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.
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 .
Francesco , Italy.