O nás Pro dárce Pro dobrovolníky Kosovský deník Fotogalerie Odkazy
Tirana Diary 21 May 1999

Tirana 21 Mai 1999

Albania is still a new country for me, I slowly start to understand a bit how things are functioning here, and what the culture is, but it is still a totally new field for me. Before you can understand a culture you have to put a lot of time into it, just looking at it and watching the small things. F.e. I realised today what it means when I wrote a few days ago that the southern part of this country is basically orthodox katholic. That is mostly greek orthodox since as far as I understood there is no Albanian orthodox church, allthough that would be normal in orthodox countries, but I will figure it out. Anyway swearing in the orthodox church goes with three fingers, I don't know the english names of the fingers, but it is like the peace symbol together with the thumb (hope I spell it right). This symbol is used everywhere within the orthodox churches. And from Serbs is known that the main differences between Serbs, Croats and Muslims is that they have strong connections with the Serbian orthodox church (the Croats with the Catholic church and the Muslim with Islam), so this symbol is also known in Yugoslavia as the symbol of the Serbs. In Croatia and parts of Bosnia you couldn't order three beers that way, since people would react negative on it. This country doesn't have such a direct relationship with Serbs in the last 50 years, the orthodox in this country also use this symbol a lot when they want to proof to you that they are telling the true. This afternoon we were up at the pyramid talking with some people from Kosov@ maybe willing to work with us. They worked with the OCSE mission in Kosov@ before and are now refugees here in Albania. I was there with George, our local helper here, who is orthodox, we talked german since George doesn't speak english (in between I was talking croatian with the Kosovarians, they accepted it as croatian or bosnian, allthough it is almost the same as serbian, one said "don't talk serbian with me, talk croatian ! (so I used the new croatian word for telephone)"). In this talk George used the orthodox symbol, since he wanted to make clear that he was honest in his saying. The kosovarians looked at him and asked him if he was serbian. If you watch television closely and look at the pictures from Beograd you notice that these three fingers became the national serbian symbole. At this moment it became clear to me how many Kosovarians don't know that Albanian can be orthodox as well and how less orthodox Albanians know that this symbole can hurt Kosovarians. Besides that the Albanians in the south speak a dialect what the kosovarians can't understand they also are used to signs when they are talking what the kosovarians see as very aggressive. Although the signs are ment totally different. F.e. that George wanted to symbolise that he means that he is willing to help.
All in all an interesting problem I didn't notice until now. And I am sure that this kind of small misunderstandings are happening a lot. The Albanian and Kosovarian culture are not as close as everybody thinks. Only in the northern part of Albania this cultures are a bit similar, but in the middle and south this is by far not the case.
The main thing today was however to get the money togther to pay our new house here in tirana where the volunteers are going to stay. Some days ago I made an agreement that we could borrow it from that organisation which was robbed the day before yesterday. The people in Belzig, germany got the money together as personal loans, still the fundraising is in action but we lack still the real money to finance the infrastructue, the big organisations want to help us on the project side, but not on the infra structure side. But how to get that money from Germany down here? They transferred it to Western Union, which is supposed to be open 12 hours a day. But like all money institutes they are afraid of robberies and their office is only open 2 hours a day. And of course I missed the opening times, also the neighbours told me to come at least every two hours to be sure. Remarkable if you go into the history of Western Union, opening up the east of America with their telegraphs and knowing they must be having all the experiences with bandites in the past you could think off.
In the evening I was invited to the meeting of the rotary club here in Tirana. I must admit that I have never been to a rotary club meeting before in my life, I never ever was invited, so I was very looking forward to see how they are organised. I visited their small refugee camp in the last weeks sometimes, and every time I pass by some of the kids come up to me and say hallo and invite me to come in. So far I haven't been on a more chaotic meeting here in town as this one. They were discussing at the same time the possibility that the european rotary meeting will take place in Tirana in the year 2003 and how to finance their small refugee camp. Being somehow angry that rotary clubs around the world weren't supporting their efforts, but do their own things here in Albania, without contacting them.
For the rest I didn't find out much about the way the rotary clubs are working. The specialist of psycho-social work, a professor of the Tirana university, who they invited to talk about work with refugees referred to my diaries and the work of SuncoKret in Croatia. He introduced me as the big specialist on this topics, so suddenly I was pushed to tell something on a moment that I was only there to see what they had to tell to us. Which put me in a kind of unpleasant position since we haven't done anything in this country before, I am just here trying to figure out how this country ticks. And so there I was standing, dressed up like a hippy, since the only pants without holes I just put in the washing machine, explaining to this collection of "rich people" what it means to work with refugees. Rather funny.
But the positive thing was that we met up with some people from the Fraternite Notre-Dame from New York, a real catholic organisation telling us that sister Marie Christine, sister Marie France, sister Marie Benedicte and sister Martine really like to work together with us. It somehow was funny in my head I never directly worked together with such an organisation, but they said that they were following my actions for a long time, knew a bit from Croatia and were impressed by it. The priest or bishop from New York I talked to really ment what he was saying I saw in his eyes and I was really impressed, since with my long hair and my clothes which after 2 weeks Tirana must smell like hell are not that convincing, I thought. But they asked to have a meeting with them some where next week so they can find out how they can support the Balkan Sunflowers.
Of course when I walk out of the room at the end I meet the head of mission of Unicef and WFP, who immediatly start laughing saying that the Rodgner Hotel, the most expensive hotel in town, was at least the last place where they were safe and surely know that they wouldn't meet me. So i told them I just met the local rotary club, otherwise I wouldn't ever go in such expensive places (350 Dollars per night). They asked my some days before if I now have a clear picture on what community work means here in this country. Wolf knows (the head on Unicef) that I am trying to translate their UNICEF plans for Child Friendly Spaces within Refugee centers into refugees population outsides of camps and he really is interesting in what I am thinking on this moment. I am always surprised by this types of reactions, they are the professionals, I am just me.
If all those people had the slidest idea what it is to work on grassroot level, if they knew how I wake up in the midlle of the night asking myself how to finance this all, they would react different, I hope. I was glad f.e. that I was able to open a bankaccount in this country, after paying the last bill for the volunteers house I don't even have got the money to leave from this area even if I want to.
I must be honest if not soon something starts to change we have to cancel all our ideas and plans. We get support from all sides, but our finances are not getting any better. Our name gets more and more known, on monday as said I will meet up with a group of people from Kosov@ refugees who like to work with us, but I don't even know how I pay them at this moment. A bit wierd situation, everything is getting into place and good relations are build up, but for the time being we have to run on empty.
By the way just before I wanted to go to bed I watched CCN stating they go for ground troops after all. Wondering what kind of effects that will have on our situation ......

wam :-)