Joys of travel By Christopher S

So my journey started over a day earlier than I intended when I managed to get the date of my flight wrong and arrived over a day early. So now I’ve well learnt to check the date of the flight and the date of the day.
I went back to Heathrow the next day and after a 7 hour wait for my 6 am flight and a two hour or so flight I got to spend a sticky day walking around Rome before catching my flight to Tirana Nene Teresa airport 10 hours later. Hot, very sticky and very tired I fought my way to my seat and sat down only to be forced out of it by some floppy haired pest! Turned out it was my fault and I’d sat in the right seat number but with the wrong letter, so I had to move across the aisle. My First experience of Albanian people was sitting between an Albanian émigré who had live in England for 12 years and was a social worker. She was going home for a months’ holiday to see family and was very eager to tell me about Albania and to remove fears planted in my head by certain relatives that Albania had no electricity etc… Ideas now out of date by at least 20 years. She was also very interested in what I was going to be doing here in Tirana and she gave me lots of advice. I’m very glad I met her. The Person on my other side was also Albanian and not so pleased to be coming home. They got into a bit of an argument (in Albanian) over there different opinions of whatever in Albania, and over me (as I was sat in between them). I had fun trying to pick out the odd word in Albanian that I’d already learnt from the tirade of words that were probably better not to understand.
On leaving the plane I bumped into Joe Clarke one of the other 10 EVS volunteers. As it happens HE was the “floppy haired pest”. Small world I always say. At the airport we met some of the other EVS volunteers and Olti who is one of our mentors. We had a long drive through Tirana to where we’re staying in the “Qyteti Studenti” (Student City) which isn’t as fancy as it sounds and seems to have more residents under the age of 10 and over 50 than anything else. This is because all the students are away on their summer break.
I can’t even remember what my first thoughts about the place were because I was so tired. I do remember spending sometime looking for a duvet for the bed. Turns out that sleeping with nothing but thin air on is too hot!
The next morning we were shown around a bit of Tirana by one of the local volunteers before going to “the office” where the Beyond Barriers program is run from. There we met with Ira (who is really cool) who is our coordinator. She told us some things about what to expect and some points of Albanian culture and what we’d be doing.
In the evening we had a party to get to know each other and the local volunteers, our Albanian teacher Elen and our other mentor Holta “After Dark”.
After the party me and Sander (one of the EVSs) took a taxi home. When we arrived we asked the driver how much it cost and he said $7000! He really meant 700 lek which is about 7 Euros. In Albania they have old Lek and new Lek. 7000 in old is 700 in new, People us both all the time. They also don’t say 700/7000 but “7”. It’s a little confusing.
For the rest of the week was spent going to the office to learn about our job here and on the Saturday we went on a day trip to a place called Berat which is an UNESCO heritage site and the only one in Albania. It was nice to see because there isn’t very much history on show since communism. On Friday I also went with 3 others of us to see the school. It was interesting and very chaotic and confusing. I don’t know what to make of it but the children were nice.
The first week here has been really enjoyable but the real reason we are here is to work at the school and I’m looking forward to that.


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