Tirana 31 Mai 1999
First there were 2 Balkan Sunflowers in Tirana, than for a long time only
one, than suddenly two again, than the next day 4, than the next day 7, and
than..... This will now continue a bit on that rate, almost every day we
collect somewhere on the street new Balkan Sunflowers looking for our
house. It is getting a real flower garten here, people arrived again from
the USA and Spain today. Tomorrow or a day later Urugay will arrive,
Germans and than more and more. This is a beautifull mixture which is
coming, not only from nationalities, but also from religions and otherwise.
We had a small welcome party today in the house, some old Pakrac volunteers
came, and people from the Albanian Youth Council. Ofcourse it didn't lasted
long, since Tirana is not a town with a great outdoor nightlive. There are
discos but I wouldn't advice people yet to go their at night. Allthough the
last 3 weeks I get the feeling that some order is coming in the place, it
can be that I am getting so adopted to the situation that it get more
normal for me the longer I have been here. At least the traffic at the
trafficlights get somehow into western standards, when the traffic lights
are working and not breaking down, because of the enourmous amount of
illegal powerstealings. Every kiosk, every restaurant, every coffee bar
which is build illegal has organised somehow their own connection to the
powerlines, and when all those expresso machine go of the system, inclusive
the trafficlight (there are not that many in Tirana) break down.
This morning we forgot to pump the water up, so we runned out of water
fast, the arriving people are not really just that you can't take 5 showers
a day. That maybe good to stay clean, but is not really possible when we
don't fill up our tank. But we learn every day, by the time that we have a
full flower garden here everything will be in place. Now it is quiet in the
house, all the volunteers are out to eat something, it is nice to have some
rest. All this people want to know within 5 minutes that what I have been
finding out in 3 weeks. Luckly for me a lot have been reading this diary.
That makes it easier.
Yesterday evening the first three volunteers here got as extra suprise a
visit from our neighbour, a women working for another big NGO who is
basically doing water and sanitation. She was really in a bad state, "this
is a total chaos" she kept on saying, "nobody has an overview here, totally
under-experiences NGO are doing things they are not able to, taking over
the responsibility over thousands of people, without even been able to look
after themselves." "I have seen NGO's coming here building up a refugee
camp, running out of money and just left the people without taking care
that anybody takes over." This went on for about half an hour. But she got
a point in some way. Indeed the coordination between the NGO's is almost
not excisting. "The worst things are this groups who are coming with one or
two small trucks and drop their food or other things just as the first camp
they find, not reporting anything back to UNHCR or WFP or anybody." "How
you get any type of coordination on the way when those groups are not
willing to understand that they are just added more chaos to this place".
Today the first small group of volunteers visit some of the smaller
refugees centers within the city and they were rather surprised on
television they only have seen pictures from the bigger camps here up in
Kukes and didn't realise that these refugees are almost everywhere.
Razandra our staff member from Pristina was overrunned with qeustions.
Especially on the moment that people started to find out that she was
really from Kosov@ and that she maybe went out in time, but that her whole
family went through the whole system of being driven out, being in
prisoncamps, being at Blace, etc. Poor her, I though in the beginning, but
I saw after the while that she really wanted to talk about all this things,
and about her situation of being here. What see experienced as being an
Albanian from Kosov@ being in Albania. Explaining to people from other
nations how hard it is for them to be here.
In the camp Sun, our Korean volunteer did his thing with making nice little
dogs, and flowers from balloons and the children became wild about it, man
did they love this guy. At last we have started, after three weeks of
preparation here, today the first hunderd kids finally met the Balkan
Sunflowers. Indeed a big moment, at least for me. After all that energy
which was putted into this it finally starts to work.
The other new arrivals I took to the weekly UNHCR briefing to give them a
taste of how things work around here. How the big agencies are trying to
coordinated the crisis here. They weren't that impressed I must say. The
information center finally has their email system running, but with the
first sitrep (situation report) they send out they also send out a computer
virus, which they got from NATO, since the diskette was coming from them.
The NATO people couldn't get their safety report copied since their
photocopier wasn't working, the registration of refugees is prosphoned with
some more weeks since there is still problems with the software (and the
hardware), the emegency center at the airport can't be reached anymore by
telephone, since the lines are keeping breaking down. The food and money
supply to hostfamilies can't be put in place, since they only have track of
the first 100.000 families, the easiest ones, they guy from WFP said, now
we have to find the over 128.000 hard ones. WHO asked not the send any more
drugs (medicines) to here since the amount of outdated ones is getting
already problamatic. If you bring drugs bring painkillers and bandage since
that is still leaking. Salt and succer is in shortness, since a couple of
thousand metric tons are stucked somewhere in the pipelines. The moving of
refugees from Kukes (what has nothing to do with possible armed
interventions, NATO declared) is not going at a third of the speed as it
I describe some days ago that I was sitting in the back of the pyramid
looking at a situation where some rather though looking Albanian (locals
accoording to what my translator said) had a kind of fight with a young
Kosovarian. I thought that they were UCK people, but now it was declared on
this meeting that the local maffia stands in front of that building where
Kosovarian can have at least some kind of identification and make every
refugee pay $50 before the let them through. UNHCR said that they knew
about this, but that it has a low priority, it seems to be worst with
people who try to get to refugee camps. Yes I don't say that is going to be
easy I said. Welcome in Tirana, this is where it is happening, or rather
were it should be happening, but it not always does. By the way the plan
for the strategy how to start solving the problem for the winterisation
will be presented next week, they are still working on it.
In the evening we had some old Pakrac volunteers passing by and activist
from the Albanian Youth Council, in fact I was glad that they all came,
especially the people from the youth council, it is not always clear if
what we discuss is always understood, but it seems to work. I mean I have
been in the Balkans some years before now and have had often that idea that
I discussed with somebody something, but that he or she said yes, but
hadn't got the point of it afterwards. Even when their english was great.
But in this case it works perfect. I am surprised I discuss sometime with
somebody of this youth group for about 5 minutes and it all fall into
places. We are it seems on the same wave length and that is new for me. It
some times make me even worried how smoothly it goes. I was just to totally
different situations. And the first weeks weren't that easy, since I may
know a bit from Yugoslavia, but what does I know from Albania.
Yes, the Balkans, it is an good place to be, if you are open and willing to
adopt the area and it mentality. When you come here and think you will run
the show, forget it, it wouldn't work. Like all this big camps which are
put up in former swamp areas and now have problems with watersnakes, they
are not really dangerous, but he, nobody told the Kosovarians that, as well
as none of the campbuilders knew about it.
I am sitting at my balcony and I am listning to the last call for pray
coming from the big mosque. Waiting for my volunteers to come back out of
the city. Tirana is slowly going to sleep, after ten the sounds of the
traffic goes down rapidly. Finally I hear the volunteers coming back it is
11.30 now nothing has happened to them, I happy, Tirana is not that wild
east as some people think. The actually enjoyed their evening, had long and
interesting discussion with one of our translators. It is a nice group of
volunteers, it the first one... in two days the next group is coming.
They all went to bed now, sleeping tired from the trip and the new
experiences they had. I am lisning to the one or two cars still on the
road, it is amazing how quiet this town can be.
ps would be nice if our bank account gets some extra feading as well, but
we are working already.