Monday, February 14, 2005

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day from Kosovo.  Since most of the girls in our offices are away from their honeys or single, I picked up a little bouquet of roses and lilies for them in the morning.  One of the other ladies had the same idea so I ended up with a nice red rose for my desk as well.
The Valentine's Benefit Program & Party went well this past Saturday.  We managed to raise over 700 Euros in a single night by asking for change at the bar and holding a raffle with donated prizes.  Many Pristina restaurants gave free dinner donations to the cause (Bella Vista, Home, Thai, Chinese, Himalaya Gorkha, Rio, Gresa, Mexicana) and I donated five DVD players as a contribution to the cause.  Just to be safe, we asked the managers of the American PX to use the DVD players for the raffle.  Sometimes people get upset when they see someone carrying a bunch of DVD players and there have been cases where electronics have ended up on the streets.  The electronics at the American PX are some of the best quality and much more affordable than the ones imported to Kosovo (or the ones that fall off trucks and end up in Kosovo).  Like most situations, there are people who will abuse the privilege and make others suffer for their greed.

Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Still Snowing!

I can hardly believe it but the snow continues.  We thought that winter was over after a mild, warm couple of months but it looks like it was just late!  At least with the amount of snow and rain, there will be more water in the summer (I hope!)  I'm not looking forward to another year of bucket showers.  I saw a cool gadget in the AAFES (American Armed Forces Exchange Service aka PX) that is a five gallon bucket with heater for camping.  I'm thinking about spending the $150 to get it and shower attachment just so I don't suffer through the summer as usual.
My wood pile is getting low.  I hopefully will have enough to last through the rest of this late winter.  I guess the snow can't last much longer but it has been snowing for nearly two weeks!  I took new pictures of Smokey and his "kids" to show the difference in the weather.  The picture I took a couple weeks ago was of him in the kennel with dry dirt...the next pictures I took everything was covered with snow.  I also got a picture of the snowman the CD-sellers built near the entrance of MHQ.  I'm glad I stopped to take the picture because someone knocked it down the next day...kind of sad, it was a good reminder that life can be normal here.

Thinking of a normal life, I am reminded about the children of Kosovo.  There are a great number on the streets of Pristina, begging for money and selling cigarettes.  I do urge people not to give them money because the fact of the matter is, they never see the benefit of it.  I have noticed on many occasions that an adult stands outside the restaurant and as soon as they see someone giving money to the child, they take it away.  I was outraged one summer day when I gave a child a few euros and as I walked away, the woman seated further down the street got up and took the money from the child.  These street children are basically kept in a poor state to gather sympathy of those passing by.  If I see a child come into a restaurant during the winter, I often will order a hot chocolate or a coke during the summer.  At least then, the child can briefly have something for them to enjoy.

A coworker of mine noticed a child with his mother begging near OSCE several weeks ago when the weather was cold.  His daughter had outgrown her snowsuit so he brought it downtown seeing that it was the right size for the child.  Instead of putting the suit on the child to keep her warm, the mother put the suit in a bag and a few days later in passing by, my coworker saw that the child still was not wearing the suit but the barest of clothing.

I have heard rumors about the Romas (gypsies) that flood Kosovo when the weather is good to wash windshields at the intersections.  It usually is the young men that are washing windows and the mothers with children who sit on the streets.  Usually there will be a younger or infant draped over her arm, sleeping or unconscious.  The rumor I have heard is that they often beat the children senseless because it gathers more pity than if they were up running around and playing.  I'm not sure how true that is but seeing now they use the children as a tool of trade rather than a human, it is quite possibly true.