Sunday, June 26, 2016

From not that bad to not bad at all

By Nienke Dek

For the first blog, Anne asked us to write about our experiences of the day assigned to us. Something quite easy, just describe the fun and interesting things you have done that day and add some jokes about hay fever and the UN bus. But now, Anne made it a bit more difficult for us (of course..), and she wanted us “to dig into our little brains” to find out how we had changed after the trip and to come up with an advice to someone or some group in Kosovo. Nice Anne, just as easy as the first one. Not.

So here I go, please bear with me.

Yeah, how has this trip changed me? I thought about it during the past couple of days, and well, I think that the way in which I have changed happened to almost all of us: I spot everything now, and things pop up in my mind all the time. I know this is vague, so I will try to give you some examples. On the (totally amazing and food overflowing) Peace Lab boat trip through the beautiful canals of Amsterdam, for example, I saw a banner on one of the bridges that stated something about someone (I don’t remember the name, maybe I did not become such a good spotter after all then) destroying the entire Amsterdam tour boat industry. I immediately said “haha, even in Amsterdam there are political messages everywhere”, and when we passed the same bridge on the way back, Thomas immediately screamed while laughing, “Guys look a hidden transcript”. Although we made a joke out of it (sorry Anne), we would have never even come up with that same joke without Peace Lab. Whether Peace Lab has made our jokes better remains something unsure though, or maybe we can say with certainty that it has not. 

Moreover, I think the Vetëvendosje signs have never received more attention than between the 7th and 17th of June when some group of students from Amsterdam that spotted everything they learned, decided to scream “hey look another Vetëvendosje sign” every time they saw one. And lastly, I laughed when my roommate thought there was a spelling mistake in our project because it spelled Kosova instead of Kosovo (if you read this and think, wait why is this not a spelling mistake? read the sidebars in our project;), but knew that I would have thought the exact same thing if Peace Lab would not have happened.

So, that’s how I changed. My advice then, hmm.          

When I think of our time in Kosovo, the meetings we had with different organizations, and the talks we had with people, one thing pop’s up in my mind (yeah, again): image. Not only the people we interviewed for our project, but almost everyone we met had the desire to spread a positive image of Kosovo to the rest of the world. Of course this is logical: a better image creates more interest in the country and therefore more tourism, tourism creates more job opportunities and that solves the problem of unemployment currently present. In other words, Kosovo would go from “not that bad” (in the words of the deputy minister of foreign affairs), to “not bad at all”.  My advice, therefore, is meant for everyone concerned with creating the image of Kosovo. Not only the government officials, but also the inhabitants of Kosovo themselves that are active on Facebook and other media, and the various organizations that are working in the country. The image you spread does not have to be linked to the ethnic differences, it can be about what most people agreed upon: the beautiful cultural heritage, the amazing hikes one can make in the mountains, the delicious food (which above all else is as cheap as it can get), the exiting nightlife and of course the coffee. From politicians and UN officials to two young guys from Prizren, this is what they told us, this was the image they wanted to spread. So why not start to spread this image, this view of Kosovo? If this is what we were told, and what we experienced as well, why shouldn’t our neighbors, friends, family and the rest of the world not know about it? So, to everyone in Kosovo, spread this image, I would say. Of course, this does not mean that the ethnic differences should be ignored, and that no action should be taken to fight the inequalities present and combat issues such as corruption. I am almost sure someone of our group will write an advice to someone in Kosovo about one of these issues, which is good, because they are also of high importance. But I decided to focus on something that can quite easily be done by everyone in Kosovo, that does not include thinking whether one could safely say certain things or not and does not offend another group, and that additionally has a very positive effect on the future of Kosovo. Hopefully, in 10 years, most of my family has visited Kosovo, has walked in its mountains, experienced its food and nightlife and has drunk its coffee, because the image was spread. 


Our project can be found on

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