While traveling around last weekend, I made a stop back in Librazhd to enjoy some home cooked meals with my family for the last time. After two afternoons of sitting, staring, and enjoying each other’s company it was time to say my last goodbye. Words could not do justice to the amount of gratitude I have for mama Xheni and the Blloshmi family. In a sad goodbye, we left with hope for my return in the future, for conversations left to be had, and with the promise that I will move on to bigger, brighter, and better things.
I took a short trip to Kosovo on the weekend; it’s only about two hours away on the autostrad through Kukes. Arriving in Prishtine, I was immediately greeted by a giant typographic monument ‘NEWBORN’ unveiled on the day of Kosovo’s Independence on February 17, 2008, signifying its status as one of the newest countries in the world. Unsurprisingly, there’s development all over the place. Similar to Albania, construction is everywhere but Kosovo remains far more organized (at least in the main cities). Wandering up and down the promenade and along Bill Clinton Blvd to eat more eclectic foods than we have in Albania was definitely a highlight.
On the way back to Albania, I stopped in Prizren, a much more elegant and visually pleasing town. It’s also only a half hour away from Kukes. It was remarkable to see how much Kosovo bounced back from having a war only a little over a decade ago in 1999. The graffiti still speaks volumes of what the Kosovar people have been through along with the memorials of people still missing or recently found, but the cities are on the rise with organized recycling campaigns, remodeling and a clear understanding of tourism and aesthetic, and above all some variety in the food and people and places.
Voskopoja, Albania. To many here, it’s called the place with a bunch of old churches, eight Orthodox churches to be exact. Although the town has been remodeled several times, the churches surrounding the town have never been touched (besides minor skeletal repairs). The most fascinating sights to see are the intact murals, in their original paint from the 1700s. Pure works of art.
To celebrate the beginning of spring, I took a trip down to the southeast of Albania to see some places I had never seen before and to hang out with some friends I may not see again for a very long time.
March, 2014. That time we all crammed ourselves in a high school classroom for nearly 8 hours to read a bunch of English essays.
Kahlil Gibran in The Prophet:
Most of the time I try to ignore the fact that I’m leaving in two months, but between the inevitability of COSing and starting school in the fall the countdown always finds a way back into my head. There are so many things I still want to do and so many places I still want to see and the time just keeps going faster and faster.
"The timeless in you is aware of life’s timelessness. And knows that yesterday is but today’s memory and tomorrow is today’s dream."
March, 2014. I took a walk up to the radio tower behind my house the other day.
Youth groups have now become a regular part of my schedule. Every week, I meet with a group of students to practice writing techniques through activities, all in English, that emphasizes creative thinking. Most of the students I encounter are starved for this type of learning, quite different from their regimented and lecture based courses in high school. A lot of my time here is spent in some sort of struggle, with the language or with people and work, but when I’m with students I can kind of forget all that. Most of them speak fairly good English and are willing and eager to learn, making my days a whole lot easier and enjoyable. It has been a pleasure getting to know these creative minds.
As part of a project I began working on in the fall, my counterparts and I are moving into the schools to teach students in villages around Lezhe how they can protect themselves from illness. One of the biggest struggles I’ve had as a Volunteer has been how to conduct work with the limited resources I’m presented with. How am I supposed to tell kids to wash their hands when there’s no running water or soap in the school bathrooms? Well I don’t, but I tell them the importance of hand washing and how to do it (requesting the school to buy soap and bring water bottles), along with other useful lessons like covering your mouth when you sneeze and blowing your nose into a tissue. It’s not the material that I teach that’s hard, it’s how to teach it.