Some of the FS blogs I follow are doing the top 5 pros and cons of their current posts to help out future bidders who are researching where to go next. So here are my top 5 about Kosovo.
1. The people. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt more welcomed anywhere in the world than here in Kosovo. Almost everyone we encounter is kind and welcoming, and many of them express gratitude for everything that America has done to help Kosovo with its independence and economic progress. In Pristina, there is a statute of Bill Clinton and a store named Hillary. There are so many places in this world where our help is not appreciated, and where people might have reservations about being identified as Americans, but not here. The 4th of July celebration was really incredible to see – surely it’s not the norm for other countries to celebrate our Independence Day, but they do here!
2. It’s affordable. I was talking to my mom the other day and telling her how we eat a lot of eggs, because they’re easy and cheap and Abby likes them. She asked me how much a dozen eggs cost. I realized I had absolutely no idea, I just assumed they were inexpensive because most things are here. I usually spend about 30-45 euro ($33-50) a week at the grocery store. I did check last week and a carton of eggs was .87 euro (I think, things are not always labeled clearly, and there is also that language barrier). A loaf of delicious bread from the bakery is .30 euro. At our favorite restaurant, we usually both order steak, have one or two glasses of wine, and spend around 35 euro. You can save a lot of money living in Kosovo, but you have to watch out for…
3. Travel opportunities. Kosovo is located within driving distance of some amazing places – Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, and Romania, just to name a few. If you have the time, you can drive further to visit Slovenia, Hungary, or Austria, or take a ferry to Italy. We could spend another two years here and still not see everything this region has to offer.
4. Embassy community. This has changed considerably over the last several years. At first, Kosovo was an unaccompanied tour, and then it changed to allow spouses to join, and then children under 5 could come as well. I think it’s only been in the last few years that they made it a full accompanied post, allowing school-aged children to live here as well. Our Embassy is working hard to catch up with the changing family environment. The CLO office is always scheduling a restaurant night out, day trips, and regional trips. You make friends really quickly in this life, and this post was no exception.
5. Walking to work. We think it’s awesome that we can walk to work in 5 minutes and walk downtown for dinner in 15 minutes. We rarely drive our car except to get groceries at Viva Fresh (on the other side of town) or if we’re headed away for the weekend. This also allows for couples commute, which is a real highlight for JR. 🙂
1. Winter/Air pollution. Winters can be long and tough in Kosovo. I’m from Ohio, so I’m no stranger to frigid temperatures and snow, but the winter can really wear you down here. One of the biggest problems is that people burn coal in their homes for heat, which produces an awful smell and pollutes the air. It soaks into your hair and clothes the minute you step outside and lingers with you all day. It’s unpleasant to breathe, and we kept Abby inside for most of the winter to limit her exposure to it.
2. Litter. There is SO.MUCH.TRASH here. Everywhere you look. Areas that should be clean and beautiful, green spaces, rivers, all of it is often ruined by trash strewn all around. It’s disheartening to see such a beautiful country plagued by this problem.
3. Stray animals. It’s a running joke (admittedly a sad one) that when people leave Kosovo they don’t take a traditional souvenir, they take a new pet. Or 2 or 3. There are an abundance of stray cats and dogs all over Pristina, and most of the country. It is sad to see, and most people cannot resist and end up adopting at least one pet during their tour. The few shelters that exist are overcrowded and lack funding, but there are so many other pressing issues for the country to resolve that I doubt this problem will be resolved anytime soon.
4. Lack of personal space. I like a little elbow room when I’m checking out at the store, or waiting in line for something, but that’s hard to come by here. People often get in your personal space and stand just a little bit too close.
I thought this was funny regardless of the grammatical error.
5. Groundhog’s Day. It can feel like every day is the same here. JR and I often pass the same people, at the exact same spot, walking to work each morning. We almost always eat lunch at the small restaurant on the compound, and there’s a rotation of about 3-5 things we eat, while sitting with the same people (hi Lori!) every day. I think the lack of variety and choices can wear on you – and this is coming from a person who would eat macaroni and cheese and peanut butter all day, every day and be happy as a clam. I share some of the blame here since we’ve become set in our routine, especially since the baby came. Small changes are happening though, like new restaurants are opening or Sabaja, the craft brewery that many folks enjoy. So it’s a minor con, but it makes the list.