Friday, November 4, 2016

Albania, part 2 - Albania is a silly place

Note for the Albanians, and everyone else who may feel the need to nitpick - these are my recollections of my time in the US Army 'assisting' Albania during the Kosovo air war back in 1999.

Albania is totally the inspiration for Dilbert's Elbonia, without the mittens.  It is a cartoon country.

Albanians have been there in Albania for a long time.  How long?  The ancient Greek word 'barbarian' was invented to describe the Albanians.  This being the case, the population is remarkably inbred.  While I was there, I learned that there were only 6 male Albanian faces.  That's it.  You could tell which tribe some guy was from just by looking at him.  The women were more varied, which makes sense, given the Albanian's long history of participation in the sex slavery trade.

Albania has no national economy.  They don't even grow food.  They grow hay for the sheep and goats.  They eat the sheep and goats.  The Christian Albanians eat the pigs who are the only garbage disposal service.  The Muslim Albanians eat the pigs occasionally as well, and remark about how good the 'lamb' tastes.

Albania exports oil to Italy, and imports gasoline.  This whole process runs at a net loss.

Albania doesn't make anything except crime and more Albanians.  The Albanian mafia is the scariest on Earth.  The only time I've heard about the Russian and Sicilian mafias working together, was to exterminate the local Albanian thugs in New York City.  It didn't last - for some reason, the US just keeps letting more Albanians in.  They all then turn to crime.  (This is only a slight exaggeration.)  Yes, as a matter of fact I did actually meet a local Albanian crime lord who dressed in the height of fashion as an early '70s Hollywood movie pimp.  wide collars on a pastel shirt, left unbuttoned down to his belly button, with clashing bell bottom pants and a gold chain with giant medallion.  He even had the rose colored glasses and chrome pistol.  I wanted to shoot him, just out of general principles, but my boss wouldn't let me.

Albania runs crime throughout central and eastern Europe.  They even dominate parts of Italy, because they're more frightening than la Cosa Nostra.  The Italian mob prides itself, in its heart, as being men of honor and family.  They make deals and keep their word.  They generally leave the wives and kids out of things.  Even the Russians have an honor code, even if it is very different.  Yes, the Russians will go after your kids, but only if you really piss them off.

The Albanians start with your kids.  That is their idea of a first warning, a sort of opening offer for the deal they want.  They have never met, nor even heard of ruth.  All the cars in Albania are stolen from elsewhere.  I'm not making this up.  Every.  Single.  One.  Albanians run the sex slave trade in Europe.

Back in the '90s, when president for life Enver Hodja died, the country came apart.  The new government instituted a giant ponzi scheme, and defrauded everyone.  Once the scheme had run its course, they left the country with the money, leaving the country penniless and deeply in debt.  The people revolted, and stole everything.  I mean everything.  They sold the railroad tracks for scrap metal.  They sold power lines for copper.  They demolished what few industries they had and sold the machinery for scrap.  You've heard the phrase 'industrial wasteland'?  Albania had one.  I've seen it.  A large, long valley, full of shattered, rubbled factory buildings.  They stopped construction of the nation's second multi-lane paved road after just a few miles.  It was fun to drive on - they had only laid down the cement base, which had lengths of rebar sticking up randomly out of it.  Some of the rebar was up to about a foot high.  Really fun to drive along that road.

Albania doesn't have laws.  Well, it does, but that's just so the secret police can arrest anybody for anything, because everything's against the law.  Since everything is illegal, everybody ignores all the laws.  Traffic laws in particular.  Their traffic moves on the principal that you generally drive on the right, unless you don't feel like it.  The bigger vehicle has the right of way.  Since we were the US Army, we added a new variation on that - the vehicle with the biggest guns has the right of way.  It's amazing how fast a tailgater drops back when you point a 40mm machine gun at him.  (Yes, it's a mark 19 automatic grenade launcher.)

The weirdest thing about the country was the mushrooms.  Concrete bunkers, shaped like mushrooms, were scattered all over the country.  Millions of them.  There were more bunkers than there were people in Albania.  Hodja was one seriously paranoid man, even for a Communist.  There is a reason why Soviet citizens were allowed to visit Albania without explicit permission.  The place was worse than Soviet Russia, and deliberately made ugly.  The Russians who visited were happy to get back home, and grateful to live in such a good land, compared to Albania.

In northern Albania, we found a small lake that glowed in the dark.  It was bright green, like antifreeze.  Nothing lived within about 50 yards of the water's edge.  No plants, no animals, no fungus or lichen - nothing.We didn't get within a hundred yards of it.  I wish I had pictures.

The most entertainment I had was watching the Albanian army move tanks along the road towards Serbia.  Remember, there was a war of sorts going on.  The Serbs were cleansing Kosovo of all the Albanians they could.  Albania objected.  The US got involved, because Clinton.  Anyways, the tank carriers (tanks eat roads, and vice versa.  For long distance, non-combat purposes, tanks are carried on flatbed trucks.  Really big ones.) were too long for the switchbacks along the mountain roads.  So they had to do a lot of backing and filling to negotiate each curve.  Each truck had to do this, and there were several trucks.  (Soviet model tank companies had ten tanks.)  So we spent a half a day watching ten trucks move about one mile.  That's entertainment.

The roads - Being more paranoid than thou, Hodja had the cheif of the Army design the road network for national defense.  So he designed the roads to be as difficult as possible for any aggressor to use.  The roads generally didn't go anywhere useful, and they certainly didn't go anywhere directly.  Oh, and most off them weren't paved.  The good, main roads did have gravel, so at least that's something.  Our convoy drove up a corduroy road to the top of a mountain once.  The trail was about an inch wider than out trucks, up the side of a steep mountain.  I later checked, and yes, that was a thousand foot drop I was looking straight down as I drove the truck a few inches at a time.  With the passenger side mirror pulled in, that side scraped against the cut-away portion of the mountain, while the driver's side tires were just on the edge of the logs that made up the road.  The tires were actually not over the ground, just supported by the logs and branches that made up the road, held down by the weight of the vehicle on the tires on the other side.  I'm very proud to say that every truck made it up the mountain, and back down again the next day.

That night, we had a beautiful view of the bomber strikes on the other side of the border in Kosovo (Serbia).  Two thousand pound bombs illuminate the whole night sky briefly when they explode, highlighting the silhouette of the mountains.  Good times.

This is a good point to mention that our translator at that point was an ethnic Albanian girl who had grown up in Brooklyn.  She had never left the city before she volunteered for the job to be a translator for us.  She had never seen the night sky before, and actually didn't know that you could see the sun rise and set.  When she saw the sun rise from the top of that mountain, she wept tears of joy as she drank her cold cocoa.