Seventeen

Aside

My first quasi-assignment is to get ten quotes from ten different people about a theme of my choice. I thought I’d just go to the heart of it and ask people what it was like during the war and whether Pristina has changed much since then. Young people generally had no problem talking about their memories of occupation and displacement. One of them even joked about it : “We are free now ! We can kill each other if we want to.” However, older people were more reserved in their responses. When asked about his memories of the war, a police guard at the Rugova grave site said : “I don’t know the war. I don’t like to remember it. We don’t speak of that.” Official bloodshed may have ended several years ago, but people’s scars and the stories behind them are too recent to discuss.

Rugova grave site

Rugova grave site

Brotherhood and unity monument

Brotherhood and unity monument

War memorial

War memorial

The Brotherhood and Unity monument above is a keepsake from the Communist era in the 1950s. Tito built this statue as a symbol of hegemonic times, but he said the three pillars are supposed to represent Serbs, Albanians, and Montenegrins peacefully coexisting. There’s a bunch of graffiti at the base of the structure, and there have been rumors for the past couple years that it’s going to be demolished to make space for an underground parking lot. The modern design may be attractive to some, but most people think it doesn’t belong in a Kosovar city that’s finally independent from Slavic influence.

Yesterday, my roommates and I went for a hike in Germia park. On the way back, I went for a dip in the pool, which has a jutted rock wall you have to climb to get to the diving board. The fence to the diving board is locked and chained, but that doesn’t stop kids from hopping the fence or standing on the highest railing to get more air. A girl pushes me up over the fence so I can jump off the board, which is at least twice as high as an American diving board. With no lifeguards watching me jump, I’m unchained and free for three airborne seconds. With so much structure during the weekdays that I want to rip my hair out, these three seconds are priceless.

Taking the “bus” back home involves getting in some guy’s van and gesturing to communicate.

I really wish I spoke Esperanto, the universal language. I’m learning Shqip/Albanian but it’s a process….

I don’t have my cell phone on me and could be taken to a brothel, or I could be dropped off on the main street by my house. I still have faith in humanity, so I choose to believe the latter. The “bus driver” rips me off by making me pay 50 cents instead of 40, the regular city bus fare. American = money, but not me. They don’t know that, though, and I’m sure those 10 cents are really important to him, so I let it slide. Pristina needs bike lanes.

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