My site-mate, Liila, and I were in charge of planning five summer camps this year. Liila wrote the grant with an Italian NGO that works out of the Cross Cultural Center in Permet. The grant was funded by the US Embassy, among other organizations. The camps took place in the National Park that is located two hours up in the mountain from Permet.
There was a few road blocks along the way and it gave us some insight into the working world here. The grant was not funded until July 30th. That gave us exactly one week to plan five summer camps. Including locating kids for each camp, acquiring camping supplies for everyone, line up for workers and food supplies and plan the itinerary. It has been slow here this summer but those weeks leading up to the first camp were anything but slow. They were chaotic. After all, they do say when it rains, it pours.
Liila and I planned the itinerary for the camps and lined up games and ideas for the kids during their free time. Due to other obligations we weren’t able to attend the first two camps. We penciled the last three camps into our calendars and started crossing our fingers for the best outcome.
The camp was located near the forest ranger house which sits in the middle of the park. There was a functioning kitchen, spring water supply, and a bathroom in the house.
In Permet I am still hanging out in t shirts and shorts. Our camp was located at a much higher elevation than Permet and I couldn’t believe the difference it made. I had to pull out my long underwear, wool socks, and extra blankets for the nights in my tent. Even though it was chilly, it was a nice change from roasting all summer.
My first day consisted of getting the kids settled in their tents and playing games. There were three women that I got to know helping out around the kitchen. They were elbowing each other as they tried to get questions in and find more out about me. The usual questions about how old I was and where I am from surfaced first. But then, like always, they asked if I was married. When they found out I wasn’t, they kept asking why I didn’t have a boyfriend. My reply was always ” I don’t want one right now!!” Which only made them laugh harder at the crazy American girl. 🙂
Being asked if I am married is one of the most common questions I get asked here. However, a close second, is asking me how my teeth are so white. What do I use for toothpaste? Is it from America? Do I go to the dentist? Is my dentist American? How many times a day do I brush my teeth? What else do I use? What kind of toothbrush do I have? Do I drink coffee? Seriously, the list can go on and on. Never thought my teeth would be a main topic of conversation for me with people I have just met. Albania likes to keep it interesting.
We stopped for some rest halfway through the hike. There was walnut trees along the way and also some fresh grapes. You can’t beat the fresh snacks here. A few people from the village located in the mountain met up with us to bring some fresh water for the kids. The kids sat around and rested up while snacking on grapes and walnuts. But lucky me, our guide and a man from the village brought me my very own bottle and kept insisting that I try it. The mountain water is so good, it’s fresh and cold. After refusing multiple times I finally gave up and tried it. It was NOT fresh mountain water. It was raki (Albanian moonshine). Grosssssssssss. Not very funny either. Burping up raki on the last half of the hike was not a good flavor of the month! Won’t make that mistake again!
It was a great experience to be able to bond with these kids and get to know them better. Many of them live in Permet and I will continue to see them day to day. Being a part of summer camps has been the highlight of my first summer here in Albania. And now when I walk around Permet, I have various kids yelling “AAAMMMMBBRRRIIIII” at me, which isn’t a bad feeling either!