Thursday, December 2, 2010


I have a couple of really awesome skillz in life. One of which is I have an awesome sense of direction, but I think my less recognized skill is befriending middle-aged women. Perhaps this is a skill acquired, one embedded in me from years of working at the toy store, attempting to bond with the young mothers- "oh no, I'm not married" "No, I don't have children" But lets be friends anyway?

On my bus ride home from Prishtina i sat next to a young mom of two boys. She explained to me that she met her husband when she was fleeing from the war. She said something to the effect "And then i was getting married, at that time!" As if it was an absurdity. She is Islamic. She spoke Albanian and Serbian. She gave the bus drivers oranges and shared her snacks with me. We spoke English. She told me I was pretty and I was at the best age, “free” she said, “free to do whatever… when you can dream something and it comes true." I swear those were here words. She gave me her email and we said we’d stay in touch, even though if you added all the minutes we probably shared in conversation it totalled maybe, barely, ten.

Today, I was doing some paper work for my Visa when I met a Turkish woman also with two boys. "I speak English, but I have no friends to practice with." I don't think she meant she didn’t have anyone to practice English with, I got the sense that she didn’t have friends in Zagreb at all. She told me English was a beautiful language and she had lived in Zagreb for 7 years. Her husband is Croatian. She also asked if I had kids, if I were married. I said no, to both. Her response was "Good!" and again, “you are free, you don’t have to worry,” I smiled. We chatted a little a bit in broken shared languages, her son sitting quietly between us as we all waited for the police to process some visa papers. After I finished I went to say bye. She asked if she could give me a kiss. She was beaming. I almost wanted to give her my number. I DID want to give her my number-but what would we do together in Zagreb? How could I be her friend?! Why is she so alone? Thinking about it now I wish I would of given her my email, something. I gave her son a silly band I had with me. She gave me a bag of hazelnuts. We hugged. "Drago mi je" we said and smiled as I walked away.

It was passing, but I have been thinking about it all day, these two encounters. How similar, how strange. How easy to have these moments, how hard it is to conduct my interviews on masculinity. I can't relate.

I was reading about gender, and nationalism, and post socialism, and traditionalism. Out the window the sun was setting and chunky snowflakes were falling on the men taking down the red umbrellas from the market. The concrete plaza was strewn with forgotten and rotten and wilting vegetables. It was cozy in the center for women's studies. Warm with books in English, books I get excited about. The point is, I was reading and some much of it was fluff...was based on opinions. I wasn't sure what to make of it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

"Tonights gonna be a good night"

Teacher Sarajane with her group of Kosovar 4th graders- I is for Icecream, H for hamburger, S for snake, Q for queen, M for mouse, A for airplane, E for ear or english, J for jump....

lighting of the magical balloons that I wrote about in my last entry.

This weekend I headed to Prishtina for thanksgiving. Where to begin? Everything from the bus ride to the food to the friends was amazing, leaving me with a happy belly and heart.
pumpkin pie from scratch. not enough space on the counter? sometimes you have to chop pumpkin on the floor.
Kosovo. New born.

Spending the weekend in Prishtina is like traveling to a strange magical land. I mentioned some of the passport confusion from before, but it goes beyond that. The city is comprised of a huge population of internationals. People who are living and working in kosovo from all over the world. They are there with EU intiatives such as EULEX, embassies, doing research, peace keeping, democracy projects, interns, teaching english... and so on. So imagine a city of approximnelty 500,000 emerging from a relatively recent conflict now chuck full of people speaking english, international food, and irish pub (well at least one irish pub). Not to mention each and every street, or so it seems, is being repaved, reconstucted, and several story buildings are erupting into the sky. The city is literally being rebuilt-not because of physical reconstruction, but because its now a capital city, one rewriting its geographical and political role, one with a significant amount of forgien dollars flowing into it.

(For those of you trying to follow along, the basic super-simplified story is this: kosovo is considered Serbia's homeland and was part of Serbia and Yugoslavia.
However, the majority of people living in kosovo are ethnically albanian and
under Milosevic's rule were vastly discriminated against, inluding an evacauation of 100,000
ethnic albanians from prishtina. In 2008 Kosovo unilaterally decided to be its own country- Serbia offically does not recognize kosovo as its own country despite the fact kosovo is independently run and maintains its own border. )

On the way into Prishtina-on our 6 hour bus ride from belgrade to prishtina-katie and i made friends with some young kosovar men. They spoke albanian and as far as we could tell didn't speak any serbian. Ismet, one young man we met on the bus had both a kosova and a serbian I.D. as well as a Yugoslave passport (one, granted, that was about to expire but for all intents and purposes functions as a Serbian passport). Ismet and his friends taught us some albanian, including "mirë" for good. They let us known when we approached borders. Shared with us their "Chipsy" chips, and even managed to crack several jokes with out verbal communication. After looking at passports and ids we surprisngly had to pass through a Serbian border (for some reason i thought since serbian didnt recgonize the border it meant they wouldnt have border control-they do, they just don't stamp your passport). I peered out the window. For some reason I am fascinated by this international disagreement, what happens when there isn't a clear law...what happens when the physical realtity is changing on the social relatity. Who gets to do what to MY passport? Going through kosova's passport patrol I got a green entry stamp. As far as my passport is concerned I've entered new terroritory.

We say bye to our new friends, wave to the bus driver and hop in a nearby taxi whom we ask to take us to the city center."Koliko.." I begin to utter. Shit. How many times did emails get sent back and forth amoungst the fulbrighters saying something along the lines of... "it's probably best to use english...don't use your serbian/crotian/bosnian." Surprisngly it had become a habit. The things i know how to say well have fluidly, and unbeknowst to me, replaced my english. Asking how much a taxi ride would cost is definantly one of those phrases. I doubled back, this time in english. "Where are you from?" The driver asks. I say I am American. He responds, "Oh, i thought maybe you were Serbian, you know, because of the koliko." If it wasn't so dark he probably would have seen me change colors. "Oh, I'm living in Croatia right now." Thats when I get lucky. Kosovars don't necessarily love Croatia like they do America, but they're alright with Croatia and Croatians. Croatia, afterall, does recgonize them as a state. "Ohhh" We make a little small chat, I throw in a sorry and he says "Oh no, don't worry about it." And I get the sense he wouldn't of been offended even if I was serbian. We hop out of the taxi to start the brief trek to Sarajanes, a street that looks like rubble, where you wouldn't want to wear heels or anything that may get stuck in the mud.

Thanksgiving proceeded as all good thanksgivings should. A lot of amazing food cooked by even more amazing people. The ingenious juggling of many guests, few pots and pans, and the necessaity of two ovens, luckily only a block apart. There were people snuggled on couches reading, a walk around town to spy on the local market, the mosques, the monuments from the Yugoslav era, the Bill Clinton statue, a space-age looking library, and a hallowed out, never-finished Serbian orthodox church began by Milosevic some time in the 1990s. Pie, games, hugs. Sve je ok!

On saturday, the day of our feast, we decided to go out for breakfast and some sightseeing. Sightseeing was preempted by a delicious canadian breakfast joint. Whats so remarkable about that? Going out to breakfast is unheard of here. Sure, you can get a pastry and of course go out for morning coffee, but for those of you from KC there is no succotosh to dream about, eggtc, the corner, or even a first-watch to tempt a sleepy head to pull themselves out of bed (and for those of you from STL- no goody goody or MokeBees or especially no vegan shangri-la). But the hoard of internationals brought heaps of international food with them, including the sought after Bagel. Even though we lapped up all the international delights we weren't ignorant of the fact that Kosovars had some delicious treats of their own to offer up. On friday evening, before American food fest we went to a traditional Kosovar resturant. My favorite, surprisingly enough was lamb bathing in a creme made from spiced yogurt all baked till a golden brown crust formed on the top of a warm clay pot.

(ps sorry this jumping around-chronology is not my strong suit)

On saturday, after food, and welcomes, and meeting lots of new people- including people from Kosova, Iceland, Norway, Italy, Neatherland, Czech Republic, a round of what we were thankful for and of course PIE, came an interesting game of charades-turns out charades is kind of a tricky game to play multi-culturally, which is funny because you dont NEED to know the same languge... "What do you mean you haven't heard of the movie Fantasia!?" "Purple?" Before punches were thrown we ended the game with more laughs then let downs...

Its getting a bit late and I have some croatian to study. So. I will have to write more later, but I'll leave you with the perfect thanksgiving picture:

THANKS for reading and being lovely as usual.

sweet dreams,


According to wikipedia:

"As of 18 November 2010, 72 out of 192 (38%) United Nations member states have formally recognised the Republic of Kosovo as an independent state. Notably, 22 out of 27 (81%) member states of the European Union and 24 out of 28 (86%) member states of NATO have recognised Kosovo."