Sunday, September 23, 2007

Bomb goes off in Prishtina: two killed

Both the AFP & BBC are reporting on an explosion early this morning in Prishtina, Kosovo's capital.  Two people were killed, one immediately and the other from their wounds.  At least ten others were wounded.  VOA is reporting that the explosion occurred on Bill Clinton Boulevard, a major street in the capital. 

This bombing reminds me of one that happened in 2003 (?) which also occurred on Bill Clinton Blvd.  That one happened much earlier in the evening, around 10 PM and was easily heard at our home in Prishtina.

No details on the type of explosive or the motive are yet known.  The previous bombing on this road was "business," not politics.  I'm speculating, but I'm guessing that this is "business" as well.  In the past, most of the politically motivated bombings have targeted UN facilities in another part of town. 

The things kids say....

As I've mentioned before, our kids are in an unusual learning situation.  Both are in local school, but both also spend several hours each day in 'home schooling."  That's a big load, not only for them but also for my wife, who teaches "mommy's school."

But the struggles are broken up into fits of laughter too.  This week my wife was working with your kindergartner on the alphabet, specifically the letter "f".  Reilly, my daughter, was trying to come up with all the words she could think of that started with the "f' sound.  "F..f..f..foot," she said.  My wife clapped, "great!" And so Reilly went on, naming a number of other items until she came to, "F..f..f..fecal contamination!" 

My wife nearly hurt herself laughing.  The things kids say.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

You know you're back in Kosovo when...

Both our kids are students in the local school system.  We're now in the second week of the school year.  My youngest daughter is in Kindergarten, the oldest in 3rd grade.

Yesterday my oldest came home with a note written in her assignment notebook: Beginning tomorrow school would start at 1:50 instead of 3:35.   That's right, tomorrow come to school two hours earlier.

You know you're in Kosovo when your recently settled family schedule is up-ended by a brief note from school.  Of course, schedule changes aren't unique to Kosovo...its just one of those things.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Russia Draws a Red Line in Kosovo

 This comes unsourced from Strategy Page, but seems consistent with what I've read else where.

September 3, 2007: The Russian government said that Kosovo is one of Russia's two "red line" issues in Europe. The Russian foreign ministry defined "red line" as an issue where Russian national security or the world order is threatened. Moscow also considers the U.S.-NATO European missile-defense shield to be a "red line" issue. Would Russia really go to war over Kosovo on Serbia's behalf? No, but it would veto a UN resolution, and this rhetoric is designed to have a major political effect. Russia's bellicose language echoes a Serbian statement in late August when the Serbian government said that if Kosovo declares "unilateral independence", Serbia would "inflict some damage in return." The Serbian statement did not indicate what kind of "damage" it would seek to inflict.

This seems to reflect what I've been saying for a while.  There is linkage in the Russian foreign policy between the Kosovo issue and the US-NATO missile defense system.

The Russians do not appear to be giving any ground on this issue.  They've been resolute, as has been the Serbian government, that they are not willing to flex on the issue of independence in Kosovo.

Balkans: Russia Draws a Red Line in Kosovo

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The silly challenges of transition

Occasionally the differences between life here and back in the US escape me and help me waste all kinds of time.  Yesterday for example, I spent my morning renewing my vehicle registration...or trying to.

The local government recently created a new vehicle registration regulation which requires that people produce proof that they don't have a debt with the electric company.  Having learned that, I walked down to my local electric company office.  I got a recent statement of account and then waited in line to have my account validated.  The man was helpful and friendly, filling out the required forms before the all-important stamping which would tell the vehicle registration folks that I was debt free.

Then I walked back home and later took our vehicle down to the inspection station.  As in most of Europe and the US, vehicle are subjected to an annual inspection.  Good enough.  They guys did the inspection as I waited patiently out front.

About twenty minutes later the service man came in with a quizzical look on his face.  "Ah, you have another month to go on your can't renew your registration yet," he said, pointing at my vehicle registration document.

"What do you mean?" I said, peering at the date, which clearly said 9/10/2007.  I had carefully read the registration and insurance documents.  They expired on Sept 10th....or did they?

"It's not due until October...nearly a month away," he explained patiently.

Oh crud, I said to myself.  Of course, the European date system goes Day/Month/Year, not Month/Day/Year.  I had, in fact, come a month early, misreading the date in US format, not European format.  So I sheepishly left, thanking them for their help.  They graciously invited me back next month and didn't charge me for their time.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The suddenly rare pleasures

We're enjoying being back in Kosovo.  The last two weeks have been full of new discoveries, renewed relationships and growing vision for what God wants to do here.  It's also become a time to re-learn where pleasure comes from. 

Pleasure comes from the distance between the ordinary and the unexpected and serendipitous.  Pleasure doesn't come from the having of a lot of stuff...or even always having "necessities" like water and electricity.  Pleasure comes when moments of unexpected happiness intrude on the ordinary.

For example, our water goes off for 24 hours, two days per week.  It's not a big deal and one adjusts pretty quickly.  This morning I went out for my run assuming the water would be off by the time I got back.  I got back in time, though and started running the water to bathe. 

Now, understand that thus far "bathing" has consisted of climbing in the bath tub and sticking my head and various body parts under a weak stream of mostly cold water, requiring contortions that would impress a circus performer.

Today, for reasons unknown, I had water, water pressure and HOT WATER.  I sat in my tub and experienced the simple pleasure of gallons of spraying hot water.  WOW.  That was my first hot shower since our return.  THAT is pleasure.