Tuesday, Sept. 17, 1996
Today I started looking for a cheap apartment. It’s quite a task, because there are so many foreigners in town, and they all pay out of their expense accounts, which jacks up the prices. The market here is comparable to New York’s (there’s no rent control, though, so I’ll never find anything like my little nest in Greenwich Village). I’ll be sharing it with a friend who is a little on the spoilt side (but fun to be with), so I have to be careful to set SOME standards and not put him in a fleapit, because he dislikes fleas.
Other questions I have to ask prospective landlords:
- When you say “two rooms,” do you mean two rooms now, or two rooms before the war, during which one was destroyed by mortar?
- Were the bullet holes in the wall fixed?
- Do you have glass panes in the windows or are you still in the U.N.-provided-plastic stage? (This is quite serious–it can get very cold when you only have plastic panes.)
- Do you get natural gas (for heating) on this floor every day?
- When is there running water and for how long? (Apartments with running water in the morning are priceless.)
- Does your telephone line work only in the city or outside too?
I can’t spend too much time apartment hunting because we’re beginning to develop a more complete picture of the elections and write up our report. Coordinator of International Monitors Mr. Ed Van Thijn said yesterday that election day was peaceful ,but added that “peace and silence went together.” He was referring to the limited number of displaced persons who went to the “other” side to vote–10 times fewer than expected.
But the refugees now living in Yugoslavia came in organized tours, in great numbers, to vote in towns they may have never visited in the past and had no intention to settle in. This seems fishy, at best. My friends at the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (I may be constantly criticizing the organization, but I do have friends there) tell me that they cannot do anything about it because it is not the doing of one party, and OSCE has no jurisdiction outside Bosnia.
Well, they may soon have no jurisdiction inside Bosnia either, because Aleksa Buha, the head of the Karadzic’s party, said that the rules for the postponed municipal elections in Republika Srpska will be set by Republika Srpska authorities, and he does not care what OSCE tells him. (By the way, the joke in Sarajevo is that that OSCE stands for “Organization to Secure Clinton’s Election.”) I would not be surprised if the new “legitimized” authorities of Republika Srpska imposed a visa or some sort of “tourist tax” for foreigners, for instance, and started running the place according to their own agenda.
For the election-day report, I was charged with the task of figuring out how many buses drove from Yugoslavia to Republika Srpska, how many people traveled and how many voted, based on the certificates that people had to sign proving that they voted. It is very difficult, because the two countries in the world that one cannot reach on the phone from Sarajevo are rump Yugoslavia and Republika Srpska.
Therefore, I have to drive to Pale, a skiing village just outside Sarajevo on the Republika Srpska side, to make a call to Belgrade and the towns where those buses arrived. Right now we have two cars here, but they both have Bosnian license plates; so I have to wait to exchange one of these cars for a Land Rover with British license plates.