Thursday, March 20, 2008

This week so far

This week has been an amazing experience overall. I have gone from seeing average families to seeing really impoverished families. On Sunday, Kate, Karen and I spend the day in downtown Pristina, just looking for story ideas. We happened upon a group of film students who we got coffee with and chatted. Later in the afternoon, they took Michael, Shannon and me around. We got some okay photos, but it was too tourist-y to get much real work done.
Monday, I went to Gracanica (Gratz-ah-neech-ah) with Kate and our fixer Isak. We visited three families. The first was the youngest in the village. They have an 18 month old son who is absolutely adorable. Their house smelled like coffee. I had my first experience with Turkish coffee which, I might add, I don't like very much. It is thick and gritty, almost like you're eating sand. That's a little cliche. I was just now told that you are not supposed to drink the last couple sips, perhaps this would change my mind... doubtful. Anyway, we then went to an older couple's home. They live with the husband's parents and their children. Their house is beautiful and rather large. The third house we went to was of a man who raised pigeons.
Tuesday, Shannon, Karen, and I went out with Afradita and Arianita. We went to the red cross who then took us to a bombed neighborhood on the outskirts of Pristina.
Being in this village made me think that I will never again complain or say "I'm starving."

The first house we visited was by far the worst. There were, what we thought were, two boys playing in the street. We later found out that one of them was a girl. They ran into a building that was completely destroyed. The walls were collapsing, there was no ceiling, and the area reeked of mold. This was their house. We walked, silently, through a pitch black room. I couldn't see where we were going, as I was toward the back. My toes grasped for something solid on which to stand, but to no avail. I tried my hardest to keep balanced. We walked up 3 steps. I put my hand on the wall, only to find it wet and slightly sticky. It's a good thing I carry hand sanitizer with me. We arrived to a dimly lit room where the rest of the family was sitting. Eight people live in one very crowded room. I tried my best not to show my disgust. The family lives on approximately 40 euros a month. They can just barely afford food, but cannot afford clothing so they resort to wearing the same things almost every day. It was truly a heartbreaking sight...
The second family was only slightly better. They lived in the basement of a house that had been bombed. Their ceiling was fully constructed, though crude. This family seemed much happier. It was a woman, her husband, and their two children. Another woman (I'm not sure how they are related) and her child lived with them. I couldn't handle sitting inside so I stayed outside with the children.
The third family was a Roma family. I didn't get any information on them because the inside of their house was ridiculously warm, which is good for them.
Tuesday night was interesting for me. Although I know that I am safe here, it is very hard not to be overly nervous... Michael and Clay, who have the room next to mine and Kate's, opened their window and their door slammed very loudly. I was in my bathroom and the noise scared me terribly. It's amazing what your brain can do when you're terrified. I swear, it sounded as if a bomb had gone off and another way coming. I ran out into the hallway, half expecting the building to collapse. Karen met me in the hallway and I asked her what had happened. She, very calmly, explained that someone's door had probably slammed. Although I knew that this was the case (because I asked Michael and Clay), I couldn't stop my body from shaking for the next twenty minutes or so. While that may seem ridiculous to the readers, and embarrassing for me to admit, I feel that it needs to be said.
Also, Tuesday, I felt I had a bad day and that my photos were terrible, but we ended up having a small photo contest. We each picked our best and had the waiters judge and my photo won! I was so excited. It was a refreshing reassurance.

Wednesday was an unproductive day. I went in the morning with Ilka to Fushekosova. We went to a roma family's house and it was really neat. The woman was very open about her life and her 4 sons. Unfortunately, I didn't quite get all I wanted. I did get some good information and a couple good photos, but nothing great. I came back and ended up working a good amount and then went to a market with Michael and Valon.

This morning, I woke up at 6:30 to go to the market with Michael to get some shots of the stores opening and vendors setting up. After that, I came back expecting to work or do something not involving work, but Arben was here and was able to take me back to Gracanica! My afternoon was really great! I went back to the second family (the multigenerational household) and got lots of great photos and sound bytes. I love that community. Today has easily been the best day here. I am loving every minute of Kosovo and I'm really sad that it's Thursday already!
There are a lot of other things that have happened and are happening, but I'll write about that at another time, in another, more appropriate place.
I'll post photos tonight...

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