Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Portrait #71: The cable guys

On Saturday, two young men knocked on my door at 11:00 a.m. They were two hours early, but they eventually explained to me that they were trying to finish their day as quickly because it was Valentine's Day and as soon as they were done their work for their day, they could go home.

They hesitated at the door when I beckoned them in. They were both taking their shoes off, but extremely slowly, as if they didn't particularly want to remove their shoes. I pointed at the end of the corridor and my shoes there, near the entrance to the living area, and said, "At the end of the hall is fine." They looked up, then back at their half-shod feet, then back at the end of the corridor again. Finally, they walked in, out of the cold, proceeded to the end of the hall where they politely removed their shoes, and entered my flat.

I showed them into the living room where the television is. They found the remote and started fiddling. Finally, one asked me, in a surprised tone: "No Cable TV?" I replied that that's what they had come to install, wasn't it? That and Internet. (I digress here: to those of you who know me well, can you believe I have my own flat and have cable TV in my flat?! What's happening to me???) Well, they grunted and started tugging at wires and cables. I went back to my work, since I was on a deadline, and they disappeared.

For the next fifteen minutes, as I typed away, I could hear them rummaging around in the garden behind my flat. I assume the landlord showed them around. The landlord's son (at least I think that's who it is) seemed to pop in and out of the flat several times throughout the hour the cable guys were there.

Wires all sorted out, one guy started to configure my computer with the necessary cable internet settings. As he worked, they told me why they were eager to finish quickly on the holiday, but they laughed me off when I asked them if they had big plans for Valentine's Day. Then I apologised for not offering them tea or coffee, because I didn't have anything good enough to offer them. They both looked at me, with big, wide, childlike eyes. They said it was fine, but their eyes told me otherwise.

Then they asked me what I'm doing here. I told them I work for an international NGO, and they got animated. What do I do? How long have I worked there? What types of projects does the NGO do? When they realised I'm recently arrived and that it's a small office, the questions stopped coming and one of them said, "Oh... because we were hoping you could get us a job there."

I apologised that I didn't yet have any connections of value and couldn't help them, and then I asked him why he was looking for a job if he was already working. He said that what they make is too little, he's always looking for something better. This is too little to live on. So I asked him how much he makes, if he was willing to share that information. He told me to guess. I pulled a figure out of my head: 300 Euro. He exclaimed, "For 300 Euro, I'd-- I'd--" I couldn't tell whether I'd guessed high or low, but obviously it was WAY OFF, right? Well, turns out his salary is 200 Euro a month. He was quick to point out that this is a job that requires technical skills, as well as English knowledge. And his friend had recently worked abroad, in Germany, but this was the best they could do.

They laughed and joked with me as they finished the settings. We had to sit around for a while while we waited for my internet account to be activated, but they didn't mind at all. They taught me a few words in Albanian and showed me my new TV channels, making sure I knew where BBC and CNN were, as well as the two English entertainment channels - and, of course, Fashion TV.

And then it was working and they were on their way to their undisclosed Valentines Day plans. I apologised again as they left for my poor hospitality and they waved me off as they put their shoes on and trudged down the hallway into the cold.


Anonymous said...

As I posted in recent articles it is a good proof that the government does nothing and people are forced to work for 20 Euros while they enjoy swimming,sking in different parts of the world... I actually know people who work for 150 Euros a month, for 10-12hrs a day and 6-7 a week, would you work for that much? When you have limited or no income you would definately... Presidents Sejdius monthly salary is 3000 Euros a month, best paid Presindetn in Balkan and guess what he does NOTHING.... Please do me a huge favour and write an article about corruption, how the government does nothing, bribing, gangs forcing business to pay up or shot down etc..... Look forward to your comment though will keep anonymous for safety issues......... Thank you

Kati patrianoceu said...

Dear anonymous, thanks for your comments. I feel your pain, there's a lot of it to go around when looking at Kosovo these days. But, on the other hand, when I look at how far it's come in a short period of time, I'm actually quite impressed. There's a lot of reason to be doubtful, but there is also reason to be hopeful. Time will tell, I suppose.

Please see my most recent post of 23 October. I'm afraid it's a dismal excuse for answering your questions, but I hope it is still helpful for you as you continue to ponder these questions... Do keep in touch!

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