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.
Reading this book was like drinking my carrot-apple-beetroot juice. It was not particularly easy to “digest”, yet it was great for learning from the writer’s style. It was the Costa award of the author, which sold it to me.
The author takes you through war, honour, love and camradery, dedication and pursuit of happiness, revenge and selflessness, all mixed with mistery and a touch of thriller.
The main character is a British army officer, who did what he could in a shamefull campaign in Spain in 1800s, and who was not afraid to admit his part in less than honourable acts, for the sake of keeping the love of a woman he adored.
for my dearest people who make me feel at home, regardless of the time which passed since our last encounter. You know who you are.
for my first eight-pairs-of-hands-baking experience with orphan girls in the care of Diaconia and a chance to share with them a baking atmosphere I had with my grandmother.
for my daughter’s enthusiasm and support: “Mom, you were such a pro, juggling the parallel teams at baking!”.
for Diaconia’s wonderful team of people whose dedication I admire from the bottom of my heart. Check them out at http://www.diaconia.md.
for allowing young musicians to express themselves under the street lights in Stefan cel Mare park:
for the betterment if your zoo. We can be critical of many things we saw there, yet we choose to appreciate how much it evolved since its establishment 40 years ago
for my school, which celebrated 50 year recently. It was a moment of joy to retrace my steps to and from the school, with my daughter this time around.
for a great number of professionals I met and who do the best they can and aspire to do better, regardless of the circumstances. You know who you are.
and, last but not least, for your splendid autumn colours which stand to remind us of the unique beauty of nature this time of the year.
– We challenge you. No girl will dare to cross this ravine!, shouted my classmate.
The ravine was in deep forest. A fallen tree served as a “bridge”. Of all the 10 year old girls it had to be me the one to respond to the challenge. The whereabouts of adults accompanying us is blank in my memory.
I started crossing it. I still remember the depth of the ravine when I looked half way through. Someone shouted “Do not look down!”. It was the my classmate. Or perhaps my guarding angel. I managed to cross it and return, in one piece. Except couple of my curly hairs taken by the subtle air current between trees.
As my child embarks into the age of stretching limits and testing boundaries I want her to do it because she wants it and not because someone challenges her. I also want her to understand what it means to challenge others. Does it help her and the other kid grow and become a better human?
I want to believe that all parents explain to their kids what it means to challenge and be challenged and that the final choice if theirs. I also trust that we, as adults, show this by our actions and through our words. Because kids give what they receive.
I was on a 4 hour train ride.
– How are you, Madam? It’s ok, not too long?, asked the conductor, as we approached our destination.
– Thank you, it is just right. And how are you? You are the one working all these hours. I am only giving a massage to the seat 🙂
– Oh, thank you very much for asking, a big smile lighting up his face. I adore it. It’s the best job in the world! When all goes well.
– I wish you that it continues to stay well, in all its ways.
– Thank you very much, Madam. A pleasure to see you again on our trains.
A one minute dialogue with a thousand riches in it. People find meaning in serving others. People are opening up when asked with autheticity how was their day/duty trip/behind-the-cashier day. A grateful customer can give meaning to someone’s work. Be kind.
Coffee mug courtesy of Courtyard by Marriott – my kind of coffee fortune telling.