The D4D office is on the fifth floor of a building housing the offices of other NGOs and international organizations. The office is clean and new looking, and my coworkers are young and personable. It took me several days to learn everyone's names; Albanian names and words are unlike any I have heard before. That is, except for one woman's name that in Swedish means "ditz" or "airhead." I have not told her this. My desk is right next to the D4D director's desk, so I converse with him a good deal. He is friendly and quite funny, but will be leaving in a few weeks to assume his appointment as Kosovo's ambassador to Japan. Due to the position of my desk, I have been privy to many of his meetings with various government officials and foreign diplomats. Some of these meetings have even been in English.
D4D has yet to assign me a project for the summer. The USAID office two floors down still needs to approve the potential research topic. In the meantime, I have researched economic development in Kosovo, and edited policy papers written in English. Despite warnings from my coworkers, I found it surprising how difficult it was to find economic development data for Kosovo. I read through several annual reports from various ministries in Kosovo. These ministries were mostly created in 2008, the year Kosovo was officially founded as a country. Since then, it seems to have taken the ministries a while to determine how to format their reports, and what information should actually be reported. Some pieces of data in the Central Bank of Kosovo's annual reports contradicted one another. And the only economic data I could from before 2008 were from an IMF database.
I enjoy editing policy papers. Reading these papers, I have learned about the structure of Kosovo's government, the ongoing EU-mediated talks between Serbia and Kosovo, and some of the current issues within Kosovo's university system. According to one of these papers, there is currently a problem of plagiarism among the country's professors. Ironically, I discovered that this paper contained instances of plagiarism as well. I should note that this paper was not written by anyone at D4D. The papers are all written in British English, so I have learned a bit more about differences between English as it is written in the UK and the US.
Every Tuesday evening, D4D hosts a salon in a cafe next to the Capitol Benetton. D4D organizes these salons to discuss a range of salient issues facing Kosovo and its people. So far I have attended two of these meetings. The attendees of the first salon, including the Minister of Health and the mayor of Pristina, discussed the merits of a tax increase to fund public health care. Through an interpreter, I heard a debate on the merits of privately versus publicly run health care. This conversation was not unlike one I've heard many times in the US, only the numbers involved were much smaller.
The topic of the second salon was the implementation of laws regarding the use of Kosovo's official languages. Kosovo's official languages are Albanian, spoken by the majority of Kosovars, and Serbian, spoken by the Kosovo Serb minority. The attendees, speaking in Albanian, Serbian, or English, strayed from this topic to a discussion of public education. Through this debate, I learned that Kosovo Albanians and Serbs are actually quite segregated from one another. Albanian and Serbian children attend different schools, where they are only taught their own language. The Language Commissioner described the legal implications of this linguistic divide. The commissioner told anecdotes about Serbs who received unfavorable court rulings because they could not understand the Albanian court documents, and vice versa.
One Saturday I visited Pristina's Ethnographic Museum. The museum is a two-story eighteenth century house located in the old part of the city. On display in the museum are examples of traditional Albanian art, tools, weaponry, furniture and clothing from the fifteenth through the twentieth century. Albanian men seem to have been sharp dressers who also understood the importance of dressing for comfort. Some of the rooms in the museum were furnished so as to replicate traditional Albanian rooms. Based on what I saw, it appears Albanians of this time period appreciated the contentment to be got from reclining on the floor, and designed their rooms accordingly. I left the museum with a great respect for Albanian culture.
On my first Friday at D4D, the entire staff went to lunch at a restaurant called Miqt. Miqt is small establishment off the main square, serving local cuisine. I ordered something at random off the Albanian menu that turned out to be a very tasty ground beef dish. Since then, I have enjoyed trying a number of differently shaped pieces of ground beef, stuffed with either cheese or meat. Each meal I have ordered at a restaurant has come with a basket of bread. Each basket contains at least a full loaf. As a former high volume bread baker at a restaurant, I appreciate how time consuming baking enough bread for each day at one of these restaurants must be. So basically, I've been eating a lot of bread.