I was invited to talk with children at a kindergarten in Prishtina during their summer camp about my experiences during traveling. I was excited and at the same time stressed about it. I’m good with children, generally, and I enjoy playing with them (I have two nieces and three nephews); but this was at a different level. I would be in front of unknown children to me, I didn’t know what they liked, how they’d react and whether I could manage them and have them listen to me.
For few days since I got the invitation, I was thinking how should I approach them, what should be the structure of my 30 minutes (which turned out to be about 45 minutes that could even last longer if they didn’t have other things scheduled by the kindergarten administrators). Anyway, I found some greeting cards from some of my travels and took them with me to give to children as a gift, both to remember the talk and also to inspire them or give ideas, or just food for thought.
I went to the kindergarten well in advance (well, I always want to be early plus I was excited to be there) and eyed the venue. I noticed there were 13 children and all looked different ages but all were so kind to me immediately. We ended up talking about several things, we talked about countries, languages, means of transportation, dreams, but also about why can’t we travel to some countries and so on. While I was waiting for the technicalities to be put in place, I started with a warm-up activity with the children. I introduced myself and asked them to introduce themselves and let me know where they would want to travel. I was surprised, they knew many countries (probably more than I knew at that age) and wanted to visit Greece, Turkey, Paris (France), US (anywhere – some said specifically NYC and LA). Some of them just wanted to go to bed or to a shopping center in the city.
After warming up, we started to talk about traveling, countries, languages, obstacles, means of transportation, dreams, but also about why can’t we travel to some countries and so on. Frankly speaking, they asked questions and I answered them. They had lots of questions – asked me whether I’ve traveled all the world (which obviously I haven’t), where did I like the most (followed up by a “why”), and about languages and all.
What surprised me the most, although I shouldn’t have been surprised really, was how honest and straightforward those children were. As grown-ups, we tend to refrain from asking questions, from expressing opinions, and thus end up many times blaming ourselves “why I didn’t/did say that” or “why I didn’t/did do that”. But not the children, they just shouted out all their thoughts.
It was amazingly fun and interesting to see their reaction when I pointed out where Kosovo is on the globe. They were all so surprised and kept saying “oh, that’s so small”. I guess that just helped them see our beloved country from another perspective.
While we were talking about the possibility of traveling throughout the world, I told them there are countries that we, as Kosovo citizens holding a Kosovo passport, cannot visit as they wouldn’t let us in. This poked their interest and curiosity and followed-up on the subject by asking what countries we can’t go to. At the moment, all I could think was 5 countries (India, Russia, Spain, Philipines, South Africa) and one of the children asked whether they were the only ones. I responded “no, but that’s all I can think of right now” (there are many others – Kosovo citizens in possession of a Kosovo passport only can travel to 41 countries visa free/visa on arrival). Jon, the child, followed-up by asking if the citizens of those countries can come to Kosovo. I clarified that they can if they obtain a visa and, in many cases, they can visit if they have a Schengen visa or some kind of other documents as per rules. I couldn’t believe when he said: “so why they can come to our country if we are not allowed to visit theirs”. For few seconds, which seemed like forever, I was speechless. The child was talking reciprocity; something many grown-ups in Kosovo fear to even think of (myself included). Then I was like: “Well…”. Didn’t know what to say. He saved me by asking “is it because Kosovo is the best country in the world?” That moment was so cute, and I wish I could have hugged him. He saved me again! Then again, he was waiting for an answer, so the best I could say (so I didn’t disappoint him) was that “Yeah, among the best countries in the world”.