Peace Corps Video Project: Part 1

I began a video project with some students, and our filming took us to a gliko factory, the thermal waters, the church of Benje, and to the top of the tallest building in Permet!

Earlier in the fall, the Peace Corps Albania staff members announced that they’d be holding a video contest. The theme of the contest was, “My community is known for. . .”, and the two goals of the contest were:

  1. Engage youth with Peace Corps
  2. Showcase Albanian culture, history, and traditions

When I first heard about the contest, I was very interested in participating, but I wasn’t sure if any students would want to get involved. However after talking to the two students in my advanced English discussion group, Serena and Emi, I quickly found that they were enthusiastic and extremely committed to the idea!

So with about a week to film and edit the video before the deadline, we came up with a plan of attack and got to work! Here’s the full story:

Wednesday, October 18, 2017, 8:53pm

It’s been another long day, but it’s also been very fun and productive! Around 3:00pm Serena, Emi and I began filming for the video! It was a warm afternoon, and we filmed at the City Stone, the hanging bridge, the gliko factory, and near the river.

Serena and Emi were great actors, and I was the director and camerawoman, which suited me just fine! Some highlights: 

  • I got great shots of the setting sun at the top of the City Stone
  • Serena and Emi had a fun time jumping up and down on the bridge
  • The woman at the gliko factory welcomed us with a tour and a free sample of walnut gliko
  • Emi’s former teacher gave us a huge handful of grapes to take home.

Whew! We were only out and about for two hours, but it felt much longer. I was exhausted by the time we finally made it back to the house!

Thursday, October 19, 2017, 9:14pm

benje 2
The view from the village of Benje

It’s been another long but lovely day here in Permet! It was Mother Teresa Day, which meant that the bashkia was closed. So Serena, Emi, and I took the opportunity to film in Benje!

We left the city around 8:00am and picked up my friend Tim on the way! Emi’s father drove us, and we made good time out to the thermal waters.

When we arrived, the area was almost completely deserted, and the pools were completely empty. The scenery was breathtaking. Steam rose from the pools, which were crystal clear and reflected the autumn colors of the surrounding mountains. The Ottoman bridge was free of tourists, and from every angle – framed by the mountains or set against the walls of the river valley – it was stately and grand.

The pools were crystal clear and reflected the autumn colors of the surrounding mountains.

We had a blast filming around the thermal waters, balancing on the side of the pools, climbing into caves, and perching on the side of the bridge. Then we ventured deeper into the valley to get some footage in the canyon. That’s when things got a bit dicey.

I took off my sneakers and waded into the cold river water, and soon I had practically lost feeling in my feet. Still I carried on, crossing time and time again over slippery stones and walking through muddy shores – all to get the perfect shot.

The canyon was stunning. It was completely deserted, and the trees that lined the canyon walls were red and gold. When we arrived back at the car, we met up with Tim and Emi’s father (who had stayed behind) and we split snacks that Serena’s mom had prepared. As we ate, we were surrounded by cats begging for scraps.

benje 1
Serena, Tim, Emi, and I at the church in Benje

Afterwords we decided to take the opportunity to visit the village of Benje, which none of us (Serena, Emi, Tim, and I) had ever been to. We got a little mixed up, but the road was pretty straightforward. The autumn colors surrounded us on the path, we passed a donkey grazing in a field, and we had a lovely time! It did get a little warm heading uphill, but the view from the village was worth it!

We got really lucky because as we were walking up, a car with tourists passed us on the way to the church, so the building was opened for them and we snuck in afterwords. The facade was being repaired, but the inside of the church was in beautiful condition.

The inside of the church was in beautiful condition with crystal chandeliers, high vaulted ceilings, and colorful paintings.

It looked a bit more modern than the church in Leuse, but it was still very pretty with crystal chandeliers, high vaulted ceilings, and colorful paintings. I took some nice videos of the girls exploring the church and lighting candles, then we took a brief breather outside before heading back over to Permet.

The walk back to the car was much easier than the walk to the village (almost entirely downhill), and we were back to the city about half an hour later. We all got coffee together. and then we parted ways for the day. Tim and I got lunch, then I had the rest of the afternoon to myself!

benje 4
The beautiful church in Benje

Friday, October 20, 2017, 9:48pm

At 5:30pm, Serena, Emi, their friend Elda, and I went back out into the city to film the old neighborhoods and the pedonale lights. The girls were in a great mood, and it was really fun to explore different parts of the city that I’d never been to before!

I absolutely loved walking through the cobblestone streets and admiring all the old gateways and colorful doors. There was one red doorway in particular that looked incredible against the fall colors.

I absolutely loved walking through the cobblestone streets and admiring all the old gateways and colorful doors.

We eventually made our way to the church on the hill. The building was closed, but we got some nice footage of the archways outside. Then Emi led us down a dirt path slightly above the city with nice views of Permet (though by that time it was a little to dark to see anything properly).

Finally to end our night we went into the city center. The fountains were glowing all the colors of the rainbow, and the lights on the pedonale shone brightly in the beautiful autumn night. I wished there were more people, but overall it was a nice scene to film.

Serena and Emi had the wonderful idea of going to the top of Hotel Alvero to get some shots of the city center from above, so we spoke briefly with the owner of the hotel, who immediately agreed to let us go to the top of her building.

permet old neighborhood 2
The girls in front of a strikingly red door

The views were really gorgeous. The newly reconstructed center looked beautiful from above, and everything was peaceful and quiet. We stayed up on the roof for awhile just leaning against the balcony, watching the hustle and bustle of small town life, and enjoying the lovely fall weather. I truly am so lucky to live in Permet.

And as icing on the cake, as we were heading back downstairs Serena and Emi told me that before the project, they didn’t like living in Permet.

“Now that we’ve been visiting all these beautiful places, I really think that Permet is beautiful and I’m so proud of my city.”

“We just stayed in our own neighborhood, and the city felt boring,” Serena told me. “But now that we’ve been visiting all these beautiful places, I really think that Permet is beautiful and I’m so proud of my city.”

Their newfound appreciation for this wonderful place they live in made everything worth it. This is why I joined the Peace Corps – for these small, incremental changes that might not be able to be quantified in numbers but can make all the difference in the world in the long term.

Read the full story here:

BONUS: Check out some of the other photos from filming!

permet night
The view from the top of Hotel Alvero
permet old neighborhood 1
The same strikingly red door from a different angle

4 thoughts on “Peace Corps Video Project: Part 1

  1. So many of these things didn’t make it into the video. Glad the girls gained an appreciation of their town. When you’re back I’ll take you to see the new street along the river and the new cemetery stairs and the new hotel.

    1. Yes, unfortunately the video was too short for me to really include everything, but I’ll probably use the footage in the future!

    1. Yes, I’d love to do a similar project in the future before I leave! It was a blast to film and really rewarding for the students as well!

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