January 27, 2012
OK, it’s 5:00 Friday morning, January 27, and I feel much better, even though I can’t brew any coffee in my room. No water pressure, a daily Balkans phenomenon owing to complicated power-grid issues (even the basics root in politics here). But let me interrupt my spoiled American whining long enough to say how happy I am to be here. Why? For starters, mountains. Flying south of Munich (southern Germany) yesterday, I experienced again the ecstasy of flying over the Italian/Austrian Alps. Forget snow caps. These truly awesome peaks wore snowy cloaks that reached to the ground. Then as the bus drive through Macedonia and into Kosova (as the Albanians spell it), the land featured lesser but still steep slopes that rose right from the edge of the road, transforming the highway into a Byronesque pass.
And the people. I love them. Perhaps because they endure every day the annoyances and deprivations that wring whining so readily from spoiled Americans, these Albanians in Kosova—just like the Albanians I met in Albania in 2003—invariably display patience, good humor, and self-sacrificial kindness. For instance, as I fumed in indignation when asked, again, to produce my passport, the Kosovarans on the bus joked about the snow and the self-important posturing of the border guards. And as I mumbled “what next” beneath my breath when the fender-bender brought us to another halt, the young men on my bus hopped off to help separate the tangled bumpers and to push vehicles out of knee-deep drifts on the road’s shoulder.
When the bus finally made it to Pristina, an eager young cabbie grabbed my 50-pound suitcase (lots of books) and my 45-pounder (more books), and then wove skillfully through the streets cluttered with people and slush. As we reached my hotel, I asked “sa kushton”; he responded in English far better than my Albanian “five Euros, but for you good American, nothing.” I gave him 10.