Rumble: Snow and Memories of Kosovo

Some of you are asking me 'Where are you now'? Well, I am home in Belgium at this moment. These are the last months of my sabbatical year before I go back to work. And this morning, it started snowing. As I was driving Hannah to school, the roads choked up and cars started banging into each other. What just 5 cm of snow can do... Agreed, it does not snow often in Belgium, and we're not used to it.

As I sat in a traffic jam, the snow made me think back of the time I worked in Kosovo. I wrote several short stories about my time there (see Italians , the Art of Flying and the Laws of Probability , Scene of War and The Pizza Place on the Corner ), but I have not yet described our 'adventures' during the Kosovar winter time. Of the many times we had to use the snow scooter to get up to the mountain tops to service our radio stations, and got completely stuck. About living in a place so dependent on electricity, but where the electricity just did not work...

It was the first time I worked in real cold place as my previous duty stations had always been in Africa. It took some effort to adjust. Adjusting in having to sleep in thermal underwear. Having to put the bottles of Coke inside the fridge otherwise they would freeze up if we left them on the cupboards. Having to put snow chains on our cars, and still getting stuck. And the challenges driving around zig-zagging through the massive traffic jams, as people did not have money to buy winter tires and slid against anything on or near the road. Part of the traffic problems were also caused because so many at that time were driving without driving license and just could not drive. Many cars did not even have number plates, or were stolen during the war. It was anarchy.

The soldiers from KFOR and the UNMIK-police officers trying to bring some order to the chaos had their hands full. Especially the foreign police officers trying to direct traffic at cross roads. Imagine you are a cop in rural Wisconsin, and you were detached to UNMIK in Kosovo. The recognition of your authority was slightly different, to say the least. It took them a long time to adjust to the facts of life in Kosovo. Our office in Pristina was located on a busy crossroads and looking through the windows, we had loads of fun watching the US police officer standing in the middle of crossing, directing traffic. Most people just ignored him. At one time, a car almost ran him over. He got so upset he actually drew his gun and chased after the car on foot. Ha, memories! I wish I had more than 24 hours per day to write all those memories down. But they are in the making!

Anyway, at this moment, here in Belgium, it is not that bad. We do have the habit of stopping when a cop tells us to, and we do have proper paperwork for our cars :-). Here is a view through my window as I am writing this.


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