Thursday, October 28, 2004


Well, the fact that I didn't write anything is an indication of how quiet the election period was.  It was almost too quiet but I am thankful that there was no trouble.  In par with the rest of Europe and probably the US, only around 53% of the eligible population turned out to vote.  Of that, only 2% of the Serb population voted.  I would have thought with the displeasure at the current government and perceived lack of progress more people would have been interested in taking part.  I often told people that if they didn't vote in the elections, they forfeited the right to complain because they didn't do their part in the elections...even if their candidate lost, at least it was one more vote closer to changing the future.

I am however disappointed with the result of the election which is there was virtually  no change in the current government.  The current president's party lost one seat and the Prime Minister's party picked it up.  Other than that, nothing :-P  I really don't understand how people who say they are so dissatisfied with the work of the current government could elect the same officials to represent them for the next two years again!  I will be interested to see what occurs now...if the independence ticket will continue to be pushed before standards are set and established.  Really, I keep thinking to myself, who the heck cares about independence vs. autonomy when there is no economy, no education, no future?!? 

On the home front, there have been some interesting developments around our flat.  A couple months ago, someone broke the for sale sign outside the house.  Emin fixed it and a couple weeks ago, someone came and destroyed the sign.  This time there isn't hope to repair it because they smashed the post that was in the ground for the sign.  Then we discovered that someone had stolen part of our firewood.  They slashed the plastic over mine and then went around the corner to take some of Emin's family's as well.  I meant to replace the plastic this weekend but I was too lazy :)  But now Smokey is staying on the back balcony of our house, right outside the bedroom, because if they come back, I'm gonna give them a piece of my mind about stealing people's firewood.  It's downright impolite!!!

The weather hasn't been all that bad lately.  It is in the 50's most of the time so it has been a mild fall.  I am looking forward to when the temperature drops because I do love the scent and sounds of a wood fire burning.  Snuggling down on the couch with Smokey and a cup of hot chocolate to watch a movie :)  Ah, what a life!  But first, we have to get the brick-heater in the kitchen fixed and I have to clean the other heaters that Smokey oh-so-kindly peed on :-P  What a nasty dog!!!

Thursday, October 21, 2004


Today there was a very large political rally in Pristina.  I could easily say that I saw around 1500 people gathering for the rally.  We received an advisory from UN-Security (unSecurity) that there would be traffic delays from 1200-1400 because of the rally.  I don't think they expected there to be so many people...and they started up by the Grand Hotel around 1030.  I could hear from my window people clapping rhythmically and chanting "UCK, UCK" (uch-a-ka), which is known in English as KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army, or the people that fought the Serb Paramilitary during the conflict.)  It makes me think that there is a possibility that there will be some civil unrest during the elections this weekend.

Can you imagine this happening in the US?  There are over 30 registered parties in the local elections for a place that only has around two million people.  There is one candidate, the owner of one of the local newspapers, that some internationals from my office like because he has a plan for the future economy, education, and social problems that people face.  But the reality is that he is not doing as well as the other politicians that have no sound plans but tout the common line of "Independence for Kosovo".  It reminds me of a bumper sticker that really bothers me.  It shows the dove of peace and states "Independence:  The only way for peace in the Balkans".  It seems like more of a threat than statement to me and it has always been my belief that they should work on building a free multi-ethnic society before talking of independence.

Monday, October 11, 2004

A Short Reflection

Today I saw something new.  There was a man set-up on the sidewalk with a laptop and projector, broadcasting messages on the blast barrier of Mission HQ.  Didem told me that earlier this week, the messages and pictures were about how bad the UN is and what a terrible job they are doing in Kosovo.  It seems that the local community no longer welcomes the UN here due to the perceived lack of progress made.  But truthfully, when I look at the Kosovo of today and the Kosovo of August 2001, I see vast changes. 
I remember mountains of trash burning in the streets, packs of rabid-looking street dogs roaming around and occasionally attacking people.  I remember a time when there was no power schedule and water was off for days at a time.  Sure I complain about my trickle-showers in the summer but really, it is a real improvement over what it used to be like.  I recall vividly the time that I went home for Christmas vacation and I came back to a house that was 20°F inside...we hadn't had power for eight days because one of the lines in town went down.  Citizens had to approach the power company and request them to fix it after several days...could you imagine your town going without power for days and having to go to the capital to ask the power company to fix the problem and then waiting several more days for it to be fixed?  That's just a way of life here.

Another thing that I probably have never mentioned before is the procession of weddings in Kosovo.  I was reminded this weekend of how interesting it is after one vehicle was almost involved in a head-on collision with the gravel truck that was in front of me.  Weddings can last days in Kosovo.  It starts with the men celebrating with the other men and the women having their own parties.  Kind of like bachelor and bachelorette parties...but lasting an entire day or days :)  The day of the wedding, all the men drive to the bride's family's home...that is ALL the men!  Often the wedding is held in the house of one of the families and a reception elsewhere.  After the ceremony, everyone jumps in their vehicles with a BIG Albanian/Serbian flag and proceeds to the reception restaurant in a convoy, honking their horns, flashing their lights, hanging out the windows and dancing to blaring traditional music, waving handkerchiefs , and overall creating a traffic nightmare.  One of the nightmarish parts of the wedding processions is if you are stuck behind one.  The other nightmarish part is if there is one on the opposite side of the road because even if they are in the same wedding procession, they insist on passing each other and very dangerously at that...hence this weekend's reminder of weddings after seeing the 10 feet of skid marks the gravel truck left in front of me.  Luckily, I was following at a safe distance so there was no trouble in me stopping in time.  Ah, another small distances don't exist in Kosovo.  Oh no, the space that I left between my car and the gravel truck was actually space for three more vehicles traveling 30kph in excess of the speed limit (we were already traveling 10kph in excess *sheepish grin*) to whip their cars into should a vehicle come the opposite way :)

Tuesday, October 5, 2004

A Kosovo Day

 Ugh!  I am having a Kosovo Day today.  The power was out when I woke up, which I can live with :)  But then, as I was taking my shower, the pressure started to drop off.  I thought to myself, "no, the water can't be going out."  But sure enough, as soon as I rinsed the conditioner out of my hair, there was no water!!!  Ack!!!

Then down the hill into Pristina for work.  Circling, driving, circling...looking for parking.  Emin told me that one of the offices did a study and there are 100,000 vehicles and only 30,000 parking spots.  Well, today, I was one of the suckers without a parking spot.  So, I circled and circled for half an hour until I saw someone leaving a spot in front of me.  YES!  So, I turn on my hazards to indicate that I'll be parking and wait two minutes as the guy pulls out...meanwhile, there are cars honking and whipping by me because they're in a hurry to go look for parking :)  Finally, the guy is out of the spot...YES!  I pull up to parallel park and the IDIOT behind me pulls up behind me so I can't back into the spot.  I just threw up my hands in disgust and reversed the car into the spot the best I could.  Because it was at a weird angle I ended up with both wheels up on the curb but after 30 minutes, I didn't care how I parked...just that I parked!!!

After work, I went shopping with Emin at one of the hipermarkets (or a Kosovo Walmart if you will.)  I found some really nice sushi-style plates and bought a set of four since my other dishes were getting beat-up after a couple of I never realized when buying them that the nice silver border around the edge would make the un-microwave friendly :)  Ah, you live and learn!  I also managed to find a great deal on a new toilet brush...yeah, it probably isn't exciting to you...but a normal toilet brush costs over $25 here and I bought one for $5 at the hipermarket!  It is funny the small things that you find that you take for granted, like a toilet brush, until you find that it is cost-prohibitive or unobtainable :) 

Saturday, October 2, 2004

Road Rally Extravaganza!

The Road Rally went off without a hitch and it was great fun.  Thankfully, everyone was smart about the rough roads and we didn't have to rescue anyone out of the mud :)  We had 13 teams competing and only two teams got lost.  For some reason, every year, the vehicle with the Indians (from India, that is) is extraordinarily slow or they get lost!  I don't know what it is but it just seems to be a given.  This year, I'm not sure they got lost or were just being slow in order to answer all the questions perfectly...but we ended up telling them to come to the finish when they were half-way because everyone was done and waiting for them.
We took everyone on a three-four hour tour of the Gnjlane (South/Southeastern) Region.  We took main and dirt roads through several larger towns and some very small ones.  There was some great scenery that I'll share in my Kosovo Photo Album.