Saturday, March 15, 2008

Journey's End... and Beginning

Well, we are here! I am here and I can hardly believe it! I have never been out of the country, so this is a totally new experience. All of the other places I have visited I have been able to project Lincoln, Nebraska on to them. American cities are just similar enough that despite the garish attractions in Las Vegas, the smog in LA, the ocean in San Francisco, I have been able to picture my cute little neighborhood in Hickman and my nice little Lincoln hiding in the mix of whatever suburban area I am visiting.

Definitely not here! As we landed, I could make out little arrangements around the city, little groupings of old houses, quaint country looking villages laid out nicely in the hills. When we got off the plane, we got off outdoors and the wind and fresh air nearly blew me off my feet. Being pent up in planes and stuffy airports for twenty-some hours does not feel good, especially if you are like me and relish fresh, cool air. I also really like wind, I am one of the only people I know who does, but I think it is fierce and wild and makes me feel wild because of it. It was sunset and you could just see the outlines of the mountains as the sun was setting. It wasn’t that late here, like 6:30 pm, but their daylight savings time hasn’t hit yet.

The travel experience getting here was a long series of events. Mostly boring. I was able to finish up my scholarship applications and grab my bags just in time to leave Lincoln, the whole day Friday I was running around frantically trying to make sure I had done everything. I don’t think I have forgotten anything… that I have noticed!!! And I better not have failed my religions test, because that was all mixed in the chaos. Mainly from the travel day I learned that I hate travel days. Flying is fun but not for more than two hours. International flight sleeping arrangements are not the best, especially when you’re in the middle of the giant airplane. But I got to watch Enchanted, which made me think of and miss my friend Sammi immensely, and that was before we even got out of the country! I also watched Pocahontas, well, the best hits in my opinion, and I just fast-forwarded to my favorite songs. Yes I am a girly nerd, but I also love action movies and I wanted to save No Country for Old Men for the way back. Then I watched my favorite part of Becoming Jane… the part in the library, and then I went to sleep. If you could call that contorted position of muscle spasms comfortable in the crowded, smelly plane. But I am enjoying getting to know everyone on the trip better; we are all a fun bunch of kids. Also, on the last flight on our way to Pristina, we met a couple of really nice people. Denis, who lives in England and is on holiday visiting his home and parents in Kosovo, and Nicole, an Irish woman who was returning to Kosovo to pay respects to her mother. Kindness and sincerity like that is something I didn’t expect to find outside of the Midwest. These two gave their experiences, stories, attention and friendliness freely, and it gave me real hope for the rest of the country in the regard of openness and accessibility.

I can be obnoxious, but I just get really hyper and energetic because I like to be around people and I have wanted to go overseas and do something like this my whole life. Something that really matters, something that will have ripples that extends outward from just Lincoln and just me.

So expect a lot of enthusiasm from Shannon. Also expect Shannon to be ridiculous and awkward, because that is what I do best, unintentionally.

Ridiculous Shannon moments of today:
Getting in the tiny elevator and pushing 1 for ground level, ending up on a creepy dining room, pressing another button and getting a creepy and narrow hallway, and then FINALLY pushing the right button to get to the lobby. All Vanessa and I wanted to do was find the lobby. The elevator had different plans.
I have fully unpacked. I am satisfied.
Vanessa and I attempted to fix my watch multiple times. It has the most annoying beep on the hour because I accidentally hit something when I was changing the time. For a watch that looks like something that might come in a McDonald’s happy meal and only has four buttons, the little thing is absurdly complex.
I listened to Britney Spears “You want a piece of me” like ten times on the plane. Literally.

Random observations:
We were driving from the airport and it was at least five miles before I saw a streetlight. It was just a two lane road lined with cars each direction. Cars flash their brights to indicate that they want to cut into traffic, turn in front of you, or that you are going to let them in to traffic, its like they use it as an addition to their turn signals.
There seem to be a lot more men than women here. It wasn’t until the real cityscape of Pristina formed with tall buildings and metropolitan coffee shops that I saw a woman out walking around, but I saw lots of guys getting out from smaller bars and other areas.
I can’t read anything! That is the most frustrating thing. I feel lost and that somehow, if I would only focus a little harder than I would be able to understand it. But that is not possible, I know no Albanian or Serbian.
They sell these neat lighters that illuminate a circle image of the former president, weirdest thing I have seen today.
I need to try harder to fit in and not look like such an American. This will be easier to do when I am not surrounded by eight people with cameras.
That is all. I really hope my straightener doesn’t start a fire in the morning, but thanks to Lisa Munger for her adapter either way.


Lauren said...

oh i love you shannon...

Darlene Smith said...

Glad to hear that you are there. Have fun, Learn lots and be safe.
Love you. Mom and Dad