We were advised by the embassy to stay away from areas of protests and given safety instructions. It felt like another world. I’ve been going to protests and marches since I was a kid, and I had never seen anything like this before. During this time, another student and I went to watch one from afar and had to leave soon after arriving due to clashes with the police.
Despite this, the people within the actual movement were not engaging in the chaotic provocation. Instead, they made statements with collaborative city-wide marches and peaceful displays. It wasn’t uncommon to walk down the street and see residents having a pro or anti-independence flag hanging from their balconies.
By staying with a host family, I was also able to learn about these events through a more authentic and intimate point of view. Listening to the opinions of my 16-year-old host sister and her parents, I received varying opinions of the people who this actually affected.
The most important lesson in all of this is relativity. It is important for me to remember that this was not a movement that I belonged to. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement, to buy an independence flag or participate in events. However, it wasn’t my place. By coming to terms with this, I was able to learn more by observing and listening.
I feel incredibly lucky that I was able to witness history in the making.