As usual I woke this morning at 6:00 and lay in bed until my alarm went off at 6:30, got up and read for a while and decided I would cook breakfast for the first time in my new flat. I am not sure why I always wake up between 5:30-6:00. I can faintly hear the call-to-prayer from the Mosques downtown in my apartment but I doubt that is waking me up. I bought bacon at Camp Bondsteel yesterday but had no eggs. There is a market two blocks north of where I live, I have been there a number of times and the owner told me he was open every day from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. unfortunately the store was closed when I got there at 7:30.
I decided to walk to the bakery which is down the hill about three blocks south of my flat. They are always open. I walked down the narrow cobblestone street to the bakery, not walking on the sidewalk, since that is where all the cars are parked. There are several inches of snow on the ground from the snow last week-end. I found another market next to the bakery, they were open and had the brown shelled eggs common here. You buy them individually; I bought six for .40 Euros. I greeted the clerk in Albanian and said thank-you in Albanian, in-between I asked if he spoke English, he said a little, which means he is fairly fluent. Everyone here speaks at least some English but it seems polite to ask before assuming.
After leaving there I went to the bakery and bought a large apple pastry for breakfast and large roll with a sausage in it for lunch, .70 Euros. I walked back up the hill to my apartment. It is cold out, the highs are near freezing, during the day there is mud everywhere but at night it freezes so the walk was not bad. It is usually foggy, or more accurately smoggy, in Pristina.
I started to cook breakfast and realized I only had one frying pan so would cook in stages, I started with the bacon since I could microwave it to warm it up after the eggs where done. I decided to check my email while the bacon was cooking which resulted in my burning the first batch, I cooked some more. Then I scrambled the eggs, I realized I didn’t have a spatula, something else for the list. The eggs here have yolks very orange in color, and there is usually a small spot of blood in them. I assume that means the chickens are free range and there is a rooster in the flock. I finished the eggs and realized I also need salt, another thing for the list. Breakfast was pretty good even without seasoning.
While I ate I watched news about the uprisings in Egypt in English on the Aljazeera news channel. My apartment came with a new 42 inch Samsung LCD TV, (and new furniture) I hate to admit it but that was probably the deciding factor in renting here. I had cable and internet hooked up, 90 channels and a 1 mps connection are 20 Euros per month but the internet has some odd protocol and my Kindle and Phone can’t use it, only the computer, apparently the other cable company uses a standard protocol and I should have gone with them. I didn’t know it at the time though and paid for six months in advance, they don’t give refunds in Kosovo. Live and learn I guess.
Of the 90 channels, probably 25 are in English with Albanian subtitles, there are no actual American channels, other than maybe CNN International. Of the 25 English channels about 12 are Movie channels, which play mostly 10-20 year old second rate movies but occasionally they have a newer or first rate movie. The other English channels are mostly news channels such as BBC World, and Deutsche Welle (which is about 50/50 English-German). Of the remaining channels, about 25 seem to be in Albanian the rest are in German, Italian, French or some other language. I was surprised at the lack of Arabic and Russian Channels do to my proximity to both of those regions. The quality of the local channels is about what you would have expected in the US in the 50’s, poor acting, poor quality sets, and lot’s of shows featuring local “talent” signing, dancing and playing instruments. It is entertaining.
I like the German Channels as they have lots of American shows that are dubbed in German and Deutsche Welle has pretty much the exact same news every half hour alternating between English and German. I think I may be able to improve my German a lot by watching these channels. The movie channels with the Albanian sub-titles are good too, and I have learned a number of Albanian words by watching them.
I was given a work phone with a SIM card so I put it in my Android and it works, fine. I don’t get data though. That is a minor problem because my office, and most coffee shops have Wi-Fi, I have gone to almost all the coffee shops and restaurants between my house and anywhere I would usually go in town and gotten the Wi-Fi passwords so I have almost uninterrupted data access on my Nexus S, except of course at my flat, but I have the laptop there.
Work has given me access to a number that lets me call the US and people in the US to call me for the charge of a local call. It is allowed to use it for personal calls. If anyone wants to call, let me know and I will email you the number. I also have a phone number through Skype which is (417)501-4015. It is a local Springfield number, so feel free to call me on that as well. Isn’t modern technology great? People here have been telling me about some service or gadget back home that lets them watch their cable TV from home while they are here and record it as well all via the internet. Pretty amazing.
I am finally acclimating to Kosovo, I moved into my apartment (flat) on the 17th; that was a big help. I like the apartment, it is about 1,000 sq ft, has two bedrooms a large living room, dining room and kitchen. I also have a laundry room with a washer AND dryer. That is rare here. I have a dish washer in the kitchen too, which is nice. Nothing seems to work quite right but in this society of “good enough” it is just that.
I am on Dragodan Hill (which sounds fairly imposing, but if you are picturing a dark, steep hill with a switch backed trail topped by a medieval fortress you’re pretty far off from reality). It consists more of loosely organized rows of large older homes mixed with modern homes and apartments. It was the nice part of town during the communist era. I suppose it still is.
I live about three blocks north of the US Embassy, on the same street. I am right next door to the Hungarian Embassy, most of the Embassies are on Dragodan; the German and English Embassies are a block up the hill from me. There is 24 hour security directly across the street from me. I assume they are protecting some ambassador’s residence. Violent crime is low in Pristina, but I guess thefts and burglaries are more common so I am glad for the location I’m in. One less thing to worry about.
On the other side of the Hungarian Embassy are the Dragodan Stairs, which is a large staircase running all the way up Dragodan hill from the city below. It is less than a 10 minute walk to the middle of downtown from my Flat, which will be nice when the weather improves.
I went to Camp Bondsteel with most of the rest of the ICITAP Advisor’s yesterday; Bondsteel is about a 45 minute drive from Pristina. They have medical facilities there and will treat American Citizens (for a fee) if someone gets injured or sick here we take them there since the level and quality of medical training in Kosovo is not impressive.
The main reason for going to Bondsteel is that there is a large Base Exchange (shopping center) there and we have shopping privileges since we have Embassy IDs. While there is no shortage of groceries or consumer items for sale in Kosovo, the quality, condition and origin are often questionable. At Bondsteel I was able to get a microwave, stereo I can hook my iPhone up to, King sized comforter and sheets for my bed, some khakis and a substantial amount of American food among other things, so it was a productive trip and I feel much more settled in my flat.
I have seen lots of beehives in Kosovo during trips to the various districts and I have met two people here whose families keep bees. I am thinking about trying to buy a hive so I can continue my hobby while I am here. I do not know if my landlord (who lives downstairs will be receptive to that idea). I asked one of the people with a connection to beekeeping here about that, he said bees don’t do well in town because of the smog. I don’t know if he actually knows that or just thinks it, but since bees are sensitive to smoke I could see that being a problem. You would think they would acclimate. It would be too bad if they don’t because everyone here has fruit trees, grapes vines or flowers in their yard, the bees could definitely keep busy.
Work is getting busier and my assistant and I are trying plan what we want to accomplish for the year. We are planning to host a regional conference on Police-Prosecution Relations in Drug and Human Trafficking, Terrorism and War Crimes cases. It would be cool if we could pull this off, as preparing for it would probably require business travel to Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania, Greece, Hungary, Serbia and maybe another country or two. Kosovo is considered a major transit point for drug and human trafficking and is geographically situated to be important in Terrorism and War Crimes prosecution, so there is a legitimate reason to have a conference here.
The Americans here seem to be worried about the rioting in Tunisia, Egypt and Albania. Especially Albania, since 85% of the population here are ethnic Albanians. The Albanians in Albania are upset because their politicians have not been able to seat a government in over a year. Therefore not much is functioning well there at this point. Kosovo’s government broke down in October and elections were held in December and in certain areas had to be redone once or twice due to “irregularities” in the voting. There is hope that a government can be formed in the next couple of weeks. If they can’t get things working here there is some concern the unrest in Albania could spread. I haven’t seen any signs of that. But with close to a 50% official unemployment rate here, things can change fast. I say “official” unemployment because it looks to me like the rate is actually much lower but no one wants to report that they are working because they are trying to avoid being taxed.
Well this has probably been kind of boring. My thought was if I gave you kind of a “day in the life” report you could see the differences here from the US. I hope this finds you all happy and healthy.