3 December 2013. Dita Boterore e Personave me Aftesi Te Kufizuar: International Day of Persons with Disabilities. On Tuesday, the special education center in town put on a winter recital for the entire community, including students from some elementary schools around town. Normally, those with disabilities are hidden from the rest of the community; students who are unable to be placed with those their age due to mental disability rarely go to school and rarely have the chance to participate in community events. And for the first time since being here, they became part of the community in an event to highlight the rights of the disabled and fight discrimination.
Exploring Sheher and celebrating the first snow, November 2013. Already it’s colder outside than it was last year, and to celebrate I took a walk back past the castle through the winding road of Lagja Sheher.
Gëzuar ditën e Faleminderimeve nga Rresheni! With some help for our feast from family and friends in the States, we were able to have pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce and plenty of other delicious goodies including a moderately sized turkey cooked with love by the neighborhood bakery.
November 16, 2013. TEDxLezheCinema.
Last weekend I had one of my most successful community events since being in Lezhë. I, along with a local counterpart from the Qark (municipality) and pseudo-sitemate Derek, organized the first ever TEDx Cinema event in Albania. It has been six months since we came up with the idea, and after two months of hard work, planning, and organizing the event it feels great to have it all done. Organizing an event, especially one for the entire community, is unbelievably hard in Albania. Planning ahead and committing are not common, and organizing an event as structured as an “independently organized TED event” was no small task. It took some convincing, but once the Mayor and other prominent people in Lezhë realized how wonderful the event would be to bring the community together they supported our endeavor. Check out the official photos from the event here.
This Sunday I spent the morning with my neighbors picking kaki from the tree right next to my house. Silvi lent moral support as Angjelina climbed to the tallest branches to get the juicy ones.
Po Bie Shega. The pomegranates have returned. On my last trip up to the castle I noticed the round red, green, and brown balls like Christmas ornaments hanging from the trees. A few days later, there they were at the dyqan. This time of year I miss the changing fall colors, the warm buildings and the company. But Lezhë seems to have it’s own way of signaling the arrival of fall: with pomegranates.
Here is the trailer for Rachel Morrison and Jill Peters’ new documentary about the Sworn Virgins of Albania titled He/She/He.
When I wander around Lezhë day after day, month after month, with not much to do and then fall comes and my life turns busy, sometimes it can be overwhelming. I’ve put fresh motivational post-its on my cupboard door and have all but given up on the idea of fixing some needed repairs in my house before winter comes.
I’ve talked before about how time moves differently here, things that take me a day to complete in the States somehow take me a week. Everything I do I do twice, once in English and once in Shqip. On the rare occasion when I forget about the English and my mind takes over in Shqip, it takes me twice as long to get back into my English tasks like talking with family and friends back home and completing essays and other needed things for my applications to graduate school.
I’m the busiest I’ve ever been here; most of my time has been spent organizing a community event for Lezhë that will take place next week. I’ve been working with a Model UN team twice a week at the private school and have been doing health lessons at the public schools, and the Ministry has ordered another round of health fairs.
Every day, it gets a little bit colder and more leaves fall off; there are only a few slow-moving mosquitos left and only the pill bugs of my Summer Critter List remain.
Most nights when I take my solo xhiro around town, I see men and women enjoying their kafe at the bar and gathering their ingredients for that night’s dinner. Some nights I go out and hear or notice that a family is no longer out, and without mention of visiting family in Italy or other common reasons for absence I begin to wonder.
This interesting piece came out a while back, photo journaling a tradition that is still quite present in Albania. With increasing international attention as a hidden paradise and a top place to visit, Albania’s unique stories and traditions have come to attention too, like this article on the sworn virgins that I’ve shown before (whenever someone comments on my “un-ladylike” behavior, I typically respond with ‘jam burrnesh’ ‘I’m a strong female, leave me alone’, which is also the word they use for the sworn virgins).
There is always a push here to be modern, but there is still a large population of Albanians that cling to the old way of life; it’s the very reason why when I walk by the “parking lot” next to the biggest store in town, there is a brand new car parked next to a buggy and donkey, and why when walking down the road I pass three communist era homes before the construction on the new skyscraper (of six floors).