Kosovo – Summary

Hey folks, This letter may get a little long, but it should be the last one for some time. Enjoy life and keep in touch. It has been over two years since I started planning my 1st trip to the Balkans. What started out as an idea about the size of a matchbox just kept getting larger. A lot has happened in that time, more than I could begin to describe in one entry. The best way to describe my experience is to say it was like being in a movie without a script, and so far has no ending. What made me go in the first place? Four trips later I still struggle with that question. As another volunteer once said, if you could answer That question clearly I would be a little skeptical. In brief it was part humanitarian, part adventure. The places I have been, the people I have met, and, most importantly, the people we have helped has verified that whatever the reason, I made the right choice. Before I go too far I should mention that even though I enjoy being at the center of attention, I do not enjoy being the center of attention, at least in this case. I feel uncomfortable accepting the praise and accolades I receive for the work we have done. I want to emphasize the word WE. None of what I/we have accomplished would have been possible without the help of literally a couple hundred people here in Vermont, the U.S., and the Balkans and all over the world. To list them all would be next to impossible,...

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Well where do I start? I do not have as much time as I would hope to get this off so I will try and be complete. I must warn you that it will be a lengthy one so save it for later if you have to. My trip over was fairly smooth except for in Vienna. The plane was full and waiting for one last passenger whose bags were already on the plane. When he / she did not show, they had to have each one of us disembark the plane and identify our luggage. This added an extra hour to the delay. YES! The next day Rand, Liriejta and I took a drive into the country to try and locate the Berisha family. This is the family whose last name I thought was “Fala”. Oh well, wrong name, right family. They were still at the same location as last summer. The children are well; mom said that she has not had to take one to the doctor in over a year. Not bad for seven children. They looked well, thin, but happy. They are attending a new school that was built in the village and all are getting good grades. They recognized Rand right off, yes they said, we remember you as they made a motion like throwing a Frisbee. Then they picked up 3 rocks to show him that they still could juggle. As Rand mentioned later to me it helped him realize that all that the Balkan Sunflowers do with children here is not in Vain. They know how to smile, laugh, hug, juggle, and...

Last Message from Kosova

It has been a hot and dusty week, the perspiration dries before you can absorb it in your clothes. I have been trying to keep hydrated; yesterday I was out in the sun and was in a car without A.C. so it was a tough day. I will try and give a run down of events that have been occurring this week. On Monday Rand and I had a social appointment with the director of Xhevedet Doda. We went to his house/flat to meet his family and look at his photo albums. He has had an interesting life. Several times he has been placed in Prison in 1969 he spent a month in jail; in 1974 he started a 5 year sentence. In 1981 another 2 months, 1989-3 months, and 1998 another 3 months. The exact reason was unclear because of translation but I can tell you that this man is of great character and in my opinion did nothing that would deserve such treatment. I suppose that you could say that about a number of people who have similar stories here in Kosova. Basically it was because they did not change with the new system fast enough. It is hard to deny basic Human Nature/ Rights to ask why about something. As Rand and I were walking out the door he asked us to wait one more minute and then disappeared downstairs to the basement. When he came back up he had 2 bottles of 1992 Kosova Cabernt Sauvignon. He informed us that it was a superb year and was a quality wine. We realized that this was...

10 Million Dollars

I hope that the last message did not Rock your world to much. Just a little frustration on my part. It is still slow going here, like I have said several times before it takes 3 times as long to get the simplest thing accomplished here. I was in the field yesterday doing some more observations and assessment. For some at UNHCR they look and wonder if I am the new guy or something. Today I went with Alina a Russian field officer for UNHCR who works primarily with the minority populations here in Kosova. Serbs mainly. Today we went high in to the hills past Podujeva to a small Serb hamlet called Sekiraqa It required an escort from the local Czech KFOR troops. The local villagers have a 3 K.M. walk to catch a Serbian Bus into a Serb town. That is how close we were to the Border. Beautiful country. as I told the elder as I left you can almost touch the clouds from here. They treated me warmly even though Americans are considered an enemy of the Serbs. We drank “Sjivovica” a Plum ROCKET FUEL! In situations like this it is my duty to drink and toast, drink and toast. Even if it is only 12p.m. Pretty potent stuff. In the few experiences (yeah right) where I have had to drink so much so early I am normally done for the day by 5 p.m. this stuff actually does not have that effect. I was fine until my normal bed time. I guess that the training before/during my trip helped! I was there for several...

Made It

Hey everyone, Sorry that I haven’t been able to get a message to you, have had problems with my#$%^*&&^hotmail account! The trip here went as smooth as it possibly could. It pays to do your homework. I have found that if you don’t push things to hard it all will fall into place. My contact for this project has been delayed in Zurich Switzerland and I still have not been in touch with her in person. So Plan B was?? Good question. So I went to UNHCR yesterday and told them of our project and they have been most helpful! Today I had a field officer named Trim take me to Plementina; it is just west of Prishtina. There is a small Kosovar Albanian village that has been pretty well wiped out. They are sandwiched between a Roma camp on one side and a Serbian village on the other side. From a safety and comfort aspect it was not a wise decision to put them (Roma Camp) there, The Serbian village is about the same as the Kosovar village in the amount of destruction, this was retaliation on the part of the Kosovars. Remember that I plan on staying out of the whys and want to concentrate on the Need! For My personal safety and the Balkan Sunflowers safety I have decided to only work with Kosovar Albanians. I have found a place that is in need. I have also found an N.G.O that will help me with assessment and purchase and distribution. They think that what we are doing is great! I have for the moment concentrated on...

Prishtina of Bust

Good Morning, The trip here went as smooth as it could. Stayed the 1st night in Skopje Macedonia, got a chance to visit Balkan sunflowers Headquarters there and see what they are up to. The 70-80 kilometer trip from Skopje to Prishtina took 4 hours, not bad compared to the horror stories of 6-8 hours. Imagine a 2 lane road trying to be 3 1/2 lanes! Tractor trailers lined up on both sides of the border for miles waiting to get inspected. Weather yesterday was a balmy Global warming 55-60 degrees! 5 minutes after I got to the apartment in Prishtina the electricity came on. Someone must have known I was coming! So far I have visited our sister school, delivered the photo album and nicnacs. Very happy to see me. I will take pictures for ETC. During the rest of the week. I was hoping to get to Vushtrri today but doubt that it will happen. I will try tomorrow. My friend/ contact Xheri was delayed in Zurich because of fog in Skopje, hopefully she will be here today. If you haven’t noticed yet I will point out that I had to use a different e-mail server. You can mail me messages there but please keep it to a minimum. Hotmail is not connecting. Everything here takes 3 times as long as normal. Patience Jonathan, Yea right! Anyway I do not have my entire e-mail addressee with me so this is going out to ETC and Sharon at MRG. Sharon could you hook up with Chris and Mandy and start the e-mail tree again for me? Just forward...