A lot has happened in the two weeks that I have been in Albania. I am living a village of 3,000 people called Stermen. It has a grade school, post office that I have yet to see open, a health center which closes at 1 pm, an ostridge farm, and lots of café’s with no one in them.
I will begin with my host family that I love dearly. My host sisters are the sweetest girls ever and are full of hugs, smiles, and laughs. I love all three things so we get along great. The oldest is Migena who is 16 and is called Megi for short. She speaks pretty good English so we communicate very well. This is not the case with most of the other volunteers who are with families who do not speak any English at all. Not many people here speak English expect some of the younger people who have taken it in school. Little boys will yell out as we walk by “what is your name” or “James Bond” or any word that they know in English. The middle girl Matilda is 12 and is also very sweet. The youngest daughter is 6 and is incredibly cute and runs to give me a hug whenever I come home and holds my hand when we walk. She talks and talks and can eats more than the whole family combined yet is a tiny little thing. The mother is a housewife and the father is a carpenter. He is a good guy but the daughters wait on him hand and foot.
All that I heard about hospitality and them loving Americans is true. They are shy in the beginning but as soon as you say “Mire dita, sie jeni?” they invite you into their homes for coffee. They serve Turkish coffee which is in a tiny cup and has the grounds in it still and lots of sugar. Then they offer you a candy or cookie. It has been this way at each house we go to.
Life in general in Albania is much simpler than in the US. Every home here has chickens. They are everywhere running around the streets and in people’s yards. We have fresh eggs and they buy milk from a family down the road that has a cow. I am getting used to whole milk.
One of the things I enjoy most about living here is waking up in the morning to the rooster and birds and the occasional moo from the cow next door. There are donkeys, cows, horses, chickens, and sheep everywhere. Many people still ride in a horse or donkey pulled cart and there are herds of sheep grazing all over and people walking their cows.
The language learning is going slow but everyday I feel a little more comfortable with speaking it and take advantage of small achievements such as ordering lunch at a restaurant or finding my way to Elbasan by bus or having a conversation with a neighbor. I am surprised how much I have learned in just two weeks.
This is a beautiful country. The hills and the mountains, the little villages with animals roaming, and the people are all beautiful. However, you have to overlook the trash on the ground and in the rivers. It is really bad and I don’t know if there are any landfills or anything in the country to properly dispose of the waste. As Albania continues to develop their will be more and more trash. At this time people in the villages do not generate much trash because they do not buy packaged food and junk that they do not need which ends up breaking or just being thrown away like Americans. However the garbage they do make is thrown in the river, lakes or where ever they are at the moment. The infrastructures are extremely weak including the health, education, and economy. It is extremely hard to find jobs in Albania. Few women work even if they are college educated and most families have at least one person in Italy or Greece working and sending money home.
I hope you are doing well. Thanks for the notes. They are nice to read.