Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Some comments about daily life:

I do not have a car and have no plans to buy one, although I will rent one when my family comes over in the summer. My walk to the university takes 15-20 minutes, depending on my energy level. It's not bad--unless it's raining or my briefcase (slung over my shoulder) is particularly heavy that day. I walked with a colleague to dinner at a very nice Italian restaurant a few nights ago—it took us 30 minutes to get there—but we had a great conversation and there's no better way to see a place than by walking. When we left, at midnight, the people we met for dinner gave us a lift home.

My apartment has a washing machine and solar clothes dryer. For those of you who have forgotten what this means: I hang my wash out on a clothes line on one of the two balconies of my apartment. They are just now starting to sell dryers but they cost about 400 Euros. The washer seems to do a good job but the wash cycle is very long.

Things are done on a smaller scale in Montenegro. Cars are smaller. Offices are smaller--or if not, more people occupy the office space. Interpersonal space is generally less, both when someone is standing near you, you are sitting on a bus, or when you are walking down the street with someone you know.The bathtub is narrower--which means it takes less water to fill it when you want a soak in the tub. But it's a challenge to stand and shower. My refrigerator and stove are smaller but so is my kitchen. Still, the frig is large enough to hold all I need and I can do all the cookig I aspire to do. I find great reason to wonder why Americans let everything get so big? (Including people, who eat more than they should and rarely walk anywhere. And yes....I am guilty of this when I am back in the U.S.)

A friend recently asked in an email whether the living circumstances were like Western Europe or a more transitional place. Clearly, there are parts of life that are similar to Western Europe or the U.S. but there's a much more casual approach to life. Deadlines are arbitrary, or seem to be. Meals are consumed at a leisurely pace. And hours are spent in the coffee bars. For an uptight American%2

One difference between Serbia and Montenegro is that Montenegro uses the Euro as its official currency. Serbia uses the Dinar. Montenegro is not part of the EU—they simply elected to make the Euro their currency several years ago. I find that most prices are generally very high compared to the U.S. I bought two medium-sized bananas at the market and paid about 51 Euro cents; that’s about .63US. A small sum for me but a middle class Montenegrin family of four might be living on a monthly income of between 500-1,000 Euros per month. One of the challenges for many transitional countries is the foster an economic, social and political climate that will lead to the development of a substantial middle class. It is the middle class--or the ability to live as part of the middle class--that has enabled the U.S. to prosper.

Most people can remember reading the description of the Balkans as “the powder keg of Europe” in a history book. Turkey conquered and held this part of the world for 400 years and only departed about 115 years ago. The Turkish influence, introduction of Muslim religion and subtle ethnic rivalries are reasons for the wars and genocide in the 1990s. Kosovo is still under United Nations control.

Why am I here? And, did I pick this place? I’m here with a Fulbright Research and Lecturing appointment at the Faculty of Law, School of Political Science and Journalism. It’s a long story as to how we finally worked out the arrangement for me to be here. I am teaching a class at Bradley University this semester (COM 415 Global Media) via videoconference. My wish would also be that I could establish a link with my students at University of Montengro and at Bradley so that both groups might know more about the world in which the other live. I've attempted to start this process by giving the students at both schools an assignment to exchange information via email.

Television: Then and Now: I visited Montenegro in May 2003 and March 2004. I liked the people I met and that is a primary reason why I am back today. The media managers and employees I met were personable and interested in new ideas. Still, they faced challenges.

Here is part of what I said then.

“There are too many print and broadcast media firms in Montenegro and the field will not be thinning very quickly. The television stations seem mired in programming production practices of the past—some of their programs look a bit stiff. Improvements in sales and marketing practices offer some legitimate chances to improve the performance of the firms but it will be a difficult market until the number of firms is reduced either through consolidation or bankruptcy. Competition from Serbian stations will also erode the audience for Montenegrin television stations.”


I have not yet met with media managers but I have spoken with several authoritative sources and I have my own observations. First, the on-air look of the stations is generally much better. Through both local and syndicated programming, the stations have a better look. And, the government has begun enforcing copyright protections, thus limiting the ability of stations to simply “pluck” choice programming from satellite feeds or the local video shops. Second, advertising sales continue to be limited. Private (commercial stations) are allowed to air up to nine minutes of commercials per hour. I’m not sure that I’ve noticed even half this number—on the busiest hour. Third, Montenegro Television (the two government-run channels) have begun the move to public service status—still, there are far too many employees on the payroll and limited political will to change that situation.