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Province Town- where Albanians meet Gay and Lesbian comunity

By Alba ȥla Meet the funniest town in Cape Cod, Massachusetts: Provincetown! or as it is usually referred to shortly P-town, a safe haven for gay and lesbian couples to celebrate their diversity in a peaceful and funny atmosphere, away

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The New Rector: Reforming UP the IT Way

Professor Enver Hasani, PhD, Rector of the University of Pristina in Kosovo gave un exluzive interview to Tirana Times Tirana Times: Who is Enver Hasani? HASANI: Well, I am professor of international law and international relations. I did my PhD

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Forsaken Albania

By Artan Lame Italo-Greek War, 1940. In October of 1940, Italy attacks Greece from Albanian territory, in futile combat that dragged on for eight months and which Mussolini only managed to win following German intervention. The Greeks who felt betrayed

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Give me a break

By Jerina Zaloshnja “Sixty dollars! It’s a new rule from above. 60 dollars,” spoke the man with the white coat and unshaved beard as he lazily chewed on his gum. I was struck. “Where am I to find sixty dollars?”

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German Foundation “NEHEMIA”- In 15 years Euro 10 million worth of projects for Albania

Jerina Zaloshnja from Tirana Times recently talked with Arnold Geiger, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the German Foundation of NEHEMIA, which is centered in the village of Bu読as, Pogradec. What do the people of the German Foundation “NEHEMIA” do

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Forsaken Albania

By Artan Lame Tirana, 1916,17. Albania, proclaimed independent in the year 1912, recognized as such by the Conference of Ambassadors in 1913, graced with a Prince and a capital city in 1914 and plunged yet again into a state of

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Postscript

JTK Taylor The three of us began working on my poor unsuspecting husband straight after lunch. It was Saturday afternoon and the family was out at the beach house at Shk쮢i i Kavaj쳮 September is often the best of the

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Interview: Kokossis on Albanian Greek Relations

TT: Your Excellency, this June you were appointed as ambassador of Greece in Tirana. What is your general assessment of Albanian-Greek relations in their political, economic and cultural dimensions? The two countries have gone a long way of mutually beneficial

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A Noble Son of Albania – Dr. Nuci Kotta (1919-1965)

By Susan Kotta Circa 1910, in Boston, Massachusets, Koco Kotta and Angjeliqi Poci, both from prominent Kor衠families, married. They returned to Albania and in Korca Nuci Kotta was born, soon followed by his sister Tefta’s birth. They spent a happy

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Illegal fishing threatens Shkodra Lake

SHKODRA, Sept. 7 – Using explosive devices or other illegal tools is seriously endangering the fish life in the Shkodra Lake and Buna River, experts say. The Lake has been long declared a natural resource protected from the government but

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                    [post_content] => By Alba ȥla
Meet the funniest town in Cape Cod, Massachusetts:  Provincetown! or as it is usually referred to shortly P-town, a safe haven for gay and lesbian couples to celebrate their diversity in a peaceful and funny atmosphere, away from the curious or prejudiced gaze that follows them elsewhere. P-town is located right at the tip of Cape Cod and is easily reached by boat or bus from popular destinations like Boston or Newport. It was the first place where the pilgrims landed, the supposed first missionary settlers in America, from whom Americans have inherited the tradition of thanksgiving, a popular holiday still cherished throughout the country. A high tower stands still near the center of the town commemorating the arrival of the famous Mayflower ship, and also the agreement that they all signed about the way they wanted to conduct their life away from Britain.
The changes form their arrivals in 1620 are breathtaking. The pilgrims were strict religious people and one can only take a wild guess at to what their reaction would be to the contemporary Provincetown, bustling with a gay and lesbian carnival parade every summer. Its main artery is Commercial Street, lined up with shops, restaurants and other tourist destinations. Surrounded by vast beautiful beaches and equipped with a generous choice of different entertainment offerings, P-town is not an unusual tourist destination. Curiously, over time it has developed into a place where diversity and individuality are accepted and accommodated with ease. In the summer it hosts hundreds of international students who work seasonally in the shops, hotels and restaurants of the town.
 I visited p-town in my second year in the States to meet some of my old friends who were working there for the summer but also to learn more about the community of gays and lesbians it hosts. I found a beautiful fun little town which had been a fishing village before. Sitting at the beautiful veranda of the caf顅uropa I thought that it is probably named so to celebrate its whitewashed walls full of decorative flowers in proper Mediterranean style. I met Bulgarian, Albanian and Romanian friends from school and they all had a story to share about P-town. Though not necessarily for religious reasons, our cultures as well have been quite rigid to the idea of homosexuality and the reactions are still uninformed at best. For these people who faced the culture of gays and lesbians everyday though things were easier to explain. "It is different to know real people with real lives. You understand they are no monsters, you understand that your own misconceptions were wrong- said one student from Kosovo who waited at one of the most popular restaurants in town-and above all they are al friendly and respectful. And that is what is important to me." 
One year later, I decided to chase other acquaintances to learn about their experience, their lives in the gay town. Having had two gay guys as two of the best friends (and 2 of the most important people) in my life, I felt compelled to send a message of tolerance and of the need to cherish diversity. So far I have found nothing more self-reflective and thoughtful as the account given by D from Tirana who spent only one summer in P-town. Here is what he recalls:

How did you decide to go to P-town? Was there something in particular that made you choose this destination?
I had heard a lot about P-town from my college peers. It seemed like each of them had a lot of fun there and also made decent money over the summer while we had no school. My first two summers in the US I did not "earn a fortune" as opposed to all my friends who had been to P-town, who kept telling about fun summer jobs and great wages. On the contrary, I barely saved to break even in my first two summers working as a lift operator in an amusement park in MD, and as a cashier at Burgerking in CT. So I decided to go to P-town both to make some money, but also I was very curious of the gay fun life everyone was talking about. Also two of my best friends T. and S. were going there that summer so I made up my mind to go the this exotic town.

You knew before hand that P-town was inhabited by lets say a little "unusual" community. Were you prepared for what you found on ground? How did the reality differ from your expectations? 
If by "unusual community" you refer to the gay community there, yes I knew that it was a gay, and hence weird in my mind, community. I was aware that it was a gay town, so to speak, but what I did not know was that what I thought was "gay" was different from what it actually was. Before going to P-town, I had always thought that 99% of gays were effeminate men (sissies, or queens). What I realized in P-town was that the gay men, were predominantly very muscular, much like Hollywood action movie stars, and they had no "feminine" behaviors at all: their bodies were quite manly, so were their voices, and their gestures. I would not tell they were gay, had I seen them elsewhere. So their appearance was different from what I expected. Many times I thought how embarrassing it was that me, being a straight guy and hence a real man as I considered myself, couldn't beat any of those gay guys. I felt I was the "sissy" oneŠBut of course, some of them had a normal body, i.e. not really built up. 
Also I had never thought two men, and two women could kiss in the streets, hold hands while nobody staring at them. In the beginning I was shocked, meaning surprised, at this, but after a month it was as natural as two opposite sex persons kissing and holding hands in the streets.
I had expected weirdo-s but I found people. Like everywhere else people are different: some are vegetarians, some love pasta, some love sports, some are too religious, while these ones have "same sex" relationships. Now, after the experience in P-town, I believe that being gay is like any other attributes.

What impressions do you have from homosexual people (gay and lesbian) in p-town?
Other than their appearance, I realized that the gay guys were normal people: some were mean, some OK, and some very good people. As a matter of fact I made friends with some of them, and found out that besides our sexual orientations we had a lot in common. Before going to P-town, I had never imagined becoming a close friend to a gay guy, but eventually this happened: one guy I was working with at the beach resort, named Paul. We had a great time together at work and off work. We dined together several times; and sometimes together with his boyfriend. I even hanged out at his house. 
Let me briefly tell you about the first time I went at his place: the first time Paul invited me over, I was so afraid to go, I thought he would allure me to sex, knowing that he had told me I was a cute guy, or as my other friends Jason always told me "sugar lips". My heart was beating fast when I was at the passenger seat of his car. We entered the house and I was searching for the "emergency exits". I thought that I would get out of the balcony in such a case. BUT NOTHING HAPPENED. Paul showed me the house and the garden. We had some refreshments and sandwiches, watched some TV and that was it. After that I felt so ashamed of even having thought the possibility of a rape. Oh god, how much prejudiced we are (I was!). 
What also struck me was that the gay gays were very style-conscious: the most of them had great style and they did not smoke. 
Here we interrupt our interview and D explains to me that the obviously gay guys like to call each other "fags", but would not allow straight guys to call them so. He compares this to another dichotomy in the American society: "It is very similar to what happens with the word "nigger" and the white guys; the colored people don't like to be called such from the whites, but happily call each other so." Most of my friends in the States have been able to discern this interesting observation about the African American community here but not all of us can extend that to the homosexual community. He proceeds to tell me that eventually he gained the right to call them "fag" and vice versa because they realized he was not homophobic. His account continues:
Well what else? Very, very, gentle as opposed to the female gays. I think that the lesbians in P-town were quite rude, they were the ones to cause trouble. Me being a security guard in a gay resort, never witnessed throwing out a gay guy, but every other day we'd have trouble with the ladies. Also contrary to my previous belief, I never saw a pretty lesbian like those in the porn moviesŠThe guys were handsome, oh yeah, but the girls, well it seemed to me they had become lesbian because of their looksō
Everyone has a story and some of the stories they shared with me were impressive. Some of them had had families for years before realizing that they had to be themselves and turning to be entirely absorbed in the gay life. Being able to listen to them made me realize how much more considerate I should be before judging.
Do you think that as a result of your summer experience something in you has changed mostly referring to the opinions you hold about gay people?
Definitely: before P-town I thought being gay was wrong. But being gay is not more, nor less than just, oh well, being gay. I tried to understand whether this was their choice or innate. From what I understood it was innate. Paul could tell whether a certain woman was charming/sexy or not, but even if she were she was "transparent" to him. He would have no desire whatsoever for the sexiest of ladies, even Marylin. Others like Kevin, told me that while other guys at his elementary school, would love to hold their girl classmates' hands, he actually preferred to walk hand to hand with his boy classmatesŠBut others found out they were gay in their late 20's some of them had even been married before. Whether inborn or not, it doesn't really matter. Everyone has their right to the pursuit of their happiness. I don't mind gay people. What bothered me was the fact that little by little, every day, I was tempted to "try it". Not only it was not "wrong" anymore, but now I was considering "trying it". They would come up and tell me the advantages of having sex with a male versus a female. But, I didn't budge. On the other hand, I would not like to spend another summer in P-town, because I'm afraid I would break and "try it". Frankly, I don't know what held me from trying. My best guess would be my parents, my friends, my teachers, everybody in Albania who views being gay as a crime. I was brought up thinking it is a crime, and I don't want to be a criminal. The same thing as having an earring or dying your hair. I'd love to have an earring but my dad would die of a heart attack, becauseŠ"this is wrong." 
 
What do you think about the general hostile attitude in Albania towards the phenomenon and the culture of gays? It is a rigid society that considers this topic a tabooō
We Albanians are messed up. We think that spitting in the street, throwing garbage out of our balconies, hooting the horns in the street as soon as the green light comes up, Ƴtealing arms and shooting at each other is OK, but being gay is wrong. Oh please, I can't understand my people! I can't tell what's wrong in our mindsō

D. ends on a perplexed and almost angry note and I consider his confusion as fully justified. Perhaps if everyone could have the opportunity (and a mind open-enough to welcome that opportunity) to live through such an experience, even the most stubborn homophobic could change their mind at least slightly about being gay and about how gay people are. Till then we seem to be condemned to live in a dark and anguishing prejudice.
                    [post_title] =>  Province Town- where Albanians meet Gay and Lesbian comunity 
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                    [post_content] => Professor Enver Hasani, PhD, Rector of the University of Pristina in Kosovo gave un exluzive interview to Tirana Times

Tirana Times: Who is Enver Hasani? 
HASANI:  Well, I am professor of international law and international relations. I did my PhD and MA studies in Ankara at the English-speaking University of Bilkent in Ankara. My first MA and the law studies I did in Pristina during the Communist era. I have been an adviser and worked with all governments of Kosovo since 1992, as well as being a legal adviser for the Kosovars at the Rambouillet Conference on Kosovo in 1999.  However, I never had any political affiliation, but only professional work I did with the political and other leaders of Kosovo during this time. I am a Fulbright Scholar from Northwestern University in Chicago in United States. 

Tirana Times: You have recently been  elected as the Rector of the Pristina University. What are the challenges ahead?
HASANI:  There are many challenges ahead, indeed. It is very difficult to single out a domain where the challenges will be greater. I would however have to say the UP needs two sorts of changes, similar to the way IT world functions. First, I have to fix and intervene as regards the hardware of the University- its physical appearance. There is a huge amount of work to do in securing a decent environment to study and research in, because almost all basic facilities were destroyed after the war due to negligence and mismanagement. Second, there is another major task in repairing and updating software of the University that is its intellectual property, starting from curricula, textbooks and research which are far below any western standards. In fact, the UP lags behind most of the universities in the region. I expect resistance from within because intervening in these two segments means destroying many undeserved privileges and advantages that professors and students have been enjoying since the war and several years beforehand when we were under the parallel system resisting Milosevic and his regime.

Tirana Times:  You have declared the intention for an overall restructuring and reform of the UP in order to bring it to European and Western standards required by higher education. What does this mean in practical terms?
HASANI:  As I said, this means changes to the very philosophy of the management of the UP and the way it works at present. It will take some time but I am optimistic that within my mandate clear changes shall take place and the UP shall embark on a normal route of development and progress towards proper standards of higher education. I will advance simultaneously on both fronts, fixing the hardware and the software of the UP. I have very concrete plans for this.

Tirana Times: The UP is the only public institution in Kosovo and there are several other private institutions dealing with higher education. What relations do you have with them?
HASANI: There is one other public university in the country, the one run by the Serbs in the North of Kosovo. However, its status is dubious and UNMIK authorities have removed its license due to its functioning on political principles. I sincerely hope that one day we shall have a common understanding to work together under the one umbrella and within the legal system of the society of Kosovo.
As for the private universities, apart from the American University of Kosovo, none of others are serious candidates to compete with and the way they operate is not correct. There is a conflict of interests because most of them, 99 per cent, employ our staff.  In addition to this, our staff is employed simultaneously by five or more universities, which runs counter to any moral let alone legal standards. In September I am planning to start a series of talks on this matter. I am sure I will persuade our staff not to do lecturing work at private universities due to their personal reputation and the very nature of our work at the UP. Besides this, their work there is against the law and seriously harms the interests of the UP and their personal reputation.

Tirana Times: What connections does the UP have with the outside world?
HASANI:  Until now, I believe that the UP has been the most isolated intuition in the region. Contacts with the outside world have been non-existent, apart from few with the Tirana and Tetovo Universities. I am hopeful that soon we shall re-establish contacts with the outside world and open the UP to outside influence. 

Tirana Times: What is the UP and Tirana University relationship?
HASANI: As I said, very few contacts have been established so far and they were based on personal connections, more that on an institutional basis. I met with the Rector of the Tirana University the other day, Mr. Shezai Rrokaj and discussed various ways and modalities of our cooperation, such as joint projects within the European system of higher education. I am confident that our cooperation shall be very institutional and transparent for the benefit of all. 

Tirana Times: What would be the briefest way to round up the urgent needs of the UP?
HASANI; To regulate the look of the UP premises and urgently change the textbooks used by our students, which are old books by local authors, having no match in outside world. Next comes the promotion of those who do serious research and proper teaching based on Western standards.

Tirana Times:  Is there any space for minority students at the UP? 
HASANI:  Yes, there is. We register a few of them every year, but the number is too small because teaching and research is in Albanian only. Serbs have been absent throughout these post-war years but I hope soon to make some positive changes. As far as the UP is concerned, I am ready to play my constructive role in addressing this issue, and fixing it, if politics of Kosovo decides for serious move in this direction. I have met with Serb Minister of the Government of Kosovo, Mr. Slavisa Petkovic, and discussed with him the ways to integrate local Serbs within the UP. There is some move in this direction and I hope soon to see some results.

Tirana Times: What about the brain drain phenomenon?
HASANI:  That is not expressed so much in Kosovo due to the fact that there are many internationals who work and live here, employing our better intellectuals. The only problem is how to get these young and well educated people to work at the UP. So far, the UP has been reluctant to open its doors to them. I am very much committed to opening the doors of the University to them and invite them to join our staff. This will happen soon.

Tirana Times: Where is the University of Pristina with the Bologna Process?
HASANI:  In the very distant future, for the time being. I hope, this year, to start the internal and external evaluation, with the help pf the EUA (European University Association), to see where we are. I have been in this post for two months and I hope that the UP draws closer to Bologna and other Western standards on higher education within my mandate.

Tirana Times:  As a well known professor of international law and relations and the adviser to all governments of Kosovo since 1992, what is the role of the UP in daily and political life in Kosovo? What is its impact on the overall political processes of the country?
HASANI:  The UP has been a very serious actor in political developments of the country in the former Yugoslavia. After we went into the parallel system, in 1991 onwards, to fight Milosevic and his regime, the UP won greater influence, although the teaching and research suffered very seriously as the UP became the political tool of certain interest groups in Kosovo. This situation deteriorated rapidly after 1999 so that UP became a very politicized institution, and groups of people, party hacks and bureaucrats of the social upheavals following the end of the war in Kosovo in 1999 misused it for personal gain and benefit to the detriment of progress and social development. I hope this situation shall change too soon. This means that UP shall be a normal institution for the benefit of all, free of political influences and devoted to study and research.. 

Tirana Times: What is the situation with research at the UP? 
HASANI:  Research in terms of a practice, does not exist in the UP. Almost all activity in the UP is devoted to teaching, very classical methods being used there. So we have to work hard to correct this very important parameter for the normal functioning of an institution of higher education. This is not because Bologna asks from us, but due to our needs for progress and development. In this regard, I will be counting a great deal on the help of the international community, our friends from all around the world and I have promises for this. Without them we alone cannot achieve anything seriously.
                    [post_title] =>  The New Rector: Reforming UP the IT Way 
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                    [post_content] => By Artan Lame
Italo-Greek War, 1940. In October of 1940, Italy attacks Greece from Albanian territory, in futile combat that dragged on for eight months and which Mussolini only managed to win following German intervention. The Greeks who felt betrayed and invaded in their own Homeland, put up a powerful resistence that had not been anticipated by the Italian forces. This conflict cost the Italians dearly, 13,700 casulties, including 70 Albanian army officers, and the Greelks lost 13,400 troops. 3,000 Anglo-Canadians abd 1,300 Germans also perished in this war.
The first photograph shows the graves of English fighter pilots. The British, allies of the Greeks, undertook a series of air attacks and bombing raids against supply bases of the Italian Army in Albania, chiefly in Berat, Tepelena, Vlora and Durres. Their aim was to intercept and destroy Italian military supplies destined for the front.  In this case, their aircraft must have been hit and brought down by Italian anti-air batteries. The crew members have been buried by the Italians with all military  honours. Wooden croses have been erected at the head of the graves, which bear the names of the fallen and the Army Force he belonged to. The little graveyard is fenced by damaged strips of metal salvaged from the wreckage of the aircraft. For the Albanians, who don't bother to honour their own fallen soldiers, let alone the fallen of the enemy, it is a little difficult to  comprehend such a gesture, which is only normal for foreign armies. On the crosses you may read the names of at least two of the "enemy". Lewis Bennet and R. Francis, while on the vertical post of the crosses the initials RAF (Royal Airforce) have been carved.
In the second photograph, you can see a monumental cemetry ffor the Italian servicemen who fell on the front. The graves hve been dug at the foot of a wall of a Church and also bear wooden crosses with the particulars of the fallen. At the head you can distinguish the words, "Sergent BARBIELLINI BERNARDO, 7. 11.1940; MAJOR VITO BEATO, 2.11.1940; VITO PANZA 4.11.1940, and so on. From the ranks, it appears they were high ranking officers which is quite significant, (60 years later, we liberated the whole of Kosovo without a single casualty, or am I mistaken, in the final account it was not us who liberated it?).
From the dates when they fell, it emerges that they were killed in the first days of the assult, in other words, on Greek territory, and this is why they were buried there. It is hard to belief that these poor souls rest today, with their own names above their heads. Who knows what names, like Janaqis or perhaps Harallambros,  the Greeks have erected with their names engraved in the wood, at the head of the graves so that the numbers of men lost in combat tally.
                    [post_title] =>  Forsaken Albania 
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                    [post_content] => By Jerina Zaloshnja
"Sixty dollars! It's a new rule from above. 60 dollars," spoke the man with the white coat and unshaved beard as he lazily chewed on his gum.  I was struck. "Where am I to find sixty dollars?" I asked myself as I put my cold hands deep in my pockets knowing fully well that they would come up empty.  I was sure that I had thirty dollars and a few cents in thereحy wife put as much in there early in the morning.  We had asked earlier at the hospital and they had clearly answered: "the price for storing a cadaver in the morgue is exactly 30 dollars and change."
-"Emergency situations call for emergency rules bro, the whole world knows that,"-said the man chewing on gum.  "This is an emergency."
I followed him like a well-trained puppy.  The Gummy Man opened all the drawers of the run-down freezing room with the plaster falling off the walls, the humidity and the smell.  "Emergency!"  Indeed, an emergency right and proper unveiled in front of my eyes.  There was nothing else you could call it but an emergency.  In one of the drawers of the small freezing room of the morgue of our city hospital, there where a single cadaver ought to be stored, I saw with my own eyes that those people, meaning Gummy and his lively colleagues, had carried out an emergency over the dead bodies!  They had placed two cadavers in one drawer and in one case evenō
What an emergency it must be in our city!  I was horrified.  I turned my eyes to Gummy and suddenly a wave of deep primordial respect for him washed over my entire being.  How was he able to place two dead in the space of one while mustering the necessary poise to pronounce the situation "an emergency"?  
Ecce Homo.  Instead of being saddened by all of these eventsشhe sudden departure of my dear father from this life, the sixty dollar payment for emergency situations, the two-in-one deal at the morgue؉ found myself deeply respectful of Gummy.  There we were, facing each other.  His hands deep in his pockets, mine fiddling with the insufficient amount of money.  I saw what had remained of my father six hours after his final closure of the eyes, and I may say that I was surprised at the contrast between man alive and man dead.  
"We've got to stick him in broƨe can't wait forever," said Gummy with the airs of a professional.
I called my wife. "Bring me thirty more," I told her. "What for," she asked.
"For entertainment," I snapped.  Gummy got curious and elaborated: "Wha',"- he asked. "Nothin'" I told him.  I knew that my wife would not let me down.  While Mary, my wife, had never enjoyed what they call a 'healthy relationship' with her father-in-law, she was imbued with a Protestantish ethic that meant that I would be able to not let my father stink. 
And that is what happened.  She arrived breathless half hour later, and gave me the money wordlessly.  "Give them to Gƥntleman" I told her pointing at Gummy. "Šhe knows what to do."
"An emergency situation, lady," he repeated calmly and put the money in his pocket.  I can't remember if he gave us a bill for our emergency spending, but it is a certain thing that my father gained a place to stay.
"We'll put him by this officer here,"-he said as he opened the last drawer to the right.  There they were, two manly cadavers one over the other. A miracle!  Gummy earned even more respect as he not only made the emergent seem natural, but he even remembered the names and professions of each cadaver under his watch! 
"There we go," he said after he balanced the new cadaver on top of the old one.
"And the late gentleman, what did he do, what was his profession?" he asked me.
"Nothing. He did nothing," Mary answered in my place.
What more can I tell you?  Some events are difficult to narrate for choice readers such as your honorable selves, but I will certainly do my best.
At the end of the story, Mary and I were 180 dollars poorer.  Right after the business at the morgue was over, I ran over to a restaurant to order a lunch as it is our tradition after the funeral.  I left there a nice little prepayment since, despite Mary's insistence, I wanted to honor my dead father that had worked all his life for his offspring.  The next day, when it was time for the burial, as I was hugging the cadaver one last time (they had brought him home two hours before the ceremony was due) someone touched both my shoulders and whispered: "stop everything, is frozen."
"Of course he is frozen," I told him angrily.
"No, stop, everything is frozen."
"Whaaat?"
"We have to return poor dad at the morgue. An emergency,"- said Ben, my first degree cousin on my mother's side.
An emergency! I was frozen worse than my progenitor.
"Yeah, bro! An emergency. No more room for the dead in the graveyardƨaven't you watched the news?" asked Ben.
Yesƹes I remembered them warning about it in the news for quite a while now.  And it seems they were right.  In the last few days, the mayor was accusing the government for the absence of land to bury the dead in Tirana, absolving the municipality of all blame.  On the other hand, a ministerƴhe pretty one, was doing the opposite. And, it turned out to be true!  How could I forget about this emergency?  "Of all the times to die..." I whispered.
-"Lord, what troubles!"-I heard my dear Mary.  She came close to me and she tried to lift my spirits.  But she was not as good at it as she used to be back then.
"Let us solve this as we are losing face,"-said Ben the first degree cousin and took control of the situation.
We returned father to the morgue where he stayed for another 48 hours.  We also cancelled our lunch at the restaurant of course, but they did not return the prepayment.  The people that had come from afar left somewhat angry but thankfully speechless as they had wasted all that money on the trip.
So, you will ask how did the burial take place as there must have been one since in this land of tradition we do not cremate.  As good old father used to say: "even in war one finds the strength to bury the dead." And, I did solve it.  I called Athens where I talked to Sasha an honest-to-God immigrant who also happened to be my other first cousin from the father's side and begged him to bury my father with his father who had left us fifteen years ago and now could not occupy too much space in his spacious and lonely grave.
Sasha was a bit hesitant, but when I assured him that all expenses for the common grave would be mine, he conceded. I spent five phone card for that concession of his and for finding out the location of the grave!
-"Third row?"
-"No, no, eighth, otto."
-"First bed?"
-"Maybe, but check first. I haven't been in a while because the Greeks at the borderŢ
-"The number of the grave?"
-"I told you to check first.  If I had a Greek name thenŢ and Sasha put the phone down.
Finding the grave of Sasha's father was not much of a problem.  Willpower can carry you far in this country.
I must say I did not have any big problems after my phone conversation with cousin Sasha.  Everything proceeded in the most common way possible.  I mean, no emergencies.
                    [post_title] =>  Give me a break 
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                    [post_content] => Jerina Zaloshnja from Tirana Times recently talked with Arnold Geiger, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the German Foundation of NEHEMIA, which is centered in the village of Bu読as, Pogradec. What do the people of the German Foundation "NEHEMIA" do in Albania, how does NEHEMIA function, the first private school opened in Albania. This is what Geiger replies:

Q: To begin with, could you give us a brief introduction to your foundation? What exactly is the NEHEMIA foundation and what are its activities in Albania?
A: The NEHEMIA Foundation has been in Albania for almost fifteen years. It has a broad range of activities, chiefly in the humanitarian field. NEHEMIA in Albania is an independent foundation, but is also linked to the foundation bearing the same name in Germany. The center of our Foundation is located in the village of Bu読as, five kilometers from the small city of Pogradec, SE Albania, but it also has branches in the cities of Gjirokastra, Durres and Kruma-Has. When it first began operations, the foundation distributed assistance in food supplies to the poor families in the villages, chiefly in the vicinity of Pogradec. Today, we have a different situation, the need for assistance has also changed and the nature of the activity of our foundation has changed accordingly. Today, the activity of NEHEMIA in and around Pogradec, where our centre is located, includes a private school that covers all the levels of pre-University schooling (kindergarten, primary and secondary schooling), many different social activities, like courses to train dress makers etc. The Centre also provides medical assistance and various projects related to services and building.  
The NEHEMIA School was built with different investments and donations. It was opened 7-8 years ago and was Albania's first private school. I firmly believe that this school has a fine reputation and this year it is expected that 500 pupils will enroll. 99 per cent of the teaching staff is Albanians, teachers of status. But as I said, apart from the school in Pogradec, we also have other important activities, like social services. Currently we have a community social services centre. The centre has employed several groups of specialists who go house to house and provide poor families or invalids, old aged with free advice on a broad range of issues. Apart from advising people, our specialists verify cases and apply different assistance and benefit schemes, ranging from distribution of assistance that comes from Germany, up to sending emergency health cases to Germany. So far NEHEMIA has invested 10 million in Albania. Working on different projects the Foundation has 110 Albanian employees on employment contracts, for whom they pay health insurance and it also has about thirty foreign collaborators from Germany, UK, Netherlands and other countries.

Q: Why did you choose Albania to live and work in? 
A: I had this idea following a visit I paid to Albania in November 1991. That visit itself was a coincidence. I was a coach driver back in those days and I brought a group of German tourists to Albania. I saw the poverty with my own eyes and I had the wish to provide fruitful help for these people with concrete projects. The initial idea was to stay in Albania for not longer than three months, as I explained earlier, to distribute German aid. Its fifteen years since then. We made our centre in Bucimas of Pogradec from day one. 

Q: Fifteen years later, how does Albania seem to you, its people?
A: For me, this is a very beautiful country and very suitable to work and live in. I come from Germany and together with my family I have settled here in Albania, as I said fifteen years ago. As a personal experience, I can say that our life in Albania has proven very fruitful. Here our family has experienced the joy of a new addition, a baby, our fifth child. As a new human experience on a broader scale, I can say that over the last fifteen years Albania has undergone visible development. When I draw a comparison with the poverty of the first years, the lack of development, unemployment, the absence of vehicles on the streets, the absence of private homes, the very difficult living conditions of the Albanians back then (7-8 family members slept in the one room), naturally I can see huge progress. Now, after fifteen years of experience, I believe Albania is on the right road. I am very encouraged from what I have seen.

Q: What else can you tell us about the social situation of people here in Pogradec. Does the poverty make an impression on you?
A: It's difficult to answer in two words. As in every other country, in Pogradec there are affluent and poor. We try hard to serve the needy..

Q: Could we focus on the school for a little, as now you have years of experience. Is the education system in Albania different from that of other countries, for example, Germany?  
A: I believe we are talking about two different things, which are theory and practice. I think that the theoretical programs approved by the Albanian Ministry of Education are, in my opinion, excellent and the more suitable. We have constantly made comparisons with partner schools in Germany. Our school in Pogradec has been twinned with a school in Shundorf, Bavaria, a private school with hostels of a very high quality; as well as with an American school, a primary school in Chicago. It has emerged from the researching of these programs that the Albanian programs for this school level are very good. School attendance is satisfactory; there is regular attendance which shows the interest of Albanian pupils in education. Schools are like buildings, they exist. But what is lacking from Albanian schools today, particularly in the remote rural areas are infrastructure, school buses, not to mention the very old and dilapidated buildings.

Q: What comment would you make about the Albanian pupils?
A: They are intelligent and have a thirst for knowledge. At NEHEMIA School, the pupils are chosen through a competition. This category of pupils is without doubt orientated towards learning and gaining new skills. I have been working for entire years now with the children and adults of Pogradec I am always surprised by the fact that these pupils are so interested in learning foreign languages, for example, English and German. The pupils I have seen are a very strong and solid potential.

Q: Mr. Geiger, you have been in Albania for fifteen years. What about your family, have they adapted to the Albanian way of life?
A: Very well. We have a broad range of activities and my wife coordinates humanitarian programs and the persons who come to apply for these programs. For ten years we lived in a bungalow that came fro, Seicra, for the time being we have moved into a home we are renting. I have two children who are now grown up and after several years of life in Albania have gone back to Germany to continue higher studies. Currently we have two other children and a new born baby, our fifth child who was born in Albania. We live well, in a beautiful scenic zone and a wonderful climate, fresh air, except when they start burning rubbish. Heating in the Winter is provided by the solar panels, an entirely functional and economic system. We have created ourselves our own carpentry sector for the production of doors and window frames and all these items you see here have been produced by our workshop. Albanian cooking which we also apply at home is very tasty to us, even though there is a lot of fat. I have put on thirty kilograms of weight in comparison with fifteen years ago. This not something to boast about, but it does prove how much we like the cooking. My wife has adapted fully to this style of living. Together we have decided to work in Albania for a few more years and it has turned out that she is a wonderful partner in this job. We have settled down fine and we live well.

Q: And for how many years do you think you will work in Albania?
A: The projects will continue, but as a family, we still have not decided how long we will stay. For example, of late, my colleagues have been committed more to the work with the school, allowing me to deal more with projects in other districts.

Q: If and when you leave Albania one day, what do you think you will say to the Albanians? What would your parting words be do you think?
A: I don't believe in parting words, because people change. But, undoubtedly, together with other foreign friends who come here, we have undoubtedly wonderful impressions about the people here. They are hospitable and warm. What foreigners usually complain about are the lack of public amenities, the lack of hygiene in public places, lack of care in keeping public places clean and tidy. This is a field where we Albanians all have a lot to learn. I believe that this is something that can be achieved. Our own homes are spotless, why can't we do the same in public? 

Q: Anything else we forgot to mention?
A: I wish to encourage all Albanians to invest in their own country. People here are open and learn quickly. The scenery is breathtaking, it's a pearl. In other words, serious investments are required that would help the community and the younger generations living in Albania. I think that the governments have encouraged foreign and local investments. This is further aid for those who are interested in investing in this country. For example, in our activity as a foreign foundation we have enjoyed normal cooperation with both local and foreign government bodies. No one has obstructed us, on the contrary, we have found support and hospitality. So I wish to underline that this is a suitable country to invest in.
                    [post_title] =>  German Foundation "NEHEMIA"- In 15 years Euro 10 million worth of projects for Albania 
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                    [post_content] => By Artan Lame
Tirana, 1916,17. Albania, proclaimed independent in the year 1912,  recognized as such by the Conference of Ambassadors in 1913, graced with a Prince and a capital city in 1914 and plunged yet again into a state of chaos and division between the belligerent sides in 1915. Northern and Central Albania as far as the River Vjosa, were occupied by the XIX Austro-Hungarian Army Corps, based in Shkodra, which established a military occupation administration throughout the main cities. In this context, an important military contingent was also deployed in Tirana.
Seeing that, at that time, Tirana was more a sprawling village rather than a city, and due to the absence of sufficient buildings, the troops had to camp out in tents pitched on the Shallvars Field, which since the time of Turkey has served as an army training ground, while the officers' quarters were the old Turkish garrisons, located on the spot where the Chamber of Commerce is today and properties of the Toptan Family estate within the walls of the Castle ofTirana. The Austrians remained in Tirana until October 1918, when they then withdrew northwards. 
The photo shows the street that was later called 28 November Street, the Et'hem Bey Mosque and the Clock Tower. The clock tower constructed at the turn of the XIX Century, still shows its original shape, a classic oriental style, which it was to preserve until the year 1928, when the shape of the upper part of the tower and its roof were modified to how they look today. The building in front of the Tower, where Bar Sahati was later built, was the state Hospital at that time. Behind the Mosque and the Tower, you can see nothing but trees and the occasional domicile, which was only normal for that time because that is where the town ended. Behind the Tower and to its left you can see the Shallvars Field and you can also distinguish the large military tents of the Austrian troops. The generation of buildings, to the right of the photo, are part of a complex of shops within the Old Bazaar. 
The photograph itself, taken probably by an Austrian armyman, was taken from the Minaret of the Sulejman Pascha Mosque, which was located on the spot where the Monument dedicated to the Unknown Partizan stands today. The Mosque was burnt down on 14 November 1944, during the fighting to liberate the city.
                    [post_title] =>  Forsaken Albania 
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                    [post_content] => JTK Taylor
The three of us began working on my poor unsuspecting husband straight after lunch. It was Saturday afternoon and the family was out at the beach house at Shk쮢i i Kavaj쳮 
September is often the best of the Summer months, late Summer, but still pleasantly hot, not sticky, sweaty, August hot when not even the coolness of the sea waters provides relief. The white walls of the bungalow and the brick coloured roof tiles, coated in dry and brittle pine tree needles, (that will clog the drainpipes when the Winter rains set in), the dark green window shutters and the clusters of vivid scarlet, orange and white begonia that form a beautiful floral crown in their flower beds atop the white decorative railing of the veranda, the stately roses of all shades of pink and yellow sway gently in the breeze on their long stalks in the rose beds lining the length of the knee-high front fence, a green fence to match the shutters, the neatly cropped lawns and the large round flag stones, imbedded in the soil to form a meandering footpath up to the steps of the veranda; the white hammock strung up between two pine trees, covered with colourful cushions, and all of this idyllic setting lies beneath the dense foliage of the tall pines trees overhanging the roofs of the bungalows, in the first of the popular family beach resorts, known in Albania as "tourist villages," but which have very little to do with foreign tourism, as the properties belong chiefly to Albania's new affluent stratum.
After all is said and done, the issue was quite simple. I wanted to stay the night at the beach and Besnik wanted us both to go back to Tirana. To me it seemed such a pity not to take advantage of the wonderful weather and spend Sunday at the beach too, although I knew we had work to do at home, as we are busy packing clothing and kitchenware to shift into a new apartment.   
Finally he gave in and even drove off through the tunnel of pine trees without the slightest trace of regret.
Sinking back down into the comfortable cushions of the chairs on the veranda, Flora Vali and I chattered happily while my Mother-in-Law busied herself in the kitchen with making us all a cup of coffee. I love these moments when the womenfolk of the family get together to exchange titbits of information usually about the men folk of the family and our children; how business is going and the latest whims of our now adult children, four of whom live and work in other countries. 
My mobile phone rang, and unconsciously rummaging around at the bottom of my handbag searching for the annoying instrument, my fingers pushed up against a heavy bunch of keys. I froze. "Oh, my God, Besnik has left without his house keys," I gasped, immediately visualizing my husband's reaction when, standing in front of the door, he recalls that he dropped his keys into my bag because I had insisted on him wearing a pair of shorts I liked, but he hated because they have no pockets. Gone was the magic moment of relaxing and chatting over a coffee. Amidst the futile fussing of my Mother-in-Law, and the offers of my sister-in-law to leave for Tirana right away in her car, it occurred to me that our cleaning lady, in Tirana, had a key, but she had told me that her home phone was out of order. I thought I would track her down first and then ring Besnik on his mobile phone and tell him he had no house key. I sat down at the table and got down to the serious work of disturbing three or four persons on a Saturday evening because I had forgotten to give Besnik his keys. I rank Miranda, a colleague, who originally found our cleaning lady for us and who often gets me out of such silly fixes. Miranda said she would phone a close friend of hers and get the phone number of the daughter-in-law of my cleaning lady as they lived together. Miranda duly SMS-ed me Bruna's mobile phone number and I found myself embarrassingly explaining the situation to her, so that Bruna could relay the message to her Mother-in Law, our cleaning lady, and we could arrange a spot somewhere near her house, where Besnik could go and pick up her key to our house. Bruna interrupted my long-winded explanations and said she was sorry but her Mother-in-Law, our cleaning lady, now the central figure of the latest family mess-up, had gone out. She said reassuringly that she would ring around for her. Minutes later Bruna rang back to say that she had pinpointed where her Mother-in-Law was and would get the message to her to come home ASAP. After profusely thanking Bruna, I hung up. This was becoming a nightmare. I thought I would give Bruna more time to get back to me before I rang Besnik so I could break the news to him but also give him a solution.
Almost half an hour later, certain that by this time Besnik had reached Tirana, I had still not heard from Bruna, so I gave Besnik a ring. He had arrived some minutes earlier, realized he did not have a key to the old house but he did have a key to the new apartment and so he was heading in that direction to stay there for the night. 
There was a collective sigh of relief around the table as that drama ended and I rang Bruna immediately, apologised for disturbing her and said she didn't have to disturb Fia or the family any further as the problem had been solved.
We all decided to go for a stroll along the waterline. I took my phone with me. Paddling through the ripples of the waves on the sand, listening to the conversation around me, my phone rang. "I need to get into the old house," Besnik says on the other end. "What's Fia's number and I can go and get her key?"  I sent him Bruna's number, but told him Bruna would not be pleased. 
The rest of this story was later on related to me by Fia. Fia was standing in her local bakery when Bruna had rushed in having spotted her from outside and told her she had to hurry home because Besnik needed the key she had to our house. Fia had rushed out of the bakery and run home. Bruna related the whole story to her and said she had just spoken to Besnik. Besnik finally met up with Fia and Bruna, got the key and went on his way. Fia related that she got home only to realize that in her haste, she had forgotten the bread she had bought in the bakery, which by that time had closed. After borrowing some bread from her next door neighbour for her grand children, Fia's family had settled down to watch some television for the evening. Bruna's phone rings. Bruna cannot believe her ears. It was the manager of the company  she works for who had misplaced his keys to the office. Could Bruna possibly go down to the end of her street to the bus station and wait for her boss's driver to turn up and give him her keys.
Fia said she could not help chuckling to her self as her daughter-in-law slammed the outside door. "It was just one of those days, thank God the Keepers of the Keys were available to oblige."
                    [post_title] =>  Postscript 
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                    [post_content] => TT: Your Excellency, this June you were appointed as ambassador of Greece in Tirana.  What is your general assessment of Albanian-Greek relations in their political, economic and cultural dimensions?
The two countries have gone a long  way of mutually beneficial relationship in almost every field. Each and every aspect of cooperation has developed constantly and gradually. Look at the energy, which is a test-case; having left the conventional clearing system of exchanges and the monopoly of the state organizations, we initiated the era of international biddings and contracts with both private and government companies inspired by the free-market approach. So investors, be it joint ventures, consortia and the like can offer what is needed at a competitive level. In short, we upgraded the energy relations, while at the same time we face the local needs, for instance energy shortages that have to be dealt with instantly; in this way other considerations of a rather political nature enter into the picture. This is quite important.
The conclusion is that apart from searching for more articulated   relations between us, we have to improve the context of our understanding in every field, e.g in cultural matters, which bear an enormous significance for approaching each other.

TT: From the economic perspective, Greece has been one of the key foreign investors in the Albanian market. How would you evaluate the potential of further cooperation between the two countries in the economic field? Do Greek businesses view the Albanian market as one in which they can do business profitably
Both of us have proved to be good economic performers. The volume of trade is above  500 mn euros and the Greek investors contributed with more than 170mn euros. Tradesmen mean business and this is not feasible without profit .Investment and business leads to know-how transfer and this is very much needed. Sometimes a simplistic approach blurs the image. Take the example of telecommunications; leaving aside the high-tech equipment and the collateral construction works, as well as the huge investment required for such a risky  domain, you need sophisticated vocational training and expertise here in Albania or in Greece or in other states. The trainees are qualified Albanian staff requiring further training abroad and more accurate upgrading; this represents a task for the company. This is precisely what is being done. Banking services follow suit and many-many others come after. 
Without repeating myself, allow me to stress how one level of cooperation brings another, upper one: getting more people closer  together. 
Many Greek companies seem to be profitable; that ' s why they want to expand by responding to various invitations. Once they are established they follow the rules, they implement the Albanian laws and act accordingly. They are Albanian companies, not Greek. Invested money comes from Greece, but once invested here, it takes the shape of what local legislation provides for. When a person with a merit meets a company with money, the person will get money and the company will get experience and money alike.
As for the steps ahead of us, what we really aspire is to bring here more people with great potential. My understanding is that following a first stage in economic development, Albania is launching into a higher, more structural process requiring experience and investments in more strategic fields, like axes of transport, or transport of energy, lines of communication etc. Given the local possibilities and the knowledge offered by Greek partners, someone would reasonably  expect to see further  and deeper cooperation there, too. 

TT: When debating Greek-Albanian relations, it is often quite difficult to separate myth from reality. Maybe scoop-seeking media is to blame, but probably not enough has been done by both governments to dispel misunderstandings in our conceptualization of our neighbors. Do you think that there is room for further action in this regard? More specifically, what can both sides do in order to create a more solid foundation for future cooperation?
Sometimes if the myth gets bigger than the man, the media print the myth. Anyhow , the scoop-seeking media existed every where, all time long.
It is right that everybody should do more. Old stereotypes are bypassed and old-style concepts expired. Although differences usually emerge among neighbors and do not relate to overseas friends, a lot can be done. With all due respect to the Press, it can not frame bilateral relations or be used as a pretext for making or postponing decisions.   Newsmen know this . A piece of information can be good or bad, but without principles certainly it will never be anything but bad. I will agree that the phenomenon is a matter of governmental concern; you may have contacts, visits, consultations and the like. We can also organize meetings, conferences or even fund similar activities. So the problem can be eased, but not solved. If it is a matter of understanding, as it appears to be the case, things are not so simple.
At a first glance many upper-level people realize the need to adapt or change the approach vis- a- vis the other side. Cooperation matters and  the mentality has to be rectified. In general terms,  everybody speaks with niceties, but  at the determining moment and at the middle( but equally determining) levels some reticence starts to develop and it spoils the process. Take a hypothetical scenario: both governmets' levels are for a project and subscribe to its implementation. So far so good, but some white-collar staff members discover  ''latent'' difficulties,  because of bureaucracy, or lack of confidence or even unfair speculation.  At this moment things lose momentum, apprehension emerges and creeping mistrust developsŠThere is though a big BUT. It is the Balkan ''miracle'', or if you prefer the deus ex  machina: the lower levels, the more pragmatic actors and the ones who live with their everyday experiences here,  or the Albanians in Greece are the ones who know how to get things done; the ones who despite their individualism, live together and  prosper. Look at middle Albanian businessmen in my country; they are all well-off and they keep doing well, despite hindrances. Have a look also at the Greek minority here, which beyond persisting difficulties , lives and works. The (business)man in the street, Greek and Albanian alike, is pretty cognizant of the great range of possibilities  existing in almost all fields.
What really matters is that these very people know perfectly well that nothing between  the two of us is impossible. I think these people know the way. What could be done is to make available more get-togethers, more man- to- man contacts and bring civil societies closer together.

TT: Politically, there exists an expectation in Tirana that Greece will be an advocate of Albania's integration in the EU and, in fact, the performance of Greece during its presidency of the Union backed that assertion. How would you comment the stance of the Greek government towards Albania's and, more in general, the efforts of West Balkan countries to integrate in the larger European family? Is there a difference between the Greek government as a neighbor to our region and, say, the governments of Northern members of the EU?
As for the Euro-atlantic process of Albania , no need to carry coal to Newcastle. There exists a clearly stated policy that the support of Greece has been offered quite a time ago,   and it is worth to recall that the 2004 Thessaloniki Agenda remains the milestone for the European ticket of Albania and the other countries in the area.
We are well aware of existing problems and persisting shortfalls. Generally speaking, without stability and development in each country as well as  at the regional level, the overall situation could be easily undermined: you should never ask for whom the bell tolls; your house could be equally affected. Apart from Greece' s special interest in the Balkans, there is a European one, too.  The area can never be decoupled from Europe' s strategy. So, bilateral  or national policies are complemented by the overall European framework. National positions towards any Balkan country considerably affect the shaping of the common European steps as far as the integration of these states  is concerned. There are issues still pending and some governments have to reach higher benchmarks in their overall performance, be it minority rights, fighting corruption, settling differences etc.
Every case will be assessed on its own merits.   It would be risky to mix apples and oranges, given that national performances differ in a huge variety of themes, varying from fiscal policy  up to women' s participation in public life. 

TT: In your estimation, what are the greatest challenges of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement that Albania signed with the EU on June 12th 2006?
Following the signing of the SAA, the real great challenge that Albania will face is her contractual obligations to adopt and implement a new modus operandi in a series of issues. There would be a need to incorporate a whole legislation , to overhaul the private sector and reshuffle the  administration . But the most crucial will be the necessity to convince yourselves that more efficient modes,  less cumbersome procedures and new concepts have to be established and carried out. Anyhow the need to change a lot in the current thinking is the most difficult; to quit the old perceptions and to gradually start acting somehow differently. It is a matter of  forging a new mentality, a cardinal matter in the collective psyche.
While reminding you that my country in the past had also to the heavy task  running through similar paths, first before adapting and later adhering to the European Union, it is reasonable to offer a helping hand whenever needed, given that a lot of understanding and common ground exist between the two of us. 

TT: The parallel process of NATO integration received a boost by last week's visit of NATO Secretary General, Mr. Scheffer. How would you evaluate Albania's progress towards NATO membership and where is there more work to be done?
Riga' s Summit will hopefully send the right NATO message to the aspiring countries in the region. The visit of the Secretary General to Tirana stresses the Alliance' s interest to see Action Plan for Albania fully implemented and further upgraded. Shortfalls never cease to exist, but the overall outcome will be crucial for a performance- driven decision. Restucturing the army and modernizing the equipment are invaluable criteria for reinforcing Albania's way to the Atlantic structures. As for Greece, security and stability in the Balkans is of the outmost importance. Our participation in the NATO presence in Tirana is  a proof of   this concept. Apart from the intensive bilateral defense cooperation, the national efforts are complemented in view of the Albanian commitments  to  NATO, while we should not forget the major political criteria  which, without doubt,  matter. 

TT: Many have pointed out that one of the greater impediments on Albania's road to Euro-Atlantic integration is the ferocity of political struggles in this country.  Do you think that this is a fair assessment? 
It would be absurd to overlook each country' s psyche and mentality. It is unreasonable to believe that great changes in how a society behave can take place overnight. None forgets that  the Balkan and Mediterranean temperament  are important ingredients in personal and collective reactions. Moreover, it is one of the reasons why time for adaptation is necessary. As stated before, you do not adapt  just laws or administration, you need to change patterns of attitude in public( and why not?) and private life. This cannot but be reflected  in the parliamentary life too. No doubt  you gain more by convincing each other rather than acrimoniously speaking out and toughly standing up. However it is difficult to judge political behavior, since you should have  an all- inclusive picture of the people, to get deep into the roots of the problems, even when certain patterns transgress, so to say, European standards. On the other hand, bona fide advice should not be dismissed, especially when it is offered by friends and partners. It is hard to judge human activity, let alone political struggles. 

TT: On a more personal note, how do you feel about your 'Albanian assignment'?  How do you and your family find life in Albania?
Indeed, it is a great challenge. Now that Albania is entering a new era in both domestic policy, as well as on its way to the Euro-atlantic integration, Greece is asked to prove how much broader and deeper can bring bilateral relations with the ultimate aim of  making  them strategic and an exemplary pattern for the wider region. Sure, the means exist. Take the Greek Minority with its background and potential; it is an insurmountable parameter, a continuous stimulus  for full-fledged cooperation in almost all fields. But what I would classify as the top challenge ahead of us is to promote at an optimum level  the image we have of each other, among writers, businessmen, journalists and last but least youngsters who make up the new generation. These must be the driving force and hope  of our efforts.
As for me,  my children ' s age and studies  make it difficult even for my wife to follow me. So, I  am enjoying my stay here alone.

TT: Anything else?
Seizing today's opportunity I would like to stress how much I hope and anticipate the media to assist  us in conveying for my country  the real image of what Greece means to Albania.
                    [post_title] =>  Interview: Kokossis on Albanian Greek Relations 
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                    [post_date] => 2006-09-08 02:00:00
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                    [post_content] => By Susan Kotta
Circa 1910, in Boston, Massachusets, Koco Kotta and Angjeliqi Poci, both from prominent Kor衠families, married.  They returned to Albania and in Korca Nuci Kotta was born, soon followed by his sister Tefta's birth. They spent a happy childhood in Korca,  playing soccer and the ancient game of marbles with lamb knucklebones. Nu詠was proud to have perfected the skill of shooting "corners" on the muddy Kor衠school grounds, which catapulted him to distinguished status in Paris when he arrived at the LycꥠMichelet in 1932, age 12. 
The family was active in the betterment of Albania.  Nuci's father became Prime Minister in King Zog's government and Nuci's  aunt  (his mother's sister) was the celebrated "Betsy Ross" of Albania, whose embroidered flag was hoisted over the balcony in Vlora from which Ismail Kemal declared Albania's independence in 1912.
In Paris for his education, from 1932 through 1938, Nu詠was only home on summer vacations, enjoying the family farmhouse in Pendavinja. His mother died of influenza in 1936.  
In Paris, Nu詠developed ties with his cousin, Milto No謡, Charg顤'Affaires of the Albanian Legation, who shepherded him through his new surroundings. Together they launched a lifelong partnership in Albanian matters. 
In the summer of 1936 Nu詠was in Munich and later  remembered watching the noisy demonstrations of the young Brownshirts, foreshadowing a looming disaster. He transferred to the prestigious LycꥠLouis le Grand, where he passed the first Baccalaurꢴ in 1938, winning first prize in French. He was awarded the second Baccalaurꢴ in 1939, the year that was to cut him off permanently from his homeland, at age 19.    
The Italian invasion of Albania in April of that year, followed by the fall of France in 1940, transformed Nu詧s life, as they did all of Europe. Milto accompanied the King to London and Nu詧s father was in Greece. Nuci was never to see his father again. While awaiting an end to the war and his return to a free Albania, in 1942 he earned his Law License at the Facult顤u Droit, Universit顤e Paris. 
He was engaged in following and abetting Albania's struggles against Italy, until its fall in 1943; Germany, until its expulsion from Albania in November 1944; and Greece, following its liberation in 1944 with renewed claims on "Northern Epirus". He wrote his doctoral thesis, L'Albanie et la question des fronti鳥s Albano-Grecques, published in 1946. He still expected the free elections in Albania guaranteed by Britain and the United States. The bestowal of Doctorat es Lettres, Mention Bien, in 1945 coincided roughly with the title "Enemy of the People" conferred by his native land, now Communist.   
In the postwar years he taught French and history in secondary school and introduced the study of Albanian at the National School of Spoken Eastern Languages. Aiming to involve Albanian exiles in informing the West of the unspeakable conditions imposed by the Soviet Union on Albania and the other Balkan states and to exert pressure for their prompt liberation, Nu詠edited a journal distributed throughout the exile community and to Western governments. He was named to the committee of the National Committee for a Free Albania (NCFA) when it was founded in Paris in 1949. The Committee went to the United States under the aegis of the newly-formed Free Europe Committee (FEC). "Balli Kombetar" leader Midhat Frasheri, president of the NCFA, died suddenly in 1949, and agrarian leader Hasan Dosti became president. Headquartered in New York, there were branches in Rome, Paris, Athens, and Istanbul.
Eminent exiled East European leaders in a devastated Europe found not only asylum and financial support in the US.  The strategic importance of Albania was seen, and as the British partliamentarian Nicholas Bethell thankfully detailed for us in Betrayed (1984), England and the U.S. had developed a joint plan to secretly fund an internal revolt to overthrow the Communist dictator Enver Hoxha as the bridgehead to the liberation of  Eastern Europe and the defeat of the Soviet Union. General Eisenhower, a member of the fledgling FEC, won the presidential election in 1952. Unfortunately the parties who made up the NFCA began vying for some phantom sense of power, shattered the indispensable unity of purpose and began to fall apart.  Nu詠edited Shqiperia, the news organ of the NFCA. It was distributed to the Albanian exile community and to Western governments. Miniscule copies of the four-page newsletter were air-dropped to eager recipients on the ground in Albania by the planes delivering parachutists to prepare for the insurrection. The NCFA continued to present its support and pleas for border guarantees to official Washington.  In 1952  Mr.Dosti presided over an Ad Hoc UN committee hearing in Geneva on slave labor conditions in Albania.
 
The Free Europe Committee

The FEC offered other avenues for spreading the exile story.  Radio Free Europe (RFE) broadcast messages from eminent exiles to their enslaved peoples. In January 1952  Nu詠Kotta was interviewed by Hugh G. Grant, the last US Minister to Albania. At FEC conferences  Nu詠emphasized the necessity for representatives of the Balkan states to take advantage of their refuge in America to absorb and later plant long-developed Western ideals in the minds and hearts of their liberated countrymen.
 The Tuesday Panel provided a forum for the various national committees to discuss their distinct circumstances, keep their common plight before the Western Powers, and lend united support to the anti-Communist efforts. At meetings in 1952, Nu詠elaborated on the theme of a breakthrough via popular revolt in Albania.  Nu詠described the new Albanian constitution, which, as in other puppet governments, reflected the Soviet model: the command of the country by Soviet military and "technicians", suppression of writers, Russification of education, and religious persecution.
Dr. Nuci Kotta participated in many activities of the FEC, among them,  The Liberal Democratic Union of Central Eastern Europe, the Mid-European Studies Center (he worked with Ms. Miriam Paul who also worked with the Fultz Foundation),  and the European Federation Project.  Research was conducted concerning the European Integration effort, including feedback from other members of the exile community about industry, agriculture, finance, health, education and public welfare.  Dr. Kotta advised a former U.S. Minister to Albania, Charles C. Hart and Mr. Hugh G. Grant, the last U.S. minister to Albania and a great friend of Albania, and Dr. Telford Erickson, who had founded the Albanian-American School of Agriculture in 1925.  Dr. Kotta and Mr. Hart both spoke to the Albanian people several times over Radio Free Europe.  He worked in the mid-1950's with  Peter Minnar, writing for the news organ The Albanian-American, in efforts to rally Albanian Americans in keeping America aware of Albania's plight and efforts for liberation. He was a member of the International Commission of Jurists and called upon Albanians to keep strict records and pass them to Free Albania branches and said that justice, and not blind vengeance, would eventually be served.
In 1954 he took a sales position with an international aircraft spare parts company in Washington, D.C., returning to New York occasionally to address the Tuesday Panel and speak before the newly-formed Assembly of Captive European Nations (ACEN). Its purpose was to represent the East European countries that had no voice and to offer support for the defeat of Communism by the Free World in the Cold War.     
In 1955 Nu詠was elected Deputy Secretary-General of ACEN and editor of the ACEN News, which he did for five years. The Assembly's growing fear was that as the Soviet-inspired policy of "mutual disarmament" and "peaceful coexistence" settled in, not only would those people who lived in captive nations continue to suffer, but that they would be transformed into compliant conformists, lose the very concept of individual freedom, and adopt the criminal mentality of their oppressors. That fear was only too prescient.  
In 1962 he worked with Abas Kupi on the First Congress in Exile held in New York City, and Nu詠was elected Secretary-General. King Zog's son, Leka, following his father's death, pledged, after restoring order to a liberated Albania, to abide by the results of verified free popular elections as to the form of government appropriate for Albania. 
     
A  "Stateless" Exile 

In December of 1959 he testified with Arshi Pipa, a recently-arrived escapee from ten years in prison, about the crimes of Krushchev before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. He also gave a speech that year before the Kiwanis Club on the effect of the Soviet oppression of its captive satellites. 
He also dealt with the hard reality of establishing himself financially within the narrow scope available to a "Stateless" exile. Having chosen not to apply for citizenship in any country but his own, he was ineligible to practice law. In 1960, he began teaching  French part-time at Hunter College and Columbia, where he began work on his  Ph.D. In 1964 he completed work on his doctoral thesis, an analysis of Voltaire's tale, "L'Homme aux quarante ꤵs". He stressed Voltaire's pioneer journalistic achievement in reaching out to the very people whose freedom and justice Voltaire championed. He found the same unique quality paramount in the tale,  "the education of the public - even the poorer classes - is the underlying theme running throughout the tale." It was in this sense that Voltaire, the reformer/philosopher, had served as Nuci's model for many years.
Nu詠became the Assistant Professor of French at the new  State University of  New York at Stony Brook in 1964.  He moved to the suburbs with me, his wife of three years, and our two-year-old son Gjergj when a heart attack suddenly struck him down in July, 1965. In his eulogy  Mr. Hugh Grant encapsulated the loss felt by so many around the world when he said, " the death of  Dr. Nuci Kotta is a personal tragedy for us, but Albania has lost a noble son, a true patriot, 'on fire,' in his zeal for the restoration of the complete independence and sovereignty of his native land and the freedom of the Shqipetars - Sons of the Eagle!". Our second son, Thoma Nu詬 was born in 1966.
                    [post_title] =>  A Noble Son of Albania - Dr. Nuci Kotta  (1919-1965) 
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                    [post_content] => SHKODRA, Sept. 7 - Using explosive devices or other illegal tools is seriously endangering the fish life in the Shkodra Lake and Buna River, experts say.
The Lake has been long declared a natural resource protected from the government but that has not stopped illegal fishing in its waters. 
Like everything after the fall of communism Albanians felt 'free' to do whatever they wanted, including fishing, which in many cases served to support the families. Albanians are poor and that has been found as a way to get some money. But what is the government doing to stop that?
One illegal way to fish has been using the electricity lines that collects a great number of fish. Hat damages the fish life always but especially at the period of the eggs. That threatens the reproduction of that species in the future. Commander of the Rangers protection force has continuously appealed to the people to stop using that fishing method. Such a police force has made efforts to stop illegal fishermen, especially those who use electricity. They have sequestered some 20 generators used by these persons. But the great space covered from the lake makes it impossible to eliminate all of these tools. The Rangers troops do not have the optimal vehicles and other infrastructure like light at night when those fishermen exercise their activity.
Environmental organizations have long expressed their concern for the illegal fishing saying such kind of fishing has serious endangered the fish reserves in the lake and the river. It is estimated that some fishes have fallen in half because of that, or more. If until 1990 some 200-250 tons of fish were collected in a year that figure has been reduced tenfold now. The environmentalist groups say the reason are the significantly greater number of fishermen and the illegal ways they use. If there were 100 fishermen in 1990 now they have increased tenfold to 1,000. Many of them do not know or recognize the normal rules of fishing.
Experts say that the laws to protect the fauna are there, the problem remains their application, implementation. They add that bringing the number of the fishing structures to the previous ones is possible if the proper research studies are first made. Besides they add that the community around the lake should have an increased awareness of the damage they suffer from such an illegal activity.
Sport fishing should not be stopped, but it should be better organized. Sport fishing has had good traditions in Shkodra and that also serves as a good attractive tool to promote tourism in the area.
Shkodra Lake has 45 different fishes, most of them living there permanently. While 12 other fish come and go to the Adriatic Sea through the Buna River. But Shkodra Lake has been well known for his carp fish because of its subtropical waters. The carp may be up to one meter long and up to 20 kilograms in weight. 
                    [post_title] =>  Illegal fishing threatens Shkodra Lake 
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            [post_date] => 2006-09-29 02:00:00
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            [post_content] => By Alba ȥla
Meet the funniest town in Cape Cod, Massachusetts:  Provincetown! or as it is usually referred to shortly P-town, a safe haven for gay and lesbian couples to celebrate their diversity in a peaceful and funny atmosphere, away from the curious or prejudiced gaze that follows them elsewhere. P-town is located right at the tip of Cape Cod and is easily reached by boat or bus from popular destinations like Boston or Newport. It was the first place where the pilgrims landed, the supposed first missionary settlers in America, from whom Americans have inherited the tradition of thanksgiving, a popular holiday still cherished throughout the country. A high tower stands still near the center of the town commemorating the arrival of the famous Mayflower ship, and also the agreement that they all signed about the way they wanted to conduct their life away from Britain.
The changes form their arrivals in 1620 are breathtaking. The pilgrims were strict religious people and one can only take a wild guess at to what their reaction would be to the contemporary Provincetown, bustling with a gay and lesbian carnival parade every summer. Its main artery is Commercial Street, lined up with shops, restaurants and other tourist destinations. Surrounded by vast beautiful beaches and equipped with a generous choice of different entertainment offerings, P-town is not an unusual tourist destination. Curiously, over time it has developed into a place where diversity and individuality are accepted and accommodated with ease. In the summer it hosts hundreds of international students who work seasonally in the shops, hotels and restaurants of the town.
 I visited p-town in my second year in the States to meet some of my old friends who were working there for the summer but also to learn more about the community of gays and lesbians it hosts. I found a beautiful fun little town which had been a fishing village before. Sitting at the beautiful veranda of the caf顅uropa I thought that it is probably named so to celebrate its whitewashed walls full of decorative flowers in proper Mediterranean style. I met Bulgarian, Albanian and Romanian friends from school and they all had a story to share about P-town. Though not necessarily for religious reasons, our cultures as well have been quite rigid to the idea of homosexuality and the reactions are still uninformed at best. For these people who faced the culture of gays and lesbians everyday though things were easier to explain. "It is different to know real people with real lives. You understand they are no monsters, you understand that your own misconceptions were wrong- said one student from Kosovo who waited at one of the most popular restaurants in town-and above all they are al friendly and respectful. And that is what is important to me." 
One year later, I decided to chase other acquaintances to learn about their experience, their lives in the gay town. Having had two gay guys as two of the best friends (and 2 of the most important people) in my life, I felt compelled to send a message of tolerance and of the need to cherish diversity. So far I have found nothing more self-reflective and thoughtful as the account given by D from Tirana who spent only one summer in P-town. Here is what he recalls:

How did you decide to go to P-town? Was there something in particular that made you choose this destination?
I had heard a lot about P-town from my college peers. It seemed like each of them had a lot of fun there and also made decent money over the summer while we had no school. My first two summers in the US I did not "earn a fortune" as opposed to all my friends who had been to P-town, who kept telling about fun summer jobs and great wages. On the contrary, I barely saved to break even in my first two summers working as a lift operator in an amusement park in MD, and as a cashier at Burgerking in CT. So I decided to go to P-town both to make some money, but also I was very curious of the gay fun life everyone was talking about. Also two of my best friends T. and S. were going there that summer so I made up my mind to go the this exotic town.

You knew before hand that P-town was inhabited by lets say a little "unusual" community. Were you prepared for what you found on ground? How did the reality differ from your expectations? 
If by "unusual community" you refer to the gay community there, yes I knew that it was a gay, and hence weird in my mind, community. I was aware that it was a gay town, so to speak, but what I did not know was that what I thought was "gay" was different from what it actually was. Before going to P-town, I had always thought that 99% of gays were effeminate men (sissies, or queens). What I realized in P-town was that the gay men, were predominantly very muscular, much like Hollywood action movie stars, and they had no "feminine" behaviors at all: their bodies were quite manly, so were their voices, and their gestures. I would not tell they were gay, had I seen them elsewhere. So their appearance was different from what I expected. Many times I thought how embarrassing it was that me, being a straight guy and hence a real man as I considered myself, couldn't beat any of those gay guys. I felt I was the "sissy" oneŠBut of course, some of them had a normal body, i.e. not really built up. 
Also I had never thought two men, and two women could kiss in the streets, hold hands while nobody staring at them. In the beginning I was shocked, meaning surprised, at this, but after a month it was as natural as two opposite sex persons kissing and holding hands in the streets.
I had expected weirdo-s but I found people. Like everywhere else people are different: some are vegetarians, some love pasta, some love sports, some are too religious, while these ones have "same sex" relationships. Now, after the experience in P-town, I believe that being gay is like any other attributes.

What impressions do you have from homosexual people (gay and lesbian) in p-town?
Other than their appearance, I realized that the gay guys were normal people: some were mean, some OK, and some very good people. As a matter of fact I made friends with some of them, and found out that besides our sexual orientations we had a lot in common. Before going to P-town, I had never imagined becoming a close friend to a gay guy, but eventually this happened: one guy I was working with at the beach resort, named Paul. We had a great time together at work and off work. We dined together several times; and sometimes together with his boyfriend. I even hanged out at his house. 
Let me briefly tell you about the first time I went at his place: the first time Paul invited me over, I was so afraid to go, I thought he would allure me to sex, knowing that he had told me I was a cute guy, or as my other friends Jason always told me "sugar lips". My heart was beating fast when I was at the passenger seat of his car. We entered the house and I was searching for the "emergency exits". I thought that I would get out of the balcony in such a case. BUT NOTHING HAPPENED. Paul showed me the house and the garden. We had some refreshments and sandwiches, watched some TV and that was it. After that I felt so ashamed of even having thought the possibility of a rape. Oh god, how much prejudiced we are (I was!). 
What also struck me was that the gay gays were very style-conscious: the most of them had great style and they did not smoke. 
Here we interrupt our interview and D explains to me that the obviously gay guys like to call each other "fags", but would not allow straight guys to call them so. He compares this to another dichotomy in the American society: "It is very similar to what happens with the word "nigger" and the white guys; the colored people don't like to be called such from the whites, but happily call each other so." Most of my friends in the States have been able to discern this interesting observation about the African American community here but not all of us can extend that to the homosexual community. He proceeds to tell me that eventually he gained the right to call them "fag" and vice versa because they realized he was not homophobic. His account continues:
Well what else? Very, very, gentle as opposed to the female gays. I think that the lesbians in P-town were quite rude, they were the ones to cause trouble. Me being a security guard in a gay resort, never witnessed throwing out a gay guy, but every other day we'd have trouble with the ladies. Also contrary to my previous belief, I never saw a pretty lesbian like those in the porn moviesŠThe guys were handsome, oh yeah, but the girls, well it seemed to me they had become lesbian because of their looksō
Everyone has a story and some of the stories they shared with me were impressive. Some of them had had families for years before realizing that they had to be themselves and turning to be entirely absorbed in the gay life. Being able to listen to them made me realize how much more considerate I should be before judging.
Do you think that as a result of your summer experience something in you has changed mostly referring to the opinions you hold about gay people?
Definitely: before P-town I thought being gay was wrong. But being gay is not more, nor less than just, oh well, being gay. I tried to understand whether this was their choice or innate. From what I understood it was innate. Paul could tell whether a certain woman was charming/sexy or not, but even if she were she was "transparent" to him. He would have no desire whatsoever for the sexiest of ladies, even Marylin. Others like Kevin, told me that while other guys at his elementary school, would love to hold their girl classmates' hands, he actually preferred to walk hand to hand with his boy classmatesŠBut others found out they were gay in their late 20's some of them had even been married before. Whether inborn or not, it doesn't really matter. Everyone has their right to the pursuit of their happiness. I don't mind gay people. What bothered me was the fact that little by little, every day, I was tempted to "try it". Not only it was not "wrong" anymore, but now I was considering "trying it". They would come up and tell me the advantages of having sex with a male versus a female. But, I didn't budge. On the other hand, I would not like to spend another summer in P-town, because I'm afraid I would break and "try it". Frankly, I don't know what held me from trying. My best guess would be my parents, my friends, my teachers, everybody in Albania who views being gay as a crime. I was brought up thinking it is a crime, and I don't want to be a criminal. The same thing as having an earring or dying your hair. I'd love to have an earring but my dad would die of a heart attack, becauseŠ"this is wrong." 
 
What do you think about the general hostile attitude in Albania towards the phenomenon and the culture of gays? It is a rigid society that considers this topic a tabooō
We Albanians are messed up. We think that spitting in the street, throwing garbage out of our balconies, hooting the horns in the street as soon as the green light comes up, Ƴtealing arms and shooting at each other is OK, but being gay is wrong. Oh please, I can't understand my people! I can't tell what's wrong in our mindsō

D. ends on a perplexed and almost angry note and I consider his confusion as fully justified. Perhaps if everyone could have the opportunity (and a mind open-enough to welcome that opportunity) to live through such an experience, even the most stubborn homophobic could change their mind at least slightly about being gay and about how gay people are. Till then we seem to be condemned to live in a dark and anguishing prejudice.
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