New parenting; new photos

I was playing ball with Cooper, and I threw the ball against the wall of the house so it would bounce off and he would chase it – this seems to be the way he likes to do it, since he’s not much of a ball-chaser otherwise. The ball ricochet’d off and hit him right in the eye at close range, and he yelped. I saw that his eyelid was clearly not where it should be and I panicked, immediately canceling my afternoon plans so I could rush him down to the vet. However, after a few minutes, he’d rubbed his eye with his paw and calmed down, and 15 minutes later you wouldn’t think anything had happened to him. He’s now sedately chewing on a dried cow’s ear and I’m blogging about my over-reaction. Granted, Cooper’s had his share of dog bites and tick removals lately, so I’m sensitive to possible injuries, and I want to watch for any swelling; but this episode just proves that I’d be absolutely hopeless with a baby.

Updated 1 April: New photos by Abby.

Rain, rain, rain

It has been raining almost non-stop for a week: drizzle, downpour, sheets of rain. Yesterday was a rare 20 hours of sun and warmth, but by 3 AM this morning it was coming down in fierce quantities. The river is nearly running over its banks now and has already overrun them once, the high water mark denoted with neat lines of empty bottles and plastic bags along the banks.

Not much else new to report: we’re going to Bratislava in two weeks, Ifor a one-day UNDP training and Abby for touring. Two weeks after that, we’re returning to Amsterdam to see Fred before he returns to the states. With the weather being as it’s been, it’ll be nice to get out of here for a while.

Explosions in Tirana

Read the news story here, here, here … amazingly, I didn’t hear the explosions, but I was playing music with some fellow Embassy community people – the musicians amongst us have put a band together to play at a farewell party later this spring – and we must have drowned out the noise.

More about this later.

Food for thought …

… as I ponder Corporate Social Responsibility. It’s old news, but I doubt things have changed much in a year.

Also, last week, Cooper and I were surrounded by some territorial, vicious street dogs as we left the park and were attempting a shortcut through their turf. I began shouting and growling at them – this usually scares off the unfriendly dogs in the park – but one of them bit Cooper before they backed off enough for us to get away. We think he’ll have a scar on his leg, but otherwise he’s all right.

I also read that the price of electricity is going to go up as high as 70% for homes and businesses using 300 KwH or more per month. Bakeries are exempt, since people are already up in arms over the recent increases in bread prices, and supposedly so are low-income households because (again, supposedly) they don’t use 300 KwH each month. On the other hand, the electric company loses about one-third of its output each month because customers either steal their electricity or don’t pay for what they use.

One way or another, everyone gets a bite taken out of them.

More work

I’m two weeks into it now. We recently received UN HQ and local country office approval to participate in an outreach project that will educate consumers on the benefits of drinking UHT milk – the type of milk that you can store on (unrefrigerated) shelves for months without it going bad. Particularly in smaller towns and villages, people drink unprocessed milk straight from the farm. You see it in Tirana too, sometimes – guys standing on the sidewalk selling milk that has been packaged in reused soda bottles. Our role will be to do outreach to farmers, to explain to them how the market (and the law) is moving toward processed milk, and how they need to move with it or eventually lose customers, or worse.* We don’t have to become dairy farm experts, of course; we will find consultants to address the technical issues.

The challenge is that the majority of Albania’s dairy farms are 1-2 cow family farms located in the countryside. While the farmers could get together to pool their milk in cooling centers, experience shows that they refuse to participate in anything that smacks of collectivization. Moreover, in the absence of food regulation, there are incentives to not play by the rules and to adulterate their milk in some manner instead. This will be a challenging project, to say the least, but possibly a great deal of fun.

We’re also exploring the possibility of reintroducing cotton cultivation to the south on behalf of another client. Albania grew cotton until the fall of Communism, when it’s economic non-viability became obvious and, as a further complicating factor, mobs destroyed the processing factories. World prices are low, thanks in large part to U.S. subsidies, but the market for organic cotton holds some promise, so we’re seeing what we might be able to cobble together for a pilot project.

So that’s what I do. The dog doesn’t like being left alone all day, but it’s good to be wearing a suit again.

*This assumes, of course, that anyone actually enforces the law, which was designed to bring Albanian food production into line with European Union standards.