He was telling us also how the little town where he'd grown up used to be quite mixed, Kosovars and Serbs, before the war, and how in the last ten years he was seeing things start to relax again, politicians softening the way they talked, how he thought the EU would eventually pressure Serbia into recognizing Kosovo's independence. Right now it's only recognized by 111 countries, and most of its citizens can't travel because they can't get visas. Last month I had to move a training from Moldova to Romania, because Moldovans don't acknowledge the validity of Kosovar passports. (Kosovo is the country in the world with the highest opinion of Americans, because of US and NATO support in winning their independence. There's a statue of Bill Clinton and a road named after him. "America is everything to us," said one of the security guards at the government building. It's very strange to go somewhere and be actually greeted as liberators.)
They're happy lately, though, because there's a new highway that goes through Macedonia all the way to Albania, meaning a 10 hour trip now takes 3. He was deciding whether to go down to Tirana for the weekend with a friend to celebrate a FIFA ruling involving a flag-flying drone.
He's living back in the country now after years away: some time in Istanbul with a girlfriend, his high school years in Bosnia after he fled the country to avoid the war. He was 14 when he left: right after Serbian soldiers rounded him up with a group of men and boys in his hometown and put them in a barn ("I don't know the word for it -- an old house, for horses?") and set it on fire. Everyone escaped, because the soldiers didn't know there was a back exit. He was running across the fields away from the barn when it exploded behind him.
It was a gorgeous almost-evening in a place that seemed entirely peaceful. After he left, my coworker and I pulled out our laptops and put in another couple of hours of work, since none of our other projects calm down even when we've spent all week in meetings and running trainings on an in-country trip like this. We got two enormous pieces of cake, two of those macchiatos, an espresso, a bottle of water and paid only €9, taxes and all. Kosovo's the poorest country in Europe, pegged to the Euro even though they're years and years away from any kind of EU accession. (A crazy huge budget of EU funding is what I've been urgently trying to spend down for the past year that I've been managing this project; 7 days 'til the 6-year contract ends and we're going to come out in the clear. It's a million moving pieces of staff time and sprint planning and goal setting and cajoling and fund reallocating and getting to learn all these things about the place and its context. I love it, I love it.)
This was my second time to Pristina in four months, and so much better than the last one. This trip I only threw up twice. Last time I was in my first trimester and sick as a dog, everything filtered through a haze of nausea. Because oh, yeah. I'm having a kid. I'm having a kid!
Pregnancy is fascinating and strange. Like this easter egg subroutine my body apparently knew how to run this whole time, and I'm just along for the ride. The first couple of months were so, so bad. I'm lucky because I wasn't actually puking that much, but it was just unremitting nausea 24/7 and the worst heartburn of my life (which is saying an awful lot). Such a nightmare: March and April are just a blur of misery and feeling like I'd made a huge mistake.
Thank God for the second trimester and feeling like myself again. Even if I do still occasionally barf my guts out in Balkan government ministry bathrooms at 22 weeks in. Let's blame that on jetlag.
I'm just past the halfway mark and it's crazy to think there'll be an actual don't-have-to-give-back-to-anyone baby here in November. Mostly I just want to fast forward to that part, where there's a real human baby -- with a face! What will it look like! -- instead of just an endless parade of weird new symptoms (belching! nosebleeds! and now clothes that don't fit).
Except hahaha, how can I possibly be ready for that when I'm still the exact same hot mess I've always been? Irresponsible bedtimes and forgetting to eat and reading novels (okay, the internet) instead of washing the dishes. I always thought I'd wait to have kids 'til I felt like I had figured out the whole Responsible Adulthood thing a little more. And 'til I stopped being so weirded out by the concept of growing another person inside myself. Except none of that ever got around to happening and so here we are.
I started feeling the baby move almost three weeks ago: these tiny little pulses that felt like muscle twitches or things digesting. He's stronger now -- a pound heavy and a foot long -- and the little nudges are unmistakeable. A rippling low in my stomach, little fish wriggling awake.