Monday, July 9, 2018

Back in the country + Project

By Xanne Vos

I notice I find it hard to explain the wide range of thoughts that comes to mind whenever someone asks me: “So how was Kosovo?”. Most people don’t even know where or what Kosovo is and it’s then hard to provide an answer as nuanced as I would like. World Cup football helps. The day after we came back I had to work a shift at the canal boat company I work for and I found myself trying to explain what I had done and seen in Kosovo to grumpy captains and tired office staff by emphasizing the consequences of the game between Serbia and Switzerland for Kosovo. 

Since the ethnic tensions in Kosovo are generally between Serbs and Albanians – and four Albanians play for the Switzerland team – the Northern region of Kosovo supports Serbia, whereas the rest (roughly – there are of course enclaves with non-majority Serbs, Turks, Gorani, Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian) support Switzerland. Even though the game started out in Serbia’s favor, eventually Switzerland won 1-2. More importantly, the goals that allowed Switzerland to make a comeback were scored by two Albanians: Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri. After they scored they made an Albanian eagle sign with their hands – the symbol of the Albanian flag. Video footage from Prishtina that night shows the whole town is out waving flags and partying in the streets – shame we missed that by 24 hours. Even though the symbol is definitely cheered among Albanians in Kosovo, it can be highly offensive to Serbs, and both players showed the symbol to Serbian fans as well. 

Apart from the effect of the symbol, mixing nationalism with football – especially if it is not nationalism for Switzerland, but an entirely different country – was not appreciated by many, including the FIFA, and both players were fined for their celebration using the eagle symbol. This football match showed how the current peace has not resolved the tensions in Kosovo and from time to time, one spark can cause heightened tensions and incidents of violence
The rest of the week back in Amsterdam was spent working hard on our projects. It’s great to see how invested we’ve all become in our own projects. As I explained in my earlier blogpost, Lisa, Petra and I made an Instagram page called Kosovar Dreams, with pictures and little stories of people’s dreams and expectations for Kosovo’s future. You can follow our Instagram on:

Last week we spent a lot of time synthesizing our notes into little stories and emailing the people we interviewed many times to ask for their consent. Many students or people we interviewed on the street were very easy about consent and already gave their consent beforehand or quickly after we asked. The organizations were more of a challenge; from many we haven’t heard back yet and we are still sending follow-up emails. From others we got a definitive no. Organizations such as the UNMIK and the OSCE have a mandate and an official stance, therefore all communication has to be extremely nuanced and in line with the organization’s vision. Often statements have to be made by their official communications team – no room for personal quotes by employees on Kosovo’s future there. It is understandable, but a shame. Even the representatives from bigger organizations we visited made unexpected comments that we would love to have included. Overall I am very satisfied with our project, though. The people we met gave us great comments and were so vocal about their ideas. At the same time it was so much fun and the final product looks good too. It’s also a really nice reminder of our time in Kosovo and everyone we met.

On the last Thursday and Friday of June we all presented our projects and it was so much fun to see all the different things people had done. As a graduating student it is weird to say goodbye to this amazing group, but I am really glad I got the opportunity to end my time at AUC with such a great and memorable experience!
  An unrelated but nice picture: Louis & Frankie at the lake

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