Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Midnight Stalker

Ok, so it wasn’t midnight, it was 5:30, but it was still spooky!

Let’s set the scene. I picked up the keys to my office today (yeah!) and did a little work proofreading a paper one of my colleagues is writing. I feel so official having ‘colleagues’. I tooled around for a couple of hours, just getting my bearings, finding out tidbits aobut University politics and the like, and tried to get a little something done. I decided it was about time to go home around dusk. Mind you everyone else in the building had left at 3 p.m. – entirely different work ethic around these parts. My office is literally a one, maybe two, minute walk from my apartment. From my office window I can just about see my building. I have to go past the library, to the end of the parking lot, past the garbage dumpsters through the quagmire and BAM! I’m home.

The lovely National Library of Kosovo, from my office window*

So at 5:30 I leave the building, stop and have a chat with my friend Illya at the library and head on towards my abode. About halfway past the dumpsters I notice this guy lurking about. As soon as I looked his direction, he started to walk towards me doing the “ssht ssht” thing that anyone who has ever been to Europe or Latin America will know quite well. I picked up my pace, pulling my handbag a little closer, wishing there were a few other people around. Well, with this being the backside of my building, and a major quagmire of mud at the moment while they are repaving, that was not the case. By this time he’d started trying to talk to me, with the only word in English coming out of his mouth being a mangled version of ‘beautiful’. Did this guy really think that I was going to stop and talk to him based on the utter charm of his dumpster diving?? I don’t know about that, but what I did know was that I wasn’t about to let him figure out where I lived. I stepped it up a notch again and kept walking past my apartment. I could hear his steps right behind me, keeping pace with mine and still “ssht ssht”ing me. I rounded the corner into a café and told the bartender I was being followed. He promptly started talking to me as if we were old friends and he’d been waiting for me all day. THANK YOU! The guy hung around for a little bit, then meandered into the store next door. I called Hazel and she came and sat with me for a while until he was gone for good and I could go home. It’s nice to know that I have friends that will come to my rescue at a moments notice. I have now dubbed her St. Hazel.

I have officially had my first “I am a woman living alone in a foreign country” experience. It’s a little disconcerting, but a good reminder that in spite of the level of comfort I have felt here, I still need to keep my guard up. “Safety first!” to quote my sister Cheyenne. I think it’s time to learn a few choice words in Albanian. I’ll be sure to ask my teacher tomorrow.

* Just a quick note about the library design. It's evidently a concept art piece. It is supposed to represent the brains of Kosovo (all the bubbles) being held back by the repression of Communism (the scaffolding looking stuff). If you say so.... I think it's got to be one of the ugliest buildings I've ever seen. The inside, however, is quite nice, with a lot of beautiful stone and mosaic work. Too bad they didn't have the same person design both.

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