When I first told people that I was moving to Kosovo, the following reactions ensued:
- A look of surprise. Kosovo isn't exactly on anybody's radar when you're living and working in the Asia-Pacific region. I'm pretty sure most Australians wouldn't be able to name all the independent states that emerged from former Yugoslavia.
- Slight confusion. Why would you go there? Why indeed?
- Sudden concern. Is it safe? Most people associate Kosovo with the conflict in the late 90s.
In fact, when the opportunity presented itself, these were also my main reactions. Fortunately, my thoughts were along the lines of:
- I don't know anybody who's been there, so all the more reason to go. (This was also my reasoning for going to PNG. Twice.)
- As an Australian national in my 30s, it's pretty much my only chance to live and work in Europe.
- Finally, according to the Smartraveller website, travel in Kosovo requires a "High degree of caution". This puts it on the same level as Papua New Guinea, Myanmar, or Russia.
To be honest, I was a little apprehensive, and even stalled on making a final decision. I consulted a few friends who had been there, and the impression given by them was that it was "a bit of a shithole" (their words). However, in my travels in Laos, I encountered a development worker who had lived in Pristina, and she said that it was one of her favourite places in the Balkans, and the coffee was excellent. Furthermore, around that time, I read an article about the Most Beautiful Cinemas in the World, which included Dokufest - the International documentary festival - held in Prizren every year.
Good coffee and a documentary festival seemed like enough of an incentive to be flown across the world for a job. It would be my first foray into the thus-far undiscovered continent of Europe. I also knew that working for a high-profile international organisation would be excellent professional experience.
But mostly, I figured that this really was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and that I would regret passing it up.
So, I took it.