Ada Ciganlija

The sun is beating down on the concrete canyon of the street. My girlfriend and I squeeze under the thin precious slivers of shade from the only tree we can find, and wait.

Finally, the clanking yellow metal can that is the bus rumbles full throttle towards us, black fumes emanating behind it. We get on, the diesel engine revs into gear and hot air rushes in. The bus, being number 55, is full of people who, like us, are going to Ada lake for a swim, for shade, for the bikinis and the muscles, but mostly because it is summer.

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Bricked Up

Shortly after I had moved to Belgrade in Serbia, I heard an incredible family story. It recounted how my wife’s grandfather Branko and his brother Pera had hidden their car, a 1936 Studebaker, from both the fascist Nazis and the communist Partisans by concealing it in a garage, which they then bricked up behind a false wall.

Imagining the rasping sound of the trowel against the mounting red brick, I was instantly struck by the allegorical connotations of this anecdote. I felt like an archaeologist who had just stumbled upon a beautifully preserved artefact, and in my excitement, I knew that there was more to this story lying beneath my feet, just waiting to be excavated.

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Memories of Morocco

Sometime in the spring of 2008, I can’t exactly remember when, I found myself in Spanish port of Almería. I was standing on the ramparts of its Moorish castle and looking out at the harbour below. The ferry that was to take me across to Morocco sat motionless in its still waters. It, with me on it, was going to set sail later that evening. I had just hitched a ride from Granada that morning but my journey had started long before that. It had started in a state of deep depression.

After finishing university the previous summer, I had fallen into the bleak reality of life with no job and no prospects of getting one. The economic crisis of 2007 had hit and my lofty ideas of what I should do with my life were no match for these hard times. I was directionless. In desperation, I had forced an idea upon myself. I’d make my way down through France and Spain, where I’d board this overnight ferry to Melilla on the North African coast. From there, I’d make my way through Morocco. That was the entirety of my plan. Fate would be my guide, I reassured myself.

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