Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Carpe Diem

Seize the day because life is too short not to. 

Every day we hear of a new tragedy striking somewhere in our world.  A too young friend receives a cancer diagnosis, a mass shooting on a college campus, or multiple, large scale natural disasters.  Like many people, I tend to go through life hearing about these events and thinking "it can't happen to me." But somewhere hidden deep in my subconscious, I know it can.  Living in Albania, geographically a European country with many third world characteristics, I am increasingly aware of this.

Today is a national day of mourning here in Albania.  Yesterday, in southern Albania, a bus carrying university students plunged off of a cliff killing thirteen people and injuring twenty-one others.  Having lived here for close to a year I have driven along this section of highway.  From the top of the cliffs the narrow, well-maintained by Albanian standards, road provides sweeping views of the Ionian Sea, Corfu, Greece, and the rugged mountains that are the iconic trademarks of the Albanian Riviera.  This road also scares the living day lights out of me and I spent most of my last trip with my eyes closed as Glenn skillfully navigated the twists and turns.  I am also aware of the speed at which drivers navigate the hairpin turns and the poor maintenance that is the norm for Albanian vehicles.  Upon our arrival in the country, the Embassy warned us about the dangers that stem from driving in this slowly developing country.  We take these warnings to heart but the same can't necessarily be said for the other drivers on the road.  Early reports about the accident indicate that speed and road conditions may be involved but regardless of the cause, over a dozen young lives were snuffed out in the prime of their lives and even more are struggling to survive in Albania's less than state-of-the-art hospitals.

Traffic deaths aren't the only concern in this country.  Geographically we are located in an earthquake zone and the country has been ravaged by them in the past.  Within the past 72 hours two of our neighboring countries, Italy and Bulgaria, have been shaken by earthquakes that have left differing degrees of destruction and death in their wake.  Albania is definitely not immune.  Man made tragedies also strike all too often here.  Centuries old blood feuds are alive and well in parts of Albania with innocent bystanders often being the unintended victims.  Revenge bombings, unsecured, live high-voltage electrical wires, and undiagnosed medical conditions are all a part of daily life here in Albania.  These tragedies have claimed lives within our Embassy community within the past few years. 

The intent of this post is not to be morbid; rather it is to get us thinking.  We need to think about those things we are grateful for.  Living in the United States there are so many things we take for granted.  We assume that the cars we drive are safe, laws will be upheld, our neighbors aren't going to seek revenge for acts committed by our grandfathers years ago, and wires aren't going to fall on us from above.  However, even ensconced in our suburban American neighborhoods, we also aren't immune to tragedy.  You never know when a simple act will change the course of our lives for good. 

As busy as our lives are, we shouldn't put things off for the future since we never know what that future will hold.  I'd like to think that there will be time for all of the travel, time with friends and family, and life's simple pleasures that clutter my bucket list.  Maybe there will be but maybe there won't be.  Spending time with Sidney is more important than dealing with that sinkful of dishes.  An occasional date night with Glenn needs to take a priority over yet another reception.  The stack of papers in my in-box won't magically disappear just because I chose not do take that long weekend trip to Prague.  We all need to reassess our priorities and make time for the truly important things in life.  So go give your loved ones an extra hug and make time for those little things.

Carpe Diem!

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