So You Think You Want To Be An International Advisor? (Part III)


Part III.  Getting Hired

Note:  In this section we consider the two main ways of making your dream of working overseas a reality.

Ok, so you’ve read the first two sections (Seriously, read the second section.) and you still want to work overseas.  What do you do to get hired?  First of all I have a little more bad news, the CivPol and Justice Sector jobs are getting harder to find.  Here’s why – Iraq has wound down and Afghanistan is starting that process, Eastern Europe is winding down.  There are fewer jobs out there then there were 5-6 years ago.  The government is broke and cutting back funding.   At the same time you have a lot of people, who have done a mission or two, or who are currently in a mission and faced with being downsized.   Many of these people liked the work and/or the money and want back in or want to stay in.  There is a supply and demand problem.  I suspect this will result in the pay going down in the near future not to mention it being harder for a person who is new to this type of work to get hired.  The good news is Africa and Central-South America are picking up and with any “luck” Syria will be open in the future.  As long at the US wants to play world policeman and fight never-ending wars on drugs and terror there will always be jobs for Rule of Law professionals.  Someone will profit from our folly, it may as well be you.

Here are my thoughts on getting hired.  There are two ways to do it.  One is the “Who you know” game and the other is the “Numbers” game.  If you haven’t worked overseas before you probably should try both.

The “who you know” method is the easiest.  If you have experience in the Rule of Law area (Cop, Prosecutor, Judge) and you have decided you want to work overseas.  Think about who you know, or who you know who knows someone that does.  Contact them, network, and get them to give your résumé to their boss.  If you feel this is taking unfair advantage or not kosher, get over it.  That is how most of the people in this business get hired.  There are so many people looking for these jobs that potential employers are inundated with resumes, they don’t like looking at hundreds of resumes and there are so many idiots with good-looking resumes applying for these jobs that a recruiter or employer is looking for someone they know is “OK” or for someone somebody they know vouches for.  Trust me if the person(s) you talk to doesn’t really like you they won’t forward on your résumé or they will do it with a weak endorsement.  So don’t feel bad about asking.   They are, however at least likely to tell you whether there are any openings now or in the near future and they will probably know who you should contact.  Knowing someone in the biz is vital.

The second method, and the way I got started is the “Numbers Game” method.  I went on the internet, found all the companies I could that were remotely involved in anything I thought I might qualify for or be interested in and I applied.  There are a couple of things to remember about the numbers game.  First of all apply for every job you think you might vaguely be qualified for.  Employers, when they type up the job requirements, are thinking about the perfect candidate.  They might not get the perfect candidate and they might settle for you.  Good enough is a win!   Secondly fill out the forms completely, check for spelling and grammatical errors.  You should have several different resumes highlighting your experience in different ways for different types of jobs.  This method is a pain in the neck and takes up a lot of time as each employer probably has its own fill in the blank web application process.  If you have the option, save or print out the application when you finish, it could save you time in future applications.  Be aware I started filling out online applications in the spring of 2008 and it was the spring of 2010 before I was hired for my first job.  It could take a while.  But if it is something you really want to do keep at it.  Expect to fill out literally hundreds of applications.

Below are links to a number of companies I have worked for, received job offers from or applied to.  This is not a complete list.  Be resourceful, there are also websites out there who are headhunters for companies that hire people for overseas work, use those as well:

Engility (formerly MPRI):  http://www.engilitycorp.com/

Civilian Police International:  http://www.civilianpolice.com/

Dyncorphttp://www.dyn-intl.com/careers.aspx

Fedsys:  http://www.fedsys.com/careers/

SAIChttps://www.saic.com/career/

Checci Consulting:  http://www.checchiconsulting.com/

PAE:  http://www.paegroup.com/career

Wackenhuthttp://www.g4s.us/en-US/Careers/

Dangerjobs.com:  http://dangerjobs.com/

Next:  Part IV.  Special Attorney Section

©2012 by Steven Fenner

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So You Think You Want To Be An International Advisor? (Part II b)


Part II b.  The Bad Continued…

Note:  In this segment we consider some additional factors that can make living and working overseas a challenge.

I realize this isn’t politically correct but if your health isn’t good, you are morbidly obese or you have some disability (mental or physical) working overseas, at least in a dangerous location, probably should not be for you.  Surprisingly you can probably get a job overseas because of the employment laws in the US.  But be aware you may have to work in very physically and mentally taxing environment.  You may be in a very hot, non-air-conditioned or a very cold, unheated environment.  You will have to walk a lot more than you do in the US.  You might have to run, lift and carry things or even crawl.  Unless your contract entitles you to military medical care, the care you get will not be what you are used to in the US.   You may not be able to get prescription medicine overseas and what you can get may be of dubious quality and origin.  I have actually worked with people overseas who were well over 100 lbs over weight, their joints were shot, they had back problems, diabetes, etc.  No one wants to help you carry your things, or wait around on you, and no one wants you taking up more than your share of valuable space.  Do everyone a favor and if you are not healthy don’t be a burden to others, stay home.

The free market is alive and well in the international advisor field.  If you work as a contractor (and most of us do), you can bet that your company will know exactly what the minimum amount is that they have to pay someone to work in a specific place.  They will not pay you a penny more.   If the place they send you is really bad, it will pay really well.  If the place is nice it won’t pay very well.  What does this mean?  Afghanistan, South Sudan – lots of money.  Europe – a lot less.    For example, in 2010 I was offered a direct hire job in Afghanistan which would have, with overtime, paid about $300,000 per year.  I turned it down and instead took a job in Kosovo (SE Europe) which paid a lot less, and I mean a lot less.  Instead of living in a shipping container and dodging mortars and bullets I lived in a decent apartment in a nice part of town and spent my occasional free week-ends sipping drinks on a beach in Greece.  Was the loss of income worth it?  That’s a decision you have to make.

On the subject of the contractors you will work for.  Their concern is making money not making you happy.  You are a short term resource to be exploited.  I have heard horror stories about people signing a contract getting on a plane to their new job and when they arrive being told they aren’t getting paid as much as their contract calls for, or being sent off to do a totally different job then they were hired for.  Do not expect your employer to care about you.   They will not do anymore for you than they are required by your contract, maybe less.  No one is looking out for you but you.  I have had good luck so far with the companies I have worked for and have no major complaints, but go into this with your eyes open.   If you don’t like something your contractor does and you complain about it you should not be surprised if the only question they ask you is “Window or aisle?”

It seems inevitable that you will have to work with someone with absolutely no redeeming qualities what-so-ever.  For some reason CivPol (Civilian Police)/ Rule of law work seems to draw some of the biggest jerks and idiots you will ever meet.  As an added bonus they may be your boss.  I do not understand this but the Peter Principle is alive and well in this sector.  My personal theory is that since most contracts are for one year and it is such a pain to find a new person if they fire someone, companies would rather keep an asocial moron than go to the trouble of finding someone new. – As long as they don’t directly cause the company grief.  These types of people are able to move around yearly and stay in this field.  They lied shamelessly to get the job in the first place then every year they get to add a new important sounding position to their résumé.  I cannot over stress this, I have met two of the biggest freaks I have ever known doing this work.  To be fair I have met a lot of good people and made some good friends doing this as well, but most of the friends I have made who work in this field will tell you the same thing.

Finally for those with spouses and families you have to consider the ramifications of being absent from them for at least a year.  Are the events you might miss in your children’s or grandchild’s life really worth the money you will earn?  Being away for months at a time generally doesn’t help a solid marriage and can be the death knell for one on shaky ground.   Are you here to get away from your wife?  Putting off dealing with problems at home is seldom the best way to deal with them.  Being overseas puts you at a distinct disadvantage if your spouse decides to divorce you while you are gone.

I am not joking about any of these issues, please be sure you understand the gravity of what you are considering.  There are more potential problems but I am way over my 500 word per article limit.  Suffice it to say yes there are things you may not like, but many people successfully makes the transition and find working overseas rewarding.

Next:  Part III.  Getting Hired

©2012 by Steven Fenner

So You Think You Want To Be An International Advisor? (Part II)


Part II.  The Bad

Note:  In this section we continue our discussion about working and living as an advisor overseas. I set out some aspects about living overseas that you might consider less appealing.  Overseas assignments vary widely depending on the location, company and type of in mission in which you are working.  All of the factors listed below will not apply to all missions.

“Wow!”  You say, “That sounds great where do I sign up?”  But a little voice in your head may also be saying, “Wait, this sounds too good to be true.  Is there any downside to this big adventure?”   Well the short answer to that is “yes”.  Or perhaps it is more a matter of perspective.  It depends on your personal situation, personality and ability to adapt.  The following information will give you food for thought about whether overseas work is for you or not.

Here’s a quick list of things to think about.  After the list, in the next post, some bigger issues will follow:

  1. If you expect things to be like they are in the US you will be disappointed.  It is different here. That’s kind of the point.  If it is important to you to shop at Wal-Mart and eat at Appleby’s you won’t like it overseas.
  2. If it bothers you when people don’t speak English you probably shouldn’t work overseas.
  3. If you can’t make yourself try strange new foods you probably won’t be happy here.
  4. If you need to pack three large suit cases for a week-end trip, working overseas isn’t for you.
  5. If there is no way on God’s green earth you will ever understand the metric system, you could have problems.
  6. If you can’t imagine working unarmed.  This work may not be for you.  Some missions allow advisors to carry a weapon, many do not.
  7. If you are a type “A” personality and have to be moving at a gazillion miles an hour all of the time, overseas work may be unduly frustrating for you.  On a daily basis everything moves slower here and no matter how hard you try you will not be able to speed it up.
  8. You may feel much of your time is spent unproductively and the way work gets done may be extremely frustrating and hard to comprehend.
  9. If you think the rest of the world love’s Americans, the American Dollar and wants to be like us you are in for a rude awakening.
  10. If you are unfamiliar with the phrase “situational awareness” please, please stay home.
  11. On a related note:  No one outside of the litigious US really cares much about civil liability, it is a dangerous world out there, full of sharp pointy things, electrical hazards, unsanitary conditions, holes in the ground, really bad drivers, etc.  If you can’t pay attention to what you are doing and your surroundings you are likely to get hurt.
  12. If you think you would totally freak out if you were shot at, mortared, rocketed or if someone tries to blow you up you should think twice about working overseas.
  13. If creäture comforts are important to you, you may not like it here.  If you are living on a FOB (Forward Operating base)in Afghanistan if you are lucky you will live in a CHU (Containerized Housing Unit) this is a finished out shipping container which may or may not have electrical power to it.  It may not have a bathroom and you may have roommates.  You might live in a tent.  You might have to walk a couple of blocks to use the shower or the toilet, which sucks at O’dark-thrity on a brisk January morning.  If the shower works it will probably be cold.
  14. You may be required to work long hours.  Seriously, you might be working 12-hour days six days a week, sometimes even seven.   This is one factor to consider when you are thinking about the “big money” contractors make.  If you work 72 hours per week is your hourly wage really all that great?  Does it matter since you won’t be home for a year to spend it?
  15. That’s right most contracts are for one full year.  You will get a chance to go home a couple of times during that year, but every time you go home it costs you money.

Next:  Part II continued, more factors to consider.

Dubrovnik – Another Week-end, Another Great Place


The Old Walled City of Dubrovnik

Oct. 10, 2011:  My friends Ron and Leslie recently came to Pristina.  Ron came at my request and taught a four-day class on Public Corruption.  Ron did a great job and the class was well received.  The class ended Friday and Saturday we flew to Dubrovnik Croatia.  I had not been to Dubrovnik nor had my friends.   They had decided to stay on Europe a couple of weeks after leaving Kosovoand Leslie’s parents were meeting them in Dubrovnik for the week-end and then the four of them planned to drive through a good part of Europe  before heading home. 

St. George's Dragon - A statue in Zagreb, Croatia

My plan was to go to Dubrovnik over the Columbus Day week-end and come back to Pristina on Monday evening.  I was able to find a round trip flight for about $200.00 and we all headed out of Pristina on the 5:55 a.m. Croatian Airlines flight to Zagreb.  There is no direct flight between Pristina and Dubrovnik and we had a seven hour layover before our connecting flight.  This turned out not to be a bad thing though as we caught a taxi to the downtown and since I had been to Zagreb previously I got to play tour guide to Ron and Leslie and take them on a whirlwind tour of “old town” Zagreb.  As I have written about Zagreb before I will not repeat myself.  I think Ron and Leslie had a good time and it was definitely time better spent than sitting at the terminal all day.

Dubrovnik from our apartment. 560 stair steps up the hill.

After returning to the airport we boarded the one hour flight to Dubrovnik and upon landing Leslie’s parents were there to pick us up. Leslie has found a three bedroom apartment to rent for the week-end and her parents had already been in it a couple of days before we arrived.  The apartment was nice and the price included Wi-Fi.  After dividing the cost five ways I ended up spending 32 Euros on lodging for the week-end.  Not bad at all.  The only drawback to the apartment was that it was about 560 stair steps up the mountain from the Walled City portion of Dubrovnik.  That was a bad thing for repeated trips back and forth to the apartment but did afford a great view of the city.

Dubrovnik CIty wall, from the top of the wall.

Dubrovnik is a beautiful city.  It is probably the prettiest city on the eastern Adriatic.  It is a wonderfully preserved walled fortress and the Croatian people are rightfully proud of it.  It is the type of place that is just a little too perfect for you to believe that it is real.   The walls are kept in top condition, no ruins here.  The city within the walls is exceedingly clean (especially by Balkanstandards) it is rare to see graffiti or trash anywhere in the city.  It is a living city with people running businesses and staying  in the apartments and generally going about the business of going about their lives the best that they can.  There are a number of beautiful churches in the town, museums, restaurants and apartments/hotels to rent. 

One of the many Sculptures in Dubrovnik. What exactly is he pointing at?

There is an outdoor market in the mornings and many shops.  Dubrovnik is pretty thoroughly western, and the prices of everything reflect that.  Food was expensive by Balkan standards and I didn’t see any particularly good deals in the shops.  Our apartment which was about ¼ mile outside of the walls was reasonably priced, but even though it was the “off” season nothing else really seemed to be.

(To be continued)

27 August 2011, Day trip to Ulpiana and Gracanica Monastery


Ruins of the Temple and cemetery at Ulpiana near Gracanica Kosovo

Every now and again the Embassy sponsors a trip to some local place of cultural significance.  Recently I went with a small group to tour the Roman ruins at Ulpiana and later the Serbian Orthodox Monastery at Gracanica.  The town of Gracanica is about 15 minutes south of Pristina and the ruins of Ulpiana are just a short drive outside of Gracanica on (or more correctly under) some farmland….

Life in Kosovo – Update


"Newborn" sign in downtown Pristina.

It is a mid-July Sunday morning as I write this, and while I have a number destinations to report on I was in the mood to write about life in Kosovo after seven months of living here.  

Dragodan Stairs leading into downtown Pristina

A lot has changed in Pristina, since last I wrote about the city.  The first and most obvious change is the weather.  Winter was cold and long but there was not as much snow as I am told is the norm.  Spring here was long and pleasant.  Both wild and domesticated flowers were (and still are) everywhere, fruit and other trees bloomed out and the whole place smelled wonderful.   That was something I was not expecting. 

Almost every yard here has fruit trees and grape vines.

Spring flowers

  Cherries, apricots, mulberries, pears, plums are abundant and can be picked for free (with permission) or bought cheaply almost anywhere, apples and grapes will be ripe in the next month or two.  When the vegetation began to grow it wasn’t long before it covered most of the trash that in the winter seemed to be everywhere.  Kosovo can be a beautiful place.  It is mountainous, somewhat like Colorado, but the vegetation is more like southwest Missouri.  There was more rain and the weather was cooler than usual this spring. 

More Spring flowers

It has been a great year for crops and the countryside is abuzz with activity.   The wheat harvest is in full swing.  Often you see people in one field reaping wheat by hand with scythes while a kilometer down the road they are using modern combines.    Farmers plant small fields with grains such as wheat, barley, corn, etc, or potatoes and a wide variety of vegetables.  Green beans, one of my favorites, don’t seem very popular here.  There are very few large and many small farms here, people seem to graze their sheep, goats and cattle on the commons, often the road and highway right-of-ways.  On the way home from Peje last week we were delayed by a herd of cows avoiding the mid-day heat by laying in the main highway in the shade of an overpass.  Oddly no one seemed over concerned by this, least of all the farmer.

The Rugova Valley, in the Mountains near Peje, Kosovo by the Montenegro border

It has only been that past couple of weeks that the weather has gotten particularly hot.  It has been in the mid 90’s most days lately.  That is, by all means, unpleasantly hot.  However the humidity is low and due to the mountains and our altitude the nights and mornings are always pleasantly cool.  My apartment, like most others, doesn’t have air-conditioning.   That can be somewhat unpleasant, but if you open the windows, turn on fans and don’t move too much, it really isn’t too bad.  Adapt and overcome.

Pristina is getting a facelift.  I don’t know who is paying for it or how (I know it isn’t the individual building owners) but almost all of the buildings on the main streets are having their facades re-done.  The workers just start at one end of the street and put up scaffolding and repair, re-stucco and repaint until they get to the other end.  It is a huge improvement. 

Newly laid sidewalk in Pristina, Kosova

This spring many of the sidewalks in town were completely torn up and for months it has been a pain to get around town.  But in the past week they have started relaying the sidewalks using cement paving stones of various colors.  From what has been completed so far it appears that it is going to be a huge improvement.  I am sure those who drive downtown can’t wait for their old parking places (sidewalks) to become available again.  Even the Dragodan stairs are having broken and missing tiles replaced.  Pristina, with its disregard of zoning regulations, lack of historic buildings and abundance of old communist block apartments will never be a particularly attractive city, but they are making an effort.  They are even replacing missing manhole covers as they redo the sidewalks. 

 I have found that I can find almost anything I really want or need in the stores here, with the notable exceptions of decent bacon, smoked sausage and Captain Crunch cereal.  The selection of items in the stores seems to be getting better, you can find butter and something close to bacon in the stores now.  There are some very nice new supermarkets opening on the outskirts of town.  There are very few items available from the US but there is almost always an adequate substitute.  I may have mentioned that I bought a car recently so I can get to the places that were too far to walk pretty easily now if I am willing to brave the Pristina traffic.

Stray Dog

They have been culling the stray dogs, which is beneficial though it drives the PETA people nuts.   The way “culling” works is after midnight hunters come out on the town and shoot the stray dogs.  They are paid by the government by the dog.  The embassy sent out a warning telling people to keep their dogs inside at night and not to walk them late.  Only in Kosovo do you have to worry about an overzealous hunter shooting your dog if you walk it after dark.  I wish they’d cull the cats. 

I recently read that in an effort to meet “international standards” they are going to stop the culling and start spaying and neutering the strays.  Yea right, someone is going to catch them, fix them free of charge and release them back on to the city streets.  That is hard to believe on a number of levels furthermore, if the surviving dogs were smart enough to avoid snipers they will avoid dog catchers.  Do you really think there are international standards for culling dogs?  If so I would say that there are some attorneys at the UN with way too much time on their hands…   … “Yordan, what are you doing this afternoon?”  “Why nothing Johannes, I thought I might go have some coffee.” “I know, let’s draft some international standards on dog culling, I hear they still do that in the Balkans…”    …But I digress.

Though I am still aware of the differences, I have gotten used to Kosovo.  My Albanian is not progressing very well, I still cannot speak more than a sentence or two, but I find I can often understand what people say enough to get the gist of it. I can read most of the signs I see now.  It is unfortunate I do not watch very much TV because I find when I do I learn a lot of words just by paying attention to the Albanian sub-titles.   After my last trip home in May I have decided I actually like not being able to understand what people in the coffee shops are talking about.  I can assume they are all having intelligent conversations about interesting topics, I am sure the reality is much the same as in the US.  

The Albanians still like Americans and I still like them.

Novo Brdo in the Rain


The Fortress Ruins at Novo Brdo, Kosovo

When I got on the plane in Budapest to return to Pristina, one of the airline employees who checks your passport and ticket as you go through security asked me where I was going.  I said, “Kosovo” his response was “Nice place,” …short pause… “Just kidding.”  This both amused and annoyed me.  It amused me because when non-native English speakers try to make jokes in English, invariably their timing is off and it isn’t funny, which in a way is kind of funny for different reasons. 

Restaurant at the end of the Earth, no better place for a picnic.

It annoyed me because, while Pristina may be no Budapest, it doesn’t suck.  People are always short changing Kosovo.  Part of that is the fault of the people who live here, they won’t pick up their trash, they smoke everywhere and planning doesn’t seem to be their strong suit (example:  they have torn up all the roads and all the sidewalks at the same time so you can’t easily walk or drive anywhere right now, why not do it in phases?), but all-in-all life in Pristina isn’t so bad.

Ruins of the Kalaja Tvrdjava, Castle

What does this rant have to do with Novo Brdo?  I am spelling it correctly by the way.  Nothing really, I guess, except Novo Brdo is a cool place and it is in Kosovo, just like Prizren is an attractive city,  Ragova is a beautiful valley and the Scharr mountains are a fine looking mountain range.  So quit diss’ing Kosovo, it is the size of a big American county, your expectations have to be in line with that.

The indigenous Novo Birdo (Sorry, I just couldn't let it go).

….Anyway… I rode with a friend of mine to Novo Brdo a couple of Saturdays ago.  I have wanted to go there and she was going to scout out a location for an Embassy social event and called and asked me to go along.   Novo Brdo is about a 40 minute drive from Pristina, according to Google Earth, as the crow flies it is only about 13 miles east (I can’t believe this is correct).  Nothing here is as the crow flies.  As we headed out of town it began to cloud up, we made it to the site of the planned picnic at a little restaurant on the mountain side just west of and overlooking the ruins at Novo Brdo.  We finished our business there before the rain started.  Unfortunately by the time we got to the fortress it was raining lightly.  I still walked around and explored a bit and decided this would definitely be a place to return to when the weather was better.  About the time we left the castle the rain stopped. 

Old Thatched Roof Serbian Barn, Novo Brdo area, Kosovo

On the way back to Pristina we drove through a small Serb village and decided to take a detour and check out some of the interesting looking barns on some of the farms surrounding the village.  The people in the country here definitely live a hard life.  The electrical power in Kosovo is not reliable outside of Pristina and in the countryside they often go without for fairly long periods of time.  Many of the people in the countryside are subsistence farmers.  It may look sort of romantic to drive around and look at their houses and farms but I would not want to have to actually live their lives.

Trofta at Istog


Bungalows on the Trout pond at “Trofta” Istog, Kosovo

May 13-16; 20-22:  Kosovo never ceases to surprise me.  Within 24 hours of getting back to Pristina from the US I was leaving again to spend Friday through Sunday with a working group revising the Criminal Code of Kosovo.   The Dept. of Justice set up the retreat at the village of Istog in Western Kosovo, north-east of the city of Peje and near the Montenegrin/Serbian border at a small resort called “Trofta” which is Albanian for Trout.  I also stayed there the entire next week-end doing the same thing.

The hotel, restaurant and conference room at Trofta

Trofta was a lovely little resort.  It consisted of a “modern” looking hotel and restaurant, a series of Bungalows, around a small lake, a large outdoor restaurant a large creek flowing into the property which contained a number of large ponds, spillways and cement enclosures holding hundreds of Rainbow Trout.  In addition to being a surprisingly nice little resort the place is a full-blown trout farm and hatchery.

A small slice of communist whimsy

I stayed in a one of the Bungalow’s, actually the same one both week-ends.  The Bungalows are duplexes consisting basically one room with a bathroom on each side.  They are nicely done and modern; Wi-Fi is available throughout the resort in and outside of the rooms.  The rooms have a small flat screen TV.  It was quite a nice setting with well-kept grounds, lots of flowers, peacocks and a waterwheel.

The outdoor restaurant at Trofta, Istog Kosovo

An hour and a half drive from Pristina, this place would be great for a week-end get away and it is a short drive to the Rugova Gorge or the Ducani Monastery.   With the exception of one night we ate breakfast, lunch and dinner at the outdoor restaurant, the food was very good.  I had trout served a couple of different ways, steak and chicken.  Aside from the meat entrée the rest of the meal never varied a bit.  After two full week-ends cooped up in a conference room 10 hours a day and six full days of eating there I was ready to get back to Pristina.  Like I said the place would be great for an overnight some Saturday but it was wearing a bit thin by the time we left.

The source of the spring at Trofta

The large spring that feeds Trofta was interesting. One evening I went on a walk and followed it to it source; about ½ mile from the resort the spring comes gushing out of the side of the mountain.  Very dramatic, if it weren’t for the fence and cement dam built around it.

The one night I didn’t eat at the restaurant on site Beth, one of the other advisors, and I were invited to dinner at the home of the family of a young lady who gives Beth Albanian lessons.  Lena is from Istog and goes home on the week-ends but lives and works in Pristina during the week.  Her family showed us a great deal of hospitality and fed us a huge meal of traditional Albanian cooking which I thought was very good.  Lena’s siblings spoke English pretty well but her mother and father did not, though her father spoke German and a couple of other languages.

They had a nice well-furnished home near the outskirts of the village.  They told about how before the war many Serbs lived in their neighborhood and that they all got along just fine.  During the war Laina’s family had to flee Kosovo and while they were gone the Serbs burned down their home and stole many of their possessions.  After the war the Albanians apparently got some payback and burned down the Serbs houses and recovered some of their stolen items.  I say burned down the house, which is incorrect, the houses here are made from brick and cement or stone and you can burn them out but the ruins are still standing.  The day I followed the spring to its source I walked through the Serb neighborhood which was full of half destroyed and burned out houses.  It seems like not much good happens in war.