Thursday, September 16, 2004

Small Victories and Lack of Light

I just got home from dinner with Travis, hashing and rehashing all that has happened in the past couple of days. I was overjoyed at having power when I got home, but this elation came about 5 minutes too early. I had just taken a seat on the royal throne when I was swiftly ushered into complete darkness. Mind you, I do have a special system that allows me to turn on some lights in my house in case of power outages, but the bathroom is not one of those places. The light switch that delivers me from the abyss is at the other end of the house. Note to self: buy some candles and matches tomorrow. On a brighter note (small victory #1), my phone is now working, which gives me virtually free dial up service. However, you do get kicked off frequently... as I just was 4 times.

I spent today in Gjakova, a beautiful city in western Kosova. The Army boys let me tag along on a school visit to drop off some magazines so that I could meet with the school director and English teachers. The English teacher was anxious to get more copies to use in her classroom. Hooray! Another interesting partnership popped up today as well. The meeting we went to was set up by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) who funds and maintains the School Connectivity Program. What they do is take 16 students from one school in each of 4 countries and partners them through the internet to work on a common project. The idea is that they are areas that these students normally would have no contact with each other due to ethnic background and/or geographic location (e.g. at typical cluster would include a school from Kosovo, Serbia, Macedonia and the U.S.). Also in this meeting was the director of Junior Achievement (JA), Kosova, who is partnering schools here with schools in the U.S. to create products/companies. In an interesting turn of events, Meti (JA) would like to take the production of the magazine off our hands and turn it into the product that the JA group produces. Very interesting… Anyway, just an initial meeting and the idea came up. Another good thing came out of that meeting, Meti agreed to come give a guest lecture at the American Center to business students at the University. The idea was given the green light by the director of the Center today, so now all I have to do is set it up. Wahoo! (small victory #2)

Monday evening Travis, Craig (my RELO) and I had dinner with a woman named Karmit, an old friend of Craig’s. Talk about a dynamo! She was raised in Israel by and Iranian father and Russian mother (I think that’s right…) She’s fluent in at least 6 languages, with English being either the 3rd or 4th. She has been living in Kosova for the past 7 years working on youth and community outreach programs, setting up youth centers in the smaller villages outside of the larger cities. The latest project is creating a Youth Development Center that will function like an interactive children’s museum where all the exhibits will be very hands on and experimental. I contacted the folks I used to work with on Legoland to see if there could be a connection there. Part of LEGO’s overall philosophy is hands-on interactive learning for kids so I think it’s a pretty good fit. I got good feedback today from my contact, so hopefully by next week we’ll be in touch with Lego directly to do some begging for product and/or money. It sounded like product was probably a done deal, but funding could be a different issue. I’ll be more excited when I have tangible results, but at least it’s a good start and I feel like I’ve accomplished something this week. (small victory #3)

I met with the head of the Journalism School yesterday to hash out a schedule of sorts. I’ll be teaching two classes of journalists and journalism students, one Beginner and one Intermediate. These classes don’t start until the middle of October and it’s looking like classes at the University won’t start until the beginning of November. On one hand it gives me plenty of time to prepare and work on this magazine project (which is going to require a lot of attention in the beginning, but should be less work as things get set up). On the other, classes end at the end of December, so it doesn’t really give me a lot of time to work through much material. I don’t have complete details, as I haven’t had a meeting with the head of the department yet. We are getting together on Monday. If you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of meetings here. I feel like I have a jigsaw in front of me and I need to figure out how to put it all together. I guess one piece at a time and the rest will fall into place.

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