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Covid, Tropoja-style

“Nature is inescapably harsh, relentless and ruthless.  She has certainly never wept in sympathy, nor stretched a hand protectively over even the most beautiful or innocent of her creatures.” “. . . nature guards the way to death with pain.” — Eugene Marais, The Soul of the White Ant I used to think, in a […]

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Just Another Day at the Office . . .

Five o’clock on a sticky Friday afternoon. Bajram Curri is still snoozing in afternoon siesta mode. And suddenly the booming of a tupan crashes through the air. BOOM BOOM boomboomboomboomboom! We were just slowly gathering things to start heading home – and let this not give you the wrong impression: We do NOT keep normal […]

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Police

Albania has a new initiative – something to do with illegal immigrants.  Typically for Albania, instead of actually going to look for illegal people (How would you find them?  Who knows who’s illegal?  Illegal people look just like anyone else!  ARE like anyone else.  And as they’re illegal, there’s no way to track or find […]

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Coming Home

Sadik yells.  Everything that comes out of his mouth, good or bad, seems to be constructed entirely of large capital letters, followed by numerous exclamation marks.  On the rare occasions when you can make him understand that you’d really like him to stop yelling, he then falls into a sort of continuous stream of dark […]

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Hopeless, Horseless

Three days ago, I was driving back from the horses, through the lingering twilight of an August evening.  On the small road of lower Dojan, Hussen Halucaj’s wife flags me down.  Other than waving cheerfully in passing – I which I have to do to everyone as everyone seems to know my name and calls […]

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Life with Shepherds

It’s a beautiful morning.  I have woken, as I usually do when alone, sometime before the sun rises.  People talk about the pleasures of a good night’s sleep, but given me a broken night, any time.  The sheer glee of waking – it’s dark – and fumbling for a phone (to check the time), half […]

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Dicky-Bird

Down came a dicky-bird, and snipped off her nose I have been thinking.  As Lorelei Lee says “I seem to be thinking, practically all of the time.” Bits of thought float around my head. I’ve been reading Lord of the Rings, and perhaps more interestingly, what Tolkien himself wrote about writing it.  And what Christopher […]

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Shutting the Barn Door

For Bill Barlow, who asked. Three days ago, wolves ate one of my horses.  I got the news in a typically Tropojan fashion:  Someone saw the horse down, called Sadik, who owns the land where they’re pastured, who called Liridon, whose number he had, who called Jordi, who told me:  the Telephone game, whisper down […]

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Quarantine in Tropoja

Almost 11 years ago, I left New York City to move to a remote valley in the accursed mountains of Northern Albania.  When I moved here, there were no telephones, hardly any roads, and barely any cars.  The area was famed – even within Albania – for lawlessness and violence.  Foreigners wondered why I would […]

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My Day Off

It is 2 o’clock in the afternoon, on a Sunday, after what MAY have been one of the most insanely over-committed weeks of my life.  Which, if you know me, is really Saying Something. The sun is strong, enough to make you squint.  A few birds – mostly just one – are chirping and twittering […]

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