Monday, January 30, 2006


Skiing was a success.  I wasn't a happy camper when the alarm went off at 6am but once we got up to Sera (the name of the mountain isn't really Brezovica!) the sun was shining and all was good.  I'm suffering today with incredibly sore leg muscles so if you see me limping around the compound, that's the reason.  You'll find a couple new pix in my Kosovo photo album from this weekend :)

In other news, the power is still 1:5 (that's one on, five off...wish it was the other way around!)  I read in the news that it was Kosovo-A plant that normally produces 120mw went down and that's the reason the power is so bad.  Luckily the weather is getting warmer so maybe we'll squeeze another hour out of KEK as people turn off their heaters.  People living in Pristina are lucky because they are still being supplied 24/7 power whereas the regions (both Albanian and Serb areas) are suffering with little to no power in extremely cold temperatures.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Another Day in Paradise

I wish! *haha*  I didn't have power for over 12 hours last night so the house was freezing when I woke up.  I finally tossed out the 4.2kw generator that I bought that didn't of those friend of a relative has a good deal for you deals.  I told Kujtim that his uncle's friend either better fix it or I'm getting my money back.  I'm done with suffering in the cold and wondering how I'm going to compete with the growing pile of laundry in the bedroom :o)  My little 500w Honda generator is still chugging along fairly well after 4.5 years of Kosovo petrol (and mechanics *hehe*)  It was probably one of my better investments when I came to the mission :)

But all that aside, I'm looking forward to the weekend because I'm going SKIING!  Far too early for my taste, we are driving up to Brezovica tomorrow morning to enjoy the fresh air and a little fun on the mountain.  I'll hopefully get some new pics for the photo album if the weather is good.  I heard it was a bit foggy last weekend.

Oh, and I almost forgot!  My office recently moved out of MHQ downtown so I'll miss out on all the demonstrations, egg-throwing, and what-not.  I'm now working at AHQ near Kosovo Polje/Fushe Kosova and am usually found eating lunch at the Peacekeepers cafeteria.  Since moving out to AHQ, a couple people have recognized me from the site.  I'm also a fairly active person for the UNMIK SRC (Staff Recreation Committee) so you'll also find me dj-ing UN parties (next party is on the 17th of February) as Dj Vegas, showing movies or running around the gyms.  Anyways, I wanted to tell everyone that I'm a nice person, I don't bite (much), and please feel free to come up and say hi anytime :o)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Freezing Temperatures and No Power

For the third day in a row, the temperatures are near 10�F.  As a result of the cold, the power situation is very bad in C-areas.  It is also reported that several Serbian villages in central Kosovo have been without power for over 50 hours. In Gracanica, the Serbian enclave where I live, the power has been 1:5 or real definitive schedule,  just off most of the time.  Some say that the power was supposed to be 5:1 everywhere so people can watch Rugova's funeral tomorrow on the TV but we will see.  It's not just the Serb areas that are suffering but many smaller Albanian villages as well that normally are part of the B-area. 

Rugova's funeral is going to be conducted as a state funeral with no religious leanings.  Rugova was a Catholic, confirmed now, but a funeral committee has decided that in order not to upset the Albanian Muslim majority, the funeral will be secular.  Also, Serbia's President Tadic has been told that he is not welcome at the funeral in response to comments he made concerning the duties of Serbia's president to attend the leader of Kosovo's Albanian population while reaffirming that Kosovo still remains part of Serbia.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Snow, Snow, Snow

It's a winter wonderland today.  The temperature is down in the teens (14�F at 1430 hrs) with a wind-chill factor that makes it feel like -4�F!  Brrr!!!  Plus it is snowing and the roads are pretty slick.  I was having fun sliding around in the 4Runner this morning :o)  It's too bad that we don't have snow-days in the UN.  It's the perfect day to sit at home with a cup of hot chocolate in front of the wood stove.  And I have plenty of wood after hauling two meters from Ferizaj yesterday!  Because of Rugova's death, the power seems to be better.  I think that they will keep the power on for most of the mourning period as many of the stores will be closed and people will be at home.

Today the government declared 15 days of national mourning.  Daci, the assuming president, has declared that Thursday to be a non-working day as the funeral will take place.  Until then, Rugova's body is laying in state in the Parliament Building in Pristina.  I came across an interesting article with comments from Serbian politicians on Rugova's passing.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Ethnic Violence

It was reported today that two Serb teenagers, age 17 and 19, were attacked and beaten by a group of Albanians outside an Orthodox church in the village of Mogila, near Vitina.  The news is being overshadowed by Rugova's death and there is little information available other than the matter has been handed over to KPS and KFOR.
Additionally, yesterday the Self-Determination group deflated (slashed from what I hear) the tires on 37 UN vehicles parked on Police Avenue.  One person was arrested and parking has been restricted.  It is rather disturbing that an occurrence like this has happened because the vehicles were parked directly across from the Central KPS station.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Ibrahim Rugova 1945 - 2006

The man nicknamed "Gandhi of the Balkans" passed away on Saturday at the age of 61.  Rugova announced last September that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer and chose to stay in office, hoping to usher Kosovo into independence.  Flags remain at half-mast after the downing of the plane returning from Slovenia, now in recognition of the passing of the "Father of Kosovo". 
Rugova, known for this trademark glasses and scarf, was an unlikely leader to many.  A rather bookish and college-professor looking man, he emerged during the 1980's as the leader of the Kosovo Writer's Club.  During Milosevic's reign, he was one of the first to demand independence through non-violent means and gained the respect of the international community.  His political party Democratic League (LDK) implemented parallel structures (schools, hospitals) in 1991 when Milosevic's regime cracked down on ethnic Albanians.  Later, during the NATO bombing campaign, Rugova appeared on television with Milosevic, a low point in his political career as it cost him support of many of his fellow Albanians.  Yet, in 2000, LDK won 53% of the votes in Kosovo's first election and in 2002, Rugova became president.  He was re-elected for a second term in 2004.

Rugova was the leader of the Kosovo group in the upcoming status talks, slated to begin on Wednesday.  It is expected that the leader of parliament, Nexhat Daci, will take over as president and as the head for the status talks now scheduled to begin in early February.  Parliament now has three months to choose a permanent successor for Rugova and Rugova's party, LDK, must also find a successor.  You can read more about the passing of Ibrahim Rugova at Reuters.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Sucks to be Me!

Well, it just sucks to be me...or at least living in my area of Kosovo!  With this new KEK (Krappy Electric of Kosovo as I like to call them) I live in a C-area which means that I get whatever power is left-over after giving A-areas 24/7 and B areas 5:1 hours of power.  Reverse the power schedule for the B-areas and you get my current power schedule.  One hour of power and five hours off.  It really sucks!  Every night when I go home the second task, after bringing the begging Smokey inside, is to light a fire in the wood stove at least in the living room to try to bring the room temperature up to around 70� hovers around 55�F without a fire and the electric heaters going.  Last night I was tired when I got home at 10pm so I just whipped out the good, ol' thermal sleeping bag and climbed into bed with my laptop :)
I'm seeing messages for people looking for generators and hearing about people renting mega-generators to power their entire houses now with this new power schedule.  The schedule is based on the percentage of people paying for power in an area.  The part that really sucks is that if you pay 100% of your bill and two neighbor pay 0%, it brings your percentage down to 33% and would change your grouping in the power schedule!  But since KEK possesses no mechanism for selectively disconnecting houses that do not pay (in addition to disconnecting people illegally connected...okay, they are disconnected but they have no qualms about running back out and illegally connecting once the power company leaves!) I guess this is the next best thing.  But as I have always complained, it's not quite fair to put Gracanica in the C-area for not paying bills when KEK has never issued a bill for the electricity!

Now, again I'm hearing rumors that KEK will issue bills (this is only the 3rd-4th time I've heard it in the past two years) and we'll have to pay the power for the past six years (of course, you can't be charged for power when you don't have any so the bills shouldn't be too high!) What some people think will happen is that Serbia will deal with KEK to pay off the electricity for the area in order to keep the support of the Serbian community in Kosovo.  It might not be a monetary payment but rather Serbia will import power to Kosovo as a trade-off for the payment of what KEK says Gracanica owes in bills.  So we shall see what happens!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Clash in Mitrovica

The Self-Determination group clashed with police in Mitrovica today.  The group spray-painted their usual "Jo Negociata Vetenvendosje" (which Kujtim still argues is spelt incorrectly!) message.  Four police officers are reported to have been injured but there is little news on what exactly happened.  The leader of the group, Albion Kurti, thinks that independence for Kosovo should be reached without negotiation with Serbia and continues to lead the anti-UN campaign despite being arrested previously in other protests.  Talks are expected to begin on the 25th of January between the Serbian and Kosovo groups.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Roma Mehala

We got word today that our ORB (Occupational Recuperation Break) has been changed from one week every three months to one week every two months!  It will be great to get some more traveling in :)  Supposedly the new vacation cycle is because of the pollution in Kosovo.  Thinking about the pollution, I don't think that I've mentioned about the debate over the new Roma settlement in north Kosovo. 
The UN has been trying to get the Romas living in the lead-contaminated camp near the Trepce lead mine to move to the old French KFOR base after the WHO and Red Cross found critical levels of lead in many of the children's blood.  The Romas have refused to move to the base because they do not want to be temporarily housed anymore.  As many as 7,000 Romas lived along the Ibar River but the area known as Roma Mahala that was "razed by Albanian mobs"  in 1999.  Until now, little has been done to rebuild the village and the displaced population has been living atop the toxic Trepce site for six years.  UN Officials are urging the Romas to move but they are refusing saying that the move will only further delay the reconstruction of their former homes.  You can read more at Reuters Alertnet or UN News Center.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Landslide Closes Road to Macedonia

A landslide between the town of Kacanik and the Macedonian border has closed the road for the next several days.  It basically means that the UN staff are stuck in Kosovo until the road is cleared because we normally are not allowed to travel the route into Macedonia through Tetevo, Macedonia's hotspot for trouble.
Oh, and I should mention the trouble with Mobitel!  Mobitel is a mobile phone provider from Serbia.  Until recently, many people were using the service in Kosovo because it was a bit cheaper than the Vala (044) service (or at least that's what they told me when trying to get me to switch!)  Anyways, Mobitel has started to remove their antennas from Kosovo because of some political problems in Serbia.  This means that everyone with 062/3/4 numbers are losing their service.  The reason for this is that  the head of Mobitel supposedly illegally authorized business with a Kosovo Albanian and "threatened national security".  You can read more about at Southeastern European Times or AKI Press

Thursday, January 5, 2006

Another Bus Attack

An explosive device was thrown at another bus traveling from Dragas to Belgrade.  This is the second attack on a bus from Dragas in a month.  None of the 55 passengers, mostly Albanian, were injured but the bus was damaged.  There is little information at this time but concerns are rising that these type of incidents will continue as the final status talks draw closer.
In unrelated news, President Ibrahim Rugova's religious tenants are causing wild speculation after rumors that he has been asked to be buried as a Catholic.  It is rumored that Rugova may have converted to Catholicism in 1999 by Pope John Paul II while others declare that it is just a political move to get the world behind Kosovo's bid for independence.  Whatever the case, it is an interesting new development for Kosovo Albanians who many seem to synonymously equate being Albanian to being Muslim.

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Lek Dugagjini Code

One cultural aspect that I don't think I've ever addressed in this log is that of the Albanian Lek Dugagjini Code.  The code states that a family can avenge the death of a relative by killing the killer or a member of the killer's family.  If a person refuses to avenge the death of their relative, they are considered a coward.
The event that calls this code to mind is the shooting of a detainee in police custody in Peja/Pec.  The detainee was alleged to have stabbed the KPS officer's brother to death in a bar six months prior and the officer extracted revenge today by killing the suspected murderer, fulfilling the "blood feud" between the families.  The problem now is that a member of the detainee's family should now "return the favor" for lack of better description and avenge the death of his family member against the family of the KPS officer.  It gets very messy and the blood feuds can last for decades or even centuries between families.