By Béibhin Gallagher
Our trip so far has been a bit of a whirlwind for me, and this is putting it mildly. With (almost) visa troubles for me while still in Schiphol and dropping my phone down the toilet the next day, on top of how new and overwhelming it feels to be in a new place for the first time and to have such a high-octane introduction to the politics; it has all been a bit mad. But in a good way, of course.
I really do feel already that the group has bonded so much over the last few days, which makes me excited to think of how close we will be by the end of the trip. This is really important, I think, on a trip like this where emotions are often running high (especially with 18 girls!!) and confronted with such intense situations.
The lake in Mitrovica was the perfect opportunity and place to take a moment. After our meeting with the students in Pristina; the outlook of the students in Mitrovica really highlighted the contrasting opinions and helped us understand the divide in society here in Kosovo between Serbs and Albanians.
One thing that has been consistently recurring for me, and that I really noticed for the first time in Mitrovica, is the difference in attitude regarding the past and the future of the two communities: While in Mitrovica and in the North of Kosovo, the emphasis is wholly on the past and what they have lost; rather than what they could gain through co-operation and reconciliation with Kosovo. But, easier said than done. The war is so fresh on both sides. But, I must say that, from an outsider's perspective at least, while the majority of the Serbian community looks to the past. The Kosovar-Albanian community is looking towards the future. (Perhaps understandable when the resolution of the war has resulted in circumstances which have led the way for their demands) But, nevertheless, nowhere is this difference in attitude more clearly exemplified than in the extremely remarkable , and absolutely deliberate, contrast between the 'Newborn' sign in Pristina; Representing the hope of Kosovo for its rebirth as an independent country for the young Europeans; and the 'Missing' sign in Gračanica: with its photos of missing Serbs from the war. A constant and ghostly reminder of wartime and the hurt that was felt then. How, then, can anyone expect that a community can move on ?