular school assignment. Some I burnt, literally (where there’s a teenager, there’s drama), some disappeared mysteriously and some still lie hidden at the back of the drawers and shelves at my parents’.

As time went by, I stopped expressing myself in this way. I’ve never known why. At first, I thought I had lost the ability to produce anything meaningful, experiencing a creative slowdown. But then again, I’ve been constantly pressed for time since I started studying and then working and silly as it may sound, I forgot (not how to write but to write in the first place). So I can’t even call it writer’s block as I haven’t done any writing until now. I could have lost interest though or simply haven’t had anything to say, which is highly unlikely.

Whatever the case, here I am now, not actually having any specific goal ahead of me, but a blank piece of paper and a huge drive to get down to work. I haven’t just come up with some super original idea. As I said, no plans whatsoever. A notion that I haven’t forgotten how to write and that I still can just popped into my head. So I’ll just play it by ear and see what happens. You may call it a revelatory moment, a mental breakthrough, a sudden insight, a moment of illumination, an epiphany. On the other hand, these undefined perplexing thoughts which came rushing to my mind might as well be a result of inner turmoil, disturbance, confusion, sadness, rage, anxiety and restlessness I’ve been feeling lately. It is highly likely this whole thing I’m doing is some self-healing attempt, some process of recovery, some journey I am determined to embark on in hopes of getting out of this mess. Yes, that’s what it is – an attempt to get to the root of my obnoxious mood swings or shall I call it neurosis. I guess most of us suffer from it at some point in our life, which doesn’t necessarily mean we’ve radically lost touch with reality but have rather been feeling symptoms (mild or not so mild)  of stress, depression, moodiness and/or obsessive behavior. As a matter of fact, a recent study says that moody neurotics are more likely to be creative geniuses (or original thinkers, as someone put it nicely). That’s why I’d prefer to refer to it as soul-searching, reconciliation and finding peace I long for. It’s gonna take guts, patience, time and energy but I believe I’m ready. This conversation with myself I have been putting off for too long is meant to scrutinize my feelings, decisions, motives, convictions, attitudes and finally reactions. Anyway, I am basically certain only of my uncertainty at the moment. Something’s telling me we’re all going to find a whole lot more than we bargain for.

A journey back home.JPG