Friday, 30 July 2004

Music Tips 7

New Songs:

Mary J Blige - Love & Life Intro
Art Garfunkel - Mrs Robinson
Watershed - Indigo Girl
Kruder & Dorfmeister - Heroes
Nelly ft. Kelly Rowland - Dilemma

Featured Artist of the Week: Eurythmics

Monday, 26 July 2004


...Sorry Désirée...

Music Tips 6

Again late, but better late than never:

Paul McCarthy - Maybe I'm amazed
Nina Simone - Sinnerman
Ennio - Morricone - Theme from The Mission
The Eagles - Seven Bridges Road (live)
Al Green - Ain't no Sunshine

Artist of the Week: Nelly Furtado


I don't have to tell my dear readers that the Dutch minister of Foreign Affairs (short = M) visited Albania on his Balkan tour last Thursday and Friday, since they all read newspapers and watch the news (LOL). It was a successful meeting though, but cost us a lot of stress and work. M's schedule was very tight, so there was not much room to manoeuvre and to leave options open, all had to be arranged. The hotel, the restaurant, meetings with the opposition and civil society, the prime minister and the Albanian minister of FA, the signing of a treaty on double taxes, the transport, his security and more (in the end even his toothpaste and shaving foam as his suitcase was still in Belgrade). This not only for him, but also for his entourage: spokesperson, PA, DGPA, DGSE, DGSE/WB, Political Assistant and security. No idea if the DGs were really necessary and if they even said something, but it's procedure and protocol, so was probably useful. ;)
It was nice to organise though and M was nice as well. The thing that wasn't was the fact that you had to wear a suit all day. An sich for me not a problem as I do it often, but not in these temperatures. When we brought M to the plane, we had to wait and see if the plane really took off, before we were allowed to leave (protocol...). It was a bloody +30C on the middle of the airport with no shade at all! The drive to the airport was also nice: a long line of Mercedesses and 3 police cars up front clearing the road and stopping all other (upcoming) traffic. Nice to have witnessed such an event as well.

The Weekend

We closed the embassy early on Friday after the minister left. In the evening I had a "date" with one of the few beautiful blondes in Tirana (most are fake blondes and not nice) who works for the European Commission. She is here for a longer time already, so could tell me a bit more about the city and where to go. She has a bit problems with her nationality though. The name "Von Hohenlohe" would perfectly go with German nobility, which she is, but she has lived the past 7 or 8 years in France, before that around the world and she is quarter Spanish. Quite confusing, but she does speak her languages! We had a great time though, as she can oppose me, which I need once in a while. Seems that so far only German women succeed in doing that. Strange... On Saturday we met again at the pool of a very expensive hotel (I am not a member, but with bluffing and showing businesscards you get quite far) and enjoyed the time getting some sun and swimming. In the evening I had a birthday party of Elga, our translator and more at the embassy. At a resort with pool on a hill overlooking the city. It was great, lot's of food and drinks, a good DJ (although maybe a bit too much Albanian dance?) and a superb atmosphere. I danced till 1.30am and when I got home I was so tired that I slept till 1pm. Sunday was a lazy day with doing lots of nothing and reading. In the evening had dinner with a German friend and went to the Historical Museum to listen to a classical concert. Now back to work and tomorrow morning at 5.30am driving to the border, to pick up my parents who will visit me for around 2 weeks and drove down here by car.

Friday, 16 July 2004

Music Tips 5

New Selection:

Motorcycle - As The Rush Comes
Tori Amos - Flying Dutchman
Zucchero - Blue
Aerosmith - Amazing
Chris deBurgh - Spanish Train

Featured Artist of the Week: Des'ree


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Thursday, 15 July 2004

Slow Day

It is a slow day today. I still have a lot to do and enough projects to finish, but I have to wait for answers and people to come back, to continue which makes it a rather boring day. So I did some catching up in reading the local newspapers, cleaning my desk, filing some documents, going through year reports of dozens of NGO's (not all that interesting), writing 100x ".nl" after my emailaddress on my businesscards (as it wasn't printed on), calling with the ministry for information (what a bureaucracy), guarding the painters (the embassy is being painted and they are not allowed to be left unguarded...), explaining a Dutch guy that he cannot barch in and expect to get a visa for his brother-in-law at once, and more of such very useful things. Writing this as it is not even 4 o'clock makes me a little desperate, as only at 18.30 I have my next meeting at the National Art Gallery for the opening of a German (!!) exhibition about football (hahahaha). Don't want to miss that, so will figure out a way to keep myself busy for another 2 hours.

Tuesday, 13 July 2004

Beautiful Life

Yesterday it rained for the first time since I arrived in Tirana, well better: it stormed. I stood on my balcony and saw the rain pouring straight down, then the wind came up and thunder made it clear that it was serious business now. Lightning scattered through the skies and lit the city to it's max. Raindrops started to fall on my body, as the wind turned and came to my balcony, with only my trousers on, I drank my coffee, meanwhile getting totally wet. It was still warm though and the sight was magnificent and
threathening at the same time. Isn't life just great?

Monday, 12 July 2004


At the moment I have 9 projects which I am working on. It goes from the Worldbank to preparing the visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs who will visit us next week, and from some European Commission business to Security matters. Being a trainee at an embassy that is under-staffed is just great, as you get a lot of work from all kinds of fields. The idea to go here was to get an impression how the life and work on an embassy is and this is just the best way to find out. I have to say that so far I am really enjoying myself, not all is as interesting as possible, but that's normal. For the 2
weeks I am here now I cannot really say that I dislike something or that something is boring. It might come after a while or never, who knows. This week I have several meeting outside the embassy. Tomorrow I have to go to a Childrenshouse, which has a donor-meeting, and on Wednesday I have to go to both the European Commission and the Worldbank. That reminds me that I still have a lot of reading to do...


How does my day look like? Well, I get up around 7.00 / 7.15 am, take a shower, eat some breakfast (or not) and walk around 8 to the embassy. Through the shopping street I live on, where the first shops open their roll-down shutters, past some cafes where people already drink their coffees, to the park. Through the park where it seems that someone is 24/7 spraying the grass wet and where women in overalls clean up the streets. Across 2 roads which are highly dangerous, and where you can always find a guy in a wheelchair begging and 2 of his daughters (?) who are begging as well and cleaning windshields (unwanted). Past the old mausoleum of Hoxa, which is now a bar, and the Prime Ministers office with it's guards on full alert. Entering the street where the Worldbank, the State Television and the Italian and Macedonian embassies are. At the corner a caravan where you can buy your first hotdog (or something looking like it) of the day. At the gates of the Italian embassy long queues of Albanians trying to obtain a visa. Don't forget to watch the road as an entrance to the sewers has no cover. Then one final turn left and I am there. At the corner a guy with a stand selling cigarettes, cookies and handkerchiefs. At the gate of the embassy saying good morning to the police officer and the guard who opens the gate, opening the door with my keycard, walking up the stairs, opening the roll-down shutters, turning on my pc, reading the headlines of the news and getting my coffee served! What a life!


I have been a bit sloppy lately with writing on my English Blog. Looking at my stats I have quite a few foreign readers, so I know I have to do more to keep them happy. I hope this will be a good effort to do so! :)
Last weekend I went with most of the embassy personnel and some other Dutch from Tirana to the south-west of the country to the sea. It was about a 4.5 hour drive, which would normally be quite doable, but with these bumpy and rocky roads here and going up and down the hills (with the inevitable turns), it wasn't a pleasant drive. What hardly anyone will do in Albania is camping, which is of course the thing we did! Next to a beachbar was a small field with olive trees, where it was possible to camp free of charge. When something is for free, we Dutch are always front in line, so we set up half of the place with tents. I was able to borrow the tent and mattress of Cas, as he preferred a nice, comfortable hotel, but then again: he is the deputy CdP. The beachbar was a very nice place and said to be one of the best in Albania, where the Prime Minister also goes on a trip (his bodyguards were there with their big 4x4 and their guns...). Most of the seaside in Albania is not that good, due to pollution and rocks, but this beach has a lot of sand and no pollution, but is therefore also very hard to reach and (for Albanians) expensive. The Albanian Jetset was very well represented this weekend. What is the Albanian Jetset you might think, well that are Albanian men, mostly with overweight, driving big cars, earning their money on an undisclosed manner and having (fake) blond (but very nice) girlfriends/wives, who only use Lancaster and have Gucci glasses. Besides dancing in the bar till late, swimming in the sea, getting red from the sun and reading a lot, we also went paragliding. For those who don't know what it is: it is running down a hill with an instructor (ok, it's tandemparagliding), with a parachute already opened on the ground and then floating down to sea-level on the wind. It is a great experience, although not as thrilling as skydiving. That it sometimes goes wrong as well, we experienced first hand. The person who went first ran down the hill, only stopped when he thought they already lifted and fell over on the rocks (was a rocky hill). His face and body were covered with bruises and wounds. After this we moved to another hill where the ground had no rocks, just grass and all went fine. Only 3 persons could jump on Saturday and the others on Sunday and I was the last to jump on Saturday, but I was down first. When the other 2 were using the up-current above sea to stay in the air longer, my instructor just led us down to the beach. As Saturday afternoon is quite a busy time for the beach, it was hard to find a spot to land. Of course I landed on a parasol and we were immediately surrounded by dozens of kids,
who apparently never saw this before. It was a great happening!
Today back to work without air-conditioning in a 30+C surrounding! Wish I was still at the seaside...

Friday, 9 July 2004

Music Tips 4

Some new songs everyone should have:

Theraphy! - Diane
Live - Lightning Crashes
Nelly Furtado - Saturdays
Snap - Angel
Die Toten Hosen - Alles Aus Liebe
Richard Wagner - Also Sprach Zaratustra

Featured Artist of the Week: Amel Larrieux

See you next week!

Monday, 5 July 2004

Music Tips 3

And here are some more songs everybody should have:

Phil Collins - Don't Loose My Number
Yanni - Butterfly
Santana - Put Your Lights On
Outcast - Roses
Robbie Williams - Mandalay

Featured Artist of the Week: Aimee Mann

More next week...

Sunday, 4 July 2004

Albania 3

Something about the country now as that is something important, because I chose to go here. I wanted a small embassy, preferably in a developing country. Out of the 12 positive reactions I received on my open inquiry, I picked Albania. It is for sure a poor and developing country. In fact it is still the poorest country in Europe, although the economy is growing very fast. It also is a more or less forgotten part of Europe: people didn't know where to situate it when I told that I was going there. You also don't read a lot about it in the newspapers, but I know now that there is a lot going. You can see that the country is poor by the status of the roads, the pavements, the buildings, the people, the garbage and the street dogs. It's a dry country as well and every 10metres you can find a carwash due to all the dust that gets on the cars. Mercedes is the most favorite car brand here and it's a kind of srtatus symbol: everyone wants one. Yes, they are mostly all very old, but some very recent models also drive around here. Tirana is very busy to upgrade the town and to build new and modern flats. It is somehow strange to see the old and new next to eachother. The people here are friendly and polite. My blond hair has no importance at all, which is quite a shame, as the female population here is one of the prettiest I have ever seen. I always thought that the Czechs had the most beautiful females, but now I have to reconsider that. Communist symbols are almost all destroyed after the communist regime was teared down and you have to look hard to find some of the many mozaics that were here in the early days.
Of course there is a great number of expats here as well and of the 5 days I have been here now I already had 3 parties. One for football, one leaving-party and yesterday the birthday of the fish ("if we don't have a reason to party, we will make one"). So I won't get bored here I think.
If you want to reach me here: or +3556592710583

Albania 2

Started on Wednesday with working already, although my contract only said Thursday, but since I had no luggage and was anxious to start, I immediately got quite a few things to do. I have my own office, with pc (19" TFT-screen :)), telephone, fax, printer etc etc. It's actually from the Head of Administartion, but since he is not here, I can use it. Will move when the new one comes, but it is unknown when that will be. Since the embassy lacks 2 persons of the normal (Dutch) staff, I will do all the things that others cannot do or what still has to be done. It will give me a broad overview of the work on an embassy and that's exactly why I wanted this traineeship. They also gave me an official title for the time here: Attaché! :) LOL Well, since I am supposed to operate on my own and also do some stuff as representation I have to have somekind of title. For example on Friday I joined Cas on planting some new trees with the mayor. The Dutch embassy sponsored the trees so we had to be there for the opening and say some words for the TV-crews. My first TV-appearance in Albania was a fact! :) At the moment I am making the 2week news overview for the ambassadorsmeeting, which NL presides, am helping the Trade attaché with a business scan of Albania, preparing the visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2 weeks, make an overview of all medical facilities in Albania etc. My desk is already covered with paper, dossiers, prints etc. I have to say though that it is fun to do and that I am really enjoying myself. I operate more or less on my own with my own projects and contacts, I just have to inform Cas what I am doing. Can see myself already working on an embassy in 2 years or so...

Albania 1

My travel down here was not without problems. In all my travels by plane I never lost any piece of my luggage, but when you sit in a plane that leaves and still see your luggage on a carrier next to it, a strange feeling comes over you. So I arrived here without any luggage (which stayed in Budapest, but arrived the next day) and the customsofficer didn't know the visa I had, which took some time as well. Luckily I was picked up at the airport by Cas, who is the deputy-ambassador and Kolli, one of the local staff members. We first drove to the embassy where I got a quick tour through the embassy and got introduced to all the staff members. The ambassador has left the day I arrived and the new one will come somewhere in August, same goes for the head of administration.
After this I was taken to what will be my apartment for the next 3 months. It is situated right in the centre of town along a shoppingstreet, on the 10th floor. It has a livingroom and kitchen, 2 bathrooms, 2 bedrooms and a roofterrace of 50m2 on the 11th floor... HUGE!! But I pay 400Euro for it, so it must be as well (I pay 200 in NL...). It's hot here: around 32degrees C and not likely to change till October, but it's summer, so what else to expect? :)


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