A review on my visit to SFK12 in Kosovo


As some of you may or may not know this year I was in Kosovo to attend the Software Freedom Kosova conference organized by the nice folks at FLOSSK. Summarizing it up a lot, really nice conference where you get a chance to see why Kosovar people have managed to recover so fast from such a cruel war and destroy a few false myths about the place in the way.

But as always I suppose you’d be more interested in knowing what happened so…

When organizing the trip I had to come to Kosovo via Belgrade. On the bus from the airport to Belgrade I met a sympathetic Serbian music, who had played in the Palau de les Art in my hometown, Valencia, and who helped me get the bus ticket from Belgrade to Pristina (since the ticket sellers didn’t speak any english).

Once on the bus, the trip to Kosovo wasn’t a big trouble except for the Serbian Police making a really big control, where we wasted a lot of time, when the bus was leaving the country, all in all I finally got to Kosovo really tired at around 5 or 6 in the morning, way later than the time at which I expected getting there, By then the Taxi I was supposed to take had left so I had to ask my contact for the place where I was supposed to go which he happily provided. The problem was that there were at least two places in Pristina with said name and I ended on the incorrect one, thus I asked again and got a second taxi which brought me to the correct one where Heroid picked me up.

That night I slept with Heroid and Peter at a room in Arianit’s house, Heroid kept insisting that was one of the worst places in the city but I have to recognize it wasn’t that bad, just a small appartment with a few rooms on the eight floor of a block without elevator (well with a non working one). As a funny fact I have to recognise that given Peter’s age I thought he was Heroid’s father that night 😛

Later in the morning we woke up and got to have some nice kebab for lunch, on the way to the place I saw the grey concrete buildings on the area around the place where I slept and I have to recognize that it sounded somehow familiar and reminded me of some 80s 90s built area of a Spanish city which couldn’t come to mind.

After having one of the best kebabs I have ever had (well, Peter had mantija, a local pastry) we went to the FLOSSK offices were we met the rest of the Flosskies, there Mike explained me they had some reports of attacks being run against their webserver by somebody so with a little of patience I started to review weblogs to see what could be causing them. Funny as it may be, they had set up a proxy webserver which dropped the original ip from the logs U_U but with a little bit of patience I managed to get a small script which showed which were the most active IPs during the attacks.

Later we went to the Innovations Lab Kosovo where a few workshops for people which started into computers were held, I have to recognise I was fairly surprised by the amount of people, and specially, young people who were there. Amongst others I found a nice kosovian Runescape skiller who asked me (since I also do play that game) whether it was or not possible to play runescape on Linux since he couldn’t play in the lab computers o which I showed him that it was indeed possible.

After the workshop we went with mike to a local shop were they boguht a few local sausages for diner which we cooked in the small kitchen at FLOSSK office. I have to recognize it was one of the best dinners I have ever had. Finally after having some nice Peja beer we went to the Hostel (aka Professor’s house). The place is run by a nice man called the Professor, after his Professor rank in Electronics at a university in Pristina before he retired, who was really sympathetic and provided me with my room key after doing the usual paperwork. To my surprise I have to recognise the room was really confortable and had a really cool homestyled atmosphere.

The next morning we went back to the Innovation Labs ti attend to the workshops there, since I was starting to get hungry I went along with a local, Heroid and another participant (which I can’t recall) to a local bakery where we bought some food for us and some food for the rest including a lot of Mantijas. When we came back I attended Erik’s “Free your Android” workshop so I came back with a nice CyanogenMod in my phone. From there we went out to have some dinner, to the same kebab place where we went the other day, and beers and back to the hotel.

The next day I woke up late so instead of trying to get to the university by taxi I tried to get by foot to know a little about the city. During this walk I discovered that Pristina isn’t that much different from Spanish villages since there were children playing around and very little traffic. I also leard that “Tenisti Skola” doesn’t means “Technical School” and with the help of a child there who spoke english I managed to get to the conference whilst the spoke to me about which were his affictions and that he was planning to go to the cinema to see The Godfather. Following the Spanish tradition once on the place I offered the boy a “small”, according to spanish standards, tip of 1€ but to my surprise he refused it. Anyway I was then on the conference and it was time to start streaming it.

Once there I managed to get some food and the webcam to start streaming the conference, an issue appeared since the router in the room wasn’t prepared to give out that many addresses in a single day (and had looooooog leasing periods) I overcame the limitation by choosing an unused static ip address and some open DNS servers. With that done I started streaming the conference and, although the quelity wasn’t very great the thing worked out and I got a chance to meet some nice people meanwhile.

After the conference we went out for dinner to a pizzeria and had some beers and from there I went to bed on a new room at the Professor’s house (so yes, the homestyled atmosphere seems to be in at least two of them).

The next and final day of my stay I woke up early and picked a taxi to get to the conference, although a bit late given the timing issues, I gave my talk which was simplified and repeated by Mike (yes, Kosovar people have already some difficulties speaking english so add to it my strong Spanish accent and speaking of programming related topics to get a nice explosive mix) and when we were done we picked up the conference stuff. From there the Flosskies and conference goers went to have dinner but I had to pick a bus to get back to Belgrade and from there fly back to Göteborg. I was given a bottle of Peja beer for the trip home and was accompanied to the station by Jeton in a cool bug taxi (which still costed little), and he helped me get the bus ticket. I had some dinner from a stand in the station whilst Jeton had a coffee. And from there I picked the bus back to Belgrade. On my way to Belgrade I had, again, issues on the Serbian side of the border, there the police got me and two girls, which I think where tourists, out of the bus and started asking. In my case since all I had was my backpack I got out easy after answering that all I had there was clothing and my electronic stuff chargers and showing them, the two tourists had to completely undo their bagagge.

Once on Belgrade I ended my Peja beer and had a walk around, I sent a postcard to a friend of mine in Spain and saw a little bit of the city. To my surprise I saw a person demostrating against some injustices made to her by corrupt people on the outskirts of a government building (funny, because we have those in Spain too, saddly) and after that I just picked the bus to the airport and went back to Göteborg.

Some conclussions I drew from this trip:

  • The guys behind SFK12 are really cool, specially if you have also had to organize a conference and know how hard it is.
  • In general both the Serbian and the Kosovar people have more in common than they think, and things between them would probably get better if they kept that in mind.
  • Both Kosovar and Serbian people have a lot of premade ideas about each other which won’t help solve their conflict until they get rid of them.
  • There seems to be some kind of boicot ongoing towards Kosovo from Serbian authorities.
  • My government, the spanish one, is stupid by relating the Kosovar independence to the local independentist movements, the aggresion made historically towards the Kosovar people by Serbian authorities is not even comparable to the one we had in Spain towards vasque or catalan people even in the darkest days of Franco’s regime.
  • Both Serbia and Kosovo are quite cheap countries (even more than Spain) but Kosovo is cheaper since you don’t have to convert your money. I’ll expect tourism from Europe getting stronger there and hope they won’t make the same mistakes as we did.

Little more to say except that it was a nice trip with nice people and that it was a pleasure sharing my knowledge with the Kosovar people. They have a nice country and despite a few cheaters, like in all mediterranean countries, they also have a lot of people who wants to improve their condition and fight everyday to move their country forward, and the SFK12 is a clear example of their efforts in catching up with the rest.

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