Sunday, September 20, 2009

Happy Birthday America

Though I am all the way over here in Albania, 4th of July is one holiday still to be celebrated. By extremely special invitation only (and a fee of 5 bucks) all Peace Corps staff and volunteers were invited to the party with the US Ambassador on the 3rd of July. Now, from what I understand, the party is usually held at the US Embassy in the capital of Tirana. This year it was sponsored by another organization and the party was moved to a nearby school.

Now, let me dive off subject to quickly explain Tirana from the local pedestrian point of view. Things in Tirana are NOT nearby. Things in Tirana are NOT easily located. You could virtually ask someone for directions to a restaurant across the street and they would have no idea what restaurant you were even talking about. Also, from my bus stop to the center is approximately a 40-minute walk. From the center to the Embassy is also an additional 40-minutes. Thus, you can now safely assume that simply walking to your destination can require hours of your time… and in the summer heat of Albania, prepare to show up at your destination dehydrated and drenched in your own sweat. Seriously, do not even bother showering before you come.

Okay, back on subject. “Where is this school?” you ask. Personally, I only know that it is nearby the Embassy, in the middle of a neighboring park/woods. As I set out from the hotel with my friend Marie, we walked until we found the edge of the woods and felt pretty confident of our navigation skills. Upon entering the woods however, we realized we might never make it: no buildings were in site, paths split off every which way every 10 yards, and it was sweltering. We asked security guards all along the way for the school and each one pointed us in different directions. Marie & I also managed to pick up about 5 lost American families who did not speak Albanian. Now we had responsibilities: we were in charge of getting others to safety. Last but not least, some man had instructed us to walk INTO the woods to get to the school- and after hiking through ravines and stepping over millions of logs we were able to hear music from what HAD to be a party. If only I had known it was going to turn into some sort of Summer Camp 2009 to simply GET to the party, I would have brought my hiking boots, sleeping bag, and tent along for the journey.

Hours later we successfully made it to the festivities, and boy were we greeted upon arrival. Greeted with hamburgers (which do not exist in Albania), hotdogs, potato salad, pasta salad, ice cream, brownies, free spirits, live music, fireworks, sporting events, and yes, EVEN a clown show. Ironically though, I somehow missed the clown show and only ran into a clown that night when I was in the bathroom (and almost had a heart attack). The night was simply amazing up until the point when we finally had to leave. Since it was now dark, hiking through the woods was unsafe, so our only option was the park path, which took 1.5 hours by foot to clear ourselves of the woods. Once we made it back to real life we decided to reward ourselves with some Tirana nightlife, the only nightlife comparable to American standards in the whole country. And, as always, a 30-minute walk back to the hotel awaited us in the end. Who’s planning on giving foot massages tomorrow…anyone?

The Venue: NOT your typical Albanian School.

Me & Marie: proud of FINALLY finding our way to Summer Camp '09!

The Gang- ready to depart on our 1.5 hr walk back to human contact.

Me & Sofie: full of American food and happppyyyy

The lovely FIREWORK display!

No comments:

Post a Comment