The border agents admitted that the only Americans they were used to seeing were military.
Where was I?
My daydreams of the dramatic almost cartoon like whistles of bombs dropping and the sounds of crazed secret faxes between Bill Clinton and Milosevic chatter in my mind and come to a screeching halt.
“Americans? American basketball? You know Dirk Nowitzki?”
Yeah I knew Dirk Nowitzki.
“Michael Jordan he’s the greatest”. We shook our heads in agreement but my look was more bewildered than his.
What was this place? Moseying into Prishtina it sure as hell wasn’t what I expected. War torn? Nope, totally in tact. The look of war ravished people hanging their heads in despair? Negative. A nice, really nice, highway system? Full speed ahead. Flakey baked meat pies from bakeries? Yes please. Thin cut slices of meat and cheese with scrambled eggs, why I’d take some of that too. Grocery stores stocked with anything you could imagine? Yeah I’d like some of that R.C. Cola.
The only clues that this might be the Palestine of the 1990s was a statue of Bill Clinton. Apparently they love him here. And I was starting to admire him a little bit more after I learned that his international policies prevented a second slaughter like in Bosnia. I’d just left there, and the subject was a little raw. There aren’t many places where I’ve actually seen my country’s military actually make a positive impact on foreigners during the last 26 years. But keeping peace? Yeah, Bill helped with that.
Public broadcasting and newspapers would have you believe that (now) young generations in Kosovo and the Balkans have moved on from the blood fudes and battles over ethnic ground; that somehow those grudges of old just arn’t relevant to them anymore. But the consequence of war still resound with the young generations, with people like Alban. Alban was a desk clerk. He prided himself on impecable service and smoked an entire pack of cigarettes. He spoke of his grandfather’s grandfather’s land back in a winding rock canyon. He expressed his disbelief that anyone could ever lay claim to his family’s land because it had belonged to them for so long. University admittance is competitive with somewhere between 5 and 10 colleges in Kosovo. And work is hard to come by. Some hope for a potential partership with the E.U. and in doing so people would be able to leave the country freely in pursuit of studies or employment further abroad.
Regardless of the future, whether or not tensions flare up again, there’s clearly something complicatedly special about Kosovo.