The Job

A company car, a semi-decent salary, and a spine worn out by corporate hierarchies. 

A little bit longer and that job would have become the rest of my life.

Being a salesman was nice, but saying “NO” was even nicer, better if dry and without trivial justifications.

First of July 2021, resignation letter on the desk, the glossy eyes of my boss. Euphoria.

My smile was like the slice of a melon, diarrhea of words, for days I couldn’t sit down.

Is it worth putting yourself through shitty situations just for that satisfying and rewarding feeling when you finally get out? 

While people celebrate achieving goals; getting out of a shitty situation is a celebration in itself.

A glimmer of cool breeze that gives meaning to a sultry day.

The Grandmother

Two years of pandemic and some successful investments made that flight to visit my grandma in Poland really convenient.

Frigid yet diplomatic, refined yet verbose, despite owning peanuts, she always acted like an aristocrat.

“But should I get the smartphone with a monthly subscription or buy it at the electronics store?” – she asks.

“Well, Grandma, it depends on how much longer you think you have, if you think you’re going to die within the next 3 years, better go for the subscription.” – I joke.

I am happy that she’s still there and alive with me. The Last of the Grandmas.

I’ve learned more management from her than from a master’s degree in economics at Bocconi University.

She starts with “don’t worry, I’ll pick up the walnuts by myself…” just to appeal to my civic sense by tactically screaming “Ah! My back hurts!”

A kitchen cupboard door breaks. She places a hammer and a nail next to it, just waiting to be noticed. Words are unnecessary. Class.

My hugs repel her, and she’d never give me one of her own free will.

I help her, listen to her, buy her favorite weekly magazine, invite her out…

That single tear that rolls down her left cheek when I leave is priceless. I love you, Grandma.

The Idea

They say that today’s youth don’t know what they want. It’s true.

The things I was sure I wanted in life have always been two: to travel and to earn a living without giving up my ideals.

[Yes, I am one of the few remaining fools for which ethics and the given word still hold some sort of value 🥲]

At least the fortune cookie from the Sushi All You Can Eat gave me hope.

Work environments without injustices and hypocrisies seem to be going extinct faster than pandas. I’ve always dreamed of finding one, but…

After several attempts, I began to believe that the easiest way was to create one myself.

Surfing the net, it’s easy to feel like a loser. Everyone is earning at least € 10,000 per month, they smile all the time and drive Lamborghinis in Dubai. Somehow, I felt it was not true.

I needed an idea. Being an influencer or doing dropshipping seemed too mainstream and inflated, on the other hand, although I love investing in stocks, unfortunately it does not generate steady cash flows (check out my bullshit-free investment guide).

On the umpteenth incorrect tax return on investments from my accountant, the idea comes: a website that calculates a correct tax return without effort for less than € 10.

I make a pitch deck to convince myself that it’s a good idea (and it is).

Evolution of the branding. All rights reserved™.

The Mighty Republic of Kosovo

With an Excel sheet, I look for a place far from my mother where my savings would last and I could work in peace. I detected Kosovo.

Rome – Pristina flight for € 12. I bought it.

“Kosovo?!” – a Bulgarian friend spits out his caipiroska in astonishment – “They will steal your kidneys, there are no laws, it’s full of criminals, a corrupt government, and there are unexploded landmines. Don’t go!”

Many online sources seemed to confirm his words.

I knew nothing about Kosovo and was a little intimidated. Skipping the flight would have costed me less than a McMenu, but I decided to go anyway. “I’ll stay for 3 days, then at most I’ll go to Turkey” – I told myself. (Turkey was in the row after Kosovo in the excel file)

Never seen so many beautiful girls in one place. Hostel at € 7 per night. Complete protein-rich meal at € 2.70. The city is very safe. I discovered my America.

A 1 minute video summary of Kosovo from Alan, wandering around Pristina.

I work on the PC in various cafes, 70 cents for an espresso and I can connect to the wifi all day. 

I soon discover that the national drink is “Caj i rusit”, literally “Russian tea”, equivalent to Turkish black tea, but better. They say that the inhabitants of Vushtrria, the oldest city in Kosovo, drink 100 a day until their teeth turn black.

I was a bit chubby after several months of inertia due to taking online courses, mindlessly playing video games, and evaluating various business ideas.

The advice of Lu, my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu teacher, echoed in my head, “when you are traveling, always contact local Jiu Jitsu communities because Jiu Jitsu is a lifestyle”.

Therefore, on the second day in Pristina (which I later found out is PriSHtina with a strong “SH”) I write to BJJ Kosova on Instagram that tells me to show up at 6:30 in the morning on top of a hill 2km from my hostel.

I do the workout and at the end, I ask Met, the teacher, how much I have to pay for the lesson, and he replies: “Nothing, we do this for passion. To make money, I am a barber.”

If everyone were like Met, humanity would be on a completely different level.


I go every day, 5 times a week, sometimes even in the afternoon, and the community welcomes me. Lirim invites me to his house and lets me taste fresh ajvar made by his wife. Redon invites me to his store “Riga’s Burger” and offers me the best chicken burger I have ever eaten.

By receiving so much, it’s impossible not to become kinder and more generous to others.

The other guests at the hostel complain about the ugliness of the city and are eager to depart for Albania or Macedonia. Often with some of them, I shared the places and curiosities of Kosovo that I discovered, the stories they told me, and the people I met. I made them think again.

Some, the crazier ones, are even considering living here (see pros and cons).

Ah, these crazy foreigners visiting the perilous Prishtina.

That Night

No sooner do I blink than three days become three weeks.

It’s Friday night. Bimi, the hostel owner, shouts at me: “Stop sleeping early for Jiu Jitsa [sic], go out! Tomorrow is Saturday, there is no Jiu Jitsa [sic], go out!”

All the other guests had left, I didn’t know what to do, he recommended me to go to Zanzi. However, I don’t like that place because it’s full of smoke and hairy men, so I began aimlessly wandering around the city at night.

Eventually, I head to the NewBorn Brew, the coffee shop where I worked during the day, and ask the staff: “Guys, what can I do in Prishtina alone on a Friday night?” – “Nothing. Go home and sleep!” an American volunteer abruptly replies.

Just after, a Kosovar employee from Djakova named Korab approaches me and says “Don’t worry, wait here, we close in 10 minutes and I’ll take you somewhere.”

They say that people from Djakova are tight with their wallets, but I can tell they certainly are not tight with their hearts.

Korab leads me to the Beer Garden, a popular pub among foreigners living in Kosovo. After the War in 1999, almost all Westerners working in Kosovo are members of international organizations that promote stability and human rights.

Among beers and cocktails, two tables away, I notice a black silhouette looking around, confused. Red, plump lips, long wavy hair, big eyes, she crosses her athletic legs like Sharon Stone in “Basic Instinct”.

I don’t have a picture of that night, but this gives the idea.

I turn to Korab: “Korab, I haven’t approached a girl since before the pandemic, tell me quickly how it’s done in Kosovo.”

He replies: “Go and ask her: hey, can I buy you a drink? But don’t go right away, wait for my signal.”

I say: “Ok”.

After a while, I ask him: “Can I go now?”

Korab: “No!”


Korab: “No!”

I sip some 0.5l Peja beer, eyeing her from afar…


Suddenly, Korab yells: “Now!”

Tunnel vision on her, I set off straight towards her unstoppable like a ballistic missile, I reach her and ask “Hey, can I buy you a drink?”

She mutters something in English I don’t quite understand.

I reply: “Ok, so… can I buy you a drink?”

She responds: “Ok, then a Gin Tonic”, and turns back to chat with her friends.

Then I tap her shoulder, she turns around and I tell her: “What do you think I am? A waiter? Come with me!”

We grab two gin tonics and start chatting near the counter.

Like a good salesman, I secure the next meeting for the following day and ask for her number.

All smooth, without even thinking about it. I wasn’t drunk, I wasn’t in the “flow”, but I was proud of myself.

Later, she told me that after the first “Hey, can I buy you a drink?” she answered “No thank you, we’re leaving in 10 minutes” and when she gave me the number, she was unsure whether to give me a fake one as she usually used to do. Well, I’d say it went well.

The Heart and the Lungs

The next day she shows up without makeup and fifteen minutes late to our date.

We were supposed to have a leisurely walk to Germia Park and back, which turned out to be an 18km hike. I was drenched in sweat, but luckily the trail was narrow and she walked ahead of me without ever turning around.

Cold, ambitious, she told me all her plans and goals: her studies, career objectives, upcoming marathons…

We end the day with a beer in another park, the Talk Bullshit Park (which I later found out was called Taukbashqe). She asks me if I’d be willing to do the same route running the next day.

Me, dead tired with drops of sweat scattered along the route like Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs; she, a marathon runner with five victories under her belt, how could I say no? 

HER medals.

I walk her up to her house door without entering.

The next day, we meet again and return to Germia by bus, reducing the route to just 11km.

Me, untrained and short of breath, after 4km uphill, I saw the sun turning into vibrant blue and green spots. We run, run, then, at some point, the miracle: she slows down and resumes walking.

“But how? Come on, you told me we had to run 11km” – I say, cocky, pretending not to be exhausted.

“I can’t run, there are too many mosquitoes” – she responds, trying to shoo them away with her sports shirt. 

The mosquitoes came to my rescue. 

We walk, catch our breath, and finish the route in an hour and a half.

Again, I walk her up to her house door without entering.

We see each other every day.

In my travels, I’ve met many women and I know when it’s the right moment to kiss: they either move closer, or overly thank you for the evening, or stare into your eyes, or glance at your lips a little, or touch their hair. Basically, they make you understand in some way. 

She, did nothing. In four dates, she never gave me a chance to kiss her. Enigmatic. Confused, but curious, I walk her up to her house door without entering as usual. 

This time I ask her if she is interested in me or if we’re just hanging out as friends. We kiss.

After some time, she starts calling me “zemer” which means heart in Albanian. I start calling her “mushkri” which means lungs.

I saw the two items next to each other on the menu of my favorite restaurant at the time, te Nazi.

She always dresses in black, with dark makeup and sunglasses. The classic “bad girl” look. 

I suggest things to do, places to see, but she never compromises. In two months, we only did what she said.

One evening she smokes a cigarette in my face, I rebuke her furiously. She quits smoking for good. My one and only victory.

I knew there was more to it. She had that tough, cold personality that, thanks to my grandmother, I’ve learned to love. I think most guys in my shoes would have given up, but not me.

I was curious.

The Buko

“Buko,” in Tagalog, means coconut.

In Filipino culture, the coconut palm is the queen of plants:

  • Its trunk is used to construct beams, walls, and floors.
  • Its intertwined leaves are used to build roofs.
  • Its twigs are made into brooms.
  • Its flowers are used to make medicines and the renowned liquor “Lambanog”.
  • Its husk fibers can be turned into ropes or abrasive sponges.
  • Its hard shell is used to create ornaments and bowls.
  • Its flesh is a fatty food and can be eaten or used to make oil.
  • Its milk is a refreshing drink.

In short, nothing from the buko is wasted, and depending on the stage of ripeness, it always offers something different.

August 2022. I go on vacation with friends.

I beg her to come with me but, predictably, she refuses. I leave my Jiu Jitsu clothes at her place and leave for Bulgaria.

On the golden beaches of the Black Sea, local women save marine life by encapsulating dangerous plastic polymers within their breasts, lips, and buttocks.

Calling her while on the beautiful, golden beaches of Sveti Vlas, Bulgaria.

Meanwhile, I chat with my Kosovar while I savor delicious palacinkas in the company of my adventure companions.

“Fuck you!” – she suddenly writes to me.

Bewildered, I don’t reply.

To the silence, unease sets in.

I leave my phone in the accommodation, lie down on the beach towel, and stare at the palm leaf umbrella ceiling all day.

Respect is the foundation of every relationship, I reflect, and decide to break up.

A day goes by and she regrets it, wishing me the best in life: “farewell”.

To the unease, even more unease sets in.

After a while, she asks me whether I will come to collect my Jiu Jitsu shorts.

I call her, we sort things out.

We cry together.

The hard shell of the buko was cracked open.

The Little Girl

Prizren, 1999.

A Serbian soldier with a gun pointed at a little girl’s forehead yells at her: “run, or the next one won’t be so kind”.

Her grandparents are too old and incapacitated, they must part ways.

The little girl walks for kilometers to reach the mountains where she will hide for two days without food along with thousands of other survivors of the Kosovo War.

Real picture of the little girl when she and many others fled Kosovo in 1999.

Her parents left her. Her uncles fled to Italy. She is there. Alone.

In Albania, she rejoins her grandparents who she thought were dead. They return home after the Bill Clinton’s intervention.

At 14, she takes care of her paralyzed grandma, feeds and washes her. It doesn’t bother her because she loves her.

She studies and works for years with the ardent goal of building a future without wars.

Her grandparents die. Her father returns, but he doesn’t work.

Even now, as I am writing, it’s very difficult to move out of Kosovo legally. Not all countries recognise its independence and even fewer accept its passports. Every small movement requires a visa that is rarely granted. 

Despite this, she finds a way: she is accepted into a master’s in european politics in Prague and continues to support her father with part of her scholarships.

She had the rare opportunity to stay and work legally in EU, but chooses to return to Kosovo to be close to her father. It doesn’t bother her because she loves him.

Lately, she becomes the advisor of a Minister. Then, she works for the United Nations.

After a few years, her father dies too. She begins to dress only in black and remains there. Alone.

She drowns her sorrow in her work. Sounds familiar?

Few people know how heavy her life was.

Most people just see the buko without ever wondering what’s inside.

The Epilogue

September 2022. I return to Prishtina.

The “bad girl” I used to date is nowhere to be seen.

In her stead, waiting for me are the are eyes full of love of that little girl.

Now a sweet and caring woman, she welcomes compromise and does not hide her irresistible fragility.

She is the woman of my life.

My wife.

Curiosity leads you to strange places. I wanted to travel and earn a living without giving up my ideals; instead, I found happiness.

Both she and I always stubbornly wanted to live alone.

Now we live together.

We share goals. We share ideals. We share ourselves.

[Yes, she is also one of the few remaining fools for whom ethics and the given word still hold some sort of value 😁]

Love scene from “What did Jack do?” by the great David Lynch.

I was fortunate enough to be born European, to visit almost all continents at a young age, trying exoting foods and getting to know many different cultures. Each trip leaves a mark, but only some change your life forever.

Some people find themselves in Religion, some in their profession, some in psychedelic drugs…

I found myself in Kosovo.

By Doc

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