I left Charlotte on Tuesday afternoon after eating crepes at Matthew’s Royal Creperie (incidentally enough, a family restaurant owned by former Soviets, but I couldn’t quite discern which area they were from and I was too shy to ask). When you aren’t flying American and you don’t turn right out of security at Charlotte, it’s actually a quite charming airport. Albeit hot (though it is all glass and the weather was nearing 95), it’s filled with real trees, Starbucks everywhere, and a beautiful view of the city of Charlotte.
The flight itself wasn’t bad once the entire plane was boarded and I looked to my left, welcomed by this view:
This was my first time flying Lufthansa and I was duly impressed. The blankets and pillows are of better quality than American (I haven’t experienced a long enough Delta flight to add a critique). They have a great entertainment system but my favorite part was the two camera feeds they had available- one was attached to the nose of the plane, while the other was attached to the underbelly. These camera feeds were individually available to every passenger the entire flight, so even if you didn’t have a window seat (I didn’t), you could watch the clouds pass by.
The food, too, was worlds better than American. They used metal silverware for recycling purposes, in addition to providing a choice of tea or coffee at the end of the meal (separate from the other routine drink services).
I finished e.e. cummings collection of poetry, got a large way through The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois, watched The Artist, and wrote a bit before dozing until we landed in Munich, which from what I could tell was beautiful, though I was there for a short bit- enough, of course, to get a mocha latte.
In the middle of the airport, nestled between a cafe, Hermes, Mulberry, and Burberry (I window shopped), Steinway had a red piano open to the public that was just beautiful. Even in the morning airport bustle, the space around the piano was suspended, filled with people that stopped to play the piano, take pictures, or just touch.
I sat down at a coffee place right beside and just watched and listened until I boarded to Sarajevo. The best part was when children who were learning piano, but knew nothing but Hot Cross Buns or Mary Had a Little Lamb, played, because no matter how rudimentary the music, a child making it is a wonderful thing, and without fail everyone in the vicinity in that moment was smiling.
No virtuosos appeared- in fact, my paltry Fur Elise (because yes, I was that person), was the most complex and lengthy performance- but the space created by the piano was quite a beautiful thing. Though it would take more than a sentence in a blog to expound upon the idea, there is a large body of work that cites that art as a means of creating space for peacebuilding and reconciliation is effective (J.P. Lederach, Kouzens, and others, for example), and I think a study of the trend of placing pianos in public places as a means of creating this space in an otherwise insignificant place is one worth exploring. (See also the Purple Piano Project and the Arts and Science Council of Charlotte’s efforts for other similar initiatives).
The flight to Sarajevo was short and uneventful, and was the first flight I have every boarded from the tarmac itself. I could see the Alps (well, I think it was the Alps) peeking through the cloudblanket to say hello, topped as they were with snow even in late May.
Flying into Sarajevo was an experience, just because having studied the conflict (I’ll give a synopsis soon, perhaps through video), I know stories about everything. Flying into the airport I was reminded of the lifeline it was (and many times, wasn’t) during the conflict, how it was a UN “safe area” but was not safe, how Albright and Holbrooke and so many others had deboarded there, in an attempt to foster peace… And, at the same time, it was filled with paltry things, like my grabbing the wrong purple suitcase and realizing it only in the parking lot, after which it was returned to its frantically worried rightful owner.
The hotel, which I will get pictures of sometime this week, is nice, a student hotel for the American University here. I was picked up by a worker for the hotel and was welcomed at the hotel by the Vice President of International Relations. We had coffee (a strong espresso that reminded me how much I missed European coffee culture) and talked about the program, finding that both the worker (regretfully I forgot her name, but she was quite nice and helpful) and Mr. Ganic knew Mirsad Hadzikadic, a professor at UNC Charlotte whom I know and who, apparently, everyone in Sarajevo, in Bosnia, and in Charlotte knows.
I’m kind of alone until the other students join me this weekend, but after that I’ll have an internship in the morning, classes in the afternoon, and weekend travel besides.
Until tomorrow! (I’ll break out the camera then, these were all taken with my phone)