On the morning of our last full day in Gjilan, Kosovo, we sat around the breakfast table and discussed souvenirs. We’d been there all week, doing art workshops for high school students and now we finally had a tiny bit of free time. The plan was to hit the local Saturday market and hit it hard. As I began to make my list of people to shop for and what to bring back, a friend leaned over and asked where my name was on that list. What was I going to bring back for myself? I don’t know, I answered. I hadn’t actually thought about it. I’d been fixated on so many other things— what my kids might like, what my husband might get a kick out of, how much I could feasibly fit in my suitcase, what I could get past customs, blah blah blah. I hadn’t actually thought about what I might like to bring back for myself.
Photographs, I finally told her. That’s my souvenir of choice.
What I realized was that it didn’t really matter if I found something at the market for myself. Not that I wouldn’t pick up a few goodies, you know. If I saw something I really liked. But I thought about the stack of polaroids up in the hotel room. The big fat stack that sat on the small wooden table next to my bed. How each one told a spectacular little story. The group of small children I ran into during an afternoon walk, how I crossed my eyes to make them laugh. The old wooden easels that belonged to the freshest young painters. Entire shops solely devoted to the selling of eggs. Eggs. Just eggs. The bowl of pinkish red apples hand-picked for us by the mother of an artist whose home we visited. My bare feet on the rug of the most authentically bohemian artist studio. The burnt sienna rooftops of Gjilan. And the hanging laundry. My goodness, the hanging laundry.
Yep. I had my souvenirs. Anything else I picked up for myself on that last magic day in the market in Gjilan would be the cherry. The cherry on top of a big fat happy Albanian sundae.
What do you bring back from your travels? Are your photographs your souvenirs? Please do share one with us today.