Arrived home to find a warning by the bus driver that by the time we got to Heathrow, the air would be polluted by the big oil fire. Actually it wasn't much, and we were so tired, I don't think we would have noticed.
We staggered in to find the front door glass panel broken. Apparently Bee's teenage party on Saturday night had had gatecrashers who when told they could not come in had smashed the door. Must have been a good party. It seems her friends came round next day to clean up, so there was not too much evidence. It seems the glass has to be special toughened glass and can't be got before Christmas. So now we have our nice Slovenian wreath in front of a broken window.
On Tuesday, our internet refused to work, and we had a series of frustrating phone calls with BT first wrestling with the voice mail system and then with the people who asked lots of irritating and irrelevant questions. If the system was working perfectly on Monday and on Tuesday morning the internet light on the router is cycling on and off, then the obvious answer is that the line is faulty. But BT tested the line and said it was OK. When we refused to accept this, they offered to do some more tests over the next 5 days. 5 days!!! how can you do your Christmas shopping without the internet.
Next day we decided that we had better check out the router, and the manufacturer advised us to get a firmware upgrade, which two emails later we received next morning. This improved the length of the cycling on and off, so you could occasionally get a connection, but made us suspicious of the router itself, as reviews on Amazon said it didn't always work. So we bought a different one, but surprise surprise, it cycled on and off too.
We declared war on BT, and eventually got them to put us through to the engineers, who were polite and apologetic (unlike the previous lot) and did some serious fault finding with us. After locating the main socket, helpfully placed 6 ft up on the wall by the front door, we wired the router to the test socket (this meant moving extension leads and plug adapters as well as the computer and router), where it still didn't work. Needless to say their tests all showed the line was OK, but the engineers at least rang us back and told us they would do more checks (as the previous lot had not even logged the fault).
We were given 3 numbers to ring back to get the results.
Next morning we got up and found the internet was working normally! A BT engineer rang us, and when he found this out, was extremely rude telling us that we should not have bothered them. But we had changed every piece of kit on the phone line, tried it with three computers in the house, changed the router, and still couldn't get a decent internet connection. So who was wasting whose time?
Now I have a spare router which I shall have to take back or sell on EBay.
And now it seems the Freeview TV box isn't working.....
Another nice weekend in Ljubljana with sister and the cat.
This time I arranged to get my hair done. No point to pay 100 quid in the UK, and 90 Euros in Greece was bad enough, when 50 Euros was plenty in the local hairdressers. Just like Swedes go to Denmark for the beer, and Danes go to Sweden for everything else, Austrians go to Hungary for the dentists. Now I go to Ljubljana for my hair. Actually it came out looking like Dusty Springfield after they had backcombed it up, but I escaped looking like a Lithuanian politician or a Greek tart, so I brushed it out and was quite satisfied.
Sister was working so Sloph and I toured the shops, including a Christmas craft market. We bought a green wreath for the front door, and some dried flower sticks that made us homesick for Lithuania. Then we bought lots of other nostalgic things we found to eat in a local supermarket. It was quite cold, but clear, and we enjoyed eating roasted chestnuts and drinking hot honey brandy on the streets. We had to borrow a bag to get everything home, we had so many dried flower arrangements, bottles and biscuits.
Kosovo In Your Pocket
J arrived to begin the research for this. He arrived in the main street just as the news from the Hague was heard. Two out of three Kosovars charged had been released. People flocked to the centre and shots were fired in celebration.
We had a visit to the Tourism Department and after our German colleagues told them firmly to help, a good cooperation was established. It wasn't really till we produced copies of Tirana In Your Pocket and showed them the website, that everything suddenly became concrete. Tirana is a great guide entitled "Boom Town", with good pictures of the colourful housing blocks for which it is now famous, and also covering touring in the south of Albania.
We also found out that Belgrade In Your Pocket is also planned by a different group.
J toured the town for a couple of days and managed to discover a few restaurants we weren't aware off.
Birthday at the ministry
A really important occasion was the Ministry's first birthday. The handover of powers from UNMIK to the PISG (provisional institutions of self government) is taking place ministry by ministry, and for energy and mining this happened in December 2004. Here are the pictures of the speeches, drinks and the cake. Although there was a big expansion of the ministry over the summer, there are still only about 50 people, including secretaries and drivers.
The ministry is in a difficult position since all Kosovo state owned assets are still managed by the Kosovo Trust Agency, which formally takes all decisions about their operation. Clashes happen between the ministry and KTA and the ministry and UNMIK, but gradually things are settling down.
All her fellow students were going skiing for Christmas so she decided to go somewhere more exciting: to Kosovo. We found this incredibly cheap flight from the UK via Ljubljana: £187 so there seemed no reason not to. V (a Canadian colleague working on statistics and population sampling) also had her daughter (doing law at the Sorbonne) visit, but unfortunately they didn't overlap. V spends her time touring between Vanuatu, Tirana and Pristina at the moment, so they found it easier to meet in Pristina than at home in Canada. I felt much less guilty about dragging my kids to Lithuania when I heard that V had taken her kids out of school for 3 months to Ethiopia on one trip. They had both been in Pristina in early 2000 and had some interesting tales to tell.
Sloph's own view of Kosovo was restricted to Pristina, and since there is no guide, wandering round the town getting lost. The only map has several of the landmarks in the wrong place. But she managed to take in the market and the museum, which had good exhibits but all of the text was in Albanian.
In the evenings, we managed dinners in a "steak house" (straight out of a country and western setting, with enormous quantities of good food), a Japanese restaurant and (the best) dinner in Antonella's. The last is a restaurant run by an Italian woman, recommended by an Italian colleague, so 8 of us went there and had a wonderful meal, feeling like we were in her own home, she was so warm and friendly. Between us we managed a Canadian, a Greek, a Bulgarian living in France, a French woman living in Moscow, an Italian and 3 Brits. At our end of the table, we discussed Orthodox rites and Christmas and Easter food in all our countries. The French woman was returning home to cook Christmas dinner for 30 people, as she was the oldest woman of her generation in her family and so the task fell to her, assisted by her cousins.
Myth and history
Sloph still had one essay to do before her term's work was finished. It was set on the role of myth in culture and nationalism, so relevant to the recent history of Kosovo that she begged extra time from her tutor to research it. Of course this was just a variant of the usual student excuse of not having done the reading. Now she has to read Noel Malcolm's Short History of Kosovo, Ismail Kadare's Three Elegies for Kosovo (an excellent review on Amazon here) and Balkan Identities: Nation and Memory (mostly influenced by Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities, which was a set book for the essay anyway), which apparently I stole from her. But I get to read the Anderson, which I have meant to for some time now.
On the way to the airport we did a diversion to the Serb village of Gracanica to see the 14th century monastery and in particular what it was really like in these outposts of Serbia. Immediately after the release of the two Kosovars from The Hague, the road through the village had been closed as the Serbs had started stoning cars, but it was open again when we arrived.
It seemed to be market day in the village so the road was lined with stalls and all the shops had goods out on the pavement. Apparently Serb dinars were in use in the village, not Euros, and most of the signs were in Serbian. Passing through we saw an EU office and an office of the Ombudsman. Not knowing much what an Albanian village looked like it was hard to know what the difference was. V had told us stories about driving through Kosovo in 2000, getting lost and realising with trepidation that they had arrived in a Serb village, because there were pigs. We didn't see any pigs this time.
The monastery was open, but guarded by KFOR.
(The photos aren't loading properly but I hope this is just because of Typepad's current problems).
The church was very dark so it was hard to see the wall frescos or the icons very well. We bought some candles (here Euros were acceptable) and lit them in our usual family ritual with a prayer for Grandad Nick and Grandma Rose, even though neither were Orthodox.
Trying to find more information on the web was confusing as there seems to be another rather moslem Gracanica in Bosnia, and most of the Serbian links found by Google are broken. Finally I found information here though the text was written immediately after the bombing nearby.
On the way to the airport, we drove through the "mixed" village of Kosovo Polje, where the famous 14th century battle took place between the Serbs and the Turks, which neither won. In Albanian it is called Fushe Kosove. Now it is known for something quite different: it is apparently the village where UNMIK turns a blind eye to the brothels for KFOR, according to our driver, who knows everything as he used to work for the UNMIK police.
How can this be? 10 days and three countries later and I still haven't blogged anything. Part of it is due to wonderful BT and their inability to admit that a line is not working, and just as it was back up again, Typepad was down, so this is the first opportunity this week to post anything.