Tirana 29 Mai 1999
On the road to Durres, I went there today to a seminar of the Albanian and Kosovo Youth Councils, that is an official name for a group of very active youngsters in Albanian and youngsters in different refugee camps.
We go with one of those thousand minibuses which are making the roads in Albania unsafe. Getting one is easy, just take the first one of the line and when they are full they start driving, if you go to Durres, somewhere in the line the driver or a helper say something to you, at that moment you pay 100 lek, since he probably asked for money. You can also look at the other people in the bus, when they are paying you making the right move.
Anyway getting on the bus as group wasn't that easy. The half of the group was already in the bus, when two total strangers slipped in with a load and so there was long discussion between the drivers, the members of the group I was with, the two passengers and a dozen or so by-passers, that took about 10 minutes. Than the part of group which was already in the bus went out and we hop on the next one in line. What is was all about don't ask me, I stood there and watched. A part of the group decided not to go to Durres after all, they were not going for the seminar, but to swim, so they left again, at that moment there were only 6 of us and we had to wait till 10 more people hop on. But since the bus in front of us was also not full, that took a while, outside the bus two drivers having a competition who could shout the loudest "Dursi, Dursi".
We drove via the highway, more full than normal since half Tirana seems to go to Durres in the weekend, to escape the heat of the city. I had planned in before hand to count over about 5 km how many of this one-persons bunkers I would see, which Enver Hoxha had order to be build in order to defend the country. When I had more than 300 I stopped counting, must have been within 4 Km. They are literally everywhere in the country, on the most idiotic spots you see them, or the left-overs of them. Since more and more get distroyed or fall apart. Along the "highway" they stand almost every 100 meters in a group of 5 or 6. My translator said the day before, imagine when all that concrete would have been used to build schools and houses, our problems would be a lot less.
Just before Durres the Italian Army is building a new bigger campsite, for about 10.000 refugees. They are nearly finished. Macho Italians are standing guard with the automatic riffle at the gate, with a group of local girls around them. Heavy machines are equalising the field, and in one of the corners of the huge field a few hunderd porto-san toilets are being build up (with 10.000 people, that means around 400 toilets). Some trucks from Medicins du Monde are unloading tents for their tent hospital. In a few days the Italian army will probably start with building up the tents, hopefully for the refugees they would be dark green as in their other camp, since that are becoming real saunas in this sun. And the summer haven't even started yet, soon it will be 40 'C every day.
Since the seminar started two hours later than planned I decided to have a scroll down the boulevar along the coast, Durres is prepairing itself for the summer saison, which is starting next weekend. When the schools and univesities stop for the three summer months since it is basically too hot to be in the buildings (that the summerschool for Kosovarians just start at this moment in those buildings is another story). At each restaurant repair work was done, everywhere people where painting. The boulevar and the beach itself nobody was taken care of, the just dumb their garbage there. I walked passed Belgium, Italian, Dutch, French and German nato soldiers sitting their with their translators (female), passed restaurants full with tough looking guys in training suits with kilos of gold around their necks, on their fingers and whrists (watches), hanging in their chairs, with a coffee and a raki in front of them playing with their carkeys and the package of cigarettes. In front of the restaurant a dozen or so of the newest merzedes and BMW's. Passed by children playing in the water in obvious their underwear, their mothers sitting fully dressed in the hot sun on carton from UNHCR, WFP, CRS boxes to protect their clothes from the dirt of the sand. Obvious refugees from Kosov@, who of course forgot to pack their swimmingsuits when the had to run for their lives, and those things are not particular humanitarian aid. By the way most of this people from Kosov@ are seeing the adriatic for the first time in their lives, for sure this coast. Walking passed shooting booths, with air-rifles, where you could aim on the face of milosovic, which seems to be rather popular these days here. I walked by loads of empty restaurants, passed cottages where gypsies are living, made by the waste they find on the street. And finally reach a new part of the beach, with fancy closed restaurants and an almost empty beach. The boulevar has been disappeared here completely, only holes and the "would-be" hotels are not more than raw-build constructions. They start to build them in the pyramid-schems days and they haven't been finished since the collapse of 1996/7.
I finally found a restaurant which was open, and ask for a coffee. I just wanted to take my first sip and hell broke loose behind the building. A sound which made clear that at least 10 or more automatic riffles went off at the same time. I took a short look around the building, to see what was happening and saw an UCK flag between the building. Obvious a place where the new UCK volunteers who arrived with the boat in Durres (probably this morning) can have their first experiences with shooting. I nearly burned my mounth finishing my coffee, this was not really the place I wanted to be. I returned to the restuarants nearer to the town and sat down next to the port to have my daily lunch of mixed salat. The restaurant next door was preparing for a wedding party, I saw the couple taking pictures outside on the beach. (by the way I am writing this now on the balcony of our house in Tirana, hearing suddenly the sound of an automatic riffle about 500 meters or bit more away, wondering what happens there). Two guys were practicing on their electronic keyboards and mixed Micheal Jackson (now I am hearing police sirenes in Tirana, going in the direction of the shooting) "Make this a better world" with turkish music, a really funny combination came out, not bad. But wierd, especially in this place if you just looking around and see this place.
The adriatic is black instead of bleu when it breaks on the beach. The beach full of empty plastic bottles and other waste, the rest as describe above, yes, let's make it a better place, I don't think that the two keyboard player, with their cigarettes in the mounth corner and sunglases on their forhead, really know the text of this song.
I arrived just in time at the seminar, people from all over the country, Albanians and Kosovarians where there, reporting about what they do and how they prepare the children day on the 1th of June. One of the activities is messages collected from all schols in Albania by the Albanian Youth Council (AYC), which will be put on the website of UNICEF, so you should look at it on that day or rather a bit later. you know now where they come from. This AYC people are rather active, so I find the right partner here in Albania and I am looking forwards to the first project together, which will start this week in Flora.
The girl which is translating for me asked me suddenly if I believe in god, a strange qeustion, she explained that she is Jahova witnness since a year and that she like to talk with me about those things. No problem, so we end up in a private discussion about if the world will be distroyed by god soon. She explain me that if I would look around carefully I can see all the signs, this world can`t exist much longer, god will stop it. I explain here that my vision is different, that I believe that human don't have to wait for god, but can create a better life themselves. She goes on, but then the story went in another direction, I hear for her that her husband is in jail in Germany for drugs selling and that she didn't know about that. Than she met the people from the Jahova witnesses, who helped her a lot, which I believe, since I know they do.
This last story I give just as an example of the people I am meeting, how many people in this country are a the search for something to believe in since if you are living here I can believe that you believe that the end of the world would start the next second. There is simply hardly anything else to believe in. It is like so many places I have seen in the last years, a total break down of everything you hoped for. Believe it or not, I am starting to love this country, things like this make it clear to me how important it is that more internationals are coming here, not to advocate their religion, but to bring some reality back to this country.
Therefor I am so happy that different believes, different "tribes", different people can work together and going back to Micheal Jakson "lets make this a better place........
ps. airtraffic over Tirana is heavy the last two nights, I wonder what is happening up there.
"One little item - the sales of sunflower seeds have skyrocketed. They call it Macedonian Sedative. The city is filled with people on the edge, nervously nibbling to pass the time, especially smokers unable to get their daily dose."
from sisters undersiege in macedonia