Monday, July 3, 2017

Swan Song

By Alessia Ulfe

It has been a couple of days since the end of Peace Lab and almost ten days since we came back from Kosovo. The same amount of time we spent in Kosovo. Yet, this ten days in Amsterdam haven’t been as exciting or have had the same impact in my life as the days in Kosovo have.  Even though peace lab finished and I have had days to write this blog post, maybe subconsciously I knew that this blog post would mean the end and I just did not want the end to come. The end of Peace Lab also means space for reminiscing about the good times and thinking about how much this month has changed me.
Newborn Boulevard, Prishtina, 2017

After coming back from Kosovo and having time to process everything that happened, we had to present our projects. This made us relive the trip, by sharing anecdotes of how our work proceeded. Personally, my project taught me to, as Anne calls it, “trust the process”. Initially, Klaudia and I went into the trip with a set idea of what we were looking for and we had a plan. Yet, it only made me realise how naive we were. We had no idea of what we were going to encounter and had to go with the flow of things. Trusting the process is something that can be scary as you do not know what to expect. I like knowing what is coming next, yet this month has shown me that sometimes you cannot control everything around you. You cannot control the field and you may just need to take a leap of faith and trust that there is going to be an outcome. The outcome of my project- a policy brief for the Kosovar government regarding bilingualism in schools, makes me incredibly happy to have trusted the process. With Klaudia, we would have never arrived at that topic if we had not kept on interviewing people and going around asking why.
Anne and Erik, Gazivoda Lake, 2017

This month was full of surprises and something that has left an impression on my mind was how easily and willing people were to share their stories. We live in a rather individualistic society, where sometimes it is better to keep your life story, and what you have been through to yourself. Yet in Kosovo, everyone was willing to tell you their story, and you could see how just by lending a listening ear their pain was eased. This was the least effort we could give to our hosts, to just listen and try and understand. Understand where they are coming from to understand where they are going, their motivations and dreams. In a society where everyone is carrying pain, being able to be part of their relief system was truly special. Not only that, it brought everything that we learned in class much closer to home. The conflicts and statistics ceased to be part of the one week of Balkan history, it became real. Especially the statistics, they became someone’s uncle, cousin or sibling. The story-sharers are the ones that have changed me the most. It is their courage, honesty and drive that has (and probably will forever) leave a mark on me.
The view from the Kalaja, Prizren 2017

For this last blog post, the prompt was “What have you learned? or How have you changed” yet I do not think it is fair to ask us this. At least for me, it has been such a sublime experience that verbalizing it (even on paper) makes it lose its secretive touch. This has been between Kosovo and me, and what we have shared, how I have changed, and all of those other things will always remain in my heart.
Sanne at the Lake, Kosovo 2017


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