That's where our nanny went. Walking home one evening last week she fell into an open manhole. She's ok, battered and bruised since this manhole opened into a deeper abyss than one normally finds on Tirana streets, but she is ok.
People unfamiliar with Albania's streets and haphazard infrastructure are probably thinking this is a joke. For those of us who have spent any time navigating the streets and roadways of Albania's cities, we can understand how this might happen.
Open manholes are a common sight on all of Tirana's streets. Rruga Elbasanit, one of the main city through fares that passes by the U.S. Embassy, regularly has open manholes. (How these manhole covers disappear in broad day light on one of Tirana's busiest streets under the "watchful" eyes of the Tirana police who patrol the area is a story for another time). On any given day, in addition to dodging pedestrians and speeding traffic, drivers must keep a watchful eye out of gaping holes in the road. But back to our nanny.........
While she doesn't live far from our house as the crow flies, driving, or as is the case for her most of the time, walking, is a trek. Tirana's lack of connecting though streets means you must navigate through a maze to get from Point A to Point B. Getting to Shpresa's house isn't for the faint of heart and I've had my share of near misses with pedestrians, cars, and yes, holes in the road when I've been bringing her home at night. Even when the electricity is working there isn't any street lighting so the area is very dark. When guidebooks recommend that travellers carry a "torch" with them at all times, they aren't kidding. Travelling any place in Albania, whether by car, furgon, airplane, foot, or mule, is a dangerous business.
Despite our protests, Shpresa returned to work this morning looking pretty healthy. As she told me, or as my shaky Albanian allowed me to understand it, she fell into the hole as she stepped out of the way of a speeding car. She fell straight down and only her extended arms kept her from falling further. In a country where the elderly are still deeply respected, the sight of a 60 year old women hanging by her arm pits in a manhole must have been a horrifying shock. Apparently two young men lifted her out and helped her home.
In her typical stubbon fashion, she didn't go to the doctor but rather, rested and relied on a homemade Albanian medicinal cure. Shpresa attributed her rapid recovery to a concoction of raki, olive oil, and crushed asprin that was rubbed all over her body. When she told me the recipe I had to ask her to repeat it twice since I wasn't believing what I was hearing.
Rake? Olive oil? Asprin? I'm skeptical and want to think it was simply rest and time that allowed her body to heal. However, after last week's Albanian punch incident, a small part of me may be a believer. Not so much of a believer that I want to test the concoction on my own body. From here on in I'll need to make sure I am extra careful as I walk Tirana's streets and I will definitely keep all complaints about body aches out of Shpresa's hearing.