Monday, May 23, 2011

Impulsive friendships

Yesterday I took the bus from Belgrade to Pristina (Kosovo), about a 7 hour journey. I managed to quickly make friends with the only other American (or foreigner for that matter) on the trip. Turns out he is a studying art history and here to visit the monasteries in the Serbian enclaves which are very significant within the history of Byzantine art. We initially bonded over being anxious about doing solo journey from Belgrade to Prisitina, finding the right bus, etc. However, we actually found we had lots to talk about. One can meet friends in the strangest places.

My hotel room in Pristina is quite lovely. They upgraded it due to my prolonged stay. Navigating Pristina is less lovely. Many streets don’t have sidewalks and the paving not so great. And street signs? Non-existent. Forget what I said about street signs in Belgrade, by comparison they were abundant! I literally haven’t seen one yet. This does mean that it's less relevant how up-to-date your map is, since you just need to go by the general direction of the roads. Well, that and hope to come across someone who speaks enough English, and happens to think the street names (which have changed several times in recent memory) are the same as your (choose your own adventure: map, guidebook, internet), who can help redirect you. Fun times. Nonetheless, I spent many hours this afternoon wandering around with said friend from yesterday’s bus ride, and now have a much better sense of how the main streets in center city fit together, which is at least enough to get me to my interview appointment.

I spent a moment contemplating the level of impulsiveness and outgoingness was required for me to (a) befriend a stranger, and (b) trust that impulse enough to later exchange contact info and hang out in a foreign city. My first thought was that this is totally unprecedented for me, but upon further reflection I realized that this is not really a first for me in a foreign country even though it is totally not my personality at home. (Where, let’s face it, I’m a planner, and it takes me a while to get to make friends.) I think part of it is knowing that I’m never going to be in this same place again, so if there’s a opportunity it's now or never. And part of it is that when traveling alone you crave someone to talk to and just share an experience of a new place with, even its just for a day of that longer travel adventure. So, here’s to new friends, and leaps of faith, which after all is what this whole trip is based on anyhow.

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