Saturday, June 11, 2016

Home Sweet Home

By Shelby Demmerer

I started my time in Kosovo with a really nice run on the first morning together with Andrea and our amazing host Enver. Even though this meant less sleep (and yes, sleeping is one of my favorite things to do), I feel like I got a really special introduction to the area. There was just so much space! I loved the big gardens, open fields with trees, people growing their own vegetables and dogs that go crazy on chains when you walk by (and no, not crazy in a positive way). This is what reminded me of Suriname. This amount of freedom… I could breathe again. There were also some houses that were either not fully built or half destroyed. This did remind me that the history of this area was nothing like my history. It reminded me of our multi-ethnic society in Suriname where we all peacefully live together. We've lived together so happily for so long that I feel like multi-ethnic is not a way to describe it anymore since everything is mixed up so much. This for example has as result that I don’t have this “pure” or “specific” ethnicity anymore. In other words: don’t even bother asking what my ethnicity is because I don’t know. Having this as my background it is for me so hard to just see how
ethnicity is something that divides people here in Kosovo. An example is the famous bridge over the Iber River in the north of Kosovo, where many Kosovar Albanians are known to live in the South and many Kosovar Serbs in the North. Being in the area and visiting this bridge that is located in Mitrovica, we heard many stories of people not daring to cross the bridge. One however does not have to talk to people to know something is happening because the construction of the UN around the bridge which only makes it possible to cross on the side of the bridge can clearly be seen. When one has an eye for more detail however: the flags, currency and the number plates of cars also send the message.  Knowing however that so many different groups and religions can live together, I believe that this division is constructed. Knowing the history of Kosovo, and the Balkans in general, the process of the construction of this division is also very clear. Since I believe it is constructed, I also believe that it can be deconstructed! Many would say that this is wish-full thinking, which I understand. That is also why I am not saying that this will happen soon, but I am sure that one day people will look at the past and laugh about it. Talking about laughing, I do have some fun facts to end with. Fun fact number 1: The phone company I think is also very confused when it comes to where we are geographically. I first get a message “welcome in Kosovo”, which then switches to “Serbia” to go to “Kosovo” again etc. Fun fact number 2: I should stop accidentally practicing my Albanian words with Kosovar Serbs and the other way around. And last, but not least fun fact number 3: I swam across a lake and back (PS: Yes, the lake was very wide!).

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