I've come to realize that I am not painting the whole picture of my experiences in Kosovo thus far. So I suppose I will start with Sunday.
Sunday was our first full day here in Kosovo. Vanessa, Karen, Clay and I went with Arben, an refreshingly original man from World Vision. We drove to Prizren, a city in southern Kosovo. We made many stops along the way just to get a feel for the country and to practice a bit more with our cameras. After the excruciatingly long time spent cramped in a plane, it felt wonderful to get out and experience the unfamiliar. We stopped at a ski resort and took some landscape photographs. We also spotted a large group of men and boys playing soccer in a field so we pulled over. Just as we did, some KFOR who were walking down the road came to the field. We had hoped that they would start a game but they just posed for a few photos and went on their way.
Prizren was the most beautiful sight. One of the most memorable moments was visiting an extremely old Catholic church in the middle of town. Some people were making renovations inside and when we were leaving, we ran into the pastor and got a chance to speak with him about the history of the church and about Prizren.
It was a sightseeing day, no doubt, but I think that it was necessary.
Monday I spent in Gracanica, a suburb of Prishtina, with Lindsay and Isaak. We visited three different families. The first was Alexsandra and Goran Rakic. They were a young couple and they lived in a small home with their 18-month-old son, Dmitri. Alexsandra worked as a journalist but her husband, Goran lost his job in the ministry of transportation in Kosovo because he is Serbian. Alexsandra lamented about feeling imprisoned in her own home because of all of the Albanians moving in. They are moving to central Serbia soon because they feel the move would be best for everyone. One of the biggest reasons is their child. "There is no playground here," Alexsandra says. She foresees a brighter future for her son in Serbia. Goran also sees better opportunities in Serbia but is still reluctant to leave because his father is buried here in Kosovo. His grave is just across the street from the village.
The second family we visited was much older than the first. Dragan Lecic and his wife live with his parents in a home they have had their whole lives. It was interesting because Lecic's wife also mentioned feeling imprisoned in the village because of the Albanians who were purchasing the land surrounding their home. The Lecic's differed from the first family, however, because they are sticking around. They mentioned that it is understandable for younger families, such as the Rakic's, to leave because they have a lesser sense of perspective.
The third visit was short and fairly uneventful.
Tuesday was, until today, arguably the best day this week for me. Vanessa, Michael and I met up with Arben and Naz and visited a family in the Cicavica range. The family has such an interesting story. They lived at the base of the mountains. Then, during the war, their village became much too dangerous because Serbians had moved in so they were forced to retreat into the mountains and lived in barracks for a while. When they returned to their home, they found everything completely burnt, destroyed. They rebuilt their home in six months. It was also interesting because before the war they were a fairly middle class family. The father worked and the children were much younger and fewer. During the war, their father lost his job because he is Albanian. Today there are fourteen people living there. Two of the men work. Nine months ago they received a loan from KosInvest and used it to purchase a horse. They feel like things are improving greatly for them and they have great hope for the future. They were a beautiful family. Some of my favorite shots from this family are below.
After that we visited a war widow in the same village. One thing sticks out from that interview. Vanessa asked her if there were any specific memories of her husband that she would like to share. She replied quite simply, "I remember everything."
On the way back to Prishtina that evening we stopped by Sultan Murat's tomb and Gazimestan. These are memorials related to a battle in 1389 between the Ottomans and the Serbs. We were not allowed to walk up Gazimestan, even with our passports, because of the recent declaration of independence.