I picked through the tables at the cafe on the square, settling near the back where I could observe the goings-on from the shade. Little did I know that I had sat in a row of chairs usually occupied by the older locals of Kotor, Montenegro. Alongside me, older men read the paper, drank their coffee, and conversed.
While I was jotting something down on my map of the city, of a spot I wanted to visit, the man next to me remarked on the history of the town. Over coffee, we began chatting, about the town and tourism. I found out that Dragan was a retired cruise ship engineer--thus his English was quite good. We chatted for a bit and then he offered to show me around town and tell me its history (mind you, Kotor is small enough to walk around in 15 minutes). After he paid for the coffees of all of the locals sitting against the windows, off we went.
There is nothing like being shown around by a resident: Dragan pointed out the former prison, I was invited inside a tiny Orthodox church, and he introduced the 'husband and wife that run this town.' Later we sought refuge from the sun and I began asking him if there were still tensions in the countries that make up the former Yugoslavia. He said simply, "we always think that our country, our people are good and right. And that the neighbors, the others, are bad." But he expressed that he found the Balkan people welcoming, and enjoyed visiting the former Yugoslavia.
We talked for a while on the ability of people to conflict and lay guilt. His attitude in dealing with people struck me, it seemed so simple and intuitive, but in today's world we categorize and label before we even know a person's name.
"I think: he is human. And if I start there, regardless of race, or nation, or appearance, it works . . . If you accept them, they will accept you."