Kosovo and beyond

It is that time of year for overseas travel.  In late July I was in Kosovo for another RISC/reporter’s course (BMR).  I am now in Brasil and then will return to Japan and China starting in mid-Oct through early/mid-November.


I have never visited Eastern Europe before.  Unfortunately, this was a short trip and most of our time was spent on course related tasks.  Because we did not have any students from Kosovo, I did not have many opportunities to meet locals.

As usual, we had a lot of gear.  Delta does not fly here and Turkish airlines gave me no special dispensation so we had to negotiate and then pay about $1000 USD each way for our 16 bags (all of my clothes were in my carry-on).  We landed at the Pristina airport.  It is modern complex but it is located in a rural area that does not seem to be thriving economically.  This turned out to be a recurring theme for our travels.



We taught the course in Gjakova.  It is located in a beautiful rural area surrounded by hills/small mountains.  Although this small city is a vacation area for Kosovars in the summer, it is generally economically depressed.  According to our local fixer (a man hired to navigate local requirements and secure for us what we needed), many people are without jobs.  Those who had jobs, worked hard with a positive attitude.  They went out of their way to make our stay enjoyable and productive.  The devastation caused by some of the bloodiest fighting and human right’s atrocities in the Kosovo war of the late 1990’s is one major cause.  The US and our W European allies supplied money to help rebuild.  There was evidence of these efforts everywhere.  It was also clear that the job was never completed for lack of funds.  Behind the hotel where we stayed, there was a twisting alleyway lined by restaurants and some small shops.  After about 75 meters, the paved roadway ended.  Although small storefronts continued, few were occupied.  Apparently no one wants to start a business in them because of the poor access.

photo (2)

There was a large clinic and hospital nearby that sat mostly abandoned and many buildings that were never completed.


photo (7) photo (6) photo (4)


Much of the construction was shoddy.  Perhaps we were distracted after 9/11 and shifted aid resources elsewhere.  photo (3)

The war has roots that go back several hundred years and throughout the 20th century.  The long lasting impact and potential for future conflicts is symbolized by the statues of anonymous KLA soldiers in most city centers.

My biggest surprise?  Despite Islam being the predominant religion, few if any of the women wore head coverings let alone burkas or floor length coverings.  In fact many were quite provocatively attired when out and about town.

On a sober note, both reporters beheaded by ISIS were prior graduates of the BMR.  I only knew James Foley from the first course.  Their assassinations are grim reminders of how dangerous their important work can be.


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