Krashing in Kosovo

Pristina, Kosovo:

I have never hung out with Albanians before.  Kosovan-Albanians, from my experience, have been nice people all around.

Observations:  The unemployment in Kosovo is pretty damn high.  I can’t imagine that being on the Euro is doing them too many favors, but I haven’t researched yet.  The whole legal status of Kosovo past and present is a big nest and somewhat difficult to sort out.  One of the biggest surprises to me is that they have 3 official languages:  Albanian, Serbian and English.  I still find it odd that 95% of the population is Albanian, yet they maintain the other two languages as official.  From what I was told, 200 Euros a month is an average salary.

There are various international agency buildings and I saw an army truck with a Swedish flag drive by, but it didn’t feel like an occupied zone or anything to me.  People seemed to go about their lives noticing that there are these outsiders in their presence, but not a constant looking over their shoulder.

Kujtim, the guy I stayed with, was very interesting.  He doesn’t believe in evolution, as he sees it as counter to entropy (the idea that everything eventually breaks down).  When I asked him if he was in favor of a United Albania, he disregarded the question, as he hopes for a world with no borders.  One of his idols is Ronald Reagan, because Kujtim believes in the free market.  He seems a bit offended at the U.S. government’s help of GM and sees Americans as risk-adverse in such things, saying that perhaps it would take 5-10 years to recover from such a blow, but it’s better than the government deciding what companies deserve the right to exist.  He preferred a Japanese model of such things.

At 23, he considers himself to be of a generation of young Kosovans that are seeking education and trying to be inclusive and progressive in their thinking.  To him, freedom is the most important thing for anyone to have.  He also knows that he is a lucky that he doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder from the war, since he didn’t lose anyone close to him.  This is not the case for a great amount of Kosovans.

With all of his progressive thinking, I would have thought that he would have been excited about Obama.  Not so.  Kujtim supported McCain.  So much so that Kujtim pissed off a great deal of his Facebook friends when he put a status update: “Once a Marine, always a Marine.”  Kujtim’s logic is that someone that was a POW for so long, having had limbs broken, that went on to be a successful Senator, cannot fail and is an inspiring person all around.  Obama, to him, is a man of words.  Kujtim maintains that it is possible that he will eventually be impressed by Obama, but it hasn’t happened yet.

He studies medicine.  One of his goals is to go to Cambodia, as he sees it as somewhere where people really need help.  Kujtim says that America is the greatest country in the world (but he wouldn’t want to live there).  The reason:

America is the only country where no one can say, “I was here first.”

And while some will be immediately up in arms about Native Americans, it misses the point.  In Europe, there are countries where wars decimated populations, causing needed immigration to get workers, only to then have too many people at a certain point, thereby causing ethnic strife with all the immigrants that were brought in.  The need and then resentment of immigrants is a constant theme in Europe.

While Kujtim and I did not agree on everything, we both could agree that for the majority of people in the States, it doesn’t matter where you come from, as long as you are willing to speak English (when needed) and work.  Unfortunately, that’s still not how many people see it in a lot of other countries.

On the bus from Pristina to Skopje.
I just watched the video from the Chilean news report.  Wow.  They used a ton of my video footage and a helluva lot of the stuff they shot of me in interviews.  I totally didn’t expect to see all of that.  It was also amusing to see shots of some of my friends that I met in Chile, like Susan and Marius.
I wonder if anything will happen to those guys, considering their faces are all over the Chilean national news.
It’s amazing that that was pretty much the fantasy I had of what could happen in the situation, with the key caveat that I didn’t expect that I would be the one front and center of the situation.
But hey, if being the star of an investigative journalism special doesn’t change anything, I don’t know what will.  And it’s been pretty cool getting messages from random people about how they feel bad for me and how they think I’m cool (despite not knowing me).
Twice in a row, I’ve gotten political opinions from people in one place about the country that I am going to next.  The first was a Montenegrin girl saying that she didn’t think Kosovo should be a country, as it should be part of Serbia, since it was her opinion that the Albanians just showed up, then wanted their own country.
The second case was a Kosovan guy saying (with chagrin) that he took Greece’s side on the Macedonian naming dispute.

5 Responses to Krashing in Kosovo

  1. Jordan says:

    His impression of McCain was as a hardball interventionist I take it? All representing an America defending underdogs like the Koreans, Kosovars, Kurds, Kuwaities and whoever else begins with K.

    IIRC, Clinton backed the NATO bombings over there – something that hasn’t really shaped perceptions of the Democrats I guess.

    Interesting how he picked the Japanese as free-market exemplars when they’re even worse when it comes to government interference in markets. Zombie banks anyone?

    Have you met others like him? The only Kosovar I’d ever hung out with was pretty similar i.e. pro globalization and pro America. Maybe it’s just an anti-Russia thing.

  2. roniweiss says:

    He was the main Kosovar that I hung out with. His views on a lack of borders seemed a bit different from some Albanians that seek Great(er) Albania, which was an irrelevant idea to him.

    I really can’t over-emphasize how surprised I was at his lack of connection to Obama, as there seem to be a lot of commonalities, including a desire to look forward, instead of to the immediate past (or even to the present).

  3. Dafina says:

    Hi Jordan, just a quick comment…i`m Albanian as well and I believe that there is a great number of Albanians who are pro-America not because of the anti-Russia thing but because U.S. supported them throughout war and was an idolized country because U.S. is a free country after all.

  4. Petrit Kelmendi says:

    Hi Roni,
    First of all, I must say I love your blog and it was nice meeting you in Prishtina. Anyways, I felt like I need to make some explanations with regards to Kujtim’s view on McCain. Generally Kosovans tend to be pro-Obama, maybe because democrats (during Clintons presidentship) intervened in Kosovo war or maybe because of his eloquence in public speaking. Sharing Kujtim’s point of view, we supported McCain during this campaign because of his ideology rather than some emotional attachments. Republicans tend to stand for a more liberalized market, which we, both Kujtim and I, believe is the engine to economic growth. High taxes, huge government and over-regulation do not produce prosperity, rather stifle economic growth. On the other hand, we do not share the general republican idea that the traditional family should be preserved. In that sense, I guess, we are Democrats. We believe that society should redefine its values and adapt to the modern lifestyles. I hope this info was useful.
    Wish you all the best,

  5. roniweiss says:


    Thanks for the kind and useful comments.

    Hopefully you’ll comment when possible, esp. when I get back to putting up political entries…

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