Tackling the Big Issues in Kosovo

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Tackling the Big Issues in Kosovo

Unrecognized by many countries, unable to secure their borders, a struggling economy in a world already in crisis- the laundry list of problems that Kosovo faces can easily be called daunting.  But in the face of so much adversity there are some exciting things happening and one source of excitement in Prishtina is the new media project called Kosovo 2.0.

I visited  some of the talented people at K2.0 a few weeks ago during a brief visit this month.  As a first time visitor, I had many questions about almost everything, from politics, to history, from education to entertainment.  It may be a small place but it left a big impression on me.

In this podcast I sit down with the editor-in-chief of Kosovo 2.0, Besa Luci, a clear thinking journalistic mind who gave me the impression that no question was out bounds.  I was also joined by deputy editor, journalist,  and global wanderer Nate Tabak.  Together as my two guests, they tackled all my sometimes elementary questions that many people around the world are also wondering – What is it like to be alternative press in such a troubled land, what is happening in Kosovo today and how does this special media outlet help make a better future?

After listening please to go and read and experience Kosovo 2.0.

This Bus Goes to Kosovo

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The border crossing looks new and partly unfinished. In different corners there are exposed wires and lamp fixtures that will probably soon find their permanent place.  It is the middle of the afternoon on a quite holiday afternoon, the border guard in his nice new blue jacket and pants saunters onto the bus looking at each person’s passport.  As he approaches a few other western passengers seated in from of me, I notice the nice blue patch on his arm featuring the yellow outline of the country, “Its your first time in Kosovo?” he asks each of us, “Just visiting?”

The whole process takes less then a minute and soon we’re passed the customs area, passed the 4 construction workers staring at an open hole in the ground, and back on the two lane highway.  The mountains here are steep and drenched in red, yellow and orange autumn colors.  Occasionally we pass a little hamlet and I notice a newly completed bridge or road, even the lonely single track railroad seems to have been recently renovated.  As we drive into the heart of this infamous part of the world, I can’t stop thinking of how much it reminds me of mining country in Eastern Pennsylvania.

The towns we passed may have some new pieces of construction, but they don’t look like happy places.  The typical unfinished houses look vacant and what becomes even more clear as we get nearer to Prishtina, is that there is an overabundance of empty office space in Kosovo. One after another we pass shiny new warehouses and storefronts that look abandoned before they could ever be occupied.  This one would probably be good for selling tractors, that one over there looks more like a furniture outlet, neither has a single sign of life.  We drive on slowly, passed the Greek KFOR military base, the speed limit reads 60kmph, I find myself thinking of how different this place is from my dear Portugal, where no one respects such speed limits on country roads.

The beautifully vast and empty horizon finally changes after what seems like an hour, there is clearly a city up ahead, and I think it is Prishtina.  The two lane highway becomes 4 shiny new lanes, and the slow pace speeds up some.  On either side of the road its a mix of motels of small scale commercial operations.  Each one making heavy use of the following flags in this order: Albanian, Kosovar, American, followed by a hodgepodge of European Union  member state flags.  The favorite seems to be the French followed closely by the German flag.  “Made in Germany” several of the advertisements for machine parts along the road read in smaller print.  Pulling into the quiet bus station and it seems like the entire city could be on vacation. “Prishtina is quiet” is the first uncontrollable conclusion I make in my head.  I could not have been more wrong.

Restoring Links in the Balkans

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I arrived this afternoon in Washington, DC, opting for the more affordable bus over the railroad.  It had me thinking about the news this week out of one of my favorite regions in the world, the Balkans. The rail link between Belgrade and Sarajevo, broken ever since civil war over 18 years ago, was restored. After almost two decades without direct service, people will now be able to take the train between these two nations who were both part of the former Yugoslavia.

Observers are calling it a largely political gesture, as most people either don’t travel between the two cities or take the bus instead. Yet be it political, commercial, or whatever they want to call it, the result at the end of the day, is the restoration of a once vital and treasured connection between two great cities.  Or as they put it in the international press, another small step towards reconciliation.

When I finally do return to that region, one of my main goals will be to ride that train, and record my observations to share with those who can’t be there, and would like share in the experience.

bmtv38 Video Flashback to Belgrade

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As usual after returning from a journey it takes time to make use of all the video Ive recorded. The following is Tim and I reporting from Belgrade, Serbia on the day we gave a talk at REX. Pardon the harsh editing.. I’m sleepy after some ridiculous speed dating experiment. Much thanks to my co-host and travel companion Tim on this one.