Saturday, December 31, 2005

A Reflection on 2005 and Mission

It's hard to believe that I have passed 4 1/2 years of my life in Kosovo.  The experience will continue to touch my life in many ways that I will probably never realize.  I have learned how to survive in less than optimal circumstances (no power, no water, no air-conditioning, no heating), tried to understand the local points-of-view (still somewhat baffling over the obsession over a battle taking place 500 years ago), and had the opportunity to meet people from around the world and visit some fantastic countries.  Should you be reading this log/blog/journal or whatever it is called these days and have the opportunity to visit, travel, or participate in the Kosovo mission, I strongly urge you to give it a chance.  While there are many challenges, there are also many rewards :)
I will end my little reflection on the joys that I've had in the mission now and turn to something that I've debated over a few months whether or not I should share the details.  I have decided that I should inform those who may be thinking of coming to Kosovo (particularly Pristina) of the recent increase in burglaries and robberies against international employees of the UN and KFOR.  In December alone there were 25 burglaries in Pristina in the homes of internationals.  The previous two months had the same or more.  The past three months have seen a dramatic increase in the number of robberies and burglaries against internationals.  I've updated my Kosovo Tips page with general security and the new power schedule.

Robberies have been at gunpoint and at night.  There have only been a handful reported robberies in the past few months, burglaries are far more common.  However, some people have been injured during robberies, none seriously to my knowledge.  The burglaries are normally conducted when the residents are not at home but I have known a few cases where the burglars tried while the staff member was at home.  I do not wish to discourage anyone from visiting, crimes of opportunity are present in many missions where locals know that the internationals have the best TVs and sometimes leave large amounts of money unsecured in their accommodations.  But the recent months have, as I said, seen an increase in the frequency against internationals.  So, if you are coming to Kosovo (especially Pristina), be vigilant.  Do not walk alone at night with backpacks or laptop cases.  Try not to leave laptops and other portable valuables at home.  And last but not least, for goodness sake, don't leave large amounts of money unsecured and at home!!!