By Petra K. Stangvik
Flights are useful. Not only do they bring you from A to B, but they also function as buffers between those two destinations, usually allowing for some head space to look forward to where you are going and “mentally prepare”. Conversely, flying back consists of drinking coffee, allowing yourself some more holiday-food and processing where you are flying from and what you did there during your stay. Although “holiday”-snacks were served on both flights from Pristina-Vienna and Vienna-Amsterdam, processing was out of the question. It was hard to leave all the thoughts behind, because a) I could not b) I did not want to leave everything behind. Instead of being able to process the last 10 days steadily day by day, emotion for emotion, complete chaos roamed in the form of a big blur of events, talks, feelings, approaching handshakes and thoughts. None of it really stuck and none of it let go and I found myself simply drifting among various impressions during both flights, the subsequent next hours, 12 hours of solid sleep until 2 cups of coffee later when a friend
excitingly asked me whether Kosovo was “fun”.Now, I do not want to be a wet blanket, because yes, Kosovo was “fun”. It was “fun” to travel in a large group and to meet these people who until Schipol at 7 AM had been sitting next to you in class, rather anonymously in stark contrast to how we talked during late-night dinners. It was “fun” to see Kosovo, the landscape, nature and city. It was fun to spend time with people I genuinely think are wonderful people, and it was “fun” to meet new people - who made me smile and laugh. But they also made me think, reflect, feel shame, purpose and useless, one made me cry and one made me wonder how I could disagree so strongly, but yet be charmed so effectively (shoutout to you Mr. Kurdi). Some of the strongest impressions, because they were so light yet carried with them such a strong impact came from the students we met at Mitrovica Business College and at the Youth Assembly. Perhaps was it because they were my age, studying as myself,
looked like me and talked like me, and it doubtlessly is easier to relate to people you can identify with. They were not different. Except for that they grew up in Kosovo and waere now facing challenges unknown to at least this AUC to-be-graduate. One girl had studied to become a nurse and was now volunteering part time and working freelance part time as a nurse or anything health related. Getting a steady job was almost impossible. I recalled talking to one of my best friends studying to be a nurse back home in Norway, about going on exchange to New Zealand or not, and whether it may have a positive affect on her getting a job in Oslo when she graduated. It did not really matter she concluded, as the demand for health care personnel is so large, that she would probably be fine anyway. Not only was she certain she would get a job, but her certainty signified that other people could be certain that there would be someone able to offer them medical care and help. Institutions were in place where things like this could be provided, and a system in place for encouraging people educated to do so according to demand. It is hard to get statistics on most things in Kosovo, but I find it hard to imagine otherwise than they too have a demand for healthcare institutions. Perhaps not for the same reasons as Norway, who is facing an “elderly-wave” in stark contrast to Kosovo who has one of the youngest populations in the world. Too, in contrast Kosovo does not have institutions in place to deal with healthcare demands, particularly those extending past basic needs-such as psychological services, sexual education or care and services for those affected by domestic abuse. I was left with a lot of questions, and in hindsight I think I was too afraid to ask the girl what the status was of these things and the healthcare system overall, especially if people lived in remote rural areas.Some things were easier to ask about. Such as corruption, plans ahead, political challenges, political motivations, plans, mandates and goals: large words easy to be silenced down by even larger words saying much but actually saying very little, except perhaps reflecting their large
meaning as they tended to be delivered by “large” people. With “large” people, I mean politicians, ministers, EU staff and alike, not “large” as in body weight although I am surprised as Kosovar cuisine (if this is a thing? Albanian/Serbian/Turkish ?) tasted absolutely delicious. It was easier as it allowed me to remove myself from the individual situation of being Kosovar, which as any individual thing does, differs tremendously from person to person, but nevertheless carried with it some common traits or challenges. How much easier is it not to talk of numbers, rather than names and people? Statistics instead of stories and plans instead of lives. Perhaps I did not snap out of it until Petrit Selimi forgot four people stating the number who died during the 2011 Norwegian terrorist mass-shooting. 73, he said and all I could keep thinking repeatedly was 77, 77, 77, 77, 77. Anders Behring Breivik killed 77. I am not proud that it took an example or emotional source relating to my own life or country which made me open up to an take in the individuals of Kosovo. I wish it did not need to be inspired by something so me-related, but rather from a constant sense of understanding and empathy. But this cannot be changed, and I do not think it should. It does not change the fact of how Kosovo became real to me, and with it the stories, lives, challenges, efforts, troubles and hopes of those I met.