My Early Days in Kosovo: Summer 2001, part 1

Oct 15, 2010

Summer 2001, Singing Class at Tolerance Camp

I have a really hard time writing this blog when I’m in the US doing the fundraising and awareness building part of my job.  I spend all of my time organizing and coordinating speaking engagements or fundraising events, and supervising our programs overseas via email, phone, and text message.  Takes a

LOT of time, but I don’t think it would be very interesting to read about.  So I decided to look up some old journal entries and email updates I sent out long before we had this blog on our website.  They are really long so I will break them up and add the pictures that go with the events, as I couldn’t do when I sent out the emails so many years ago.  I hope you enjoy it!


I returned to Kosova at the end of May.  I’m so very glad to be back in Kosova.  The people here are so wonderful; they truly ARE the riches of Kosova.  But I have experienced more frustration in the past 2 months than I can remember ever experiencing in my life.

The First SMF House!

One week after my return to Kosova I moved into a house.  It is a great setup both for the foundation and for me.  The upper part of the house was destroyed by fire, and later by flooding, and no one has lived here for quite some time so the outside looks quite bad—the front yard is overgrown with weeds and tall grass, and the front entrance has wooden supports as if it was under construction.   But the downstairs half of the house is quite nice.  It consists of a bedroom, one small room (a bedroom, but soon to become our office) a living room, kitchen, bathroom (with a shower—the first I’ve seen in Kosova!), a garage, and even a washing machine.  We will be setting up a computer-training center in the office, and use the living room for teacher training and activities.

Fall 2001, Rreza Teaching Volunteer Training in our house

The rent is approximately $225, which is a normal “local” rent, but very low for an “international” person, most of who are making very large salaries.  But when they learned that I have not been paid a salary since beginning this project, they agreed to rent it to me at the local rate.  A family living in Belgium owns it.  I have had to spend a lot of time and money cleaning and fixing things in the house to make it secure for our computers and instruments, and to make it a good workplace for our team here and habitable for me.  The biggest problems were bad locks, mildew from the previous flood, and flooding in the bathroom whenever the toilet and shower were used.  Or so I thought.

SMF-Handikos Youth Volunteer Computer Training in our House

But when I rented the house I agreed to let the owners stay here (with me) for two weeks when they visited from Belgium.  I wasn’t looking forward to it, because it meant delaying the setup for computer and teacher training, but I knew that it would be extremely difficult to find another setup as perfect as this, so I agreed.  But I wasn’t told when the family would come, or how many people would be coming.  Then, last Sunday, I was told that the family would be coming the next day, and that it would be four people: the owner and his wife, and their son and his wife.  I quickly moved everything into the large bedroom so that they could use the other bedroom and the living room.  They arrived at 2am on Monday.  They were very nice.  But they took over the entire house.  And they never left.  Their friends and relatives all came here, day and night.  Suddenly I was living in only one room, surrounded by people I didn’t know, but paying for an entire house.

Village Outreach Project Training, Fall 2001, in our house

And then they told me that they were actually

staying not for two weeks, but for two MONTHS!  I didn’t know what to do. I knew that in retrospect this would be very funny, but at the time it was just making me miserable.  I didn’t want to move, but I didn’t see any other solution.

Finally, I sat down with the family and told them that I would be moving out because I really needed to have the entire house, not just one room.  I couldn’t postpone the computer and teacher training until September.  And I really needed some privacy after being with children all day and into the evening.  They said that they didn’t want me to move, so we agreed that after a few weeks they would go stay with their family in Gjakove.