Sunday, February 28, 2010

February 28

For those of you readers who don't know...our younger daughter, Kat, is expecting a baby in late May. This past week she experienced some complications which had me quite concerned and ready to jump on a plane home. Fortunately she is better now but will be on complete bed rest for awhile. Anyway...that's why I have been lax in posting blogs...just a little preoccupied.

And now to catch up a bit - Charlie and I met his co-workers for dinner on Wednesday night and we had a great time. They are such a good group of people. There were three judges (one each from Hungary, Germany, and Bulgaria), and ten others (legal officers, language assistants, etc). All but one live in Mitrovice or Vushtrii (a nearby town). It is so nice to be able to put a face with names when Charlie talks about work.

For dinner I ordered a typical Kosovo dish which consisted of veal served in a kind of puff-like thing made with yogurt and egg. It was very good. Typical Kosovo dishes are cooked/baked in "baking dishes" which look like heavy pottery bowls. They use a variety of ingredients. Salads here consist of chopped ingredients like cucumber, tomatoes and onion with a type a vinaigrette. I have yet to see lettuce in a salad. It seems like every restaurant serves pizza, too. Pizza - the international food! BTW - the local wine and beer is quite good. There are vineyards all around but primarily in Montenegro.

Everyone here smokes - and I mean everyone. It's been a long time since I had dinner with people smoking before, during, and after a meal!

We did get a replacement for the armoured car. It's a brand new Nissan Patrol (SUV) and is much easier to handle than the tank and all the windows work. We broke it in by driving to Skopja (pronounced "scopia"), Macedonia on Saturday. It is about an 80 mile (130 km) drive. The road actually wasn't too bad but the trip was time consuming because of the delays at the Kosovo and Macedonia borders. That added well over an hour to the trip. This area is quite mountainous which surprised me. It was a pretty drive, though, with snow topped peaks.

I'll tell you about Skopja tomorrow. It is an ancient city with lots to talk about. I even have photos if I can get them downloaded.

We went through Pristina on the way to Skopja and I spotted a Belgium chocolate shop so things are looking up! Unfortunately the shop was closed but we are going to Pristina on Tuesday so I will definitely check it out then.

Now for a few disjointed observations.....

You see alot of houses around here seemingly left in various stages of completion with people living in them. When we asked about that we were told that it is not only prestigious to have a big house but also a necessity since extended families live together. So people just begin a big house and complete what they can afford then take a break to earn enough money to do more. They move into whatever part is livable for the duration.

You also see TONS of garbage everywhere. They definitely need Lady Bird Johnson here for an anti-litter campaign. I thought it might have something to do with the broken post-war infrastructure but they have it in Skopja, too, so I do think it is a culture thing. is really a problem. Also, they don't pick garbage up at your house. You have to take your garbage to one of the dumpsters located around town. That could be part of the problem. But on the plus side they have had a concerted effort to clean up junked cars here. Now you see nice organized piles of junkers here and there instead of broken down cars everywhere. If they can do it for junkers, I know they can and will do it for garbage.

So enough for now. More on Skopja tomorrow.

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