Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Plans and Presentations in Pristina

::Tori (6/5)

This morning was unusually difficult to wake up to. Not because we were not completely ecstatic about being in the lovely country of Kosovo, but because of our pure fatigue. Emily, Cassidy, Kat and I all drank macchiatos at around 9:30 last night and could not fall asleep until around 4 in the morning! But alas, our drowsiness did not slow us down for the eventful day ahead of us!

As Emily and I lifted ourselves out of our too comfortable beds, we yawned more than ever before. We put on one some of our best clothes and went to breakfast. We ate quickly and met Visar happily in the lobby. As usual, the larger than life smile that was painted across his face instantly broke our lethargic trance. We walked all of 10 steps into the Ministry of Sport. During this first meeting, we were able to listen to the extremely successful action plans of the Kosovar alumni, which also added to the newly energetic attitude we were all exuding. The action plans ranged from including 5 girls to around 70 in each region! The most concerning problems that were addressed in this meeting were where the financial aid was going to be from. Many of the girls explained that most families do not have the auxiliary funds to support a women's soccer club. Though this was rather upsetting to hear, we asked questions and discussed it at length. Before this meeting our group believed that many of the girls from Kosovo would have some unsuccessful stories or would be facing difficulties, so we were pleased to hear how much momentum they have and how much they have accomplished in the short time since they returned from the United States.

After this overall uplifting gathering, we had lunch then met with the two representatives of the U.S. Embassy in Pristina, Paul Engelstad and Aferdita Krasniqi, who were both extremely welcoming and informative. We all discussed the history of Kosovo and what we as a group and the United States can offer this wonderful country. It was such an honor to meet these two influential people and speak with them about their roles in this community. One of the more distressing facts about Kosovo is the unemployment rate. Aferdita explained that over the years the rate has floated around 50-60%. This says something about the spirit of the Kosovars, since the United States' rate is around 8.1% and citizens everywhere are upset. Overall we learned more about Kosovo than ever before and the experience was truly enlightening.

Towards the end of the day, our entire group walked back to the Ministry of Sport, passing many young people enjoying their macchiatos and laughing with each other—a beautiful scene to observe. We had a community presentation in which Lumi, Albina, Nora, and Dona spoke to their peers, friends, family, and other members of their community. Highlights included when Albina spoke about getting over her problems with sickness and becoming a part of the women's national team in Albania and how the community accepted them and praised the group for being strong women who are and will continue being amazing role models for young girls across Kosovo

I'm sorry if that post was a bit lengthy, but this day has been incredibly busy and filled with stories that we will remember and share with our friends and families.  Every moment of this trip has reminded us how important sport is to the women who participated in this exchange program and how important it truly is to spread what we are all passionate for.

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