Eighteen

Standard

It sucks that I don’t have a smartphone with me in Kosovo, because I’ve never wanted to take discreet photos more. Almost everyone here’s brunette, so people tend to dye their hair funky colors to distinguish themselves from the crowd and add some spice to their lives. This city rivals Berlin for it’s fashion sense, minus the goth bit. Here are a few of the trends I’ve noticed since I’ve been here :

1. Red hair. Actually, dyed hair in general. I don’t know what it is about Eastern European women, but they tend to be drawn to red hair dye. Fire-truck, auburn, carrot, purple… You name it, the Kosovar women have used it. I even saw a girl on the bus with icy grey hair that shimmered blue in the sunlight (my personal favorite). Is it my Eastern European roots that compelled me to dye my hair dark red in 2008 ? It’s hard to tell, but the longer I stay here, the longer I’m tempted to get a new hairstyle. Considering how cheap the standard of living is here, I might just do it.

2. High heels. So far, virtually every woman I’ve seen in Pristina wears some form of high heels. I definitely never got the “no flats” memo. Wedges, stilettoes, Mary Jane heels, espradille wedges, blossom heels. Being short is just not an option here. I’m always under 5’5″, so I must look really bizarre.

3. Selling illegal things. This may not be a fashion trend, but it adds to the overall feel of the town. Walk down any given street and you’ll see children peddling everything from cigarettes to iPads to bootleg movies. There’s no limit to what they’re willing to sell to you, and they get pretty touchy- this little girl was hungrily grabbing at my notebook from the edges of my café table and I wished I had some leftover food to give to her. Class notes never filled an empty stomach. A little boy started grabbing at my arm as I walked past him on the street. Awkward ? Oh yeah. A French EULEX (the EU peacekeeping / law enforcement mission here in Kosovo) officer told me that the Roma (gypsy) population has practically no network here because they have very weak political representation. No government assistance, no health care, no nothing.

Sidenote : In Freedom House’s 2012 Nations in Transit report, Kosovo is classified as a semi-consolidated authoritarian regime. Much like a recent college grad struggling to break away from financial family ties, Kosovo’s an independent country that’s still on it’s way to being released from the grips of EU control.

4. Café culture here is thriving. I see the same people sitting at the main strip of cafés every day, and it’s reassuring. I’m becoming a regular and I like it. There’s no Wicker Park or Chinatown or Ukrainian Village of Pristina, and the downtown area is fairly small and closely resembles Chicago’s Gold Coast. Hopefully in ten years this city will diversify itself enough to make more people want to visit.

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