As an expat there are basically two ways in which you can live in a foreign country. You can live apart on a compound and have little to do with the 'natives', or you can live amidst them and involve yourself with their lives. We chose to live right in the center of a normal Tirana neighbourhood, although we did pick a large and comfortable apartment. Living in the 'penthouse' gives us a wonderful sense of privacy and serenity once we lock the door. Recently as I was walking in the city, three little encounters with the tragic reality of everyday life in a very poor country hit me in the face.
Monday, October 10, 2005
The first nearly knocked me off my feet. I was walking down a busy tree-lined street when I literally almost tripped over a small bundle laying on a piece of cardboard in the center of the sidewalk. Coins were strewn around the object and I had to wait a moment in order to walk around it. I stopped and looked down and noticed that the bundle was a small dirty baby, swaddled in dirty blankets. I looked around frantically for its mother, but I couldn't identify anyone who looked like they were watching the baby. I felt angry and wanted to sweep up this tiny package and run. But I didn't.
On another morning I was walking down one of my favourite streets in the city, on my way to a lovely small outdoor market, when I heard the sound of someone crying. Just ahead of me, tucked around the corner of a shop was a young man, perhaps 30 years old, and he was weeping- no howling into his hands. I hesitated. The sight and the sounds were overwhelmingly sad and my heart felt like it was being torn in two. It seemed no one else noticed this man in pain, and I wanted to stop and give him a hug. But I didn't.
Last week I was on my way to the computer shop for some new printer cartridges and I was watching the groups of young students hanging out outside the cafes along the street. Then I spotted a very young boy, I think he was about 8 or 9 years of age. He was laying completely still in the middle of the busy sidewalk. He was on his side and wasn't moving. His clothes were dirty and his feet were bare. No one looked down at him, no one stopped. In my mind I wondered if he was even alive. I started to tell my driver to stop. But I didn't.
These things have been bothering me now for sevral weeks. What should I have done? I should have done something. I am not the kind of person who ignores the pain of other human beings. I should have done something but I didn't. I know my excuses: I don't know the language, I don't know organizations to call, I am afraid I might get hurt, and I don't want to be ridiculed for being concerned. But despite all the excuses I may have, I know I did the wrong thing. I've always had a life strategy for dealing with new situations which involves mentally rehearsing things that might possibly happen to me and working out how I would deal with them. Being prepared ahead of time means that I will act the way I really want to. Now I am trying to working out in my heart how to deal with these disturbing experiences, because I am convinced that I will have many of them in Tirana. I want to be able to say "I stopped and helped". And I will.
Posted by Miss Kim at 9:20 AM
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