"You should love your country the way Kosovars love America" - some professor in France.
Our guide at Pristina's Ethnographic Museum relayed this quote to us and laughed at the exuberance with which his fellow countrymen adore the United States. We just arrived a day earlier and were taken aback by the welcome we'd received. Every answer to "where are you from?" visibly shook people, roused them to their feet for a handshake. It was strange, surprising, slightly uncomfortable - like a celebrity we hadn't earned, nor asked for. This is why we mentioned it to our guide at the museum. While he joked about it with us, he was also sure to make us realize the root. "Without America, there would be no Kosovo." We fell silent at that even more powerful quote, said casually and in earnest.
"Europe turned its back, but America came. America! To this little country" - guy in Rahovec.It was one of the many history lessons we were given in casual, two or three minute conversation. Sometimes people really just put things so perfectly, convey exactly what they mean even with a language barrier. The idea that America, in all of its late 20th century infallible glory, even knew what was happening in this corner of former Yugoslavia felt magical to Kosovars. The fact that the USA swooped in to protect it felt miraculous. At the helm was Commander-in-Chief Bill Clinton. A national hero so revered people have begun to name their children after him. Not just 'Bill' but 'Bill Clinton.' Hi, my name is Bill Clinton Bajrami.
Rekë e Allagës on the 4th, where fireworks (and the talk of grilling hamburgers) would have spooked the cows. Still, this July 4th felt like the most patriotic of my life. America is only 232 years older than the Republic of Kosovo - which is a blip in the history of other European countries. (We always joke that our nation is younger than a lot of houses we've been in here in Europe). I couldn't help but marvel at how our little clump of colonies' declaration of independence went on to affect the world. It's hard not to feel the whole 'proud to be an American' thing while in Kosovo.