(By Steef van den Einden)
I wanted to wait with writing my blog post until now because of two reasons: The first is just the busy schedule after we got back. The days were filled with Chiara’s birthday, my birthday, Dormfest, rowing races, my parent’s house cooling and the (goodbye) parties for which the June intensive period is infamous. The second reason is that I wanted the experiences to sink in, to have time to think about everything that happened in Kosovo.
Now, while writing this post, I realise that neither of my two ideas really worked out as I thought they would. I was indeed busy with all kinds of (mostly social) events, but while I thought this would be concentrated around the first weekend that we were back, it has actually never stopped. Partially, this was due to the people from our group that I got to know (better) in Kosovo, as we kept coming together in some setting or another. It is exactly like Anne predicted: One of the most valuable things that we would gain from the class would be the friendships within (and outside of) the class.
Waiting for the experience to be mentally processed also did not work out as expected, because I am still thinking about it, still asking questions, still figuring stuff out. Of course, I have been able to settle some of my thoughts, but I feel like there is still a long way to go. At times, thinking about Kosovo makes me feel frustrated, sometimes so frustrated that extreme ideas, which are not to be taken too seriously. For example, while thinking about the ethnic tensions in Mitrovica, I came up with the plan to simply get rid of the border between north and south by diverting the river around the town, filling up the former riverbed and building cheap houses, shopping malls or sports facilities on the former river. In that way the division is not as clear anymore and the two sides might be more likely to interact with each other. I was also thinking about the fact that the sector with the least ethnic tension is organised crime, according to some of the people that we met. This must be useful in some way. As promoting recruitment of multi-ethnic criminal organisations is probably not the best approach, I was thinking more in the direction of guest lectures or magazine columns by (former) criminals, but I have not really worked this plan out yet.
At other times, when I am not thinking of stuff that needs to be taken with quite a few grains of salt, I also feel hopeful for Kosovo. Especially, when I hear about the projects of our class and how committed everyone is. Also, every time I meet some of the peace labbers at one of the various social events, we always at some point start to talk about something that is related to Kosovo. Sometimes it is the basis of the discussion, or sometimes only to give an example. I think this really shows how we are all still thinking about the trip, even about details. For example, I cannot see a jeep driving past without KFOR popping up in my head, and flags will now always catch my eye and make me think about what it represents. I do not expect this to be over soon, but I also do not mind, as it is good to keep thinking about Kosovo and encourage others to do so too. Like we said in our last classes, we feel like we have become a sort of ambassadors of Kosovo, which explains why we cannot stop thinking and talking about our game-changing experience in Kosovo.