Thursday, June 9, 2016

Day 1, Pristina, Kosovo – 08/01/2016

by Marie Smit

After quite a hectic trip from Science Park to my parents’ house (in a small panic attack my mom had to help me to pack my bags…), to Schiphol, to Istanbul: we arrived in Pristina yesterday. It still feels very unreal to be here, especially after a week of hard-core Balkan history and studying for our exam. However, now the time has come to put theory in to practice and experience everything that we have learned about Kosovo first-hand (yes!!!).

As I am still trying to figure out what Pristina is really like, I decided to write down some of my first impressions. So what stood out to me is, first of all, how extremely welcoming our host families are. They are incredibly generous, even make us breakfast, and they also have the cutest children you have ever seen. Secondly, the coffee is different as they serve it with chocolate on top (yummy) and two(!!) bags of sugar on the side. Also food wise: the huge amount of feta reminds me of the tasty food in Tel Aviv and cities in Greece. Lastly, I feel like I should note how inspiring the energy of the people that we met today feels.

In order to also inform you of what we did today: we went to the University of Pristina, Vetëvendosje, and QEsh. At the University of Pristina the vice-dean and her students told us about the role of students in reforms, the (huge lack of) capacity in the University, and the disappointment towards EULEX. Other subjects we touched upon are the struggle of visa liberalisation and youth unemployment.

Then at Vetëvendosje, a nationalist Albanian movement that opposes foreign involvement in internal affairs of the country, they first showed us this very unusual and rather violent promotion video of their movement (which left me quite confused). Then, however, I got even more confused because their leader – this insanely smart and charismatic man – showed up, who really made everything they do seem exceptionally logical. Especially the way he used language to convince us was really impressive. When he accidentally used the word enemy, he immediately realized his mistake and said he actually meant to say “political adversaries” (haha). He basically stated that a society has to build itself, so instead of having the UN in Kosovo it should be vice versa, so Kosovo should be in the UN.

Afterwards we went to Qesh (literally: smile) where they promote the LGBT rights within the Kosovo community. Here they informed us on the current status of people who identify as LGBT and how they try to improve this position by making this community more visible. What I liked about this meeting is how they emphasized that it is necessary to get out of victimization and proclaiming the LGBT community should be as positive as they can.

At this point I think we all feel like 1) overwhelmed 2) very tired 3) very happy. We probably all feel like we are “the chosen ones” as we are here, and luckily there is so much more to come. 

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