Monday, August 18, 2008

Reflections from Diana Baker

When asked how my trip to Kosovo was, the words I always say are “amazing’ or “perfect” but that never actually begins to cover it. There are so many emotions and feelings when I think of Kosovo and our time there. Like the time when my roommate, Marina and I had to switch homes and we didn’t want to go because we loved Lum’s family, but we knew we had the chance to be with another family and bond with them. Or the time when Tom, Marina, and I sat together on the flight to Vienna and Tom went into our faces at 4 in the morning and said, “I’m bored.” Or the time when all the kids walked up the hill just to be together. The times when we all leaned on each other because we were sick, tired, sad, bored, or just plain cranky. Or the times when we were just having fun and forgot we were in a different country, away from our family, friends, and things that are familiar to us and we could just let it all go. That’s the real Kosovo and the one that I love for the people, the food, the culture, the friends and the way you look at things.

The people of Kosovo taught me many things but the most important are the things that I will always say and hopefully never change are that: “The impossible is merely possibly possible,” and, “Just because you have nothing doesn’t mean you have nothing.”

That’s Kosovo, or at least my Kosovo.

Reflections from Taylor Wettech

I couldn't wait to return to Kosovo. In many ways, I felt I'd been preparing for it ever since the 2005 trip. Prior to that trip I had been apathetic and unsure what I was getting myself into, only to be blown out of the water by the positivity and strength of the Kosovar people. On a trip that was meant to affect change for Kosovo, I felt like they truly had given me more than I ever gave to them. My experience in Kosovo began my goal of doing humanitarian work on a global scale as a career. And so this time around I planned to give my all.

Did I accomplish my goal? I like to think I did. Did I accomplish it in the way I expected to? Not in the least. I helped teach music, a far cry from saving lives or providing food. And I think my first thought was that, because I wasn't having a tangible impact, that my impact was nil. Think again, Taylor! As Kosovo rises from the ashes, it will need less and less monetary and medical aid. But all people, whether they are rich or poor, whether are from a stable or unstable background, living in America or abroad, can gain from teaching and friendship. After all, it was the teaching and friendship of my Kosovar brothers and sisters that inspired me to return to Kosovo.

Reflections from Jon Fasanelli-Cawelti

In a place where the classroom was a dirt patch near the ruins of war, at an isolated refugee camp, a child drew a picture of a bicycle. It was full of color and motion but also joy and life. Then he gave it away. Those two acts, creating and giving, offer hope that one can create in a sorry place. At this place the kids put their paper on the ground or knees, some lay on their bellies – who hasn’t done this as a kid?

Drawing is a human experience. I’ve almost never found a child who wouldn’t draw. At Slovene Village Kristin found a child who couldn’t hold a crayon. Was he deprived or physically or mentally challenged? Who knows, but his environment was utterly bleak and neglected.

I try to draw these kids who are drawing whatever they want, holding it tight to my little sketchbook as curious and grasping hands try to clutch it to see what I did while they sang or played ball or just hung out. Invariably they are excited to see themselves or their siblings or pals on paper no matter how spare my gestural efforts are.

There is just a little time, I must work fast, they won’t hold still and it is better that way. I like the line, their aquiline features surrounded by sharp peaks and valleys. From the many portraits here to the copper plate I will go looking for the sounds I saw that so many other people made.

Thanks for the chance.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Concert Music Now Online

I have uploaded a number of mp3 music files featuring the Muscatine Youth and Children's Choir and students and volunteers from the Shropshire Music Foundation's Kosovo Children's Music Initiative. All were recorded in July 2008 at Yll Morina School, Gjakove, Kosovo or at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo. Also online are the four radio reports I sent to KWPC Muscatine during our trip to Kosovo Double clicking or right clicking on any of the above files should give you the option to open the file OR save the file to your own computer/iPod/mp3 player. Please let me know if you have trouble with any of the files.

--Keith Porter

Friday, August 8, 2008

Amazing Kosovo - Reflections from Tamara Morgan

Since being back in the states, I have had several people ask how my trip was. Every time I respond with one word “amazing”. What an experience to have been able to participate in. I saw and experienced a lot of wonderful things while there. Most were happy, fun, and educational, although there were a few sad moments. There is one event, however, I will keep with me forever, and that is the last day at Slovene village. What a day! At first we thought we would be rained out, but God was working in our favor and we were able to spend one more day with the children. I will never forget the pure joy on their faces as we played that last rousing game of baseball. Their smiles and laughter touched my heart. It was a wonderful gift from God to experience the entire trip and I am very thankful to have been part of the effort.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Reflections and Photos from Anne Olson

On first impression, many things have changed in Kosovo since 2005. Independence from Serbia was declared in February of this year. People are dressed more fashionably. Many youth have cell phones and email. European automobiles are seen more often now, and car washes are available. Not everyone has access, though, and many horse-drawn carts and other motor conveyances are still used. Farmers still walk their milk cows to the pasture and home again daily - tramping down the street or on sidewalks. Few war-damaged homes remain; much building is taking place. Many new restaurants and shops are open. While driving in the country, I notice irrigation rigs in use, something not seen 3 years ago.

Second impressions show that many things have not changed. The governing bodies are not strong at this time. Infrastructure of the country is weak...for instance; there still is no mail service. Obituaries are still fastened to telephone poles, leading me to believe that newspapers either are not available or regular. Garbage is still burned and the streets are filled with trash. The home I lived in 3 years ago was on a stretch of street heavily damaged during the war. It still shows no signs of repair; heavily potholed and with no sewer grates or street lights, making for treacherous foot travel at night. Also, vehicles driving down this street must weave back and forth around the bumps and potholes.

The most noticeable difference this trip is that the unbearable heat of 2005 is now cooler temperatures and rainy weather much of the time. Many of us are unprepared for long pants and long-sleeved shirts. We actually crave a blanket at night!

Reflection Photos from Ric Smith