Saturday, March 11, 2006

Tonight, I gambled and lost. When I travel to a country where the “local language” (that’s how many Montenegrins identify Serbian…the language they speak…they don’t acknowledge their connection with Serbia…but I digress)….. When the menu isn’t in English, I practice “blind dining” which means, I order something and expect the best when my surprise meal is delivered. (Once in Munich, a friend was served pickled fish in sour cream; I got pork roast with crackling skin, and roasted apples.) Until tonight, after doing this for 10 years, I had a perfect record of meal satisfaction. Sometimes the food was unusual but it was always good. Tonight, in CafĂ© Piccadilly, my dinner plate-sized Piccadilly Pizza (recommended enthusiastically by my waiter) contained anchovies. And not just one or two but seven. I like sardines and could have handled one or two anchovies but seven was a little more than I wanted. Even after I scrapped away most of the fish, some grains of the coarse salt they had been packed in added a distinctive crunch to my pizza.

The good news is that I need to drop a few kilos so leaving some of the pizza on my plate wasn’t a bad thing. I also had a Greek salad that contained some of the best green olives I’ve ever eaten. I ate more than a dozen olives and still left nearly that many. There were black olives also but they’re not as tasty.

A friend emailed to ask about food preparation and hygiene standards. As a transitional country, I would say that food sanitation practices in Montenegro appear very good. More expensive restaurants probably have better sanitation practices—though not always. Usually I order a shopska salad, it’s made with diced tomatoes, cucumbers and onions. Sometimes a little parsley is added, as well. The salad is dressed with a little vinegar and olive oil and topped with shredded white cheese. It’s very good and I really want vegetables when I travel. The carbs from pizza or fat from heavy meat dishes are too much for me. I also figure the shopska is better than ordering a green salad, with lettuce washed in tap water. Tonight’s Greek salad contained lettuce but also had a tart vinegar dressing.

A few days ago in my entry covering Quirky Observations, I mentioned not buying any smoked meats. Many of the grocery stores have racks full of smoked meats behind the counter. It just hangs, preserved by smoke and salt, until sold. I’m sure the microbes are part of the local digestive systems and present no problems. And, when I’ve eaten the smoked ham at breakfast at a hotel, I was probably eating meat similar to what I saw hanging.

I saw an American, whom I recently met, drink a glass of tap water after finishing his espresso. When I want water, I order sparking water—water with carbonation. It’s an easy way to know that I’m not drinking tap water. In 2000, while on a trip to Bulgaria, I got sick from something. Maybe from water? Probably, a marinated, roasted pepper salad. It was delicious at the time. If someone else is paying my travel tab so that I can conduct a workshop, I can’t afford to call in sick.

Being adventurous is one thing. Being dumb is another. By the way, if you’re in a part of the world where you have concerns about water or hygiene practices, DO NOT rinse your toothbrush under the tap in your hotel room. A couple of years ago I was chatting with a guy on a flight from Kenya to Minneapolis (I was coming back from Uganda but had connected in Nairobi). He told me the trip had been miserable….stomach troubles…he said he watched what he ate and drank only bottled water. I asked him if he’s rinsed his toothbrush under the tap and he almost got sick again.

Find a kiosk or "mini mart" (small shops that sell cigarettes, newspapers and bottled water) and stock up so you're not at the mercy of your hotel, where a bottle of water costs $2-3 for 300 ml, about 11 ounces. Usually for the equivalent of .50-.70 cents U.S., you can buy a 1.5 or 2 liter bottle of water at one of the shops next to your hotel.

One more thing, it was another rainy day in Podgorica. My boots kept my feet dry and I didn't get splashed by a passing car.
Mourning: Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has died in the United Nations jail in the suburbs of The Hague, The Netherlands. My slug to lead this item says mourning but the reason to mourn his passing is because he won't be convicted of any of the 60 counts of war crimes for which he was being tried. There are people in Serbia--and probably some in Montenegro--who will mourn his death. It is unfortunate that his death will redirect attention away from others wanted for war crimes and again keep many people in this region from recognizing the brutality of his regime.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Boots: These boots were made for walking, and I do a lot of it. It’s another rainy day in Podgorica—but it could be worse. There were suggestions of snow earlier in the week. The only thing worse than wet feet are cold and wet feet. I owe my bride a sincere “thank you” for convincing me to get these boots! They’re waterproof, lightweight, resist the shock of walking, and offer ankle protection. They're also the sort of shoes I never wear and they feel a little bulky. I wear a size 9.5—my feet aren’t that big—but the style of the boots makes them stick out.

After noticing how dirty they had become, I gave them a cleaning. Recognize Mr. Proper? I’m not sure why Proctor and Gamble changed Mr. Clean to Mr. Proper. Perhaps “Proper” can translate better from country to country much easier than “Clean” could? (But who’s going to expect a bald guy in a white shirt, no matter the name, to know anything about cleaning?) I only used Mr. Proper to clean only the rubber sole.

Thursday, March 9, 2006

Partisans: In the U.S. we celebrate our heroes and historic locations with roadside signs. This sign, from Centije, dates back to Communist days. It commemorates the deaths of a group of partisans (citizen soldiers) who gathered here to plot local resistance to the Nazis. If I understand the story correctly, they were discovered by the Nazis and killed at this location. Montenegro has a long history of citizens rising to respond to invaders. Notice the Communist star on the plaque.

Why don't we read more news about transitional or developing nations? For most of us, these countries are distant locations with little impact on our daily lives--unless we pause to think how lucky we are to live where we do. For news editors, international news doesn't sell in the U.S. Localism attracts ears and eyeballs.

How do you tell the difference between a transitional and a developing country?

Transitional Countries: Nations with infrastructure, roads, electrical systems, economic development, including manufacturing capacity—though frequently in the form of government owned factories that need to be privatized and along with privatization will come unemployment. Transparency of government operation is needed: how revenues are collected and used by government. Government spending needs to be scrutinized. Media probably involve two levels of operation: government owned and some privately owned print and broadcast media. Many countries in Eastern Europe are or were classified as transitional.

Developing Countries: Countries lacking infrastructure development that may in term impede the nation’s ability to advance economically and socially. Most developing countries are in need of governance transparency initiatives. Where transparency may be present, lack of development may be hindered absence of natural resources to finance infrastructure. Media probably involve three levels of operation: government print and broadcast media, community media—often low power FM stations, and probably some privately owned print and broadcast media. There are countries in Africa, Asia and South America that belong in the developing category.

Chad, in Central Africa, has been a developing nation since its boundaries were designated. In the last decade, oil has been discovered. The World Bank funded the construction of a pipeline to enable the oil to be sold, thus generating foreign exchange (money made from selling goods to other countries) to finance development. Most of the promised development has not yet taken place. The government of Chad has recently announced plans to take infrastructure development money and shift it to military development. Chad, sharing a common border with Sudan, is concerned about civil war spilling across its border. But, does the government have the power to do this? According to the IMF, it doesn’t but can they do anything about it? Probably not. The New York Times has written about this situation.

It can be difficult to know where to place a country. Brazil, a few years ago, was clearly transitional—well, I suppose some people will say developing, if you go back far enough. Today, the country’s economy exhibits vitality and stability, levels of government reform have begun to take root and Brazil has held successful national elections. They are relatively energy independent—Brazil has a highly successful ethanol program. But, poverty remains a significant problem; economic and social development have not been evenly spread throughout the population or geography; there are significant gaps between the most successful and least successful; gender inequality is severe. I’m probably wrong and will be insulting the people of Brazil, but I still think of Brazil as transitional.

Population measures are important in evaluating a country’s designation. Life expectancy, infant mortality, educational attainment, per capita income and average household income are examples. Students in mass communications might also find it worthwhile to examine the number of broadcast stations per person, number of newspapers sold per person, or the number of broadcast receivers (radios and TVs) per person. What do you do with this raw data? Compare it with a developed country. Compare data from Chad with India, the U.K. and the U.S. Or, pick whatever comparison countries you wish. Where do you find this information? Some of it is available from UNESCO. The CIA Factbook can provide additional information. Also, look at Freedom House for Freedom in the World. In the old days, you would have needed to visit the library to actually open books. Now, this information is available online or in downloadable PDF files. And, even in a developing or transitional country, Internet access empowers students to get answers to these questions.

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

iChat: Here in Montenegro I am teaching a course at the U of Montenegro, working with private media and looking for other interesting projects where I can be helpful and stay busy. I am also teaching a class at Bradley University via video conference, using a high speed Internet connection and an Apple software called iChat. With iChat, a small, inexpensive iBook computer and iSight camera (it's a little expensive, about $200 or so), you can schedule a very nice video conference discussion. And, the better the Internet connection, the better the video quality will be.

That last sentence--about having a good Internet connection--is important. At the University of Montenegro, bandwidth must be at a premium. On Monday night, 8PM here is truly the end of the day. All classes are over. But there must be someone in the computer services areas who uses the bandwidth for ????. Because it's next to impossible to get iChat to work with both clean video and crisp audio. Interestingly, the audio usually breaks up before the video.

Monday, I held my class at Hotel Podgorica, a 4-star hotel in the city. VERY nice. I used their Internet through the generousity of global journalist Don North, who also served as a guest speaker for my class. AND, he was great. Don is the producer/director of the documentary "Remembering Saddam." This is the story of nine businessmen in Iraq who were sentenced to having their right hand surgically removed for trading in foreigh currency--specifically, the U.S. dollar. *See

Today, I tried to connect with my friend Prof. Twange Kasoma, at U of Oregon, to visit with her class. The connection was even worse than I often experience on Monday night. We finally tried audio-only but even that was not very good. My thanks to Prof. Kasoma and her students for allowing me to visit. I appreciate your patience as we tried to get the connection to work!

What comes from these efforts is a reminder of how communication and media-enabled people in the U.S. are. We have computers, high speed service, landline telephones--if we want them, cell phones....and all sorts of gadgets to entertain and inform us. Here in Montenegro, it's tough to find a reliable and cost effective way to telephone the U.S. As wonderful as the Internet can be, it also comes down to bandwidth. The communication revolution is not here, yet. In the class I'm teaching, I have several students who do not use email. They don't own a computer, so why bother? And, there's no sense of immediacy that we often experience.

My assignment for tomorrow is to visit Hotel Podgorica and strike a deal with them for Internet access for the remainder of my Bradley semester. Or, find somewhere else with a dependable connection. I'll keep you posted.

Check out Hotel Podgorica:

Monday, March 6, 2006

Quirky observations: Some comments and observations on life in Montenegro.

My most often consumed meal: Pizza, cheese with a thin crust (only slightly thicker than a tortilla). The pizza has a thin layer of tomato sauce but ketchup is served as a condiment. Sometimes it is literally ketchup, other times it may be plain tomato sauce or sauce with oregano or basil. On a four-cheese pizza, each quadrant of the pie features a different type of cheese.

Best meal: Fresh trout at Restaurant Maraza, a locally owned restaurant that also raises the trout on a farm next door.

Biggest dread: Getting splashed by a passing car as I’m walking to or from the university on one of the frequent rainy days—or even several days after a rain. Drainage isn’t the best. I generally walk facing traffic so that I can anticipate potential splash points.

Pet Peeve: People park their cars on the sidewalks and don’t even try to do so in a common sense way to maximize parking and minimize inconvenience to pedestrians.

Favorite spot in Podgorica: Millennium bridge, opened in Summer 2005. The bridge crosses the Moraca River; it’s a nice view. The wonderful architecture of the bridge is visible throughout the city. It’s my landmark—I always know where I am, or at least how to get back to the university. *See photo above.

Favorite beverages: Schweppes Bitter Lemon and Plantaze Vranac.

Missed food: Chicken, cooked almost any possible way. Chicken isn’t widely available and has virtually disappeared since bird flu began appearing in the news.

Missed beverage: American-style roasted coffee. I like black coffee—no sugar. But the beans here, even when prepared as filter coffee, carry a darker taste that I can’t quite get used too. I did bring four pounds of coffee with me. The supply is holding out quite nicely. I drink Turkish coffee most of the time when I am out and about.

Best habit acquired: Greater patience. Things move at a slower pace. Life poses challenges that are small in the U.S. but much greater here.

Habit I can’t break: Television as companion. Even though BBC World has programming repetition, I still turn on the set. I sometimes watch local television—news or entertainment—just to look at the visuals and attempt to determine the story. Radio is dominated by so-so pop stations. I like “Swiss Jazz”, a local FM radio station that plays familiar American jazz tunes.

Best food bargain: A hamburger. The patty is huge…more than half-a-pound. Freshly cooked, while you wait, served on a bun the restaurant baked, and topped with your choice of 16 or so items. I usually have mustard, chopped onion, pickles, and a scoop of marinated vegetable salad. Cost: 1.5Euros. Add 1 Euro for a Coke or .80 for a bottle of water. If eaten around 2 or 3 PM, it is easy to live on two meals a day.

Favorite tourist site: I haven’t been to enough sites yet to have one. The rugged beauty of the country is impressive.

Favorite phrases often uttered by local residents, “I’m very busy” or “Super.”

Favorite surprise: I needed a haircut last week. I had spotted a couple of places that looked pretty good. I went into a place called, “Unisex Salon.” A young man cut my hair with only scissors—both regular and thinning shears. It was a great cut. I’m a guy how views a haircut as necessary maintenance but this was nice. He gave great attention to detail. There was also something especially rhythmic about the opening-closing of his scissors. He charged me 5Euros. I’m not sure whether that was normal or what seemed reasonable to charge a foreigner. It was sure worth it. When he finished, I immediately said, “Super.”

Think metric: When I was in 7th and 8th grade, we were told everything was going to become metric in the U.S. I’ve had to think in the metric system for several years now, as I’ve traveled, and generally do well. I still struggle with temperature conversions but distance (kilometers), length (meters or centimeters) and weight (kilograms and grams) are easy.

Favorite snack: At my apartment: roasted peanuts and Diet Coke. It’s a familiar combination from my childhood—though back then we only had regular Coke. Now, I need to trim at least a few calories. Favorite snack when out walking: gelato or ice cream.

Things I eat in restaurants but do not buy and take home: Smoked meats. Montenegrin proschutto is very good but when I have seen the smoked meats in stores, I have declined to purchase them.

People I miss: Stephanie, Garrett and Katherine: their smiles, laughter and sparkle in their eyes.

Not so surprising university fact: Faculty take a “we can’t do that approach” or “we’ve never done that before (so therefore we can’t do it now)” point of view. I’ve heard this expressed in the U.S. and with the same conviction in Montenegro.

Style of dress: People dress very neatly—this is true of faculty, students and people I see on the streets. Clothing is pressed. Men are likely to wear a necktie. Fashions for men and women appear to be influenced by Italy. Men wear pull-over sweaters with a 12-14 cm length zipper to make it easier to put on the sweater. Almost no one wears loose-fitting clothing, except me.

Directions: I have been stopped on the street by people needing directions at least a half-dozen times. I’m happy about this because my clothing doesn’t give me away as a foreigner. The last two times, the people spoke English and I actually could give them the travel directions they sought.

Sunday, March 5, 2006

Independent Journalism: How do journalists acquire independence of thought in parts of the world where media are aligned with the government in power or an opposition political party? The end of communism did not herald a renaissance of independent thinking. If anything, the political and social order fragmented into dozens of pieces, each piece often representing not necessarily distinct ideas but perhaps distinct political personalities and individuals. There are a variety of political parties in many transitional countries, many with similar names (Social Democrat Party and the Democrat Social Party are two distinct minor parties in Montenegro). Add to this, the land-grab for an economic stake—through privatization of former state industries and the granting of licenses or business permits to operate radio and television stations, newspapers and magazines. It gets complicated.

In transitional and developing areas, media centers are often funded by donor governments--such as the U.S., UK, Denmark, Germany or others. The media centers offer a haven and resource center for journalists, who may have limited resources through their employer. These include a professional development library, Internet access, and a legislative voice to oppose limitations on media. Media centers are also training facilities where journalists can attend workshops and where NGOs or government officials can find well-organized facilities for holding a press conference. For organizations working to improve the quality of life, it’s not enough to just have a good story. Often you must hold a press conference to create awareness and interest in the story. (It’s part of a research area called agenda building.)

When I’ve been lucky enough to make the training trips that I do, my workshops are usually held at such training centers. In Lusaka, Zambia, I worked at ZAMCOM. In Belgrade, I’ve been at the offices of NUNS (the Independent Journalists Association of Serbia,, in Nis, at the Media Center Nis (Media Center Nis was initially funded through the U.S. Agency for International Development, Here is Podgorica, I’m making arrangements now to work through the Montenetrgro Media Institute ( The challenge for media centers is to become self-sustaining. The centers are usually organized as non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Eventually, donor funding ends. The challenge: Can the media center find enough financial support from training courses, local media memberships, and projects the center might initiate, to fund its activities. I hope so.