"Service in the Peace Corps here in Tirana has been rewarding and, at times, mind boggling. My assignment has been to teach spoken English to students in Agronomy, Forestry, Economics, Veterinary Medicine, and Zoology at the Universiter Bujqesor (Agricultural University) located about 3 miles west of the capital city, Tirana. The students are bright and lively and I can truthfully say I've learned infinitely more from them than they have from me.
"Ours is the fourth group of Peace Corps Volunteers in Albania. In addition to cross-cultural education and teacher training, we were also given intensive language instruction in Albanian. It's a language all by itself in the family of Indo-European languages; it's not a Romance, Slavic, or Greek language, although there are borrowings from Latin and Turkish as the result of the occupations.
"The people here have lived 46 of the last 50 years under a repressive, economically stultifying, and isolationist form of Communism that has left the Albanians deprived, dazed, technologically behind, and the poorest country in Europe. The roads are bumpy and crowded; even the recently repaired roads have new pot-holes. The electricity is intermittent, the phones unreliable, and the unpotable water supply is available only three times a day. Most Albanians take these inconveniences in stride, saying "Now, at least, we have bread."
"The rapid changes taking place now make for a noisy, dusty, and chaotic life here in Tirana. Western TV, autos (rejected by inspectors in Western Europe), vendors of rock music tapes, and European fashions, intermingle with horse drawn carts, men and women in peasant dress, and herds of sheep or cows being driven on foot (or hoof) to the bazaar. There is a lot of unemployment (15% -20%) as well as underemployment, but since last year building and remodeling activities, as well as street and telephone repairs seem to be occupying some of the people who were previously out of work. Many of the young men and some of the young women have left to work in Italy, Greece, and Germany. Typical Albanians are very family-oriented, the young emigrés send money back home.
"I wonder if other Almys have served in the Peace Corps. I'd love to hear about their experiences. I heartily recommend Peace Corps service not only to newly graduated cousins, but to those, like myself, who have recently retired. Teachers, Agro-foresters and those with business experience are especially welcome. It's a great adventure and stretches one's mind and perspective."
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