Sunday, June 7, 2015

Travel Day

(By Roxy Frey)

Traveling can be exciting and exhausting. We had a little bit of both on our departure day to Pristina. Construction around Schiphol initially caused some nervousness amongst us travellers but everyone arrived at the airport on time. Surprisingly, the two members of our group known to be late at all times (I will leave it up to you to guess who they are...) were overly punctual. One of them because he had forgotten his passport at home and made use of the speedy cab option to make sure not to miss this trip.

 Our departure time was not until noon so we had more than two hours to check in, tell stories, snooze, and eat. Our excitement intensified and shortly before boarding the plane, Anne compared this travel day to a first sip of wine before having dinner: the exciting part is still in front of us, we are curious but still sober. We boarded the plane, were lucky enough to sit together in pairs or groups and flew to Istanbul. At the airport in Istanbul, Joon and Carolin were saying how familiar they already felt with the entire group and how quickly everyone bonded. However, we also met many new faces. On a table next to us at a restaurant at our gate, some of us started conversing with a very interesting and warm young American from DC who was about to do post-conflict research in Sarajevo. We were pumped and started discussing our own project ideas for Kosovo.

Time passed quickly and before we knew it we were boarding the plane to Pristina. With us, two muscular men boarded the plane who told us that they were Kosovar soldiers who had been recruited by the US military. They were now returning home after having served in Afghanistan for 6 months and were very excited to see their homeland again. These men who were the first Kosovars we met were very welcoming and even gave Michael and me coins from all the countries they had visited within the last months.

Sitting down once more in a plane, our stomachs started giving little concerts – not because of our fear of flying but because we with all the excitement going on we had forgotten to eat. Lucky for us, on both flights we got served decent food so our faces quickly carried smiles again and our bellies stopped entertaining the airplane staff and passengers. An hour later, we landed on Kosovar ground. Suddenly, we looked at each other with big eyes: we are here and this is real! We were about to meet our host families and our guides of whom we had heard so many lovely stories throughout the last week... Despite some worries on Jo’s part, all suitcases arrived with us. The only thing we lost was Henriettes little basket she had carried in her hands from the dorms in Amsterdam to the airplane in Pristina to serve her host family candy in it. Her host family turned out to be one of our guides, Bardha, and her family. She and Envar, our second guide picked us up at the airport and the reunion of our wonderful guides and students and instructors from last year was great.

Now it was time to take a bus and meet our families. When driving into the city and before anyone left the bus, a big firework welcomed us to Pristina. Chiara said, she had never seen a firework this great. An alternate explanation to that of giving us a warm welcome was that a big Kosovar bank celebrated its 15 year university with this impressive spectacle. One by one, we left the bus and finally, it was also Henriettes turn who was accompanied by five other girls. Despite the lost basket, her host family, who is also hosting Zoe, Joon, Carolin, Rebecca, and me welcomed us very warmly. Perhaps the years supply of stroopwaffels we brought with us as a gift and some other goodies helped making a good impression.

After some tea, Albanian lessons, and a picture show of president Rugova meeting international presidents after Kosovos referendum, we went to bed. The long day and the curiosity about the next day made us want to fall asleep soon to be fresh and energetic the next morning.

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