Monday, February 22, 2010

February 22

One week ago today I was standing in our living room with four suitcases absolutely stuffed to the max (What do you take with you for a year's stay when you can take only four suitcases? You prioritize quickly.) Standing there I think it finally hit me ... I really am going to Kosovo for a year. What am I doing? How did this happen?

Well, it all started almost five years ago when a friend of Charlie's asked him if he would be interested in going to Kosovo to work for the UN as a judge. He was definitely interested but the timing just wasn't right. But the seed had been planted. Eventually the UN began decreasing its presence in the region with the European Union assuming more responsibility. So...Charlie was contacted last fall to see if he would be interested in working in Kosovo with the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX). Since he had been considering retiring, the time was right. He retired from his position as an Iowa District Court Judge and accept the position as a judge with EULEX.

Believe me, things happened fast after that! Charlie retired on January 15 and flew out on January 25 and has been here since.

This is a very interesting and challenging assignment. This part of the world has been in conflict for literally ages. There is much, much history in this region and most of it is pretty sad. Most recently, after the fall of Tito and the disintegration of Yugoslavia, war raged in this area. You have all hear of the troubles here where the term "ethnic cleansing" was coined. Well, it hit especially hard here in Mitrovica. The saddest part is that before the war this was a well integrated city where Serbs and Albanians lived together and successfully. Now the city is divided by the Ibar River with the Serbs living north of the river and the Albanians living south of the River. It is a very segregated society with Albanians unwelcome in the north and Serbs unwelcome in the South.

We live in south Mitrovica, the Albanian side. (Albanians are Muslim hence the mosque across the street.) Charlie works in north of Mitrovica where the Courthouse is located. This poses some unique challenges for him but all is working out and he is finding the work interesting and enjoyable.

That's a bit of background for now. I'll talk about my first impressions of Mitrovica and the area at my next post. I've also taken some photos which I will try to share.

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