Tuesday, January 25, 2005

And More Snow!

It looks like the weather forecast was accurate for these two days.  It is still snowing.  Yesterday we got about 5cms (2 inches) of snow.  I bet the ski resort, Brezovica, is just absolutely buried in snow now.  Maybe it would be a good time to learn how to ski!!! 
Because the snow was wet, the roads were quite slippery yesterday.  It only took 40 minutes to reach home last night but as usual, there was an interesting traffic situation.  The large hill out of Pristina was pretty slippery.  A semi truck got stuck about halfway up the hill and had to start backing down the road.  The highway is divided with two lanes going each way so it wasn't really a problem for the truck to go down one lane, escorted by two private vehicles.  But the amazing thing was that people were trying to pass the line of traffic up the hill in the lane that the truck was using to go down.  I'm sure the truck driver was muttering choice phrases under his breath.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Old Man Winter

It's snowing, it's snowing!!!  It looks like the warm winter is over.  The forecast for the next week is snow, snow, and more snow!  Then later in the week, the temperature is supposed to drop to -14�C (that's about 6�F!)  Brrrrr!!!  We have had a very strange winter this year. November, December, and most of this month has been unseasonably warm.  In mid-December, we sat outside a couple of days because the temps was in the 50�F range and sunny. 
I am reminded today with the extremely slippery roads of my first winter snow storm in Kosovo back in 2001.  It was around Thanksgiving, the week of I think, and what started out to be a beautiful sunny morning turned into a snow storm that dumped half a foot of snow in three hours during the afternoon.  By 4:30pm, it was dark and still snowing.  The road out of Pristina was closed to any traffic without 4-wheel drive but people were still trying.  The five minute trip out of Pristina took one hour because Golf's were trying to make up the road out of Pristina but were getting turned around by KFOR.  Finally, I reached the highway and road up the hill out of Pristina.  It was slippery but manageable in the 4Runner.  Then I turned off the highway onto the road to Gracanica.  There is a gradual hill starting as soon as you finish the turn-off for about a mile I guess.  About halfway up the hill, a large truck had slid half into the ditch and half on the road.  A passenger bus tried to pass the truck on the left-hand side of the road but it was too slippery to start from a full-stop and they ended up being stuck.  Now the road was blocked both directions.  KFOR arrived and the passengers of the bus ended up pushing the bus out of the way so the other traffic could pass.  I'm sure that's not the trip that the passengers were expecting!  The normal ten minute trip ended up taking two and half hours that day.  I hope that tonight is not the same!

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Me Fat Bajram

That means "Happy Bajram" in Albanian.  There are actually two Bajrams (or festivals) each year.  There is little Bajram that falls at the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, and it lasts for three days.  Then there is the sacrifice Bajram in November that lasts four days and celebrates something to do with Mohammed (Emin couldn't exactly tell me what it is.)  A common misconception about Bajram is that is a time for fasting.  It's actually quite the opposite.  It's a time for eating, eating, and eating!
Bajram gives people time from their busy lives to go visit family and friends.  During Bajram, it is typical to go visit your friends and family for about 10-15 minutes to wish them well and catch up on what's new in life.  During that time, they will serve coffee and cake.  Then it is off to the next house for more coffee and cake!  Eventually, you'll stay home and serve coffee and cake to your friends and family...so it is quite an enjoyable time.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Tragedy Strikes

This morning at approximately 0820, a Nigerian police officer was killed in Prizren when his vehicle exploded while he was on his way to work.  BBC reported the incident and have a picture of the officer's vehicle.  You can see little damage to the outside of the vehicle but if you look at the black scorch mark under the vehicle, you can only imagine what it is like inside the vehicle.  You might also notice that the hood (fairly heavy) of the 4Runner is open...indicating the force of the blast.
In an international police force of nearly 3500 officers, the Nigerian contingent has 50 officers in the mission.  The SRSG of UNMIK has expressed his condolences and described the incident as despicable but I have heard little as to the reaction of the local population to this tragedy.  My thought go out to the officer's family and friends.

The details of the incident are still emerging but this is a tragedy that will have deep impacts on Kosovo Albanians' bid for independence.  It is expected that talks on the final status of Kosovo will start this summer but continued instability demonstrates that Kosovo may not be ready for the desired independence they so crave.  In related news, a coalition government has been formed in Kosovo between the pacifist government of Ibrahim Rugova and the political offshoot party of the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) headed by Ramush Haradinaj.  The former well-liked Prime Minister Rexhepi is not mentioned so I'm unsure if he has a place in the semi-new government (Rugova's party headed the last coalition government.)  The international reaction to the election of Haradinaj is not exactly positive; truthfully, the Albanians could have picked a less controversial figure to lead them towards showing the UN that the standards are being met than a former KLA commander who may be called to the Hague to answer to the charge of war crimes!  You can read more at the BBC about Haradinaj.

Sunday, January 9, 2005

Smokey is a Father?!?!

Oh please, please tell me that it isn't true!  After arriving back in Kosovo, I discovered two little puppies visiting Smokey in his kennel every morning and eating his food.  Smokey did not chase them off but rather sat on top of his doghouse and oversaw the eating of his food.  I first noticed a little black puppy (about a month old) in the morning because I heard very high-pitched barking outside.  The puppy was defending the food from the birds and chasing them off.  At least he knows that part better than Smokey!  Then I saw a little brown puppy who doesn't seem as afraid as the black one of me.  I was able to get close enough to take a picture of Smokey and the brown puppy together and the resemblance is scary!!!  Could Smokey possibly have become a father during one of his famed escape nights?

Saturday, January 1, 2005

Happy New Year

Wow, it has been three and a half years since I arrived in Kosovo, fresh-faced and ready for an adventure.  Some days it feels as if I just arrived but most, I feel like I have been here for a very long time...like Kosovo is my home.  I remember people laughing when I said that I was going home when returning to Kosovo but it is true.  Kosovo is where I have made a small one-bedroom flat a home for myself.  I have pictures of my family decorating my dressers, a loving dog greeting me when I get home from work, and a landlord's family that treats me as if I am part of theirs.  My friends joke that I'm going to be given a golden UNMIK Travel Document (the UNMIK Passport) for all the time I've spent here.
There are a few new things in my life...

I recently took over as Head of the Staff Recreation Committee (SRC) Movie Sub-Committee...both "jobs" done voluntarily.  About a week after taking over that committee, I was asked to do a rush sign-over of the SRC Sports Sub-Committee.  So now, I am overseeing the two UNMIK gyms as well as the Pristina Movie Cinema.  But now I have more incentive to go to the gym which I always say I will go to starting on Monday :)  It also gives me some non-stress time on the computer and a new challenge to focus on as my work slows down.

I also am involved recently in fundraising for the victims of the Tsunami Disaster in Asia.  A group of staff from UNMIK are taking donations that will be given to UNICEF.  I created a couple funny little see-thru boxes from my Christmas ornaments for the gyms and movie theater...I guess it is better than nothing.  I hope that the boxes will fill-up quickly.  We are scheduled to make a collective donation to UNICEF on the 25th of January from UNMIK.  Then in February, there probably will be two concerts in which any donations will go to the Tsunami survivors.

I also am enrolled at the University of Phoenix Online for my Masters degree in Management Information Systems.  I estimate that it will take me about one and half years to complete my degree.  I'm excited to get started with the courses and happy that with today's technology, even though I am far away from home, I can continue my education with a US-based school.