Miguel and I were back in Kosovo for the second consecutive summer, Miguel’s third, and it was just as we left it: developing, youthful, energetic, and exciting. Kosovo is an an independent sovereign that has been recognized by a little more than half of the world’s nations as being independent from Serbia. The feeling of being back was very familiar and was sort of an uncertain excitement, because you never know for sure what your going to get from Kosovo. That was the approach I would be taking as we prepared for the implementation of research for a thesis project I am doing for my Environmental Science Masters degree. You have to be able to adapt to the strange situations that might occur when working in Kosovo. We would be conducting household interviews and taking lead dust samples in a neighborhood called 2-Koriku in the city of Mitrovica that is considered at high risk of dangerous lead exposure. Dangerous levels of lead in blood, now considered to be at 10 micrograms per deciliter, can have a wide range of significant impacts, especially in children, most commonly affecting neurological development. The aim of the project is to assess the community’s knowledge of the risk and what they are doing to minimize the risk within their households, and to identify the most significant pathways for exposure. Ultimately, this will be much more then a thesis project, but a starting point for a much larger project that will include a larger portion of the city and will be undertaken by future AUK and RIT students.
The project is headed by Dr. James Myers, the newly appointed Associate Provost for International Education at RIT. He joined Miguel and me the morning after we landed in Pristina and we had breakfast and explained the project to the three lovely members of AUK that would be helping us, Renea, Fiona, and Albina; two students and a staff member. They would be the ones conducting the interviews in Albanian to the heads of the household. Each one of them would go with Miguel, Jim, and I and while they were conducting interviews we would take the dust samples on the floor and window sill closest to the kitchen. The results from these samples will tell us more about the effectiveness of their cleaning methods. Tentatively, we would get to a minimum of 50 households in about three to four days, but as I said before you must be ready to adapt in Kosovo.
Our first day in Mitrovica, we were to meet with Lee Norrgard, the county director for Mercy Corps, the 2-Korriku community leader, Bashkim, and a Deputy Mayor of Mitrovica. On our way in we stopped at the closed Industrial Park, a highly lead contaminated area that was once employer of many residents of Mitrovica. The river surrounding the Industrial park was extremely murky and had an ominous feel to it. A young boy claiming to be the owner of the Industrial Park asked us our business there and we told him. He responded telling us he would like to open a car wash. After a few more minutes admiring the great abandoned area that is one of the main potential pathways for lead exposure to 2-Korriku, we moved on to the center of the city and had some coffee. We then met with Lee, Bashkim, and the deputy mayor and discussed our plans and collaborative goals.The deputy mayor described what he knew about the issue, what they had done to solve it, and what there is still left to do, along with an explanation of financial limitations. Dr. Myers described where we wanted to samples and what our goals for this phase of the project were, and talked about what he would like to see happening in the future in regards to expanding the project. Overall, both sides were very helpful and happy to be working with each other, and the short-term plan of the 50 household sampling was set in place.
This blog is getting a bit long so I’ll cut it off here but Part 2 will be soon to come!