Wednesday, July 08, 2009

AK47 Stories

Peja, New Year's 2000 – Y2K, YWAM, and AK47s

Remember the Y2K hysteria accompanying the dawn of the new millennium? There were predictions of massive power outages; a total breakdown of communication, banking and postal systems; even civil unrest. I found the whole thing mildly amusing. The worst case scenario for our friends back in the States was just everyday life in Kosova in the aftermath of the war.

We were surrounded by danger and destruction, but it was a heady time. My friend Nezir asked me whether we would be traveling home to America for the New Year. “Why would I want to do that?” I asked him. “In America a number is rolling over. But for my Kosovar Albanian brothers, this is really a historic moment – their first New Year of freedom.” (This was all true, but I failed to mention another factor: traveling back to the States was totally out of the question for financial reasons.)

There was a team of Youth With a Mission volunteers working in our town then, so we invited them to ring in the new millenium with us. Predictably the power went out early in the evening. We ate dinner downstairs in the kitchen where the wood stove kept us warm, then went upstairs to the living room to party, but it was just too cold to do much celebrating. We sat down on the sofas and covered ourselves with everything we could find – including the big fake sheepskin couch covers. We lit a butane lantern and sang praise songs for a while. Most of us ended up drifting off to sleep, but we all woke up just before midnight to the sound of -- You guessed it! -- AK47 fire. We all ran out on the balcony to watch the tracers lighting up the night sky.

We were discussing the danger of falling bullets* when a series of tracers came arcing over our house. All of a sudden we heard a loud THUNK as a metal object struck the car below us. We didn’t stop to ask what it was. We were all pretty sure we knew. We all ran back into the house saying, “Man, did you hear that? That was a close call!” We laughed and joked a bit about our narrow escape, but it really had shaken us up a bit. When we settled down a bit, the leader of the YWAM team, who was a great practical joker, pulled a AA battery out of his shirt pocket and said with a straight face, “Are you sure it wasn’t just one of these?” We laughed some more as we understood then that we had been had.

* I saw that episode of Mythbusters where they debunked the idea that a bullet falling straight down can be lethal. But it’s still a fact that when people start getting crazy and careless with AK47s, someone can get killed. In Albania in 1997 (See the earlier post.) the mother of a friend of mine was no her balcony cooking dinner when she was struck by a stray bullet. She died on the way to the hospital.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Putting things in perspective

I've got a couple more AK47 stories to share, but I want to pause today to commemorate the Fourth of Julyby posting the lyrics to Ben Shive's song 'The 4th of July" from his wonderful album, the Ill-Tempered Klavier.

The first star of the evening
Was singing in the sky
High above our blanket in the park

And by the twilight’s gleaming
On the 4th day of July
The city band played on into the dark

And then a canon blast
A golden flame unfolding
Exploded in a momentary bloom

The pedals fell and scattered
Like ashes on the ocean
As another volley burst into the blue

But the first star of the evening never moved

We stood in silence
The young ones and the old
As the bright procession passed us by

A generation dying
Another being born
A long crescendo played out in the sky


This nation, indivisible
Will perish from the Earth
As surely as the leaves must change and fall

And the band will end the anthem
To dust she will return
So the sun must set on all things, great and small

But the first star of the evening
Will outlive them all