The main thing that we got to do was visit Michael Simmons, Jayme Stone's friend, and eat dinner with him.
We got to meet and talk with members of the Roma community and also different groups of college students that are staying
in Budapest. Even though we were completely worn out from traveling, it was a wonderful learning experience.
Our small group
of thirteen had to learn the hard way that getting to Europe wasn’t going to be as easy as stepping onto every plane
at its scheduled time. Due to unavoidable delays in one Northwest Airlines flight,
we missed our entire first day in the city of Budapest. These kinds of situations
definitely make you think about the constants of cause and effect going on behind the day-to-day scene. The effect, in this case, also had a positive side, because the thirteen of us really began to look out
for each other, and we formed a bond that is still evident today.
With those small but important details out of the way, Budapest
became our home away from incredibly far from home for less than twenty-four hours.
But you would have thought we were simply meeting old companions if you had been witness to the kindness we were shown
by civil right’s activists Michael Simmons and Linda Carranza. No more
than an hour and a half from stepping off our very long international flight, we were sitting in their comfortable apartment,
voraciously eating fried chicken and lasagna. It was like another world, but
with food you were familiar with and people who didn’t treat you as an outsider but as a long lost friend. Besides the much-needed nourishment, the whole group had the opportunity to talk with Roma civil right’s
activists from Budapest and Roma youth. Speaking with these people was just so
wholly different from American conversation, because we did not even remotely share the same types of experiences, but we
were still able to connect and discuss. The idea that many of us began to form
through this gathering and by reading parts of Bury Me Standing by Isabel Fonseca is that the Roma, sometimes derogatorily
called Gypsies, are probably the most oppressed group throughout all of history. They
have no homeland; in the past and present, many of the countries they have even stepped foot in have passed laws restricting
their civil rights. The Roma are also stereotyped as thieves, liars, and untouchables.
From our personal experience, we know that the Roma defy the labels placed on
them, and they need advocates fighting for their equality. - Seth Billingsley