Struggling Living in Ksamil, Albania in Peace Corps

It has been a very long time since I have written here. PST has ended and the transition into service has began. My site is quite different from everyone else in PC Albania. I’m living in a small tourist village, the most Southern location we place people in Albania. The area is beautiful with the clear, beautiful aqua blue sea that you can see through to the coral below and neighboring uninhabited islands. However, it comes with it’s faults of being an area full of issues with documentation for properties which resulted in destruction of many (280) apartment complexes in the area about 2 years ago. Previously it was mainly a location where people lived and worked on the large communism farms and hence has exploded into a tourism venue, the planning and design of such facilitated by the people and not quickly enough being regulated by the government.

Right now there are quite a few tourists, all buffeting themselves through places not often large enough for two cars; unfinished road construction which leaves your cars falling deep into pot holes or flinging rocks as you attempt to get from here to there, plus of course lots of dust and idiot drivers who still think all this is actually the highway. From what I hear, there are still more to come and the village will be bombarded in August. The demographics of the area is very unusual. The majority of people that ‘live’ here only live here in the summer time and are else where during the rest of the year such as Greece, Tirana, or Italy. Recently I have gotten a new counterpart who is actually American. He has been living there for 11 years, has a business and family in Michigan. We call each other neighbors, since the distance between states is quite hard to describe to Shqiptars.. being that it sometimes would be from going North to South in the country. How large America is, is quite hard to explain. I’ll hopefully make a scale map sometime. I was pretty sure everyone thought that I was a tourist that was going to leave at the end of the summer like all of them but our work now is visiting all of the businesses in the area to gather their information for a database on wikitravel as well as developing it for our own website.

We had a change in our mayor. Previously, Ksamil was Democrat and is now Socialist. In the capital, Tirana we were waiting for the new mayor to officially take over. Elections were on the 8th of May, following a week of ballot counting which Edi Rama was declared the winner. However, some ballots were not counted because they were placed in the wrong boxes. By law, these are not supposed to be counted but it was taken to the panel that makes final decisions and were counted. In the original elections Rama won by 10 votes, after the other votes were counted I believe Basha the Democratic candidate won by 60 or so votes. I don’t want to go to far into the politics of this as I am jopolitik as a PCV and I don’t really know who to believe or what they’re actually saying on the news. However, from what I have gathered the right to count votes that were misplaced was denied in the past by the Democrat party for the Socialists. That may have been allowed this time because the President, who was in politics before communism was over and is still in politics to today (hm), is Democrat. I have also heard that people may have misplaced their votes on purpose because they vote for a certain party in order to keep their jobs, not because they are with that candidate. However, I again know very little besides what I hear from a few people. I am not an official representative of the United States in any manner, I’m merely stating what has been voiced to me.

Either way, because of this issue that has been being repealed and so forth, elections that took place 2 months ago have finally drawn to a close. During the wait the municipality workers were not really working as they were in a stand still about what would happen. Often when a new mayor takes office that is of a different party, he or she (she is really rare) fires all of the current employees. Our kommuna is fairly small, so that didn’t happen completely. But unfortunately it did happen to some very educated, hard working, experienced employees. My past counterpart actually was let go after working in the kommuna for 11 years, being deeply tied to the community and well liked and known by all I find this quite unfortunate. Of course, I shalt not cry who moved my cheese, as perhaps, as often happens in Albania, party favoritism may have made her less of an unbiased employee. It is merely sad, specially the manner it took place of dismissing her one day after weeks of back and forth on the date of departure. I do think she’s a very hardworking, lovely, strong women. In a country where your place in society often rests upon the man you get staked too, she persevered to define herself on her own terms. Of course, la de da, in my humble opinion.

How’s your house? I refer to my apartment as my dorm room. It’s about the size of the one I had Sophomore year of college.. but slightly smaller. Of course, I have my own bathroom. The kitchen area is a small section in the room with some cabinets, sink, and a double hot plate. Such a funny thing to figure out the things you’ll really miss.. like a stove. If only I could bake an apple pie, which I did what? Maybe twice before coming to Albania. Every time I start to complain about these things I have to stop myself of course because this really is the posh corp. I could be in Africa, eating roots and living in a straw hut with a mosquito net..

Why don’t you have new pictures up? I was robbed of my camera on a camping trip during PST. Thanks high school boys in Bishem, such a lovely welcoming.

For whoever reads this, which I doubt is many people, please value that whenever you want to talk to someone you can. You live in a country where most everyone understands you. Don’t take for granted that if you need to get some where, people may not always be friendly and inviting in America but at least they speak English. It’s interesting that I talk to people about things that in America I wouldn’t ask about like.. when does the bus come? Or stopping people to ask where this or that is. I’d probably just wonder lost for a bit in America. Here in a different language, I ask because.. I might struggle with the language but people are overwhelmingly helpful. My first trip back from Ksamil during PST I was very ill. The man told me where the bus was when I stumbled into Saranda, sat me down in a place, checked on me often, came and grabbed me when it was time for me to get off. Sometimes they are a bit too helpful, as I have experienced when I go into a store just to wonder around to see what they have but find a helpful shopkeeper coming up to me to escort me to whatever I need. But I must remind myself that the opposite would suck, to not always be welcomed favorably just because I was born in America.

Also, do not make fun of people that don’t speak English. Speaking louder, even enunciating more, getting upset, etc don’t do that. How lovely that you know when people are speaking about you, how unlovely to catch only glimpses of said conversation. I’m just saying this, not as though this happens often or anything that negative is said about me.. I think.

Albanians really like Americans more then most Americans like Americans, I’m pretty sure. 

So how are you really doing? Well.. I’m not going to go too much into it. I’m feeling lonely and upset at times and wondering why the hell did I leave comfortable, normal surroundings. I’m wondering what I actually will accomplish here, worrying I’m not the right person to have been sent here, anger at the completely idiocracy I see at times and have no control over,  fretting fretting fretting. Plus, I really have changed.. less outgoing, more reserved and withdrawn. Hopefully just a phase. If you want to be something just be.. well easier said then done.

I have crazy dreams all the time about being in America just doing normal things like.. drinking beers with friends in the pool but worrying throughout it that I need to get back to Albania. I think that means that yes, I miss America a lot but I know this is where I’m supposed to be right now. It’s difficult, but this is what I signed up for.

One last question, how do you say Ksamil? I always drop the k and sah-meal. That is the what the ending sounds like, however, people often do not understand me. Then again, I often say things, they don’t understand, someone repeats exactly what I said, and it’s understood. I think this is due to putting emphasis in the wrong location when I say words sometimes. My host father told me that the ks is like taksi= taxi…. I just find this extremely difficult to say maybe because starting words with an x sound is basically unheard of in English. Either way, I just repeat myself a lot, go in detail of where it is located in relation to Saranda and sometimes people understand me.


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