This is the first day after we moved into our apartment last night. Friday, February 04, 2011. While it’s good to finally be here, it’s an odd day. For one thing, the Social Party protests are supposed to start in two hours and are supposed to start at four or five different points throughout Tirana. One of those gathering points is the Dinamo Stadium. There are two major stadiums in town and I imagine it’s one of those but there is also a soccer stadium very close to here. Our general approach is to stay away from anything like that, as suggested by the Embassy. I’m not at all worried that the people at the demonstration would be mean to us. The real problem is that we would get tangled up in some conflict between the protestors and the police.
I found an open internet connection last night but that one went away and I haven’t been able to find it again. Hopefully it will return soon. Perhaps the owner just turned it off when he or she went to work. We need to order internet service but I really don’t know how to do that and think that perhaps I’ll ask someone at the Embassy for help. They say it will cost about $20 a month for wifi and that installing it is quick and easy. Well, it’s easy if you speak Albanian and know whom to call.
The other odd part of the day is that the power just went off. That’s not uncommon here, as I’ve heard, and it doesn’t last for too long. But we can see the AC units in the building opposite of us running. Don’t know if that means they have a generator there or if just our building is the one affected.
(update! Seems we overloaded the electrical service in our apt by running the AC –for heat–the washing machine and the hot water heater in addition to whatever else was on at the time. Today we have the washer running again but most everything else is shut off. Our landlord showed me how to access the main breaker amidst the tangle of wires for the whole building in the big service box downstairs.)
We were going to get something to make for lunch from the local grocery store, but without the stove, we’re limited to lunchmeat and similar stuff. We’ve been enjoying buke (bread), gouda cheese (kuq?) and a Korca beer, which is brewed in Albania and is very good. I don’t like the dark Korca but the pils is very good. Pronounced korsha, and the c has one of those squigglies coming out of the bottom that they told us about in French class. With the power off, the washer can’t finish what it was doing (apparently in the middle of a rinse cycle) so Carly and Shawna have been hanging the laundry out to dry on the lines in the sun room on the porch. There is no dryer here and most people, apparently, don’t have them. Balconies are often draped with drying clothes.
I’ve wanted to write some about what it’s like living in a place where there are protests going on and where it seems that the government is in some peril but I think maybe there isn’t much to say. People on the street seem to agree with the sentiments of both the government and the protestors and, in the end, just want things to work out and for Albania to do well. Ordinary people seem to be going about their business. People are walking to work. Traffic is frantic and busy as usual. The young women have done their hair and makeup and strut down the street arm-in-arm as if they’re on Sunset Blvd. There is really no sense (though I’m not the most connected guy here) that people in groups or as individuals are at each others’ throats. It’s not like you’ll get mistaken for one group or the other and get beaten up. It’s more like there’s this political battle happening and most people hope it will all be over with soon so they can get on with their lives. On the one hand, I admire the Albanians for having the fire and enthusiasm to protest in order to change their government for the better but they’ve also had a tough time pulling this diverse and interesting country together and into the 21st (or even the 20th) century. The protests here are certainly nothing like those in Egypt (and no one wants them to be) and most Albanians seem to be rejecting any comparison of the current protests to the coup or putsch that happened in Turkey.
Found out something else interesting about Albania. There’s no drinking age whatsoever here. Made me think of the Republican agenda to get government out of people’s lives. I wonder if they’d be interested in abolishing the drinking age to remove that aspect of gov’t from controlling people’s lives?