Saturday, July 1, 2017

We Have Crossed the Bridge

By Sanne de Schipper
Yesterday was officially the last day of Peace Lab, and for some even the last day of AUC, even though some of us still have to hand in some papers ;). For me it was the last day of Peace Lab, the last day of AUC and the last day of living in the dorms (also why my blog is late because I was moving yesterday, my apologies!). When I was packing all my stuff, I realized that I have a lot more stuff than I initially thought. I think that this is also true for Kosovo, even though we did not take an extra suitcase of stuff home, we did learn a lot more than anyone had ever expected.

We learned about the history of the Balkans in the first week, which seems like a lifetime ago; and in the second and third weeks we learned more about the people, the country and the different perspectives; and this last week we learned from each other. Every group presented their project during the final three days of the semester and I have to say that I was very impressed by every single one of them. We have seen a documentary, an art exhibition, listened to a podcast, but we also ate flija (Robbert, Dania and I attempted to make this traditional Kosovar dish, it tasted pretty good but it did not look like the flija we had in Kosovo ;))  and drank raki. Every project looked at peace building through another lens and I learned something new during every presentation.

I also learned a lot personally and to illustrate this I like to tell two stories about my time in Kosovo. The first story I would like to share with you took place in North-Mitrovica, which is a so called Serb enclave. We (Robbert, Dania, Nora, Klaudia and I) were walking around on the main street and Nora saw that there was a line in front of the bank. So she decided to ask the people what was going on and use that for her project, The Voices of Kosovo (check out their amazing Facebook page). She ended up talking to a student from Montenegro and they were talking for a while, so the rest of the group decided to join the conversation. We had a real nice conversation about Kosovo, his struggles and his dreams. Since it was lunch time, we asked him if he knew a good place to get some food. He knew a nice place and he would walk there with us, once we were at the restaurant we asked him where he and his friend who joined were going. They answered that they were going to the student cafeteria, so we asked if we could come, just to see what it was like. So together we walked to the cafeteria and the guys ended up arranging a free lunch for us. The canteen ladies responded that “if you are here all the way from Amsterdam, you cannot leave without food”. For me this was such an amazing experience, because a couple of random people come up to you to ask you some questions and instead of responding a bit annoyed (which usually happens in The Netherlands), you invite them to come eat with you. Not only did they arrange food for us, but they also opened up to us; telling about their lives, their dreams and their hopes for the future. We had such a nice time and it was sad that we only had a limited time there, before we had to go to our next meeting.

In front of the cafeteria

Something similar happened when Robbert, Dania and I went to the National Library in Pristina. We were there just to have a look at the building and see the inside. However when we entered the building almost everyone was staring at us. So we decided to approach one of these groups of staring men and ask them some questions for our project. We ended up having a great conversation about an hour and a half with two of the guys. They gave us a tour through the library, shared jokes, we talked about our countries, traveling and Kosovo. It was again so surprising to me that people opened up so much to ‘strangers’. I learned so much from this, because I am more of an introvert person, so it was very nice to talk to these people and share stories. Even though approaching strangers was a bit difficult for me from time to time, every conversation we had was so nice and it made me open up a little too!

In front of the library 

This experience has changed me and I think all of us, and as Anne said “we have all crossed the bridge”. 

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