Today is my last day in Prishtina. This past week I have: moved from my apartment, given up my cat, and said good-bye to many friends. All of this has made me (typically) emotional. Saying good-bye and, again sleeping on the couch in the office, has caused me discomfort. Not the kind of discomfort experienced by the other interns in countries, like Israel/Palestine where bombs threaten civilian lives; but, a much more subtle discomfort that is necessary for facilitating any real connection.
Last entry I spoke of advocacy and keeping informed; this is, of course, essential but learning does not cause any discomfort and so it can only be a first step. I am thinking now of the paper I will write regarding the war here and the effectiveness of the internet in ending that war. My thesis is that images of refugees and destroyed
buildings was helpful to ending the Serbian occupation but not at all helpful for the people. It is one thing to passively watch and bear witness from your computer – it is quite another to feel the cold steal of a gun barrel against your cheek. No image, written word, or streaming video can replace the impact discomfort has on our humanity
when confronted with injustice in person.
This is the second step of advocacy – ACTION. I am not suggesting that each and every advocate for peace a justice must travel to volunteer their time for 3 months of civil society work; I am saying that each of us has daily opportunities to take action. Those actions which we take that cause us discomfort will inevitably have the biggest impact on our lives and the lives of the people we serve.
At City Year (Americorps program I was in last year) my discomfort came in the form of an ugly uniform and PT in Union Station. At school I find discomfort not only in heaps of reading, but also in protest. I protest in the rain or I stand with Code Pink (women’s organization for peace) for hours in vigil at the White House. I brush off insults: how ‘un-American’ I am to the conservatives; and, to the Europeans, what a wasteful, war mongering country I come from.
Here, my discomfort comes from forming relationships, friendships, which will shape my perspective for the rest of my life and then having to leave. My heart aches with discomfort and so I know that this has been one of the most meaningful experiences of my adult life. I am leaving; with a host of professional documents for my portfolio,
with a suitcase full of Avjar, but most importantly with my memories (both the happy and discomforting ones).
Enough sappiness – I only want to say, if you truly wish to advocate for an impact you must take action. Call your Congressman, join a protest, volunteer, donate money; but, again, know that the best of all actions cause you discomfort. That is my challenge to my readers: BE UNCOMFORTABLE, even for one day, in service of others and see how it changes your thinking.
To Igo, Cuca, Besa, Alba, and Nicole (many others as well): thank you for making my experience in Kosova so wonderful. Thank you for your dedication to your country and the women who make it strong. Thank you for the laughter and tears. Thank you for your support. Mostly, thank you for your friendship. Good luck, keep in touch, and call me when you are picking new interns – I’ll interview candidates on the phone from the US to see if they are up to par!
To my readers: there are still some kinks to be worked out, but the new website should be up and running by the beginning of September, check out all the work of KWN (and me) on the new website.
Posted By Barbra Bearden (Kosovo)
Posted Aug 26th, 2006