I have never hung out with Albanians before. Kosovan-Albanians, from my experience, have been nice people all around.
Observations: The unemployment in Kosovo is pretty damn high. I can’t imagine that being on the Euro is doing them too many favors, but I haven’t researched yet. The whole legal status of Kosovo past and present is a big nest and somewhat difficult to sort out. One of the biggest surprises to me is that they have 3 official languages: Albanian, Serbian and English. I still find it odd that 95% of the population is Albanian, yet they maintain the other two languages as official. From what I was told, 200 Euros a month is an average salary.
There are various international agency buildings and I saw an army truck with a Swedish flag drive by, but it didn’t feel like an occupied zone or anything to me. People seemed to go about their lives noticing that there are these outsiders in their presence, but not a constant looking over their shoulder.
Kujtim, the guy I stayed with, was very interesting. He doesn’t believe in evolution, as he sees it as counter to entropy (the idea that everything eventually breaks down). When I asked him if he was in favor of a United Albania, he disregarded the question, as he hopes for a world with no borders. One of his idols is Ronald Reagan, because Kujtim believes in the free market. He seems a bit offended at the U.S. government’s help of GM and sees Americans as risk-adverse in such things, saying that perhaps it would take 5-10 years to recover from such a blow, but it’s better than the government deciding what companies deserve the right to exist. He preferred a Japanese model of such things.
At 23, he considers himself to be of a generation of young Kosovans that are seeking education and trying to be inclusive and progressive in their thinking. To him, freedom is the most important thing for anyone to have. He also knows that he is a lucky that he doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder from the war, since he didn’t lose anyone close to him. This is not the case for a great amount of Kosovans.
With all of his progressive thinking, I would have thought that he would have been excited about Obama. Not so. Kujtim supported McCain. So much so that Kujtim pissed off a great deal of his Facebook friends when he put a status update: “Once a Marine, always a Marine.” Kujtim’s logic is that someone that was a POW for so long, having had limbs broken, that went on to be a successful Senator, cannot fail and is an inspiring person all around. Obama, to him, is a man of words. Kujtim maintains that it is possible that he will eventually be impressed by Obama, but it hasn’t happened yet.
He studies medicine. One of his goals is to go to Cambodia, as he sees it as somewhere where people really need help. Kujtim says that America is the greatest country in the world (but he wouldn’t want to live there). The reason:
America is the only country where no one can say, “I was here first.”
And while some will be immediately up in arms about Native Americans, it misses the point. In Europe, there are countries where wars decimated populations, causing needed immigration to get workers, only to then have too many people at a certain point, thereby causing ethnic strife with all the immigrants that were brought in. The need and then resentment of immigrants is a constant theme in Europe.
While Kujtim and I did not agree on everything, we both could agree that for the majority of people in the States, it doesn’t matter where you come from, as long as you are willing to speak English (when needed) and work. Unfortunately, that’s still not how many people see it in a lot of other countries.