Thursday, August 26, 2010


Monday, August 16, 2010

CAMP in Ishull Lezhë

Teaching dance...

They're distracted by the camera!

Weddings in Albania

For more info on weddings click here, dasem

Vegetarian Cooking Abroad

We made veggie skewers- after cutting up the vegetables, we spiced them using some olive oil, salt, pepper and a little bit of Laura's cajun seasoning. After that we skewered them and put them on a grill for a few minutes, and presto! yumminess.

So this pic is not the best but Laura and I have discovered how to do mexican night in a jiffy! Usually i saute some okra in cajun seasoning, and separately onions, spicy peppers and green peppers. We make some rice, and a bean and corn salsa (inspired by chipotle and how much i miss that place) . Laura has become quite the expert at making tortillas from scratch! If we have people over and some taco seasoning packets we'll cook up some chicken, dice a tomato and voila! Mexican food in Albania!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Some real stuff. no fluff here.

So I haven't wanted to seem overly critical about Albania and in an effort to avoid controversy,  I have avoided speaking about real issues that Albania faces, which is silly. Obviously Peace Corps is in Albania because it is a country in transition. So lets take a good look at the state of Albania.

I'm an optimist so lets start with the good stuff- Albania is rich in natural resources. Albania has a beautiful coastline that borders the Adriatic and Ionian seas, mountain ranges (that could be used for skiing, hiking trails), rivers, planes, gorges, etc. You name it, Albania has it. Albania has the
potential to capitalize on these natural wonders in terms of tourism, exports, and energy supply. Unfortunately Albania's seldom recognize the assets they have in their own communities, which gives foreign investors a serious upper hand. Frequently companies will come into a community and pay the locals (minimally) to harvest crops, such as organic mushrooms. They go on to export these crops to neighboring countries for quadruple the sum. Another example of this is a Dam project in Gramsh, a town located in Central Albania. This Dam project will end up generating millions of dollars for foreign investors, while locals are forced to relocate (although they will be compensated).The bottom line is that the majority of the profits and benefits from hydropower/hydroelectricity that the dam generates will be received outside of the country. Albania(n's) are being taken advantage of, and unfortunately they are not developed enough--or rather do not believe they are competent enough--to carry out these projects by their lonesome.

Another aspect of the culture I dislike (having read the Feminine Mystique at 13) are gender roles. To be frank, women are treated like second-class citizens. Although women are encouraged to go to school and later join the workforce, the main mission of their lives is finding a husband. Once they accomplish such a feat, they are solely responsible for rearing the children, keeping up the house, cooking, cleaning, taking care of livestock, etc.
Women in villages are expected to be home with the sun. To be seen in public with the opposite sex is shameful unless you are either related or married. Women are expected to marry early and have children; at my age (22) it is OLD to be single. That mentality is slowly changing, and gender roles are less rigid in cities, but inequality is in abundance here. Furthermore men are encouraged to stay out late and drink Raki (a local spirit made from grapes) with their male friends while women finish the dishes, and prepare for the next grueling day.

My host sister started her day at 5AM, cleaned the house, took a bus to University, attended classes, returned on the 4 PM bus, worked the cafe, did laundry, beat rugs, swept, mopped, prepared dinner, cleaned dishes, turned down beds, and finally after everyone was asleep she finished her homework (around 1 AM). Just in time to have a few hours of precious sleep before hearing her alarm (or rather the roosters) at 5AM.

*As a side note- my host family was very loving, hospitable and wonderful. My host father and brother were barbers and worked very hard. They amount of generosity, kindness and understanding they bestowed on me is insurmountable and I am eternally grateful to them for opening up their home and heart to me. The above reflection has more to do with overarching gender roles than my particular host family.

My last criticism lies with environment. Albanians litter...A LOT! The rivers are crowded with waste and the streets are lined with plastic bottles and leftover snacks. This is an issue that needs to be approached in a top-down manner, meaning that the ministry needs to allocate funds to developing a waste disposal/recycle  program that give Albanians, practical, sustainable ways to dispose of trash (opposed to burning, or dumping). That alone would help the tourism industry.

A little food for thought....