The land of Byrek!
After 2 months of being in Albania it already feels like home. I live with Anna, another German volunteer, in the capital of Tirana – the never quiet & multicultural city.
Maybe you are wondering: What is Byrek? This was the question when I heard the word for the first time. Byrek is one of the most popular foods in Albania! It is a kind of pastry pie filled with tomato, onion, cheese, spinach, pumpkin or leek.
If you walk through the streets in Tirana you will see that every 10 meters there are small shops of fruits, vegetables, clothes (especially bridal shops) and a lot of coffee shops.
Spending time with family and friends is very important in the Albanian culture. Even as a guest you feel like part of the family. If you go to a coffee shop with Albanians, they always want to pay for your food! I admire their hospitality and helpfulness – they are real role models for me!
One-time Anna and I went to the “Parku i madh i Tiranes”, a city park with an artificial lake, which is near our home. The sun was shining (just how it is almost every day!) and we sat on a tree root and looked at the lake. After 2 minutes an elderly man came and tried to talk to us in Albanian. Unfortunately, we did not understand anything and so he went back to his wife. After a while he came back with a thin sheet, smiled and handed it to us. We finally understood what he wanted. He gave us a blanket on which we could sit on. We thanked him with our first Albanian word “Faleminderit” and a big smile. Afterwards we laid down on the blanket and enjoyed the sun.
This story shows how friendly and helpful Albanians are. Even though most people are very poor, they still they want to share whatever they have, with us. Admirable!
A normal day at the ADRA Office
Every morning Anna and I walk 5 minutes to the ADRA office in Tirana and start the morning with a prayer. After that we translate documents, sort out images and do crafts for schools. The tasks variate a lot, and you have the chance to use and improve every talent.
Afterwards we end up doing different projects. Some days we will go to the Roma-Community-Center in Fushe-Kruja (40 minutes away from Tirana). On other days of the week, we go to the Roma-Community-Center in Tirana and playfully teach the children and their parents how to read, write and do the math. Furthermore, we take pictures of the projects so we may share the best ones on Instagram and Facebook. Additionally, we write reports and upload them to the official ADRA Albania website. In the afternoon we go back to the ADRA Office. Sometimes we lose track of time because we are so focused on the work 😊.
The atmosphere is very pleasant in our ADRA Albania team. The working structure is very relaxed and you don’t have any pressure put on you! Often I hear the words: “No worries. It’s ok. Take your time.” Sometimes we go to the coffee shop and sit all together and talk about exciting topics. I recommend that everyone should work here in Albania as a volunteer.
Being a part of the Roma-Community means, you have not gone to school and you can’t read or write. That at the age of 14 you get married and then have lots of children – it is nearly impossible to get outside the community, to make your own career or to be independent. Every family is very poor. The sense of life is to care for oneself and one’s child. To make sure they have something to eat and that they survive!
That’s the reason why ADRA Albania tries to integrate the Roma community into the Albanian society.
Once we went into the community and distributed flyers to show that the school for Roma children was about to start. Satchels, notebooks, pens, erasers, sharpeners and much more were provided by ADRA Albania, funded by their donors. They gave all of this to the children, because the parents have no money for it.
When we go to the Roma-Community, at first you only see the poverty of the people. But with a second glance you can see that the children laugh and rejoice the same way as any child would and they are not all “just sad”. They have their own culture with good and bad things.
If the children smile and hug you – you cannot help but allow them into your heart! I do not understand their language, but I can always give them a smile.
So far, I have had a very good experience in Albania. The people are always hospitable, helpful and they always have a smile on their face. In the project of ADRA Albania I appreciate the variety and freedom of the individual tasks and I am looking forward to the coming months.
©Text and photos by Rebekka Schiller