Friday, July 22, 2005

The Adventure Begins Tomorrow

I have just finished packing the three suitcases I am bringing with me to Kosovo. My clothing only takes up a portion of one bag. The rest of the space is filled with gifts, English books, food and snacks, and my radio equipment.

As I stare at my stuffed bags I find it hard to believe that in less than 24 hours I will be on my way Gjakove. I can still clearly remember the first thing Liz Shropshire said to Keith and I as we stood on the doorstep of her rented house in Gjakove.

“I can’t believe you’re actually here,” she said.

In retrospect, I can’t believe we found her in the first place. I had spent days researching music-based therapy programs in the Balkans when by chance I found a link to Liz’s Web site. At the time, the site hadn’t been updated in a year and I was fearful Liz had already left Kosovo (many aid agencies reduced their presence or left Kosovo entirely three years after the conflict ended).

Hoping against all hope, I sent an e-mail to Liz’s “contact” address on her Web site. To my surprise she answered it within a few days but she was somewhat skeptical that Keith and I were serious about visiting her in Gjakove. Hence her comment when she first met us on that chilly, damp day in November, 2002.

“Who could have ever imagined this?” I said in an e-mail to Liz last week. “Hey--I agree--this is a total miracle,” she replied.

A miracle indeed….made possible by Liz, our friends in Gjakove, my 31 fellow trip participants, and the hundreds of Muscatine residents who have so generously donated to the Muscatine Kosovo Project fund.

Kosovo Music Group Anxiously Awaits Muscatine Visitors

Since these members of the Kosovo Children's Music Initiative (KCMI) visited Muscatine in 2004 they have stayed in touch with members of the Muscatine Children’s and Youth Choirs. As this picture clearly shows they can't wait for our group to arrive in Gjakove. The cards they are holding say, "WE MISS YOU."

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Group Anticipation Mounts

The entire group is excited and making last minute preparations for our big adventure. Here some of the Muscatine participants pause for a quick pre-trip photo. Below are Muscatine particpant answers to the following question: "What are you looking forward to?"

"I'm looking forward to meeting new people and having new experiences." (Halie Gray)

"I am looking forward to making this a meaningful experience for the children." (Dan Gray)

"I hope to make new friends and share my love of music with them." (Taylor Borde)

"I am excited about traveling to a new place, making many friends and especially sharing this experience with my grandson." (Janet Barry)

"I am looking forward to meeting new friends, reuniting with old ones and just having fun." (Madeline Hartman)

"I really want to meet new friends and see our old friends." (Leigha Phillips)

"I am looking forward to meeting all the Kosovars since I could not participate last summer." (Michaella Calzaretta)

"I am looking forward to a close knit community and forming lasting relationships. I plan to cry when I come home." (Emma Smith)

"I am most looking forward to seeking my friends in Gjakove." (Hanna Porter)

"I am looking forward to being able to provide a service for people who may not have the means or opportunity to obtain it otherwise." (Pete Korpi)

"I am looking forward to seeing again the children we met last summer and meeting many more. I am eager to join the work that Liz Shropshire has begun to bring healing and opportunity to the children of war in Kosovo." (Cynthia Smith)

"I am looking forward to being immersed in and meeting people of a different culture. I am also looking forward to helping in any way I can to show them that I care." (Karen Morgan)

"I'm looking forward to seeing the folks we met last summer again, and especially excited about seeing a whole different part of the world!" (Lori Carroll)

"I look forward to reaching out and sharing all that we have to offer, see the kids from last year, making new friendships, performing at the Bondsteel camp, and bringing home wonderful memories our of adventure." (Doreen Borde)

"I'm looking forward to the reunion with the kids we "adopted" last summer and to making music together on their turf!" (Ric Smith)

"I am looking forward to seeing friends from last summer and meeting new people too. I think we will have fun and I hope we change people’s lives." (Diana Baker)

"I look forward to seeing a part of Europe I have never seen, meeting new people and learning their culture, and maybe a little of their language. I hope that we are able to make a positive impact on their community."
(Neva Baker)

"I am looking foward to seeing how Gjakove and Kosovo have changed since my last visit. I am also looking forward to seeing all of the teens who visited Muscatine in 2004 and all of the people I first met in 2002."
(Kristin McHugh-Johnston)

"I wish to see for myself the conditions in the camp for displaced persons. I want to provide new learning experiences for young people who have not had many opportunities."
(Anne Olson)

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Project Inspiration - Stanley Foundation Radio Programs

As my brief biography mentions I first visited Kosovo in 2002 while working on the radio documentary, "Children of War: Fighting, Dying, Surviving." Material I gathered with fellow producer Keith Porter appeared in the Children of War documentary (released in March 2003). We also produced a separate half-hour mini-documentary on Liz Shropshire for the Stanley Foundation's former weekly radio program, Common Ground.

Links to the radio material are below.
"Children of War: Fighting, Dying, Surviving"
Common Ground Radio: "Kosovo's Pied Piper: The Liz Shropshire Story"

Keith and I with some of the children in Slovene Village near Gjakove, November 2002.

Muscatine Journal Features Kosovo Trip

The Muscatine Journal published two articles featuring our trip in its July 16th edition. Many thanks to Cynthia Beaudette and Jeff Tecklenburg for their continued support. You can find the articles via: