Saturday, May 24, 2008

If Not for the Americans...

He said he'd be dead instead of fixing my wall. I was told I'd hear people tell tales of gratitude to the Americans, but this was the first one I heard since being here. He told me how the Serbs had burned down his house and he went from cousin to cousin and finally Macedonia to get away from the Serb army. He saw the bombs from the NATO planes fall, and he was so relieved to be able to live. He'd received no real education - the Serbs didn't allow Albanians more than the rudiments. No real future, no hope. All that changed with the Americans. He's worked for the mission for over eight years. His house is very near completion - he's been rebuilding it himself with the money and skills he's learned from the Americans.

I felt embarrassed. I wasn't personally responsible for any of the things that happened then, and I'm just here as a guest. We can't understand what they've gone through. It's been a century and a half since there's been a war on American soil. 9-11 is the closest we've ever come. I hope it never gets any closer than that. The whole thing left me proud of my country and embarrassed that I couldn't do more.

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