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  • Jerome Kocher

48. NewBorn Brew Cafe

Started by an American from Montana the NewBorn Brew Cafe is a hot spot for university students in Prishtina. It has a double meaning. After the war there is a public monument in the city to the “new born” Kosovo Republic, independent since 2008. The cafe layers another meaning over that with a “new bor48.n” Christian outreach. All this in a city that is a Muslim majority and the call to prayer five times a day is a steady reminder. But few people here practice religion. It’s in name only. They have more existential issues of survival.

No pun intended, but the cafe is a Mecca for the university students living in this neighborhood next to campus. One whole wall is plastered with shelves full of games: card games, board games, from chess to risk to Uno. Posters of Glacier National Park and Four Corners Utah remind students of a land of opportunity. Ironically, the owner from Montana saw an opportunity in Prishtina to create a cafe for university students. Besides creating a relaxed social environment, it also provides opportunity for them to explore their “faith” in non traditional ways.

I came to see the wall mural art of my train companion, Aryon. Surprisingly it is a lighthouse in a Danish landscape. That’s the last scene I expected to see in Kosovo. The cafe was crowded with students less than a third my age. But there was also something there I had not seen in months . . . milkshakes. Chocolate milkshakes. I ordered one and sat down next to a chess game. Two games later I found myself in the game chair opposite Alex. I chose black. He took white. Game on! I am not very good at chess, barely able to see two moves ahead, hardly a Bobby Fischer in disguise.

My intention was to engage, in the game and in conversation with an English speaking Kosovar. At least I could give him a gift. I could reciprocate his generosity of spirit. I would eventually lose and he would win. Every Kosovar needs a win, a victory, to fill their sail with hope and confidence. My lack of skill could be my gift.

But fate proved otherwise. Being the elder of my opponent I had more concentration. Alex was lovable and social which means everyone that went by was a potential distraction. Since I barely knew anyone, my only friends were my pawns, knights and bishops. This proved to be an advantage. When I finally moved my queen, Alex didn’t notice the consequences. What I originally had intended as a gift of confidence to Alex turned out to be checkmate. I won my first chess game in over ten years. I thought the milkshake tasted good. Victory tasted even better.

Even though it was just a game, it bonded me with my opponent. With Kosovo. All of a sudden I belonged. So I knew what I would do the next night. Yes, go back for another milkshake. Why not! It tasted soooo good!

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