Wednesday, June 24, 2015

One week later

Here I am a week later, sitting at my kitchen table in the afternoon with the light on because the sky outside is so grey that having the curtains open isn't enough; "Yeah here is hot, same like the days you were here" Bardha messages me. Shorts and sandals seem like a distant memory. The tub of Kosovar cheese in my fridge is still almost full, it just doesn't taste the same when I'm not sitting at the kitchen table with five girls around me, sleep battling excitement in their eyes as we talk about the day's meetings ahead.

Those ten days in Kosovo already seem like a distant memory but I know that they will stay with us forever. The people that we met will stay in our hearts and their stories I hope will be shared with our friends and family by ourselves and by our projects. Although we all went with differing interests, and we all chose to focus on different things in our research, I think there is one particular issue that every one of us found impossible to ignore.

I myself chose, together with five others, to make a blog for the final project, on which we would share the Kosovar people's day to day lives, hopes, and dreams. We interviewed stall owners, bar keepers, and people walking through the streets and asked them why they like Kosovo and what they hope for the future. By this point we were already very aware of the issue but made sure not to bring it up ourselves, without any prompt, the vast majority of our interviewees referred to this particular issue when talking about the future: visa liberalisation.

The Kosovars are desperate to travel, young and old, whether it be out of pure curiosity or a wish to visit family and friends. But for those that are not travelling as part of an organisation it is near impossible. Currently, Kosovars can travel to fewer countries than citizens of North Korea. It's a terrible thing to be trapped in one part of the world like that, unimaginable to most of us, blessed with widely accepted and respected nationalities. It is also a violation of Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: the right to freedom of movement.

On the last evening, as we prepared to say goodbye to our new friends, especially Bardha and Enver who accompanied us almost continuously during those 10 days, it hit home what this really means in practice.

The elderly gentleman selling necklaces on the boulevard doesn't know if he'll be able to travel again in his time.

The friendly barman at Half & Half has never been able to visit his grandparents in Germany.

And, at least for now, we won't all be together again unless the entire Amsterda cohort managed a second trip to Pristina.

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