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.
Thank you for reading.