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Diary of a Haughty Tourist in Croatia

By Jason Hart

In their article Poetics of Resistance, by Feldman, Ina, and Prica, about the war in Croatia. They write “there is a certain haughtiness, ignorance, and everyday bluntness in a man who thinks that being alive is something entirely normal.” Nearly all citizens of Croatia, except maybe young teenagers remember the horrors of the was in 1991 and 1992. This quote surely sums up the resentful attitude many Semester at Sea tourists felt when interacting with locals in the cities I visited Dubrovnik, Split, and Korcula. We all surely felt that being alive is entirely normal, and that being waited on by the locals was our right as tourists. The locals obviously felt differently.

            We sat and drank loudly and obnoxiously at an Irish Pub in Old City, Dubrovnik. The bar tenders paid little attention to us as we waited in huge mass for them to finish their own drinks before serving us. When one of my friends leaned over the bar and asked if she could get a drink the bar tender turned to her and said “Wait, I’m thirsty” and continued to drink his beer, paying her little attention. She replied “I’m thirsty too,” with a smile. He didn’t get the joke and I think this snide comment motivated him to serve in slow motion for the rest of the evening.

            On another occasion, we sat in a pizza place, ordering pies. I asked the waiter if I could have a margarita pizza, and he replied the typical “can you? Do you want a pizza or what?” There was no smile, or laugh afterward, as would be the American way of letting me in on the joke, but I felt that it was not a joke at all. This man was expressing his resentment toward me and those I associated with for our sense of entitlement, our willingness to assert ourselves bluntly on others. He sensed this attribute in us and so he was very blunt back. He was a man, a soldier at one time no doubt, and not a waiter. Right now he was just doing what he had to do to get paid.

            The same resentment that Croatians had for us they seemed to have for many things transnational. We went to Subway for lunch. The place was empty, and they were all out of soda and most of the toppings. We didn’t see anyone else enter during our meal. The vernacular fish market, however, was packed tight with people purchasing all sorts of sea food that they would later take home and cook themselves. Even McDonald’s was strangely empty in comparison to the sandwich stand next door that had a line which poured out into the street.

            Everywhere we went, it seemed as if the Croatians felt something, knew something else that we had never experienced. They emitted a sense of brash humility that comes with war. I have only seen their calm cold stare in the eyes of my friends who have served in the Israeli army. This was a nation that had known war, and war changes everyone it touches forever.

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