Friday, January 21, 2011

recent events in Tirana

First of all, I am regretting my somewhat flippant tone in the last post as I've learned that three people died in the protest this afternoon and many more were hospitalized with injuries.

Today was the first rainy day we've had in a while, so I didn't plan for us to leave the house at all. But then Valerie didn't take a nap, so after Gabriel woke up I decided we should go out because it was just getting to be a loooong day indoors.

The first thing I noticed was that most of the shops on Myslym Shyri were closed - at 4 p.m. on a Friday, that seemed kind of odd - but then I remembered that the nearby open-air market closes down at 4 on Fridays (I think it's a Muslim thing? but I'm not sure), although I couldn't remember if this was the norm on Myslym Shyri, which is mostly upscale boutiques. As I was mulling over this question, noting which shops were still open and which closed, we got to the corner of Parku Rinia, the first of the 3 parks we generally visit.

The second thing I noticed was the cluster of 7-8 policemen hanging out on the corner by a parked police car.

The third thing I noticed, as we crossed the street into the park, was the dull roar of a crowd. Football? I thought. But then I smelled the smoke, and then I saw it - black plumes rising from further down the main boulevard (basically, here).

All of a sudden I remembered that Shpresa told me yesterday there was going to be an anti-government protest today, because of corruption. A videotape had come out recently documenting someone high up in government either offering or accepting a bribe (Montesinos, anyone?).

There were a lot of people around, and I have to admit to a little curiosity. Instead of going to the coffeeshop we usually go to, or crossing diagonally towards the other parks (which would have taken us straight into the roaring crowd), I took a parallel path that gave me a better vantage point without going too close. I noticed there were NO other children in view, which is totally not normal for this park. And there seemed to be a decided gender imbalance weighted towards the male. But there were a lot of people just hanging out on park benches relaxing and the vibe where we were wasn't one of danger or emergency.

Well, we got to the far corner of the park, and I asked a woman standing there watching the commotion what was going on. She shrugged: "Demonstration." Why, I asked? "Socialists," she said. Then I heard what sounded like gunshots (all along there were booming noises like fireworks, which we hear quite frequently here), and I thought about tear gas and figured it was high time to get my kids home. I don't think we were close enough to get tear gassed but these things can be unpredictable.

So we turned around and went back. Valerie wanted to run across the grass and play, but it was muddy, and I pointed out the big crowd of people and said "they're having a very noisy party over there, let's go home." She was fine with that (she's not really a big fan of parties anyway).

On the way home I stopped at the grocery store for onions and a few other things and everything seemed normal there, although we could hear the sound of gunshots (or fireworks, it was hard to tell at the time what it was, although from news reports I've been reading I know now it was guns).

When I got home, two of Terry's coworkers called me to check that I was ok and to recommend that we stay home tonight. That was nice.

Here's a link to the AP article. I feel sick looking at the pictures; this is where we go walking almost every day.

1 comment:

Rachel said...


I am glad you are OK, and nothing happened while you were out.