wam kat on Wed, 9 Feb 2000 02:01:55 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Pristina Diary

Pristina Diary, January 20, 2000


The last days we have been struggling a lot with the electricity
situation, but when this message reaches you we have been able to send
Email for the first time directly from our office in Pristina without
going to the expensive Internet centre on Dragodon. We finally were able
to hook up our computer via the normal telephone lines with one computer
in Beograd, through which this message is now send out. Our translators
here in Pristina knew some people who still had some paid hours of
internet use on the PTT computer in Serbia, which they used after the
ZAMIR network in Serbia broke down. Here in Pristina ZAMIR was represented
by the local host ZANA-PR which was hooked up with ZAMIR-BG (beograd) and
from there send via BIONIC in Germany Email messages around the world. 
After the peace agreement in Dayton in 1995 this transnational system for
NGO's slowly broke down and by now the only host which is still working is
the one in Croatia. In Serbia, so also in Kosov@ the role was taken over
by the local internetworks. And to our big surprise the entrance number
from the Serbian PTT internetwork still is active here in Pristina. 

This network works in a way that you have to buy from the Serbian PTT
internet hours in beforehand, which you then can use up to your account is
empty. Since there is no Serbian PTT office working anymore in Kosov@ it
is next to impossible to buy this access hours. Still on the black market,
or call it the market of contacts of friends you are sometimes able to buy
internet hours from people. But most people who use this official PTT
network don't have much contacts in Serbia. That's why a lot of local
youngsters would habe been very interested if I didn't have had any
friends in Serbia which could buy those hours for us, since the price for
those hours here on the black market is a couple of times higher than in

Like the telephonelines the system in itself is not working as perfect as
the much more expensive internet system in Pristina which works by
satellite. You need to bring a lot of patience with you to use it here
from Pristina. Sending out a message like this side or reading your Email
means that you have to be used to a system which is completely overloaded
and throws you out at almost each step you need to do to send or receive a
message. But more important you need to have a situation during which your
electricity system is not dropping down all the time. In many ways I must
admit that I like this almost stone edge time working with computer better
than the more modern and expensive systems via radio and satellite

It is so simple if you have the money to build up the most advanced
communication network via the internet. But somehow I like to use the same
systems as the local people use. For one or another reason I don't like
this elite situation that the foreigners can do something what the local
can't. I, or rather we, are already in the extreme situation that we can
leave the country whenever we want. We as foreigners normally have the
better cars, the better telephone lines, the electric generator, the
working radio's and mobile phones, eat in the better restaurants, sleep in
the hotels which have heating and electricity. 

The last days however the local people have helped me to organise that all
in the way which is normal in this part of the world. If you want your
mobile phones working you have to find a card of a local telephone
network, which means in Pristina that you are using MOBTEL, the Serbian
mobile telephone system.  If you use a foreign mobile telephone, like I
was using before a German one, it also works with MOBTEL, but you have to
pay about 4 times more per minute. By the way working with MOBTEL in
Pristina and only in parts of Pristina it doesn't mean working like
working all the time. Or working like you dial a number and you get
contact, it means more like dialling 20 times a number and maybe you get

But UNMIK has promised that this will all change in the coming month. 
Proudly the king of Kosov@, the head of UNMIK, Mr. Kouchner has proudly
announced that with the beginning of next month, starting in Pristina,
Kosov@ get an own mobile telephone system. And then everything will be
better and cheaper, and available in the normal shops. The mobile phone
company which got the monopoly is of course a French one, Alcatel. The
Kosovarians themselves wanted a German company, Siemens. And UNMIK went
even so far to put the head of the Kosovarian PTT, who was in favour of
Siemens on non active to push the deal with Alcatel through. Anyway, when
the new mobile network gets started here in Pristina and later in the rest
of Kosov@ a big part of the communication will become better, let's hope. 

How much better is always relative. Yesterday and today UNMIK also
announced that the electricity situation will get better, and indeed today
we had already almost 10 hours of electricity in a row. The result was
that almost everybody works all through the night. During the last weeks
people have changed their habits in a way that they start working as soon
as there is electricity, washing, cooking, vacuum cleaning and working
(playing) with their computers, even when it is in the middle of the
night. Just to make as much effective use from the hours that the
electricity is on. But last night the electricity stayed on almost the
whole night. And that was surprising for everybody, you just kept on going
with the knowledge in mind that it cuts of any moment, but it didn't. 

Most surprising was the fact that when you finally went to bed because you
were too tired to go on and woke up the next morning the electricity was
still on. That really blew my mind this morning, I really am starting to
believe that they finally fixed it. Luckily after a few hours it went off
again, otherwise the world wasn't as we knew it. Later today it came back
on and it seems that we are heading for a new record now. 

Talking about records, I think that the UNMIK Police (the coca cola
police) should get a special announcement in the world book of records. 
Namely for the police who have given out the most parking tickets to cars
who don't even have numberplates. Since a few weeks the UNMIK Police has
started to give parking tickets to false parked cars. Which is a next to
impossible job since almost all the cars are wrongly parked. And a very
hopeless job also since hardly any car has a numberplate, or a false one,
or a self made one or what ever. It is in any way impossible to trace the
owners of those cars back, since hardly any is registrated. So if you get
a parking ticket you just throw it away since the police only know in
their records that a red Volvo was parked wrong, but not which car it was
and to whom it belongs. And nobody will go to the UNMIK police station to
pay their ticket just like that, like in the rest of the world only the
fear that they trace you back is mostly the reason for paying your tickets
and that fear is not here. 

This on the other side has as secondary effect that lot's of UNMIK police
agents from abroad are really getting the feeling that they are doing a
total idiotic job around here. If they are send out in the morning by
their chiefs to write out parking ticket they are not stupid, they know
that it is useless. So the already weak UNMIK police, which is still after
7 months not on half of the strength they should be, which is by the way
even when they reach the 3155 agents which they are allowed to deploy not
half of the strength they should be to make a real impact as some
specialists say, is now loosing agents by the day. Especially after the
Christmas holidays a lot of the agents didn't return back to Kosov@, since
they really were disappointed by the work they had to do here. Feeling
themselves the clowns in the circus here and laughed at by the local

And not only UNMIK police is not coming back, but also a lot of other
NGO's have decided to leave Kosov@. Especially those who are doing
shelter. According to UNHCR the emergency shelter programme is almost
finished now and that is what you hear from lots of shelter NGO's, the job
is done. Every family which wanted has at least one warm room now, at
least that is what is said. That they have a warm room in a house which is
still totally destroyed or which is not theirs or even that they missed a
lot of houses in the villages seems to be not changing the situation.  The
job is finished - off to other places in the world. 

The big question which they leave behind is what will happen with all
those destroyed houses and with all those houses which have an emergency
roofing from thin plastic now. Who will be there this summer and next
winter to help to repair the rest of the house and to put a real roof on
the house or even to put a roof at the house at all, or even who rebuild a
house out the pile of stones. Yes it is really noticeable when you walk
through burned Peja and see still all those destroyed houses that the job
is done. They just made a start is a better thing to say. 

Yes I know that this is all criticism. Yes I know that I should not blame
everything on the international organisations and really I would love to
be positive about them, to write that everything they do is effective and
well co-ordinated. That every coin of humanitarian aid spend in this
province is spend rightly and that the effect is enormous. But yes, they
make it so easy to be critical about them. Thinking about that UNMIK
police actions it is hard not to make jokes about it. Especially when you
see a scenery as I saw this afternoon. An UNMIK police agent was writing
out a parking ticket, the owner came took the ticket from the front
window, threw it away and went into his shop again. The same UNMIK police
agent wrote another ticket, the owner came out again, did the same thing
and it all started all over. The whole scenery repeated itself 5 times and
then the ticket block of the police agent seemed to be full and he went
back to his car and drove off. His goal, 100 or so parking tickets for the
day was done. On such a moment you really think if the UN hasn't got
anything better in mind to get police from the other side of the globe
over here and pay them just to make a fool out of themselves. 

By the way back to the electricity, when it came back on this afternoon
you suddenly heard a big applause everywhere around in this area. After
the success of last evening and night suddenly everybody started to
believe that we would have another evening with electricity today and so
hundreds of them went to the videothek to rent some video, for the first
time in weeks the electricity was on long enough to see a film to the end. 
So when it went off you hear this big "SHIT" (in Albanian) from every
window. Disappointment by everybody, again a long cold evening by candle
light (wonder how many kids will be born in a couple of months from now). 
So you hear this big sound of relieve when the electricity went on again. 
People were so happy at last something else to do. I know that lot's of
people around the world would like to have an evening without TV and so
on, but when it is forced on to you it is something different. 

Especially when you are not somewhere outside in the wilderness in a nice
blockhouse with a nice warm burning open fire. But when you are in a stone
cold appartment building in the middle of a town and you hear the
generator from the family three levels down running knowing that they have
it warm and have everything running and you only have the noise from it,
it starts to be at least a bit annoying after some weeks. Living in houses
which are build for the electric age and doing that without electricity is
not as easy as you think. It really gets on you. Since after all that time
you approximately have read every book you always wanted to read and done
everything you always wanted to do, and in most cases have said everything
you always wanted to say. 

OK, one positive thing. Since a week Kosov@ has 11 snowplows, which will
liberate the street in the country from snow and ice (and I can tell you
the roads are full of it). They got them from the European Union. In fact
9 of them are really for the population of Kosov@, the other 2 will be
used to keep the airport open (when it is not foggy). It will take some
days before they will be put in action, since the drivers first have to
learn to use them, but then... You see how easy it is to make even from a
positive thing a joke. 


                                        Wam :-)

Ps one of our translators told me in is Elektra Kosova and not Kosovo
Elektra. This by the way doesn't change anything in the amount of phone
calls we keep receiving every day. 

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