This is Durim, one of the closest friends I made while in Kosovo. And he recently moved to New York City! I’m a student at Syracuse University in Syracuse, which is only 5 hours by bus from NYC. So I had to go see him. This photo is shortly after our first meeting along 5th avenue. I ran to hug him and I couldn’t believe we were both in NYC, not Kosovo! We chatted over coffee at a Barnes and Noble because, of course, it’s the Albanian way. Getting coffee is the most important part of your day. The social hour is the coffee hour. Ah! It brought back memories. Concluding our coffee hour, we took this photo in front of Rockefeller Center. Isn’t that just the face of happiness?
The adventure continues….stateside! Well I’m no longer in Kosovo, but I have managed to keep in touch with some wonderful friends as I return to Syracuse University as a graduate student. This past September, only a couple weeks after the beginning of classes, my friend Klit decided to come visit me for a weekend. He had been working in New Hampshire over the summer at a resort and decided to travel around the east coast. I was one stop along the way!
It was fun catching up and very interesting to see my life through his eyes. Klit was amazed at Syracuse University’s large campus with a building dedicated to almost every subject. “You have anything you’d ever need here!” he exclaimed. He popped up on Abe Lincoln’s lap for a photo op in front of the Eggers Hall, school of political science. Klit is a bright college student of law back in Kosovo, so we of course visited SU’s newly built law school. He walked through the halls of the law library in awe and taking pictures. “I would love to study in the US,” he said.
We also took a day to enjoy the city of Syracuse. Klit had been eating only McDonald’s hamburgers, so I reasoned with him that he MUST eat a good American hamburger before leaving. A stop at Empire Brewery did the trick and he said, “That’s the best hamburger I’ve ever had.” I told you so! Klit enjoyed the IMAX theater at the Science Museum and said, “I wish Kosovo had a theater like this.” We even attended an Irish festival in downtown Syracuse, complete with music and Irish dancing (see above picture). To top our evening off, Klit and I went to a student house party. He was surprised by the social dynamics, that people would just come up to him without even knowing him and begin conversation. He said that would never happen in Kosovo.
It was fun for me to see his impression of my experience that I consider routine. There are a lot of differences between Syracuse and Prizren that I don’t really think about. Before sending Klit off on his bus to NYC, I gave him a big hug and the promise that I’ll see him again in Prizren.
My last days in Prizren. This is a picture of Cindy (my roommate), Ferjalle (the wife of my landlord), and myself. Ferjalle insisted that we take a picture because she wanted a photo of her “girls.” She said that it will feel strange not having us around the house anymore. Likewise, it will feel strange not coming back to this apartment everyday. ☹
This is my street! You can see the entrance to my house with it’s brown gate and the Bujtinave Pensione next door where the cleaning ladies always greeted me. I will never forget this.
And when I got back to the city from Prevalle, I ran into one of the Filigree jewelers, Jeffrey. He only speaks Albanian and I understood what he was asking when he said “café?” I politely accepted and I had my last coffee with Jeffrey. He made sure to get a picture of us so as to show Neshat the next day. Neshat is another filigree jeweler who was good looking back in the day and has a bit of a crush on me. Jeffrey couldn’t wait to rub it in Neshat’s face that he got to see me right before I left Kosovo…constant jokes amongst the jewelers.
Every year, the students of Leke Dukagjini take a class field trip to the mountain top village of Prevalle. It’s a beautiful place that sits among snow capped mountains and green trees. In the winter time, Prizrenis like to come here to ski. This year, the 8th grade teacher invited me to come along. It was to be my very last day of school before departure and she said, “Please, Laura, come. Don’t loose this time.” All of my students kept asking me, are you going to come tomorrow? Are you going to come? Please come with us!!!” So I was convinced to come along.
Six buses full of 8th graders left the school at 8am and we arrived in Prevalle. My students were completely elated that I joined in the group, “Laura, we are so happy you came!” The students immediately took their place on the mountain side and started to picnic, meanwhile, I went to a local café to get coffee with the teachers (see photo below). The teachers were all astonished that I wore a dress and sandals to Prevalle. They thought I was a crazy American and they kept asking, “Aren’t you cold, Laura?”
After the long, morning coffee break I went back outside to be with the students. We sat together and they offered me snacks. We huddled together and covered ourselves with jackets. Some of my students decided to set off on a hike to a river close by and they invited me to come along! I gladly went with.
Along the hike I felt pampered by my students. Beings I was the only one in a dress and sandals, it was difficult passing the streams and muddy parts along the path. So I had two students holding my hands across the streams and another student on the other side waiting for me with an open hand. They were so good to me it was adorable. Throughout the hike, they asked me a million questions: “What are you going to do in summer? Is there a place like Prevalle where you’re from? Did you like Kosovo? Do you like hiking? Do you like Albanian music? What is your favorite song? Etc…” Along our hike they asked, “Can you sing us a traditional American song?” I said sure and I thought for a while…“What is a traditional American song? Hmmmm. I’ll sing the National Anthem.” The Star Spangled Banner! My singing was followed by clapping and they said, “That’s a really long song.” Then, they sang Albania’s national anthem for me and by that time we arrived back in Prevalle.
It was a great day! Many hugs and last goodbyes from students. I’m glad I got to finish the year with them in Prevalle. It was a great last day with the 8th graders.
Love these girls. Such sweeties.
My last day at the filigran studio ☹ I’m going to miss these great people who have become good friends. Before I left, they said in English, “Laura, you are daughter of filigran. You are welcome here. Come here next year.” I will definitely come back to visit again! This is not a final goodbye.
In the last week of my stay in Kosovo, a fellow Fulbright ETA and her boyfriend came to visit me in Prizren, just for the day! So we did all the tourist things in Prizren and saw all the sights. It was nice for me because I got to experience Prizren again, for the last time before departure. My hike up to the castle was the last time I would be up there. On our way back down from the castle, we stopped at this new café perched on the mountain above the city. It had just opened a couple days ago and the views from its balcony were spectacular! So we all took a seat and spent about an hour eating ice cream, drinking Peja beer, and enjoying the sunset. It was absolutely spectacular. By far, the best way to spend my last few days in Prizren.
For my last activity with my 8th grade students I decided to take them all out for coffee. We had a lovely 2-hour coffee get together, all clustered around two tables. Everyone went around and said what plans they had for summer, any family vacations, or things they were looking forward to doing over the three months. Then, I taught them all how to play the cup game that high school students do to pass the time in the cafeterias back in the US. We caused a bit of noise and people started to look at us, but my students said, “We don’t care. We’re having fun!” Then we played another game in which I spilled words, nouns, and verbs across the table and they each had to create a sentence. The student with the most creative sentence won a ruler with pictures of all the US presidents. After that, my students still didn’t want to leave so we played one last game. It was a English board game. Then, when we finished that I said, “Time’s up! Everyone can go home. I hope you enjoyed my last activity.” They all responded with a big, “Yes, of course we did.” Many students said, “Thank you Laura, we’ll miss you.” And they gave me a big hug.