I had my Jane Villanueva moment guys! I suddenly got inspired to write a bunch of blogs that I will slowly and suspensefully release across long periods of time for my anticipating audience! Or the 5 of you that skim through this!
Anyways, I met some new people the other day! How? This might be random, or even seemingly dangerous to someone that isn't a part of my culture...
My friend had a project for her gastromusicology class (it discusses food and music, and if I had any talent when it came to music, I would take it too), to explore her own culture and how the atmosphere of it was enhanced through both food and music. So we went to the only Balkan restaurant in Portland, where she would interview the owners while we also got something good to eat. Seriously, if you are not vegan, I recommend this place dearly. There were 4 of us, and we walked into this place around 7 pm, being newbies for a place that I assumed had regulars of 10+ years.
At first, all the other tables around us that were filled by people, not from or related to the Balkans. Which excited me, because it's cool to see others enjoying what your culture has to offer, especially when you come from such a small country. Most people I've talked to in the US either never heard of Bosnia and Herzegovina, or it takes them a few minutes to comprehend what it is. I completely understand, I am 90% sure I had no idea Oregon existed until I applied to this college (oops).
We vibed with the music, indulged in our food, and laughed at our table, not noticing the table next to us filling up with a few people. Speaking in our own language, we exposed ourselves very easily. A guy called us up from the table asking us, well, 'Can I ask you something?' (a statement I always found ironic since you are already asking me something, no hate, just shower thoughts). To make something clear, this conversation did not happen in English, but in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian (depends on who you ask, they're very similar). Of course, we said yes, and he asked where we were from and how he doesn't know us yet.
Upon further conversation, we revealed how we have recently moved for college, and he and his wife told us they've been living here for 20 years, and own a Balkan style cafe nearby, with real coffee (sorry Starbucks, you do not have the prerequisite to be considered coffee in the Balkans). With him sat the owners of the restaurant we were at, as well as an owner of a Balkan shop in nearby Vancouver. We chatted quickly, exchanging jokes and summaries of our lives, and the guy offered to buy us all a drink! As college students, we accepted with a lot of gratitude. We all went back to our own conversations. Near the closing times, we were getting ready to leave, and asked for the bill, but were told it was covered by one of the other people at the table - the owner of the store! Incredibly grateful we had no idea how to properly express it as we stared in shock repeating 'Hvala Vam' (thank you).
Did it stop there? NO.
The man and his wife insisted on driving us to the college so we wouldn't have to pay for an uber or run after the bus. In the car, he told us more about them and asked more about us. My biggest takeaway is their story of hating the US for the first 10 years they lived there, refusing to adapt, and just romanticizing how different it is back home, a trap many fall for after moving somewhere.
What mattered most was the realization of learning to love your environment, and seeing you're actively searching for things to dislike about it. Once they got over that, they learned to love to live here, with all the pros and cons, even the rain.
Getting back to my dorm, all I knew was that I wasn't a bad person for wanting to leave my country, because I am ultimately bringing my culture with me. I aspire to be just like that when I grow up, spreading all the good of my culture across the world, that eager to help and socialize. Culture has no boundaries or borders, it just is this vibrant energy you carry with you.