I am often asked about the country I am back from. As the saying goes, I do not judge a country by the airport, hotel and the meeting rooms. This is oftentimes my regular itinerary. Goodbye, perception of excitement surrounding people who go on missions!
When, in my last trip to Pristina, which was also a first for me, the usual question “How do you like it here?” popped-up, I realised that I sense a country by two things: people and bread.
I do get to interact with quite a number of fellow humans, including the border policeman/woman, taxi drivers, hotel receptionists, bartenders and waiters, as well as the projects’ teams and partners I meet. And this is how I get to know something about the country. Walls and roofs, roads and pavements are dissipated in my memory by the human interaction.
Back to my last trip.
I thank Pristina for the blue eyed bartender who made my espresso exactly as I like it and served it with a mood boosting “Enjoy!”. I thank Pristina for the hotel receptionist who fixed my naughty room door with a magic touch. I am grateful to all project partners for their enormous dedication and contagious enthusiasm for what they do. I am deeply respectful for how far they came from their initial point and in such a short period of time (by history’s measure). There is also so much more they aspire to do. This is what I told to the curious border guard with a warm smile, when he asked me “Do you think we will be alright?” “I trust you will!” He happily stamped my passport and waved goodbuy with “Please come again!”
In addition to human interaction, I internalize bread in every new place I get to walk on. The daily bread. The flavour and texture of bread just out of the oven. The bread that knows the hands, which worked its dough. The bread which knew fire and was not consumed by it. The bread that welcomes guests and feeds the family, regardless of the language it speaks and the religion it practices.
Traditional flat bread, as served at Pishat restaurant in Pristina, November 2019.