Tirana 26 Mai 1999
One of the activities the Albanian Youth Council was undertaking before
this crisis started were information actions about aids and drugs. So that
was the reason why I was in a nice new minibus today, with on the outside
the famous slogan "stop sida (Aids)" with the condom in the middle. We
drove via the mountain road to Durres, which is much nicer than the
"highway". Lot's of foreign aid NGOs have found that out as well. And it was
kind of funny to drive in this "stop aids" van between the red cross,
salvation army aid, unhcr, unicef, crs, workers aids, norwegian people aid,
and what ever van and landrovers, between the dutch, italian, france, uk,
belgian, usa and german army vehicles, from Afor, Sfor, NATO, OSCE, etc..
(Stop AIDs suddenly had another meaning for me).
The country side is nice, although it is a chaos, everywhere people are
building or half finished buildings are standing (in which refugees have
found cover). And the albanian drivers are the most creative drivers in the
world I think, in some way I am glad that the roads are that bad, since
other way the traffic accidents would be much more harmfull. On the way to
Durres we figured out that if the Albanian police would really function and
give penalties to every car which is not respecting the traffic rules it
would not only be able to pay there policemen properly, but surely could
rebuild the roads. I have a respect for these drivers how they can manage
cars are able to come from every side at the same time and you have to
watch the road not to distroy your car in one of the many big holes.
In Durres we headed for a seminar organised by the Albanian Youth Council
for people being active outside the bigger cities, the rural area. It was a
joint seminar for Albanian and Kosov@ youth council members. We went to a
big hotel, surprisingly empty, in Croatia during the refugee crisis all
hotels were taken for refugees. The seminar room was poorly equiped, the
blackboard was hardly useable, the black paint hasn't been renewed in at
least 30 years or so and for the rest hardly any of the chairs or tables was
somehow standing stable, with paper and stones under the poles they didn't
wobble all the time.
Denix, the specialist of the youth council for aids and anti-drug action
explained in the seminar what "round-tables" are and how you could organise
round-table meetings in small cities in order to tackle problems like how
to go against f.e. the drug abuse (drug use is going sky high at this
moment). You notice how the Albanian structures work. People were asking
questions like, if everybody tells about their ideas, other organisations
could steal your idea easily and get the profit for it. It is this feeling
everybody has to survive for themselves. I don't know how to make that
clear. But during this discussion I started to understand that local NGO's
are like money generating machines. If you run them you are able to generate
a good income for yourself. A big set of controlling structures was been
described how to control that international moeny giving to a local NGO
was not disappairing in the pockets of private people.
One of the other speakers at this seminar was the mayor of Rrushbull, a
small 18.000 inhabitants big town next to Durres. Since I was here they
also let me have a speech. And I had to answer questions like how much
volunteers are earning, and so. Since they have heard that some volunteers
earn a lot of money. So I tried to explain the word volunteer, but since in
Albanian languages they more or less adopt the word volunteer not in the
way as working voluntary, but in the way as working for a NGO this was hard
to do. Anyway the mayor explained that in his towns now 13.000 refugees are
living and that he has to deal daily with foreign NGO's and that that is
not always easy, since they promise something, start something, find
out that money is some how lost and run off, without finishing their
projects. He explained how they set up a structure of control in his town
how to proof to foreign NGO's that the money they donate is used in the right
way. During his speech some workers were busy outside, repairing something,
but having their radio turned on so load that I was more able to listen
to "Wind of Change" from the Scorpions than what my translator was
translating in my ear.
I was a bit surprised by the way meetings and seminar were held here,
allthough a speaker was busy explaining something, the 30 or so
participants where having their own discussions, and people were running in
and out of the room or were taking photos all the time. Rather distrubing.
I already noticed that yesterday with the preparation meeting of people
going to work in Mullet, but today it became more clear to me that this is
Than we had a lunch break, and during the conversation, which went about
flower power, jim morrison, bob dylan, yoga, beatles and all that it became
clear that this country has been in such an isolation in the last 40 years
that people really don't know what has happened in the rest of the world.
They simply have to explain each other what the beatles were, where they
came from, or how the rest of the world was ticking in those days. They
look upon the world from Albania being the center of what they know.
We had discussions about Freund and psycho-analyses, about free-love and
the beat generation. About vegetarian food and books like lord of the
rings and 1984. By the way to be honest this discussion was not started by
me. It started with questions towards me about those things. They asked me
of all kind of religious organisations, like the mormoms, like salvation
army, like jahova wittnesses, like the araising church, the children of the
holy mother, or what ever. Explaining me about them and asking if they were
really so big movements around the world as they have understood from the
thousands of different missionaries from all those groups who are going
around this country. Most where so small that I have to ask them what they
are, not knowing them, and honestly I have been doing my best over the
last 25 years or so to get a kind of idea what kind of religions are
existing in this world. Since I wanted to be a priest in my younger days I
have been interested in those things.
>From this seminar we drove to the youth center of Durres, the first thing
they told me was that the nuns of the "Fratenite Notre-Dame" had waited for
me for half an hour, but were just gone. This catholic group phoned me
yesterday to talk to me, and I told that I would be in Durres in the youth
center. To be honest I didn't know about that seminar. I just wanted to go
to Durres to get it organised that Balkan Sunflower volunteers could get
information at their youth center how to come to Tirana and if we could
also work together with them. Since in Durres the local centre is doing a
lot. The woman in the center had almost tears in her eyes when I said that
we like to work together, but she had to ask her italian sponser
organisation first. I have to tell over and over again by the way that I am
called wam and not mister wam, or doctor kat, or what ever but just wam.
And that they should be so polite towards me, I am just a dreamer walking
On the way back to Tirana we made a short stop at the refugee camp which I
described last week, it was gone now, the rain last week finally did it,
the last refugees escaped from that camp and the organisation had to stop it.
I am happy since this was beyoned all levels what you could offer towards
people. During the rest of the drive I discussed a lot with my translator,
a young student in english litrature, who was an officer in Albanian army
before about warfare. He tried to explain strategies of warfare, and that
he can't understand that NATO spend so much money on an airwar. If that
money would have been given three years ago to these countries he said there
wouldn't be any war. I told him that I have been saying that for years now..
But that nobody really like to listen to it.
People here hope so deeply that the rest of the world will help them to get
out of this mass they are in. They like to be part of europe. The town
council of Tirana tries to get rid of the ten of thousands illegally build
kiosks, houses and restaurants, but that is like we say in the netherlands
trying to get dry with the water coming in at a higher speed. I mean people
are building 3 floor houses, making their own telephone and electricity
connection, dig the canalisation, lay pipes themselfs on places which nobody
really knows to who it belongs. This contradictions of ultra rich and poor
it is hard to understand. And the idea people have from the west, where they
never have been, is driving me angry some times, in the sense that they
think that the west is holy and everybody is driving mercedes. I bet there
are more mercedes cars in Albania than in germany.
By the way the prime minister of my homecountry, netherlands, was visiting
Albania today, we seem to be a lot less important as the UK, since I
haven't seen any dutch flags on the streets or any indication what so ever..
I hope that Rudi Lubbers had a nice visit.
Yesterday we found out that the word pragmatic is not excisting in Albanian
language, think about that one.......
ps sorry for all those spelling mistake yesterday, it was very late.