Well, approximately 95 hours after check-in at the Austin airport, my bags finally found their way to scenic Pristina, Kosovo. (Thanks, American Airlines. I'll be sending you a claim for the things I had to buy here just as soon as I get home, as well as a complaint about the fact that my luggage sat at Gatwick for two days while planes to Pristina took off.)
Pristina is a fun city. Steve the Lawyer took an extended (ahem) lunch hour and we went on a walking tour of the city center. It's neat; lots of outdoor cafes, a pedestrian-friendly area, and all the trappings of a modern Eastern European city. He's getting hardship pay to be here, but this is about the least hardship I've ever seen. We walked around and he showed me the new independence monument (a temporary "newborn" sign). We also bargained for some Kosovar revolutionary t-shirts, but didn't get the price we wanted. That's definitely going to happen before I head home, because how often can you buy a t-shirt that says, "Now I have a state"?
The people of Kosova (their preferred spelling) are nice as can be, and they LOVE Americans. After lunch, our waiter asked if we were Americans. When we said yes, he said, "I love your country." He was so sincere and thankful that it was impossible not to smile. We told him how much we're enjoying his country, and headed out. But this happens all the time. The people of Kosova are so grateful to the United States for helping them reach independence. It's strange to take credit for that, although Steve is in a better position to do so than am I.
(I also love the fact that every single Kosovar I've met so far has asked how old I am, and, when I replied with the truth, they all looked shocked and said, "You don't look that old." I could get used to this place. :)
The other thing that's fantastic about this region is that it is CHEAP. We ate at one of the nicest restaurants in town for lunch. (an important government minister was there, as were many other diplomats.) It cost less than 20 Euros. That's three courses with dessert and beverages for two. And it was dee-lish.
Since Steve's apartment plans have yet to sort themselves out, he's still in temporary housing, and so I'm staying with an American diplomat. It's hilarious; the furniture in her house is the exact same furniture that was in my house in Cameroon, because that's how the government works - they buy in bulk. We had fun out last night with lots of diplomats, and they're taking me out again tonight while Steve has to entertain his new boss, who's just arrived in town.
Hanging out with diplomats and staying in diplomatic housing, always makes me a little nostaligic for the life I didn't choose. I knew what I was doing when I decided not to join the Foreign Service, and I still believe it was the right decision, but it's hard not to regret missing out on the exciting lives these folks get to live. They are part of history - Steve just wrote a constitution, for goodness' sakes - and they get to travel on someone else's dime.
Otherwise, today was pretty low-key. I walked around some downtown, tried to arrange travel for tomorrow (what a mess), and then met Steve to head back to the airport, where I had to wait for an hour for my bags and then take a taxi back to town. The taxi driver chain smoked an unlit cigarette all the way back to town, drag after drag after drag. It was a hoot, but he didn't speak English and I couldn't laugh.
Tomorrow I think I am going to the historic Kosovar city of Prizren, then heading either to Albania or Montenegro, we'll see when I get there. In the meantime, I recommend that you all visit the Balkans - it's totally safe, the people are welcoming, most young people speak English, and it's dirt cheap. What more could you want?