Two weeks in Kosovo... what the hell am I doing here?
I'm in Kosovo, I'm on tour with Clowns Without Boarders Ireland. I get to bounce around Kosovo doing shows for mostly very grateful people. I'm voluntering, its three weeks including a week making the show in Ireland. That was a laugh, making a show in a week with three people who haven't worked together before. Luckily the show is for children and everyone know's that children have neither taste or class. They laugh at everything.
It's really fun for me, I get to run around Kosovo, a country I've never been before, I get to make hundreds of people laugh daily and I don't have much to worry about. Great!
But money is being spent, being spent on the four of us being here. CWB Ireland does not have a lot of money and to have four people, fed, boarded, driven around and all the other associated costs that come with a tour is not cheep.
So why spend the money. Kosovo is just another country, people go to work, people study the daily grind is the same. I don't see much difference between here and other parts of Europe. There is not much money around, there are also people without money in Ireland. And lots of the people we are performing for seem like they are middle class.
We did a show in a Roma village, it was littered, the kids didn't seem so clean, there were lots of people hanging around without much to do. This felt like a really poor place. Then we felt good because they were poor, they really needed it. That justified us being there. It fulfilled our idea of people who need "help", "charity", need the clowns to come and put smiles on their cute little brown faces. The thing is everyone needs shows, these kids more than others? Those people over there is an easy thing to say but what about the people standing right beside you?
And we can get really confused in who needs help, who deserves this money being spent, who deserves a free clown show?
But we have to look at the picture a little bigger. When you pass the UN military base everything looks quiet, but the UN is here and not for nothing. There was one afternoon here I felt a bit closer to understanding the division that is in Kosovo.
We walked up to a castle in a beautiful mountain town, the town didn't look poverty or war stricken.
The war here was sixteen years ago so there must have been plenty of time to recover? But wounds are often reopened before healed.
On the walk to the castle we passed a few derelict looking houses. The community worker walking with me told me that these used to be Serb houses in a Albanian majority city.
Let me explain just a little bit;.
In Kosovo you have many different ethnicities, Albanian are the majority, you have Serb, Roma, Turk, Egyptian and more, they have all be here hundreds of years and are all from Kosovo which was a small state part of the larger state of Serbia. Serbia was part of the former Yugoslavia which broke up in the 90's with terrible conflict. Kosovo is still a disputed area, they claimed independence from Serbia in 2008 but have not been recognised by Serbia as independent. The UN are camped up here in case the Serbs try and take it again or any other stuff kicks off. It is described as a "hot area". Theses derelict houses had been lived in by Serbs, in 2004 as part of a campaign of revenge and retribution the serbs were burnt out and their Orthodox churches along with them. The churches are being rebuilt but most of the Serbs have left. Ethnic cleansing has happened on all sides and not so long ago. As long as peoples have beef with each other there will be "hot areas" and then you have the UN, think of the cost of the UN or even a single soldier, never mind the cost of the armored vehicles that they drive around in. The price of one of these vehicles would fund Clowns Without Boarders for years and years. So my internal argument of "is the money spent on this tour worth it" gets put into perspective when I think about military budgets. If our bouncing around Kosovo means this area is one gun further away from war then we are doing alright.
Really, if the money, or a fraction of the money that is spent on military budgets could be spent on clowns touring the county making kids and adults laugh. Sounds simple doesn't it! Maybe it is that simple. We visited a remote Serb village, none of the children there had seen circus before! They loved the show, they were screaming with delight.
We arrived at a Roma village, a boy of about six ran to us and hugged all of us and wouldn't let go, he had seen us in a do a show a couple of days before in a theatre that should have been on the derilict list 20 years ago. None of us had remembered his face but he had remembered us. But we'll remember him now. We'll remember these two weeks in Kosovo and I have a feeling Kosovo will remember us!
More circus less guns!