Friday, May 5, 2006

Finally, a new post. I am back in Podgorica after spending time in Serbia for workshops and a conference in the U.S. and yes, a quick family visit. My time in Montenegro is coming to a quick end. The semester at the University of Montenegro is almost over....the last lectures will be this coming week. I don't get to/have to give a final exam because my class was an optional elective for students--because it was taught in English. I regret that my teaching assignment was approached rather haphazardly by the Political Sci/Journalism Department. While I have enjoyed my time in Montenegro, the teaching assignment would have been more fulfilling for the students and me if the department had acted more responsibily. Oh well...or as a Montenegrin friend would say, "That is our reality."

I have sent a questionnaire to the Secretary General of Parliament to attempt to collect some data from Members of Parliament about press freedom and responsibility. There are only 78 or 79 MPs....we'll see how the survey goes.

What would you do if your state in the U.S. were to decide to take a vote for independence from the U.S.? The last there were independence efforts by states, the U.S. fought a civil war. That is part of what happended in old Yugoslavia. In a couple of weeks, Montenegrins will vote on whether to end their relationship with Serbia--and become independent. If they support independence, it will be an absolute, final end to old Yugoslavia. Other parts--Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Macedonia--are already independent.

Friends, who initially thought the independence initiative would not pass, are now saying it will pass. We will see.

If you moved to Montenegro from Serbia 10 years ago, are you Serbian or Montenegrin or??? Or, suppose you moved from sleepy Podgorica to the big city of Belgrade six or eight years ago to take a job. Are you Montenegrin or Serbian? If you were born in Podgorica in 1955 or 1960, from parents who trace their family history to northern Serbia, are you a Yugoslavian, Serbian or Montenegrin? The point I am struggling to make is that family and regional history makes the independence question murky...there are even splits of opinion on the independence issue in families. And no, there are no rumblings of a civil war over the independence issue.

Lost connections: I met a fellow in Belgrade whose grandmother was born in the U.S. but married a Serb and they moved to Belgrade in the early 1930s. Her children could/should have had U.S. citizenship rights--as would their children. But, the citizenship was never sought because of World War II and then the communist government in Yugoslavia. The grandmother is dead, the son is dead....and I have met only the grandson who laments on the loss of a life he might have had, if U.S. citizenship could have been established.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch....I take my citizenship for granted. I was lucky enough to have been born in the U.S. because my ancestors pursued life in a new country. In the future, I should never complain about paying taxes....and I should make certain that I vote in every election. How lucky I am.

I have lost my only English news channel. BBC changed its satellite distribution from an analog channel to a digital channel and apparently the cable company has not kept up with the change. The space BBC once occupied is now static. Who will set my news agenda? What will I think about? Will I watch DVDs for the sort of "visual stimulation and companionship" often provided by television? Or, maybe I will just read more. I will keep you posted.

The swallows have returned and are building new mud nests on my patio. I'd be willing to bet that they migrated here from Northern Africa....did they bring bird flu? Not that I am aware. I have heard no reports in the news....of course, my BBC channel is no longer available. :)

“You must be nuts traveling to all those foreign places,” some of my friends an acquaintances think. But let’s look at the facts. Rank the following countries according to their risk of threat from terror attacks, from one (low risk) to five (high risk). I have visited all of these places.
____ United States

____ Serbia & Montenegro

____ Albania

____ Uganda

____ Germany

The information in this quiz comes from Aon Crisis Management and was reported in Wired magazine, June 2005, pages 56-57.

The greatest terror threat risk comes in Uganda. The article doesn’t report specifics but I suspect this risk is primarily in the northern part of the country, bordering Sudan, and the threat comes from the Lord’s Resistance Army, a violent group that has, for more than a dozen years, kidnapped children to turn them into child soldiers or slaves. (Participants in workshop I helped with, in safe Kampala a year ago, were talking about a radio station in the north of the country that was destroyed by rebels. They marveled at the fact that the rebels didn’t shoot the announcer on duty at the time, instead letting him go before they burned the control room.)

There is a three-way tie next between Germany, the United States and Serbia & Montenegro—all belong in the elevated threat category. Germany and the U.S. are at risk from far right and Islamic extremists. Serbia & Montenegro have some risks from nationalists/separatists and organized crime violence. The safest country on the list, Albania, is in the guarded category. One of my favorite countries—Zambia—is in the low threat level.

Friends in Nis, Serbia, were asking about my travels. I told them that I barely travel anywhere compared with my friend Sam, who travels 5-6 time a year. They were not impressed though when I told them about the guard who traveled with him in Angola, 5-6 years ago. The guard's primary job was to watch the vehicle when it was parked to ensure that no one planted a bomb under it.

Why did the story have no impact on them? Because they live only 3 hours from Kosovo....where violence still raises its ugly head.

When was the last time you read anything in a U.S. newspaper about Kosovo? For many journalists, it is old news....there is "fresh" violence to report in Iraq.