Tirana 5 June 1999
Gary, who came three days ago from Skopje, and who after two days took
over the job as housemaster and cook (and he is great), had organised early
in the morning a meeting with the editor of "Tirana Daily", the only
english newspaper in this country. Gary met him on the bus from Skopje to
Tirana, where he had to go to get a visa for his wife, who is going to
visit their sons in the USA. Like with all Albanians just one of the two can get a
visa. We talked a bit about them doing a piece on the Balkan Sunflowers and about
the help we can give him to distribute the other newspaper he is making, for
Kosovar refugees, which is now freely distributed in all the Italian camps, in
other camps as well. Our talk continued on how Albania was and how it maybe
will become. At the end of the conversation I asked him if he could explain me why the
Lek is getting so powerful, the Dollar and the German Mark are falling
rapidly in this country and in principle that makes no sense, since the
economy is not getting so much better. He confirmed my thoughts that it is a trick. The last week the Lek went skyhigh, on the black market you see tons of Leks changing, see what happens when it starts
Directly after this meeting I went very early to the Humanitarian Aid Trade
Fair in the trade fair of Tirana, in the earlier days this place was a
permanent exhibition of all things which where produced in Albania, but
the last five or six years this building was slowly falling apart. Over the last
week painters had tried to make at least the outside of the building look
a bit better, but still it obviously was past its best days. Anyway this trade fair was
organised by OSCE, GTZ, DFID and UNHCR in order to give local companies
the chance to promote what they have to offer, in order that not all NGO's
import their goods from abroad.
The first local company was Coca-Cola, as far as I know I haven't seen
any refugee camp sponsored by Coca-Cola yet, but maybe it's a good idea that
they support some activities, in any case it's not a local company. Concerning the
rest I also don't believe that wine, luxurious cheese and beds, or any of those
other things that you can also find on any other trade fair are really things which
are used as humanitarian aid in refugee camps. But you never know. Anyway I
ran through the fair in about 15 minutes, it wasn't so big, and nearly
bumped into the prime-minister of Albania, one of his bodyguards was fast enough to push me away, otherwise I would probably have been shot for attacking him (considering how hard the special police goes on criminals here).
Hope that I meet the guy once under other circumstances, I am really
interested to know how a 31 year old can become prime-minister.
After that I had a short telephone call with Vlore, wanted to know how the
first group there is doing, I really would have liked to join them. But as far
as I understood they are doing fine and have started their work succesfully
in two bigger camps. We couldn't exchange much more information since the telephone
line wasn't that good. Good feeling that the project finally started and
that people are on the ground and working. Here we prepare the building for
the next bigger group, of which three youngsters have already arrived and they are
full of fire. It is really hard for them not to go immediately off to start
doing something, luckily enough there are some other aid workers here in the
house who have nice stories to tell.
Ramona went with George today to buy more matresses, so that we are really
ready for the next bigger group. She found out that it isn't that easy as
in Germany to get things together, our life is basically running from one
part of Tirana to another part. I finished my first pair of shoes today.
Using a car is useless in this traffic chaos, you are better off with a
bike, like the people from Ananda Marga, the only problem is that most
people say that they had a good bike, but it was just stolen last month.
So if you have a bike you have to be careful with it, it seems.
After finishing some business in the house, linking up the new computers and
so on, I went with one of the new volunteers to the french organisation
"Premiere Urgence", we had some contacts with them in the last weeks, but
never really came around to finish them. Walking up there I noticed a lot of
special police in the town and people driving around in cars making even
more noise than normal, waving the Albanian flag. For a moment I thought
that Milosovic had finally signed the agreement, but then it was clear that it
was because of the soccermatch Albania-Norway, which is taking place
tonight. The whole area around the football stadium was controlled by the
special police forces, even more on the street than when Hillary Clinton
came to town.
When we came to the street where Premiere Urgence has their house we couldn't find the place of course, nobody had heard of them, and the number was unknown. But after a little searching we found them, then of course the guy we had the appointment with was at the airport and hadn't returned yet.
That's mainly how it works, I got used to it, but if you are new here,
you think that nothing really works. We walked down again, looked at the
american embassy, which is closed, and looked at their information table,
saying that they need guards and that people who'd like to have a visa for
the States have to go to Macedonia (for Kosovars that is nearly
impossible), and continued our way down. There we saw their grey car driving up again, and although we were not sure if the guy we wanted to meet was in, we took the risk and went back.
We were lucky and had our talk. We agreed that we will help them with
socio-cultural activities in the camps they are setting up around Tirana.
Meanwhile he said that they may have some problems helping us with the
funds to do it, since if the peace agreement is signed, that is not good
for the fundraising, I said that I had that same feeling yesterday when I
heard that Milosovic was willing to sign. Strange how sometimes good news
can be bad news, anyway I am sure that Milosovic will find some dots and
commas which had to be changed before he is signing, that thing in the bunker
at Blace will continue some days. Anyway we will hear the bombers for some
more nights going over, by now the sound is becoming familiar, maybe I will
miss it when it is no more there. Although my friends in Serbia will be surely
happy when it is finally over for them. By the way what is over, after it
stopped the thing really starts in a way.
Rumours are that in Kosov@ the Serbian para-military is now having a big
clean-out, they know that they have to leave and are now trying to kill all
the people who are still there, in order not to have any people left which
can come out with facts which can get people a trial in Den Haag. Lets hope that
it's just rumours, but I am not so sure, they are crazy enough to do it. The
killing fields of Kosov@, not really a film I'd like to see.
It's the same story again, the war is over, the aid groups which are
really ready and able to start are not getting the funding any more, since
the public moves on to the next war. I remember how frustrating it was when
after the Dayton agreement the peace organisations in Croatia and Bosnia
had a really hard time. We will see how it goes this time, if the world
really takes this thing seriously and starts to understand that a war lasts
much longer than the time when weapons speak. This morning BJ, who will be in one of
the first IRC teams to go into Kosov@ said that he knows that he will go in
the central area, he had heard that the US troops will be in the East, the
Italians in the west, the French in the north, the German in the middle and
the British in the middle. Nevertheless we will stay in Tirana for a bit,
since the refugees will have to stay also for some time, hope that nobody
By the way Norway had won the football match with 2 to 1, sorry Albania.
PS. In the time that we moved from the first Sunflower house to this new
big one, somebody entered our old house and stole some expensive things there
and money. I am glad that we have now a house where there are
people inside 24 hours a day. That was not a nice thing, but I had to get it off my mind. A
pity is that also our digital camera, which we had as loan from somebody, was
amomg the things which got stolen, just at the moment that we started
to be able to get our things on the net, we finally have strong enough
computers to do it.
PS2. The positive thing is that we are able, although it is slow, to go on the net,
people can send us also long messages now. If you want to send messages to
the office in Tirana send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and if you want to
send to private people staying in this house send them to
email@example.com, to me you can still use firstname.lastname@example.org, but
those should not be bigger than 3KB.
PS3 Next to me some people are sitting reading my diary, they are reading
it on an american computer, which is a bit funny.