Nirvana and dead puppys By Christopher S

My second week here in Tirana has been an interesting one for me emotionally, hard and enjoyable.
It was the first week of properly working at the school (Luigj Gurakuqi), I should mention, in case no one else has that we 9 EVS volunteers are only working in the summer school which is different to the school that is run during term time. We’re in the same building with the teachers and volunteers who run the school in term time but there aren’t any lessons and, as far as I know the structure of the day is a lot less organised. Certainly the days in the summer school are totally unorganised, which is how the teachers want it, although it can make our job harder sometimes.
On one day we went up Dajt mountain with the children in the ancient coach up narrow twisting roads with shear drops. It was lovely and cool and we could see all Tirana below us. When the coach stopped we all got out and spend the morning in a little field next to the road sitting and playing with the children. Then we got back into the coach and drove back to the school. That is how all the trips tend to go, which is understanderble because it would be almost imposable to organise 25 or so mentally handicapped children and nine volunteers who barely know a word of Albanian to do anything more. But it was a very nice trip in my opinion. Being outside is good for the children in fresh air and away from the noise and dirt of the city. Also it was nice for us to be in a cooler place. We played ball games, gave piggy back rides or just talked and played clapping games with them. There was one little (or at least he was physically little, although I believe he was meant to be about 10) boy who we believe has ADHD and learning difficulties who constantly attacks the other children, teachers, volunteers and himself, kicking, pinching and biting. He also could be very sweet. Often after biting someone he would be very upset with himself, and he rarely bit or pinched very hard, although I have still a bruise from him. I used to work as an Au-Pair and I looked after a little boy who was 2 who was at the stage of pinching and biting and so I’m quite used to dealing with this. I tried to keep around him as much as possible to catch him before he attacked, especially the other children who could be made very upset by it. There is one boy who has autism whom the boy with ADHD always went for.
I want to mention that I’m not using names because I can’t remember them if I was ever even told them.
Anyway this boy with ADHD is very small and has a very pale face on dark eyes (there’s a photo of him on Sander’s post). When we were up Dajt he took his shirt of for the first time and I was shocked to see how many scars he has on his back, in places he could not reach. When we talked to Ira about this she said it was likely his parents beat him. A couple of days later he stopped coming, we’re not sure exactly why, some of the child only come for a week, or perhaps he was not alowed to come anymore because of his violent behaviour. Either way I think it’s a great shame and it makes me quite sad. It seems that lots of the children are used to violence and some of the teachers dish out plenty of smacks themselvs, mostly as punnishment for violence! From what I know of pedagogy that is not an ideal way to deal with it. Still the teachers do thier best and they are certainly all very dedicated. A lot of them have been working at the school for 20 years or more.
On another day week went on a trip with the school to the zoo. I was expecting the zoo to be a bit less ideal than I as British am used to, but actually seeing the state of the animals I felt very bad about it. The cages were all very small; about 10 feet by 5 feet and the animals looked bored and flea bitten. In one of these cages were 2 grizzly bear cubs and in another were two huge lions. I don’t know if they ever got to go outside of the cages, there didn’t seems to be anywhere for them to go.
On the way to the school each morning the bus passes a small market where live chickens are for sale. They are kept lying on the floor with there legs tide. Interestingly although this looks very brutal I expect it is better than many chickens in the UK are treated. And then there are the stray dogs and cats. Lauren has befriended one cat who comes over for milk and Cheetos which is sweet, and she’s giving biscuits to the dogs, but it doesn’t help the thousands of other strays seen everywhere eating out of the many stinking communal rubbish bins. On the way to our dorm I had noticed a litter of puppys, then on Friday I saw one of them dead on the road with things already eating it.
I’m not a particularly soft person, and I’m well aware that death and the rest exist, but I’m not so used to having it all laid out infront of me in this way.
On Friday night the long-term EVS volunteers invited us to there apartment for a party which was great fun and thank you very much! I particularly enjoyed learning Albanian dancing. At the party one of us had a little too much Raki and said something very interesting to me. Something like “I’m happy because I’m above everything bad that happens to me”. To me, and this seems very clear to me after all the things I found to upset me during the week this statement has a lot of truth, particularly from a Buddhist point of view. I think it could be a very good explanation of the state of Nirvana, where one is removed from the material world. if one is able to not be affected by the bad things in the world they would surely be happy.
That’s just my thought anyway.

One comment

  1. Sander Maurano · August 16, 2011

    I appreciate the way you describe the children and our interactions with them. I hope to read more about them in your posts! Sander

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