The one month volunteer programme started with a minor hitch when I arrived at the airport on Monday to find despite the ticket in my hand that there were no flights to Tirana that day at all! I then found out that Albania Air had not had any flights for more than six months and may have gone bust. What ensued was a two hour argument on the phone with my travel agent who eventually rebooked me onto a flight the next day with another airline!
For future reference if this happens to you … do not take any BS the travel agent gives you for example they said I had changed the flight myself! Once a refund is offered insist they rebook you onto the next available flights and pay for it as it will probably cost you a lot more to take the refund and rebook the flights yourself at short notice. If they refuse this tell them it is their duty to do so under the Civil Aviation Authority ATOL agreement and sound like you know what you’re talking about even if you don’t! After two hours you may get new flights and an apology.
The next day I took advantage of one extra day in London and went for a full-cooked English breakfast with my flat mate and his girlfriend before getting on a flight to Tirana. I landed in Tirana just before midnight … this time it was me in the long queue at passport control having a non-national passport in stark contrast to the passport control at the UK or EU countries where those with non-EU/EEC passports are in the longer queues. Reading my guidebook as we came into land I read that you need to pay a 10 Euro entry tax on arrival and spent the next 20 minutes in the queue worrying about this as I had no money on me! It turned out the guidebook was incorrect or out of date and I was through to Albanian soil in not time. I was met at the airport by Olti, one of our two mentors in Albania. The other mentor being Holta, who recently returned from a long term EVS in Italy. Both are a lot of fun to be around are friendly and helpful. And after a short wait for a Sardinian and Lativian volunteer who are taking part in a training course in another Albanian city, we were off to our accommodation.
There are ten volunteers, and we are staying in the student quarter of the city. We are a mixed bunch of people from across the UK (and the world) although we only have one girl in the group.
After a relatively relaxed week getting to know Tirana, getting to know each other and having Albanian classes, we were off to the school on Monday morning.