Belgrade, Dec. 17, 2003

sorryserbia.com

I am not a spy!

Some weeks ago I was at a UEFA Cup game between Rosenborg, the team from my hometown Trondheim, and Red Star Belgrade. The Red Star supporters have a violent reputation in Europe, and my job was to cover riots from the supporters. But everything was calm, although not quiet. In fact, Red Star has one of the best supporters in Europe. Rosenborg won the game 1-0.
Some weeks ago I was at a UEFA Cup game between Rosenborg, the team from my hometown Trondheim, and Red Star Belgrade. The Red Star supporters have a violent reputation in Europe, and my job was to cover riots from the supporters. But everything was calm, although not quiet. In fact, Red Star has one of the best supporters in Europe. Rosenborg won the game 1-0.

On Friday, I will return to Norway, and it seems like my time as a journalist in the former Yugoslavia is over for now. There are many reasons for me going back to Norway, but the most important is that I want to be better able to take care of my father who is very ill after a series of brain strokes. In addition, life as a freelance journalist has become increasingly difficult when the focus of the news has been shifted to the Middle East.

However, since I came to Kosovo for the first time in January 2000, I have had a lot of colorful and interesting experiences. You should know that people in the Balkans have a passion for conspiracy theories, and the Serbs are maybe the worse, closely followed by the Albanians.

Many Serbs are convinced that I'm a spy. Maybe the most important reason for that is that I have been serving as an army officer in the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force in Kosovo. I had a very exposed position being responsible for the official KFOR website, and of course Serbs knew very well who I was before I came to Belgrade for the first time in December 2000.

Well, I was not really an officer, but the Norwegian army gave me the rank of major and a pistol with 17 friends in the magazine. I would never have given me a pistol, but that's what they did. For many Serbs it is suspicious that I became a freelance journalist right after I finished my duty as an officer. In fact, even some of the evangelical pastors here are convinced that I'm a spy.

Another reason for the spy accusations could be that I have visited Albanian strongholds in the conflicts in Southern Serbia, Macedonia and Kosovo. That is not very popular among Serbs.

Many times I've had to say: "Ja nisam špion. Ja nisam amerikanac. Ja sam novinar," which means, "I am not a spy. I am not an American. I am a journalist!" However, I have to admit that it has been good to be American when it has suited me.

In fact, I have been working a lot with American editors since I graduated from college in Minnesota in 1997, and I have to say that I enjoy working with them. They are very demanding, but when they follow you up very closely and work with you to improve your writing.

 In one week in September 2003, I was exposed to more meat than I have ever seen in my life. The winner of the most prizes above will be the overall winner. In a world dominated by men, this years overall champion was Bojana Mirkovic, a woman with 20 years of experience from the barbecue trade. Mirkovic is confident in her own abilities.
In one week in September 2003, I was exposed to more meat than I have ever seen in my life. The winner of the most prizes above will be the overall winner. In a world dominated by men, this years overall champion was Bojana Mirkovic, a woman with 20 years of experience from the barbecue trade. Mirkovic is confident in her own abilities.

One of the most interesting experiences for me was to go to the biggest barbecue festival in the Balkans, in the city of Leskovac, the meat capital of Serbia. I wrote a column about a skinny Norwegian journalist lost in clouds of barbecue smoke for the American Fiery Foods BBQ Magazine.

My time in Serbia has taught me the importance of friendships, friends who have been there for you whenever you have needed them, and of course I have been there for them as well. My Serbian friends are friends for life.

Even if I will maybe not return to Serbia as a journalist, I know that my time in this country is not over. I hope to be able to help this country to a better future. At the moment, there is a lot of despair after a decade of isolation, sanctions and nationalism. How I am going to help, I am not sure about, but a piece of Serbia will be in my heart wherever I am.

Vidimo se, see you again!

--
Kristian Kahrs, foreign journalist
Norwegian mobile: +47 93 00 25 22
Serbian mobile: +381 638 504 383
http://home.no.net/kkahrs

PS: If you go to my homepage, you will see a page with many photo albums. Here you will see pictures of my first crush in first grade, college life in Minnesota and of course more recent pictures from the news I have been covering.


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