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 :)