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International Center

University of Missouri

The illegal vote for independence, Czech Republic, Egypt and Montserrat

Filed in Blog, Czech Republic, Egypt, Spain by on December 17, 2014
November

The vote

The day was finally here, the big vote. As I have mentioned before my month here has included witnessing many protests and conflicts between Catalonia and Spain as the people here have begun rallying for independence. In September, Spain’s Constitutional Tribunal (supreme court), halted the Catalonian referendum that had been approved by an ample majority in the Catalonian Parliament. The Spanish supreme court declared the vote unconstitutional, and explicitly told Catalonia that it could not occur by the hands of the government.

The enigmatic people of Catalonia would not take no for an answer and, on Nov. 9, the city voted with the help of volunteers and schools that served as voting stations. More than two million Catalonians took to the polls and expressed their opinion — which just so happened to lie with independence. Unfortunately, the Catalonian government did not keep their hands clean.

It turns out the Catalonian president, Artur Mas, used Catalan government funds for ballot paper, boxes and a myriad of other supplies in order for this vote to occur. This was a direct violation of the Spanish supreme court’s ruling that deemed the vote “unconstitutional,” and now Artur Mas as well as well as a few other government officials are facing criminal charges that include disobedience and misuse of government funds. High rollers in Catalonia have already offered to pay back the government and cover the costs of the vote, but that isn’t enough for Spain.

So now, I expect I will be seeing even more protests here in the city. It’s kind of cool witnessing history first hand and how the people react.

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Czech Republic

My father’s girlfriend (Renatka) is from the Czech Republic, so they took three weeks off of work to head back to her home and visit her family. With a free weekend, I jumped at the chance to head up and see the Czech Republic through her eyes. Her stories are fascinating, she grew up under communism and driving around her country, I get to hear firsthand accounts of what it was like. I spent the weekend eating traditional Czech food made by her grandmother, and to say it was delicious is an understatement! Despite the communication barrier, and trust me there was a big one, it was an incredible experience.

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My dad’s girlfriend (left) and her grandmother who made us amazing Czech food the whole time we were there.

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Old communist apartment buildings. They have been repainted and balcony extensions have been added since communism fell.

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But the most memorable aspect of it all in my opinion was the trip that my father and I took the old concentration camp from World War II, Terezin. Tens of thousands of people who went through this camp died of diseases and malnutrition, or were just killed. It was not a death camp, but more than 100,000 prisoners were sent to their deaths to extermination camps like Auschwitz. It was difficult to stomach at times, and even harder to imagine that something so horrendous actually happened. It was a somber experience, but one I am glad I finally had the chance to have. It was a good reminder of what humans are capable of, and an even better reminder to stay humble and grateful for the life I have. I often take for granted how much I have going for me, and walking through the wing dedicated to the tens of thousands of children who died in concentration camps in the Jewish Museum was a heavy reminder that not everyone is so lucky.

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Cairo, Egypt

My lifelong dreams of seeing the pyramids is finally complete! A dear friend of mine, Islam, who studied abroad at Mizzou for the 2013/14 school year was gracious enough to host me in Cairo for four days. Not only was it amazing being reunited with someone I can truly call a friend, but it was cool getting to experience a culture unlike any I’ve ever experienced in my life. While there I learned even more about the religion of Islam, I experienced the crazy driving of Egyptians, I learned about how important family is as his family took me in as one of their own, and I even learned a little bit of Arabic. I also had the opportunity to experience a Muslim culture firsthand, and it was eye-opening in so many ways. I can’t wait for Islam to make his way back to the U.S. so I can show him my city.

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Montserrat

Montserrat is a mountain in the Catalan Pre-Coastal Range near Barcelona. It is home to incredible history with hermitages, a Montessori with a boys’ choir whose voices are like a combination of Fergie and Jesus, wonderful hiking trails with incredible views, ruins, the Virgin of Montserrat sanctuary that may have been the location of the Holy Grail, and even a legendary black Virgin Mary that people pilgrimage from all over the world to see.

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