UNË E DUA SHQIPËRINË :)

 

 

ozlem

 

I know my beginning sentence will be so cliche but my all EVS friends and their families felt the same while coming Albania. When ı decided to make EVS, all my family was so respectful to my decision but after they learned that ı found a project in Albania and all my family started writing conspiracy theories :) Cause you know when look from outside, Albania unfortunately is so famous with its mafia so they were so worried for this reason. But after ı came there and ı observed that this is not like we guess.

Good impression was started by our coordinator Ira, she helped me so much from all online platforms before going there. She made me calm and answered my all anxious questions like a my older sister. Great Albanian politeness kept going in the airport. One of our mentors came to the airport for just  taking me. By the help of a mentor from Tirana, we arrived to city center and every buildings ı observe were so strange, different. Imposing of communist regime upon the country was so obvious. Especially in first sight, ı loved so much The Albanian Mosaics on National Historical Museum. And after we had waited the bus for arriving the home and ı saw that public transportation vehicles were so ancient and neglected than Turkey. We were staying in student zone and it was a giant advantage for us. Always funny, crowded, energic etc. When we arrived home, all people were so gentle and warm to me but despite this ı was so indecisive what ı will do. I was afraid of being adapted to the home. We were so crowded; we had to share common ares and most particularly ıt was a big chaos for us in morning showers :) Living with 13 people wasn’t easy, and supposed to be responsible and sensitive to each others. And we are Turk, German and Italian cooperation. 3 different nations, 3 different mentality, perspective; in first time understanding each other wasn’t easy. After negotiation and some briefing by our coordinators ı had to confess ı was mindful cause of that how ı can approach to disabled children. The rest of my past life ı had been never spend my time with them, this idea made me so streched; but after visiting schools all negative notions about this just became pufff..:) They were looking us with just unexpected love. They need just help and love from us. We played games, made gym, draw and painted pictures. That was so productive and teachable for them. But if ı have to mention about schools and teachers; schools were so different than same examples in Turkey. They were so old and neglected; and teachers looked so hard-pressed; so we came to children like fresh breath, a friend, a sister-brother. Most of the teachers and of course also children didn’t know English; in this point we need the contribution of our local volunteers, they always altruistically helped us for translation. But ı had to confess ı found pleasure in school presentations. I liked to make expressions to everyone who want to join Beyond Barriers, it was great missions for us; because some of them had no idea about EVS or our organisation. Talking about this and observeing their reactions about this project were good for us.

Of course while doing these activities, we had a lot of spare time, we tried to evaluate our times with visiting every place we can go. Firstly, we discovered Tirana, and after we went to Pogradec, Kruje, Shkodra, Durres, Vlore and we had chance to pass another countries and cities like Ohrid(Macedonia), Ulcinj(Montenegro). And somewhere we had to hitchhike just for adventure :) And as soon as we said that we are Turk, all citizens in Balkans not just Albania became so happy and they started to talk about Ottoman civilization and our common history. And this made my all Turk friends and me so prideful with my ancestors. Cause there is a word in Turkey about Ottoman Empire: ”You can eradicate the state which came there with swords but if a state like Ottoman Empire came there with just ‘Selam’, you can say to them just ‘Selamun Aleykum’; so you can’t eradicate this empire from hearts easily. I saw that this word is % 100 percent correct, all people talked about our ancestors with a proud; we observed a lot of historical artifacts from Ottoman Empire like Ethem Bey Mosque. All people liked talking with us about İstanbul, Ottoman Empire, Turkish soup operas and their stars :)

I hadn’t enogh brave for say goodbye to our children in schools cause they alwys hugged me in all oppurtunity so ı couldn’t handle it again in last time. But ı will always remember them with a big smile on my face. Özlem ,who go to Tirana, is totaly different form coming back to Turkey version of Özlem. It add me great experience, memories, people and foods of course how can ı forget. I have still carry them on my body ;( Trilece, Sufllaqe, Ice-creams in all corner of Tirana, Byreks- Dhale combinations etc. :)

Albania, Albanian people will always great folder on my brain and in my all chance ı will find a way to come back there for seeing my friends. I create a idea about Balkans, which is the geography of my grandparents, with this EVS. Thanks to everybody for my experience. I started out to Tirana for helping children but this project didn’t consist of just helpin them. It help to us for enlarging our visions, opening sensations. If ı had a oppurtunity again, ı will choose Albania again and again. Thanks to everyone who had contributing efforts for the children for the project. Ana, Ira, Eni and all other heroes our mentors, local volunteers thanks for everthing. Falemenderit shume :*

Özlem Sudan,

Turkey

Why Albania?

2014-04-19 19.58.25 2014-05-07 09.30.35 IMG_8165“Why are you going to Albania?” This was the common reaction I got when I told somebody about my plans. I started explaining the short term EVS project in Tirana, about voluntary work with disabled children. But it seemed to me like it was not a convincing answer for many people. When I asked them what they know about Albania they became quite silent.

After I was living and working in Tirana for two months I don`t know one reason why you should not visit this country and this city. Our group consisted of 13 people from Italy, Turkey and Germany. We were all living together in one house in the student`s area and work in different special institutions for disabled children. We also presented and promoted our work in high schools and universities and inform pupils and students about volunteering in general and how they can participate. Before I went to Tirana, I tried to imagine how my work in these special institutions could look like. We also had a first theoretical preparation during our on-arrival training. But it was still difficult to have a realistic idea in mind what our exact duties could be. Now I know that the best preparation is not working out if you don’t have an idea how much daily working conditions can distinguish from one country to another. But even though the circumstances were not always easy I think that our work with the children was not only a good experience for us as volunteers. Also the kids enjoyed it a lot. We painted with them, did handicraft work with different materials and we played in the gym or in the garden. Depending on the children’s physical and mental possibilities, we always found activities which were fun for everybody.

Looking into the details of our daily work, it was quite different to what I know from German institutions. The schools and institutions looked different, and sometimes it was challenging to communicate. But luckily there were always local volunteers with us to translate and help us in our duties. Volunteering is more than just doing a normal job. Everybody who is involved can broaden his or her mind so easily and learn more about different cultures, mentalities and ideas.

During my free time I travelled a lot, always in a good company with other volunteers. Travelling means taking old discarded buses from other countries. The railroad system in Albania is not far enough developed to be used for trips. I saw a lot of buses from Germany and the Netherlands. But not the buses are the biggest challenge while travelling. Many streets are in a poor condition. And sitting in one of these shaking old buses while driving very fast along the curvy paths of the Albanian mountains was an experience I will never forget.
In Albania I visited Berat, Kruja, Saranda and Shkoder, and I also went to Greece, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Montenegro. Everywhere, I met friendly and helpful people and I saw a lot of impressing and beautiful places, and I learned a lot about historical and recent happenings.

It is normal that not everything is perfect for two months but most of my experiences were very good. Anyway, every experience helped to get a first insight into the surface of incidents in the Balkans and also into the every day’s life there. Now I am back home with a new understanding and I have so much more questions than I had before. But the most important question is not “Why Albania?”

It is “Why not?”

Helen, Germany

Serenity vs. Pressure

Hi guys,

When I would have a brainstorming in 10 years about Albania, the first thing that would come in my mind would be “It’s not that amazing country but it’s okay”. It doesn’t sound that good, but what counts, is that I felt very comfortable in this country in generally.

The main thing I realize after staying two months here is you really don’t need many material things or money to be happy. It’s all about little things that make life nice.

For example it was fun working with disabled children and I am glad to put a smile on their faces even I notice it is nothing where I can put my passion on, but that is a feeling you can’t buy. Or just to get to know the daily-life and its coffee culture. I never drunk so much coffee and spent that much time in a café before besides of that I was so amused about definition of different coffee variation. I was so confused when the waiter asked me if I would like to have a cappuccino with coffee or when I got an ice coffee when I ordered a Latte Macchiato. These are the little things I enjoyed here very well.

While I enjoyed my life it seems to me on the other side most of the children I met have just one way of thinking how to get a good and fulfilled life: study as much as you can, immediately after High School to not waste time to earn much money as soon as possible, and of course you study that what promising future.

I hope I could take some pressure off when I hold presentations in schools and universities, that it is okay to take a gap year and do something else to find your own way what you really would like to do instead of studying.

Life is too short to worry about the future the whole time. And of course it takes its time and experiences to shape it.

Faleminderit for reading :)

Anny from Germany

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Personal impressions from a german guy in albania

Before I went here, I didn’t know that much about balkan countries. Especially Albania was total unknown for me. We just had these small balkan-parties in my hometown, but it was just about the music, nothing more. Actually I never found this kind of music in Balkan. I had no idea what to expect and my only tought was: “Ok lets start the adventure.

I came by plane and I was totally wasted when I arrived. The first impressions of Tirana were collected by driving by bus from the airport to the city center and the student ward where our home is.

Everything seemed a bit unfinished. There were unfinished houses besides very fancy places next to a very poor place and so on. I finally arrived the center and I was a bit confused. So much trouble around me. I tried to cross the street. So I was waiting for the green light as I used to do it in Germany. But instead of walking straight I was looking around a bit scarred. The cars start honking at me, but I didn’t do anything wrong. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the first day it is this: car drivers doesn’t care about the people who walk by food in Tirana. Please take care of your life if you want to cross the street.

Finally I survived the traffic and got it into the house, which I share with 12 others volunteers from Germany, Italy and Turkey. Here are hitting so many different cultures, lifestyles and personalities together that life cannot always be easy. Especially when they’re living so close to each other. But people are very kind, take care of each other and of course respect and love.

After the first week and an arrival-training the daily-working-life started. We got divided in smaller groups and every group got an institution. In these institutions we are working with children with disabilities. For example autism and down-syndrome, but muted and deaf children as well. I had not a single experience by working with children. So I was a bit excited and curious as well. And it was a good feeling to see a child’s smile, after you bother yourself to make them happy. But for me personally it is not a job for a life-time.

So the time elapsed and experiences grew. Furthermore I formed an opinion about the institutions. Unfortunately some teachers doesn’t give that much about the children. It is a pity. They never would be a full member of the society so they should have a nice childhood at least. I don’t know how the teachers treat them in reality, I also think they are doing a lot of nice work there. But for example on one day we had to do some sports with the children in a makeshift gym. I was looking around the room and one teacher left ashtrays with content and some lighter in the classroom. Available for all children whose are playing in the gym. Responsibility is currently not a big thing there. All in all I had the impression that most of the children were happy.

In another week we did some presentations on high schools to promote our hosting organization and volunteering in general. We started to tell them things about our daily life and also how they can participate as a volunteer in a organization. That activity gave me the most. I had almost no experiences with presentations and my last was in school 5 or 6 years ago. So I was very nervous in my first presentations. I started sweating like crazy and I wished I had a towel with me. All in all it was very funny. Everytime after we finished the pupils came to us and wanted to take pictures with us. One of them even asked me for an autograph. I felt a bit like a rockstar.

Last weekend the big group divided again. Some of them went to Istanbul. I was with some italian people. We went to Berat, but it was very rainy. I organized myself a couch-surfing host in Skrapar. Round about 60 km away from Berat. So I left my group and traveled by my own. After arriving some of them picked me up at the bus station and put me into a birthday party. We were talking a bit about our experiences, because they were also volunteers from America. The association is called Peace-Corps and they are teaching English in local schools allotted in whole Albania. They showed me how to dance the traditional albanian circle-dance and thaught me something about the local culture. The evening was a bit like a short insight in an american sub-culture in a small albanian village.

Thats pretty much it. One month is over and I guess the second month will be over much more faster. The weather was really bad in the first month. It rained almost every day and we had maybe two days of sun. But the people told me, that they had a very warm and dry winter and they need the water for their plants to let things grow. Personally I hope it’s getting better, because we will have the european week here in Tirana and after it on weekend there is a music festival in Kosovo.

Farlaminderit

Thank you for reading.

Marsel, Germany

Europe has no borders – La nostra esperienza a Tirana

Hi guys,

we are the italian EVS’s that are participating to the project “eUrope has no borders”. We have been in Tirana more than one month and finally we manage to tell you about our adventure!

We are 13 volunteers from Italy, Germany and Turkey and we live, work and have fun together.

Our house is located in the Student’s area of the city and we really really like it. Many students crowd it from morning till night, and we have been literally adopted by the locals: our trusted bar provides us awesome breakfasts, Jozi welcomes us with love in his tavern where burek, rakija, wine and popular music are never missing. Not to talk about the students who are volunteering for BBA: they are always ready to help us and have fun with us, making us discover the best local places of the city.

Our work consists into different activities: promoting active citizenship and European citizenship in the high-schools and universities, playing and organizing activities for the children of some “special schools” that deal with youngsters with different kinds of mental and physical disabilities.

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Volunteering keeps us busy from Monday to Friday, and all the week-end we take advantage of our free time to travel throughout Albania and discover the Balkans. Our next stop will be the North of Albania and Montenegro, we can’t wait to leave!

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Our cohabitation is very intense. 13 people, coming from different countries and different cultures, create an explosive mix! It is not always easy to stay together and satisfy everyone’s needs, but with commitment and creativity we are trying to build a small-scale Europe in our home. It’s not an easy task, but it’s fun.

It’s not easy to describe in a few words the city that is hosting us. The first thing that catches your eye is the multitude of contrasts: On the street, in the traffic’s jungle, you immediately notice plenty of legendary Mercedes from the 80′s and brand new expensive SUV’s, luxury pubs facing onto streets with no drains.

However, the element that characterizes the city is the openness of it’s inhabitants toward the foreigners. We arrived to Tirana carrying with us some prejudices and stereotypes, that disappeared soon after we came into contact with the people and the local culture, characterized by an extreme kindness and sense of hospitality, that applies to all the Albanian community.

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We believe that the only way to understand what the EVS is , is to live it.

For us it is a unique occasion to test ourselves, learn new languages, new cultures, getting in touch with different ways of living, but having also a splendid opportunity to travel, be together and grow up, as a group and personally. Our luggage, on the way back home, is going to be filled by many intense moments that will accompany us all life long.

Daniele, Virginia, Emanuele, Francesca, Erlanda

Faleminderit Shqipëria

Le luci di Tirana dall’aereo mi sembravano poche per una città così grande.

Il taxista è partito con il cofano aperto perché non c’era abbastanza spazio per le valige, tombini aperti, fili elettrici volanti … la prima cosa che viene da dire è “Non ha niente che possa far pensare ad una capitale europea”. Poi inizi a viverci e dopo due mesi ti chiedi come sarà possibile riabituarti alla vita di tutti i giorni. Come si può non mangiare un Byrek come aperitivo, riempire i boccioni d’acqua per le ore di emergenza (che sono molte!), sentire l’odore dei dolcini del forno che sta nell’angolo vicino casa, tentare di comunicare in albanese e ricevere puntualmente una risposta in Italiano, comprare la carta igienica all’albicocca o bere una Raki al nostro amatissimo Bar Roma….! E poi ci sono i bambini … per quanto essi vivano in una situazione che non gli garantisce nessun futuro e nessuna integrazione con il mondo esterno trasmettono gratitudine solo perché sei li a portargli una ventata di vita.

Io non so cosa sia per voi la ricchezza, per me la ricchezza è un sorriso, la ricchezza è una banana regalata perché non riesci a farti il conto in Lek, la ricchezza è un colore a matita temperato fino alla fine della mina, la ricchezza è fare a metà i fogli di carta per poter fare due disegni, la ricchezza è costruire un gioco con i fogli di giornale, la ricchezza è dare calci ad un pallone sgonfio, la ricchezza è in ogni gesto semplice . Mi auguro che Tirana preservi quel che ha di NON EUROPEO perché è umana e l’umanità è la vera ricchezza.

 

Concetta – Italy

 

While I was on the plane the lights of Tirana seemed to me not so many for such a big city.

The taxi driver left with the hood open because there was no space for all the luggages, and I saw open manholes and not covered electric wires… the first thing I thought was: “This city doesn’t have anything like an European capital”. After two months you have been living in a place like this you ask yourself how you will be able to get used again to the everyday life. How to do without eating a Byrek before lunch, fill water bottles for emergency hours (many hours of emergency!), smell the sweets of the bakery which is located in the corner near the house, try to speak Albanian and always receive the answer in Italian, buy toilet paper with apricot smell or drink a Raki in our “Bar Roma”,my favorite one! And then there are disabled children… they live in an institution that does not give them a future or integration with the outside world but they are happy because you’re there to bring them a little bit more of life.

I do not know what it is for you the wealth, for me wealth is a smile, wealth is a donated banana because you do not know how to count Lek, wealth is a colored pencil tempered until the end, wealth is to divide a page in two parts in order to do two drawings, wealth is to build a game with sheets of newspaper, wealth is kicking a deflated balloon, wealth is in all the simple things. I hope that Tirana won’t lose all the things that are different from Europe because it is human and humanity is the true wealth.

 

Concetta – ItalyImageImageImageImage

That’s All..bania Folks!

A month and a half has already passed when, one dark and rainy evening in early October, me and my colleagues of the international team to which I belong ,arrived in Tirana .

After the first day (rainy too) spent exploring the city , the sun finally came out and has been with us for nearly all our experience and has facilitated  breaking the ice between the EVSers .
The division into groups then made ​​sure that some relationships took shape.
Today, more or less , we are a big family eclectic and colorful .
A speech deserves instead the relationship with the Albanian culture .
In fact, I can safely say that I have not suffered a big culture shock when I arrived here , mine given  proximity to the Balkan area.
Obviously the sight of giants cobwebs formed by electrical wires exposed everywhere in the city or industrial quantities of Mercedes whizzing along the streets making life very difficult for pedestrians made ​​me wonder “seriously??!?”.  But now it’s ok.

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As an Italian , however, all my doubts and prejudices about Albania , ceased when I discovered that pizza and coffee are imitated in an excellent manner, and, although being imitations, they are the best in Europe.
After a few days though, I found that the love for Italy in Albania does not stop at the gastronomic side , but encompasses many aspects of daily life in the Bel Paese. Just think of the thousands of bars always full of people in every corner of the city , or simply to the fact that at least half of the population of Tirana speaks Italian , or at least understand it perfectly. This obviously has a negative impact on the learning of the Albanian language , but for this there is still time .

Let us now turn to the working issue. After two weeks of ” settling” during which Beyond Barriers , our hosting organization, has ” trained ” us to deal with the harsh reality in which the children live with various disabilities , we began to serve as volunteers in three different centers : the Dove Center , located in the Student City , the same neighborhood that hosted us during this period , in which there are children and young people aged up to 30 ( twenty in all ) with serious mental health problems and delays; the school Gurakuqi Luigi , which presents the most difficult situation in my opinion, with many children with severe mental retardation and various forms of autism , located in a more peripheral area of Tirana; the Deaf and Mute Institute, perhaps the most satisfying place , where the smiles of children do not make you regret having crossed the city in the rain to reach them.
Parallel to this, our team went in high schools to present to future generations the realities of local volunteers and EVS projects in particular and of course of our project . The response from the kids has been largely positive . This is also demonstrated by the strong turnout in the events organized by Beyond Barriers on the occasion of the World Day against Fascism and Anti-Semitism on 9 November and 22 November , the day in which local volunteers and have come together to clean the center of Tirana , picking up a real mountain of trash, hoping that all this moved a little Albanians consciences towards a greater respect for the place in which they live and the environment in general.

A few days before the end of this experience  I have to ask myself: what goal I achieved? Personal satisfaction first of all . I have achieved all the goals that I set myself before coming here and still here I found the strength and positivity to design and face my challenges ahead .
I met new people from different parts of the world and with some of them I made a big beautiful bond that I hope and believe will balance in some way.
Before arriving , I knew nothing about the EVS and the Balkans. Today recommend both to anyone who wants to try something new but somehow familiar. The EVS was the best way to rediscover and to challenge ourselves. On the other hand I do not feel like I knew Albania in these two months . I think I just have pulled out it from one of the most remote corners of myself.
PS . I think I love Raki .
Gezuar !
Francesco , Italy.

Albania y yo (Albania and me)

VERSION EN CASTELLANO (English version after the spanish text)

!Deja que te contemple, tierra de Albania,

nodriza severa de hombres salvajes!

La Cruz se abate, tus minaretes se alzan,

y la media luna pálida brilla en la cañada,

tras la arboleda poblada de cipreses, junto a cada ciudad.

Lord Byron

 

 

Durante mucho tiempo Albania ha fascinado a viajeros de muchas partes del mundo, Lord Byron solo es un ejemplo.  Cuando vine aquí la primera vez, en Julio de 2012, no sabía demasiadas cosas acerca de este pequeño país, pero realmente me sentí bien aquí, me dio una gran primera impresión por lo que decidí volver y darle una segunda oportunidad, esta vez con más tiempo para descubrir que escondían sus caóticas calles.

¿Tomé la decisión correcta? Pienso que sí. Por qué? Es difícil de explicar, después de seis semanas aquí me han sucedido muchas cosas, todas ellas positivas.

Al principio necesité como una semana para encontrar mi lugar y sentirme cómodo del todo. Éramos mucha gente viviendo junta (18 voluntarios de cinco países de Europa), compartiendo el mismo espacio y el mismo estilo de vida, todos nosotros extraños en nuestra nueva casa. ¡Muy divertido!

Pero suelo necesitar ciertas rutinas para encontrar la paz interior, como leer, ver cine, etc. Fue muy fácil solucionar ese problema, digamos que Dios siempre provee y este caso no fue una excepción. Encontré libros geniales y súper baratos en kioskos callejeros, ¡!bohemiada total! Pagar 2 euros y poco por las prosas completas de Machado, edición cubana de los años 50, es una maravilla, a Juan de Mairena le encantarían muchas cosas de Albania, estoy seguro. Mi mayor problema ahora mismo es encontrar el camino para llevar los libros a España, en la mochila no entran. Cuando mi madre los vea probablemente no me deje entrar de nuevo en casa. Es bastante probable que diga “O los libros o tú”.

El Festival Internacional de Cine de Tirana fue otra sorpresa increíble. Nueve días llenos de buen cine, en su mayoría de origen balcánico, y totalmente gratis. Para quejarse.

También he podido encontrar buenos bares para salir de marcha. Normalmente los sitios del centro no me gustan, mucho postureo, mala musica y precios altos. Si bien Open House o Tirana Ekpress son lugares geniales donde encontrar gente interesante y escuchar, en ocasiones, música en directo, siempre con una Cerveza Tirana en la mano, por supuesto.

Pero esto es una pequeña parte de Tirana y Tirana tan solo es una pequeña parte de Albania. Me ha fascinado la tradición local de tolerancia entre comunidades religiosas, no así en lo relativo a asuntos políticos, puesto que esta sociedad está desafortunadamente, muy polarizada. Me recuerda a algún lugar de Europa de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme.

La Orden Bektashi ha tocado mi alma. Es un puente perfecto entre las dos grandes religiones monoteístas y un camino espiritual muy interesante, esto se debe por supuesto a que es una orden de origen sufí. Estoy muy interesado en este tipo de tradición, porque me siento conectado con ella; como sabemos Granada fue musulmana durante mucho tiempo y considero mis raíces una mezcla entre la cultura cristiana y la musulmana…el mayor problema es que los antiguos habitantes de mi tierra (y sus gobernantes) no supieron o quisieron gestionar la convivencia pacífica entre las diferentes comunidades, y tanto musulmanes como judíos fueron expulsados de la península. Eso fue un error enorme que destruyó la sociedad y la economía de Granada, la cual desde entonces no ha podido recuperar sus años dorados, estando perpetuamente a la cola de Europa. De hecho muchos Sefardíes, los judíos españoles, se exiliaron en Albania y estuvieron aquí durante muchos siglos. Muchos todavía guardan las llaves de sus antiguas casas y conservan su lengua, el Sefardí, un tipo de español antiguo que sorprendería a muchos que aún lo desconocen.

De todas formas y como es obvio, las nuevas generaciones de andaluces no somos culpables de ello, si bien nuestra obligación ahora consiste en recuperar la memoria y tener conciencia de lo que sucedió en ese periodo histórico, así como mantener viva la riqueza que aún conservamos de esas tradiciones, tal y como hace la sociedad albanesa. Una gran lección de tolerancia y convivencia desde Albania hacia el prepotente y orgulloso occidente.

Por otro lado no debemos olvidar la posición geográfica de Albania, porque se trata de la puerta sur de los Balcanes y está rodeada por muchos países interesantes, como Grecia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, todos ellos con minorías albanesas en su territorio (en el caso de Kosovo algo más que una minoría tras el conflicto). Acabé la Licenciatura en Ciencias Políticas y de la Administración hace tan solo tres meses, y esta área es de especial interés para mí desde un punto de vista cultural y geopolítico. He podido ir dos veces a Kosovo, visitando incluso la parte norte (serbia) de Mitrovica, allí aprendí muchísimo tan solo oliendo el aire y mirando a los ojos de la gente. Cruzar el puente (y su enorme barricada) que divide la ciudad en dos mundos opuestos y enfrentados ha sido una experiencia que me ha marcado profundamente.

Realmente espero que, ante la nueva situación política que se abre en Kosovo, las dos partes, Serbokosovares y Albanokosovares, puedan gestionar de forma pacífica su futuro. El conflicto no es posible ni deseable.

También pude visitar Skopje Land, la capital de Macedonia. Fue divertido, aunque no tan intenso como los otros viajes. Los macedonios están en el camino de encontrar su propia identidad nacional mas allá de Yugoslavia y Bulgaria…Mi mejores deseos para ellos, conmigo fueron gente muy amable e interesante.

La asociación que ha desarrollado el proyecto y me está alojando, Beyond Barriers (Mas allá de las barreras), se compone de una gente maravillosa que está haciendo un gran trabajo a nivel local, y que han sido unos perfectos anfitriones para los 19 voluntarios europeos que formamos parte del proyecto.
Spanish surprised guy

He aprendido muchas del trabajo realizado aquí, pero considero que he podido desarrollar mejor mis habilidades durante las presentaciones realizadas en institutos acerca de qué es ser voluntario y qué es el programa EVS. Desde el principio fue bastante fácil para mí expresarme enfrente de treinta y muchos alumnos en inglés, y realmente aprecio la colaboración de los adolescentes, fue muy entretenido y estimulante. Todos ellos hablaban inglés bastante bien, lo cual me sorprendió gratamente, y durante la práctica totalidad de presentaciones se comportaron con mucha educación y simpatía.

Mis experiencias con niños discapacitados han sido muy interesantes también, si bien no ha sido fácil, de hecho al principio fue casi un shock. A veces las condiciones de los centros no son las mejores, y no por falta de voluntad, sino por la ausencia de medios físicos y humanos. Creo que no tengo la capacidad necesaria para trabajar en un proyecto de este tipo a largo plazo. Aun así, es una experiencia que me ha enriquecido muchísimo y me ha hecho meditar profundamente acerca de cuestiones que daba por sabidas o superadas.

Y hablando un poco de proyectos a largo plazo, quizás haya encontrado aquí una gran oportunidad laboral. ¿Quien me lo iba a decir antes de venir? Nada es seguro aún, pero algo se está cociendo y puede ser que me pase varios años trabajando en un proyecto relacionado con Albania, en un  tipo de trabajo que sería perfecto para mí. Veremos, sólo Dios sabe qué va a pasar, y por el momento no me ha comunicado nada.

Para concluir, puedo decir que mi experiencia como voluntario europeo en Albania ha sido maravillosa, he conocido gente maravillosa como nuestro oficial de policía albanés (en realidad es el coordinador local de voluntarios, que vive con nosotros en casa) Saimir, o como Jasmina, nuestra profesora de albanés. También hay que hacer una especial mención a todo el personal de Beyond Barriers y a los voluntarios locales, que han colaborado activamente en hacernos estos dos meses fáciles en todos los aspectos.

Pienso que eso es todo, me gustaría añadir más cosas pero la inspiración me acaba de abandonar, por lo que es mejor dejar de escribir.

Muchas Faleminderit (Gracias) a todo el mundo que ha hecho posible esta oportunidad y, sobre todo, a mis compañeros  EVS, ellos han sido mi familia durante casi dos meses. Nunca olvidaré este tiempo que hemos compartido juntos.

Todos sois bienvenidos en Andalucía, mi tierra, espero que al menos algunos de vosotros la visitéis en el futuro.

Os veo en el Café Roma, Calle Pjeter Budi, Tirana.

 

 

 

 

”Land of Albania! where Iskander rose, Theme of the young, and beacon of the wise, And he his namesake, whose oft-baffled foes Shrunk from his deeds of chivalrous emprize; Land of Albania! let me bend mine eyes On thee, thou rugged nurse of savage men! The cross descends, thy minarets arise, And the pale crescent sparkles in the glen, Through many a cypress grove within each city’s ken.”

Lord Byron

Longtime Albania has been fascinating people from around the world, Lord Byron is just an example. When I came here for first time, at July 2012, I didn’t know many things about this little country but I really felt good in here, it gave me a nice first impression so I decided to come back and give it a second and longest chance. Beyond Barriers project was the perfect opportunity for me.

Did I take the right decision? I think so! Why? Hard to explain, after 6 weeks here many things have happened to me, ALL positive

At the beginning I needed like one week to find myself and my place in here. We were many people living together, sharing the same space and same life, all of us strangers in our own new house. Funny.

But in order to find peace, I need to start certain routines like read, go to movies, etc…It was very easy to fix that problem, let’s say that God provided me everything. In the street’s book shop I found very nice books, in Spanish, with very cheap prices. Amazing, actually my bigger problem now is how to bringing it to Spain, no jokes with Ryanair.

Also Tirana International Film Fest was very nice and useful for us, taking us away from raki and offering the opportunity of enjoy 9 days full of sessions and for free. Cool!

We also could find cool places for nightlife, let’s say that with more alternative spirit or less focus on business than is usual in bloku, interesting spaces for meeting and share experiences, of course with a Tirana beer on the hand and, sometimes, very good live music!

But this is just a little part of Tirana, and Tirana is just a little part of Albania. I became fascinated for the local culture and tradition in tolerance values, mostly related with religious believes, because in politics this country is still carrying complicated issues.

Bektashi Order touched my soul. It’s a perfect bridge between the two big religions and a very nice spiritual way, of course it’s because it’s a sufi order. I am very interesting in this kind of tradition because I feel myself connected with that, my homeland, Andalucia (Al-Andalus) used to be Muslim for more than 8 centuries, so my roots are a mix of Muslim and Christian culture…the main problem is that the old inhabitants from my place couldn’t manage a peaceful convivence and all Muslim and Jewish were threw out of the country. That’s a huge and scary mistake, and since that time my city, Granada, never could return to its golden years. Actually many Sefardies, Spanish Jewish, came to Albania and stayed here for centuries. That’s beautiful!

Anyway, I’m not guilty for that and my duty is to have memory and consciousness about that historical period and about what we still carry from them stays alive, in order to do not loss that richness, like Albanian society is doing. Good lection from Albania to the western countries.

We shouldn’t forget the location of Albania, because it is the southern door of the Balkans region and it’s surrounded for many interesting countries, all of them with Albanian minorities. I just finished Political Sciences three months ago and this area is very interesting for me in a geopolitical and cultural approach. I could travel twice to Kosovo, even to North Mitrovica, the Serbian part, and I learned a lot just smelling the air and looking to the people’s eyes

I really hope that they will manage properly the situation in this new time of relations between Belgrade and Pristina. Struggle is not possible nor, of course, desirable.

Few weeks ago, I also went to SkopjeLand and it was funny, but nothing special, they are on the way to find their own national identity beyond Yugoslavia and Bulgaria…My best wish for them.

I am surprised and happy about what Beyond Barriers is doing here. They make a nice job in a local level and also they are being perfect as a hosting association for EVS volunteers.

Spanish surprised guy

I learned many things from my work in here, but I think I improved better my skills going to high schools and making the presentations about volunteer work and EVS. Since the beginning was easy for me and I really appreciate the feedback from the teenager, it was nice work almost all the time.

My experiences with the disable kids have been very interesting too, but I feel I don’t have the proper skills to do that job in long term projects.

And talking about long term project, maybe I found here a great job opportunity. Nothing is fix yet but something is going on and who knows if I will be working with something related with Albania for a long time. Just God knows and he didn’t confirm me anything yet.

To conclude, I can say that it is a wonderful experience, I met very nice people like our police officer Saimir or our Albanian language teacher, Jasmina. Also the staffs of Beyond Barriers and the local volunteers have been very nice with us, making our time here easier.

I think that’s all, maybe I’d like to add more things but now inspiration ran away from here so I should stop writing.

Faleminderit very much to everybody who makes possible this opportunity and to my EVS volunteers friends, they have been my family for almost two months already. I won’t forget this time with them.

All of you are welcome in Andalucia, my real homeland, hope some of you will visit me in there.

See you at Roma’s Cafe, Rruga Pjeter Budi.

Pd. I have to share this testimony from Irene Grunbaum because made it a big impression on me!

“Lamtumirë Shqipëri. Ti më dhe kaq shumë mikpritje, mbrojtje, miq dhe aventurë. Lamtumirë Shqiperi. Një ditë do t’i tregoj botës sa të guximshëm, të pafrikë, të fortë e besnikë janë bijtë e tu; se si vdekja e djalli nuk mund t’i frikësojë ata. Po të jetë e nevojshme unë do të tregoj se si mbrojtën ata një refugjate e nuk lejuan që ajo të dëmtohej, edhe ne se një gjë e tillë do të thoshte humbje e jetës së tyre. Dyert e vendit tënd të vogël mbetën të hapura, Shqipëri. Autoritetet e tua mbyllën sytë, kur qe e domosdoshme për t’i dhënë njerëzve të varfër e të persekutuar edhe një mundësi për t’i mbijetuar më të tmerrshmes së të gjitha luftërave. Shqipëri, ne ja dolëm të mbijetojmë ndaj rrethimit për hir të humanizmit tend. Të falënderojmë ty”.

Emilio Pe’rez Castro

The second episode

I forget to tell you that very soon, already  in my second evening in Tirana, I walked next to the Opera and I saw  people, and went close. Since I’m curios, I was getting close to see what kind of spectacle it took place. Before i had the chance to ask about the show and price, suddenly someone push me inside and winks at me. Probably she was a teacher who came to the show with her students. Just like that I would have witness at my first free show in Albania.

In the next week I enrolled to MEU Albania, a simulation of European parliament where we could choose each of us whatever role we wanted. I chose to be a member, because I didn’t wanted to be involved so much, and  I gazed more to the proceedings of the action.  It was interesting that we really went inside of Albanian Parliament, after being  checked for guns and weapons  J.   I listened some speechs, we made photos, we lied down in the chairs of parlamentarians. I’m surprised to see that it exist a video with me which appeared on the televisions of Albania, a parlamentarian with the head on the table, exhausted after work (one hour of starring the walls and the machines  J)

 I promised last time that I will tell you about my trips .Well , first of allI I went  to Durres, a town next to Tirana, with an  opening to see and a cosy beach.

Even though it was the 13th October, I swam in the sea, because of the warm,  a lot and inviting water. After the swim in the sea, I made quickly another one in the sand like the hippopotamus in the mud, and then we came back  to Tirana. I didn’ took much of a look at the town , since the beach was more attractive.

Also in the next town we walked a lot. As many people tell,and  I start to have the same opinion,  Berat is probably the most beautiful town in Albania.

There are old bridges and terraced houses made of stone , an old fortress and churches or  very lovely mosques,are some tourist attractions of the town. Unfortunately the roads are unfriendly withe the  suspensions of cars, since we can see manny portions of  damaged asphalt.

I became attached specially to the Thethi National Park. It is a national park which covers a 2.630 ha  area and is overwhelming thanks to his beauty. My three days in that place could be the most lovely experience like tourist. Like any curios tourist, of course I didn’t respected the indicator which lead to the some visiting places and I climbed up the on the difficult paths(I  now start to think that it wasn’t to smart of me  to go alone on a no indicator path), fortunately I was fine, but in a moment I got lost. Finally I found the good way, and I met a  woman shepherd   who surveyed her sheep on a higher peak.

In this way I stayed more than 2 hours with that woman sheperd cared on the sheeps and discussing thanks to the body language about some of the  shepherd secret’s job.

Since I  had to return to Tirana, I asked to a denizen to take to the car to Shkodra,  the most close town toThethi. As I was in Albania, our agreement suffred some modification, I left at 15.20  instead of left to 9 o clock.  But it seemed to be my luck, because I met a family from Kosovo, the man teach at the University from Prishtina the other one teacher at Univesity from Strasbourg. After I started to make friends with them, we went to see one of the  tourist attraction, the waterfall Grunas ( a beautifull place).When we returned, we stoped at two-three people to talk or drink something, I mention that we stopped also even when we went for the waterfall.This travel plan which took more than two hours finished with a great meal, more red win offered by the man who would have take us to Shkodra.  The delay was turned out good for me, because I had the chance to know the custom of an Alabanian family and to eat well for freeJ.I would like to tell more about this ride in the mountains, but I can let it to next time. I forgot to tell you that when I came to Shkodra was so late that I couldn’t  find a bus to Tirana,  I hitchhked some minutes and took me someone with a expensive car, but this persone didn’t went to Tirana, just to Durres, a small town next to Tirana, so the same person called his cousin who rolled to Tirana  to take me from Durres. Since After I told him what I was doing in Tirana, that I’m a volunteer, he was deeply impressed, , nor he, neither his cousin,  refused to take my money, so I didn’t had to pay anything.

In this way ends my journey adventures until now, with the mention that I have a couple of cities that I want to visit them until I leave behind Albania.

In the next episode I will tell you about my activities as a EVS volunteer for the Beyond Barriers organisation.

 

Adi (Romania) J

 

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Bonjour à tous !                                                                                                                                            Je dois vous racontez mon expérience alors la voilà ! Je suis arrivée le 7 octobre 2013 très bon accueil même si le temps n étais pas au rendez-vous ! Première arrivées dans une grande maison vide qui ne tarda pas à ce remplir !! 17 personnes, 17 personnalités, 5 origines . Le pari étais lancé !! Dès les premiers temps une bonne ambiance . Rencontre avec l équipe Albanaise très difficile car je ne parle pas anglais ! Puis première rencontres avec les enfants handicapés très touchantes, visites des écoles … Ces enfants sont incroyables !! Je reçois tellement de leurs part en aussi peu de temps ! L Albanie est un pays formidable loin de tous nos aprioris ! Des villes magnifiques , beaucoup de beau garçons , des gens formidables … Juste un petit résumé
Bisous bisous  Maxie