THE BALKANS AND THE BEALE STREET BLUES
What we needed was someone interested in Kosmet. Someone who saw the importance of opening up the province to foreign teachers, of aiding Albanians at this dynamic stage of their development. Someone with vision. Someone, that is, with more clout than Tvinset.
I was told to be ready by seven again the next morning. Suleiman was going to try to get me an interview with the Secretary for Education in Serbia. He was an Albanian.
The Minister was seated alone at the end of a conference table, three ash trays along. Dark as Suleiman, a little weary and remote, he still had that un-English spark of appraisal and appreciation when faced with a female, even at eight in the morning, which never failed to surprise me. In England only men who dug up roads or worked on building sites were allowed to react to the presence of women which was why I’d never quite lost the feeling once across the Channel that almost every man in sight was leaning on a shovel watching me go by.
The Secretary ordered coffee and started to question Suleiman in Ser- bian about the Faculty and the closing of the English department in Prizren. Suleiman told him Prizren students could come to Pristina.
”Do you think I care about town students?” the Minister broke in scathingly. “Prizren is the center for a mountain region. And you destroy that because you teachers are too ‘tired’ to travel there twice a week!”
Suleiman looked at the ministerial carpet. I counted the ashtrays. Coffee arrived and Suleiman began again in what must have been Albanian. The Minister was beginning to look amused. There was a definite twinkle. He was probably hearing about my ‘nice’ Albanian band.
“Yes, of course, it would be very good for us if you went.” He was talking in Serbian again. “But —” dryly — “aren’t you scared? It seems you know the conditions in Kosmet but haven’t you heard what they say about us Albanians? ...That we sell girls in our villages? Hmm...” He was leaning on his shovel again. “...Your father could get quite a good price for you...”