The following pictures show my new “digs” (I’ll move in tomorrow) and my new friend and fellow Fulbright colleague, Dr. David McTier*, associate professor of drama from Sam Houston State University.
*Click here to check out Dave’s Kosovo blog.

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Photo 1: Yours truly in coffee shop | Photo 2: Dr. Dave McTier at the coffee shop
Photo 3: Corner of dorm room | Photo 4: The lovely loo; it’s twice the size you can see here and has a nice shower

“Sa Kushton”

January 27, 2012

OK, it’s 5:00 Friday morning, January 27, and I feel much better, even though I can’t brew any coffee in my room.  No water pressure, a daily Balkans phenomenon owing to complicated power-grid issues (even the basics root in politics here).  But let me interrupt my spoiled American whining long enough to say how happy I am to be here.  Why?  For starters, mountains.   Flying south of Munich (southern Germany) yesterday, I experienced again the ecstasy of flying over the Italian/Austrian Alps.   Forget snow caps.  These truly awesome peaks wore snowy cloaks that reached to the ground.  Then as the bus drive through Macedonia and into Kosova (as the Albanians spell it), the land featured lesser but still steep slopes that rose right from the edge of the road, transforming the highway into a Byronesque pass.

And the people.  I love them.  Perhaps because they endure every day the annoyances and deprivations that wring whining so readily from spoiled Americans, these Albanians in Kosova—just like the Albanians I met in Albania in 2003—invariably display patience, good humor, and self-sacrificial kindness.  For instance, as I fumed in indignation when asked, again, to produce my passport, the Kosovarans on the bus joked about the snow and the self-important posturing of the border guards.  And as I mumbled “what next” beneath my breath when the fender-bender brought us to another halt, the young men on my bus hopped off to help separate the tangled bumpers and to push vehicles out of knee-deep drifts on the road’s shoulder.

When the bus finally made it to Pristina, an eager young cabbie grabbed my 50-pound suitcase (lots of books) and my 45-pounder (more books), and then wove skillfully through the streets cluttered with people and slush.  As we reached my hotel, I asked “sa kushton”; he responded in English far better than my Albanian “five Euros, but for you good American, nothing.”  I gave him 10.

Snow, Collisions, and Border Patrol: Lo and Behold, I Made It!

January 26, 2012

I pulled into to Pristina at 3:30 pm today, not in a plane but in a bus.  My flight should have landed in Pristina at 10:30 am, but heavy snow and near-zero visibility forced the pilot to head south for Skopje, Macedonia, where landing seemed less dangerous.  Maybe.  But after skidding on the runway, we deplaned, cleared customs, and boarded a bus for the two-hour drive back to Pristina.

That two-hour drive took well over three hours, the result of heavy snow, which began just after we landed.  We also encountered officious guards at the Kosova border, who felt compelled to check all bus passengers’ passports—three times—even though the airport customs people had just cleared us; a traffic-jamming collision between two trucks and two cars also slowed us.  I imagined the headlines in the Starkville Daily News: “MSU English professor dies in Kosovaran snow drift.”

I have much more to report, but it will have to wait.  I haven’t really slept since January 24.

“Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” Revisited

January 26, 2012
From Judy Raymond

Rich left Houston early, only to sit on the tarmac for two hours because of the weather.  He had no problem in Newark and got over the Atlantic as expected. He even made the short connection to Adria Air in Munich.  There is too much snow in Pristina, however, so his plane landed in Skopje, Macedonia, and then he had a long bus ride to Pristina.  Unfortunately, he lost his US driver’s license at border customs.

Now for the good news:  he has all 150 lbs of luggage to haul in the snow, and so far he has been able to send those expensive international text messages to me.  However, his phone has lost its charge, so we won’t know if it works in Pristina until he can recharge it. He was still en route as of 6:14 am CST this morning.

He is certainly going to need a little nap once he makes it to the hotel today!