This is a bit of a long read, reflecting my long time on my way down to Albania.
I wouldn’t even know how long I am traveling now. A month I guess. Checking is not possible because the internet is down for a change, here in the bar of a little town in north Albania. I am staying at the campsite, run by friends of the hostel in Shkoder. I know that I was already on the road when it was Kings-day in The Netherlands, almost a month ago. It was a long way coming down to my beloved Albania, by trains, busses and a bit of cycling. There were many friends along the way who I visited. Amongst them were three Albanians in Austria. This is one of the nice things about traveling by train: getting off it.
Malvina – who gave me a lovely hair cut – has two children with an Austrian man. They are living in Austria and she is missing her home country. I met her in the Backpackers hostel in Tirana when she was 19 years old and from the first moment I was intrigued by her. Albania would benefit from her presence since she is not the average Albanian girl. Being an artist and a rebel she is walking her own path, a blessing for a country which is much in the ties of being conservative. Nothing better than people who set their own way of living. Sure a country like Albania – at least a part of it – tries to go towards modern ideas. But real change will not happen top-down. As my Albanian friend and journalist Edvin Parruca once wrote: “It does not work to just write laws, based on western standards, it needs to come from within.” And that needs some time, as well as people standing out. Her sister Vilma, rasta rebel, was participating in the TV show Big brother in Albania, as part of a lesbian couple; that may have stretched some minds.
Also I visited Diti, with whom I was working in a remote hostel in south Albania, where we were working. He is charming and warm and I love how he plays the guitar. He has a child with lovely Sonja, an Austrian woman. I visited them in Tirana in 2015, in the days that they had to swop countries all the time, due to the visa game which they needed to play. Now things are different because the paper-opera has ended, resulting is a permit for Diti. I know how it is not to be able to be with a loved one. My dear ex-girlfriend Sonja (another Sonja, from non-EU Croatia) could not stay in the Netherlands unless I would have work and a year contract, as well as sufficient an income. Love isn’t always easy…
Tea is studying psychology in Vienna. She is a very smart person, stylish and a lot of fun. She is intrigued by the human behaviour and wants to practice psychoanalysis, particularly in group settings. She also needs to deal with the paper game. Just a simple job is a hassle. “Just because I am Albanian.” I mainly knew her through Facebook and it was wonderful to meet in real life. She was hosting me in a student apartment and we were enjoying food, especially mushrooms and asparagus.
On top of these dear encounters I met two friends from the Circling community (Circling is a practice of meditation in connection) in Vienna: the funny and outgoing Heinrich, who is kind of running the Vienna crowd and my very dear friend Marysja, who happened to visit him from Poland. This was sheer coincidence and I loved every minute of being together. Tea by the way came to a Circling night and she liked it a lot.
In Zagreb I was lusciously hosted by Katerina, Tvrko and their child Regoc, as they did oftentimes before. Regoc is a name from a fairy tale, and it is not common in Croatia to give a name like that. So yes, they are also not conforming to the average. I know the couple through my ex Sonja, who, surprise, surprise, happened to be in her home town for some two weeks. I had not seen her for ages since she has been living in many cities and we had a very warm encounter. She is the source for my deep love for the western Balkans. Since 2002 I am here almost every year.