i know i promised to never ever ever ever to write about politics again, but how could i possibly not describe last night’s event? i met Alb Prime Minister, Sali Berisha last night. and for the third time too. he is in town to speak at the annual UN meeting or something similar. it is not very clear what the conversation would be about. it is not very clear why he is meeting with us in the first place. but dubious as it is, it is still an honor, and i am curious to see the bane of my family.
see we’ve blamed this guy for everything, from my parents losing their jobs so many years ago, to the heels breaking on the unpaved dusty streets of Tirana in 1997, global warming and UFO invasion. he has been an instigator, a inciter of frenzy and crowd mentality, a tall man in a short country, one who still speaks English with that unique accent of his and a totally outworldy sentence order. that makes it impossible to translate into comprehensive speech. he inspires awe and loyalty in his followers, who in turn inspire awe and fear in the soft, aheng loving people of the capital city.
and now he wants to meet the mint diaspora, which apparently i can be considered part of.
so, i RSVP, put on some decent clothes, makeup and shiny shoes, and i go to the meet and greet. APEN (Albanian-American Professionals and Entrepreneurs Network) a semi-formal association has kindly extended an invitation to me. i like them. they are mostly young, fresh and accomplished Albanian American professionals well on their way to the American dream. they mostly hang out together and can change a lot of opinions about Albania in the Western world. i am not sure why they like me, but i am grateful to be included.
off i go, to the small elevator of a plush little hotel with Albanian front-desk, caterer and security people. strangely, i am a bit nervous but not at all vindictive. and there is an open bar with a kind bartender praise the Lord. me like open bars. everybody is here in all their business chic finery, with glossy hair, puffy dresses, all kinds of business suits, intermingle of expensive perfumes and Payless shoes, etc etc etc. i meet and i am met by people i have not seen in a while. we talk, heave at the suffocating heat of this hotel terrace and keep on looking around for the star of the show.
“so” whispers the lady in red, a real looker with brains to match “when is the President showing up?”
“well, technically he is the Prime Minister now” i whisper back, silently grateful to God for the glimpse of imperfectness i just witnessed. nope, i am not perfect either.
he comes halfway through the evening, a strangely Enver Hoxha look-alike Minister in tow, and interrupts conversations of vacations, dogs, businesses, and whatever else goes in the minds of the bright and the mighty. he goes around shaking hands, talking to people, and posing for the camera. he seems happy to be here. i am not so sure about his wife, a wonderful lady that a lot of people adore to praise as much as they adore to badmouth him. she seems out of place and her smiles are pinned to her face almost painfully. but that does not stop me from taking a picture with her while the PM is saying something profound to the men attentively listening to him. i can see that they all have perfected the attentive face. (oh boy these serious events really bring out the bitchy part of me)
then it is time to go inside and listen to the “expose” as it is called. i grab the chance for a quick pic with the former prez/PM and then i sit in the corner table to listen. his face is covered by a very big flower centerpiece. perfect.
the speech goes something like this: “the education quality has grown. we have a 2% growth rate, 27000 students enrolled in colleges this year and we’ll make them 40000 in a couple of years, we’ll provide dorm for the high school students whose schools we’d have to close because of poor attendance, we love diaspora youth, we are really trying to support Kosova in it quest for independence despite those Russians who are sabotaging the whole thing, but we are grateful America is on our side, and Croatia too, we are truly fighting corruption, we’re making a lot of improvements on the electricity crisis, i am very honored to be here, etc etc etc.”
his tone is calm, his words measured, his speech slow, despite the strange cadence threatening to come out with every utterance. at least he has corrected that and he does not insist in speaking English. gone are the harsh tone, the strange face mimic and the dark hair has been replaced by mostly white and some blondish strands here and there. but my ADD kicks in and i go out where i find like-bored people discussing different things. the other Berisha is there (Fadil), well mannered and warm as always. i also meet some old acquaintances, people who seem to survive in all governments and are born with extra administrative intrigue genes. the funny part is i knew them when they were desperate and hungry students or entry level clerks and the mentality is still exactly the same.
all in all, the evening goes well. everybody behaves, pictures are taken again and the booze is finished. i do not know what to make of this new Sali. he is forever etched in my head as a hysteria bringer, and an unemployment devil. ok, i admit the politics demanded heads but why did it have to be my father’s? and why there were no more options afterwards for him except the luxurious trade of bananas? eh, i can ask why’s until the night becomes light but it is neither the time, nor the place.
another fear of mine however is dissipated. this man will never be a dictator, not because he does not want to, but because he is not allowed. he will remain forever a politician and i think that is all for the best, even if it is not doing that much for Albania now.
i leave with a buzz (ok I admit it is mostly the wine). i join the lovely APEN people again for a quick after drink since the next day is a work day. yep, even i have reformed, and can not heed the call of the full moon indefinitely like i used to do once upon a time.
one thing is for sure, NY Albanians represent!
Yes, it is the PM. And yes, my head is bigger.
Mrs. Liri Berisha graciously posed with a lot of people at the event. Thank you.
Participants. Again the lady in red looks even better in full frontal view.
Our lovely booze-dispensing bartender. God bless.