Tuesday, November 07, 2006


I hate to say it but we made a mistake with Kosovo. We didn't go soon enough and because of time constraints at the moment we had to leave way too soon.
My life lately has been one long political discussion. It's tough and I'll be relieved to finally get out of the Balkans soon. Because the wars have been so recent and everything still revolves around them in all of the countries here, everyone in every country wants to justify their side's role in it. Add to that the fact that I genuinely want to understand it all and you just constantly get bombarded by horror stories of the other side and racial comments. As an outsider it is impossible (and stupid) to pick sides. Honestly, every side has done terrible things and each one is to blame, but then they are all victims too so it's really just too bad for everyone. I have enjoyed my time with each group, the Serbs, Albanians, Bosnians, etc. People really aren't that different at the individual level, it's the group psychology that screws everything up. It's also impossible to tell who's what too as they all look the same. How did they have a war with each other anyway? Did they have to knock on the door and ask that person's ethnicity before deciding to burn it down? You just can't tell from a glance.
Kosovo was a great experience for us and like I said, we wish we could have stayed longer. It is a really strange situation but totally safe now. It's run as a UN protectorate called UNMIK (which is what their passports say) which will decide on the fate of Kosovo within the next few months to a year. They are expecting to become their own country at that time. Right now, I think it is still officially recognized as a part of Serbia but if they reincorporate it back into Serbia, the war will just start up again and everyone knows it. When you cross the border, there are separate controls and you get a funky UN stamp in your passport. Crossing into Kosovo first, you are not allowed to enter Serbia as the Serbs don't recognize this system. There are still lots of the KFOR troops and UN vehicles all over the place but it's not really a big deal and everything is more or less normal. Everyone is ethnically Albanian and the Serbs live in small, protected and isolated areas of the "country". The part I don't understand is that they are ethnically Albanian but want their own country and not to "rejoin" Albania, yet they fly Albanian flags everywhere. They use it like an ethnic flag rather than a country flag. No wonder Albania gets in trouble when they have nothing to do with it all really. Every Albanian we've met recently has given us the Mother Theresa test too. They ask who she was. The answer, if you didn't know, is that she was an ethnic Albanian from Skopje, Macedonia. That means that everyone around here tries to claim her, but she is as I told it. Lots of statues of her in Macedonia, Albania and even Kosovo.
We were picked up by Fatmir and driven to his mother's house in a town called Besiana or Podujevo in the northeast of the country a few km from Serbia. He is 33 and single but has 4 sisters and one brother, most of whom are married and have their own families. Despite many of them living in the capital, Prishtina, on the weekends they all try to stay in the countryside with mom. It's like having a family reunion every weekend. Fortunately we arrived on saturday night and got to spend the whole day with them on sunday. We got to meet everyone, and there were a lot of them. There were a bunch of kids, from 11 to 15 all of whom could speak a little english. Bre had fun with them while I was back and forth between them and the adults.
They are non-practicing Muslims, like many out here and religion was a topic of conversation almost as much as politics. I like it though. Having nearly finished reading the Koran/Qu'ran I can now participate without looking totally ignorant. I think I'm the first missionary in Kosovo too because they hadn't heard of Mormons. One of you guys out there that thinks they are qualified, should email me and tell me what points I should be emphasizing. The way I see it, there are a surprising number of similarities with Islam and I get along with them really well. I'm looking forward to the middle east.
Anyway, it was really really nice to be in a village type setting (they have their own cow and chickens and a little strip of land) with a family reunion type atmosphere with such welcoming and people that clearly love each other. The weather was great too and the only problem was that it got dark too soon. Monday morning we went to Prishtina where Fatmir works. He's an IT guy in the PM's office. He had to fly to Denmark in the afternoon so we had to catch the train back to Skopje. Everyone out here has some story to tell. The family had a 2nd house that burnt down in the war, but their new second place looks great. Fatmir's boss also had some interesting stories to tell. Tough people to start all over after losing everything.
Shean, I know what you are saying. I fully expect to come back and become a robot someday too. I'm just saying I don't want to do it for 40+ years. The truth is I am a closet family guy and want to have 10 kids. I was reminded of that in Kosovo. If you enjoy your job and are doing something you love then that is good. But there are too many miserable people out there. Why you don't just retire when you know you could is beyond me. I'd call it quits as soon as I could. We spend too much time doing what we don't want to do just to get things we don't need and don't really care all that much about anyway. We had a great time with the kids playing volleyball with a flat soccer ball and a string between a fence and tree. We don't need all the image stuff, but it's the same problem out here too. People make 200 euros a month in eastern europe on average and yet they buy $400 cell phones. They can't afford that so they put $2 on the phone and then pretend they are talking to someone. Same thing with smoking. It's all image. So many young people do it and if you look, half the girls don't even inhale. It's pathetic what materialism does to people. And then they have the nerve to lecture me on how poor they are and that I must be rich to travel. Hahahaha, maybe I am rich, of course I have a castle with slaves back home. But I don't like to say such things about you guys.....


At 9:44 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great blog, Ammon. I sure wish that I had been in Kosovo with you guys. The family there sounded really interesting and the kind of experience that we are seeking from this trip. Keep it alive
Love Mom
I can't wait to be back on the road.


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