Friday, July 13, 2018

Coming Home

By Nour El Azzouni
Today is Monday, the second day of the new month of July. Yes, it may sound cliche, but it really feels like just yesterday when I woke up at 5 in the morning to get to the airport, when we were all happy to have made it on time to catch our flight, when we spent an amazing few hours wandering through the streets of Vienna, with the opportunity to talk to Mr. Wolfgang Petritsch, who had a vital role in the Rambouillet talks, which we had learnt about in class. Boarding that plane to Vienna, and then to Prishtina, we had begun an adventure that was to be filled with a mixture of emotions, always changing, and always growing, as we slowly but surely learnt to trust the process (thanks Anne!). The themes of this blogpost are sense of home, and the inspirational energy of the youth, as they are two of the many special aspects of Kosovo that encompass how I felt about this trip and what I learnt the most.

Before talking about a sense of home, I’m just going to quickly rewind back to my own home, to demonstrate the connection I felt to Kosovo. Growing up in Cairo, a chaotic, lively, and albeit a little smelly (it grows on you), city, I had become accustomed to trusting the process, and knowing that things would indeed work out. I had learnt not to trust the media’s portrayal of anywhere in the world, because my own country had often been portrayed as dangerous and placed as being a red zone on the map of various countries tourist destinations. Behind these media reports, yes, you did have a country that was all over the place, but you also had a country that was filled with incredible people, with a sense of humor I have always been fond of, and an ability to make the best of a bad situation through, usually, the venue of memes (I wonder where my love for memes emerged from). 

After the first few days in Kosovo, it started to feel a lot like home. It too, had often been portrayed negatively in the media, and it too, had wonderful, loving, and funny people. We shared similar family values, even some of the music sounded a lot like the music back home. The streets of Prishtina, where we spent most of the trip, became easy to follow and navigate, and while Merci will tell you otherwise, it felt like I had started to know my way around the city pretty well. The warmth that emanated from the people we talked to, and the openness with which they shared their stories reminded me strongly of a place I myself had been missing from home. Making me feel even more at home was my incredible host family that I mentioned in my earlier blog post. I would really like to thank my host mum, my host dad, my host sister, and my two host brothers, as well as my host aunt, and my host cousins for opening up their homes to me and sharing their space with me. 

Bardha, the person that I am lucky to call my sister and that I have been thankful to for sharing her family and home with me, is a truly unique human with a strong, beautiful, and funny soul, who always made such an effort to get us to our meetings on time, feed us yummy breakfasts, and to make sure we went to the club looking fabulous. I feel saddened by the fact that we have these physical borders between us but I am hopeful that I can one day share my home and family with her as she shared hers with me.

The vibrant energy across the country that the youth held, which we experienced not only during the night at Zone and the Cuban Bar, but more importantly, through the various non-governmental organizations we had the chance to visit. What stood out the most to me here was the incredible motivation and passion these organizations, usually led by individuals in their late 20s, held towards rebuilding and working with Kosovo’s communities. On more than one occasion, as we saw with the speaker from the Kosovo Women’s Network, and the speaker from the New Social Initiative, they both had grown up abroad and had the chance to continue pursuing careers abroad, but instead, had decided to return to Kosovo and take all the opportunities they had been given in order to give back to their country. 

Having always shared the same feelings about Egypt, to be able to hear that these young leaders also shared my same beliefs and passions about their own country was really inspiring and gave me the one final push I needed to be secure in my decision to go back home after three years in Europe. 

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