The Permet Youth Council Holiday Project

Getting back on the horse is an important skill to learn during Peace Corps service. Projects rarely go right the first time, but eventually with enough time and persistence, things have a way of working themselves out.

That was definitely the case with the Permet Youth Council. 

When I first arrived at site last year, I was overwhelmed by the amount of projects that the previous Community and Organization Development volunteer had completed. A Model UN team? Check. A grant project to rehabilitate a bathroom in a village school? Check. A workshop with female entrepreneurs? Check. A Youth Council? Check, yet again. 

So I decided to tackle the first thing that looked even remotely achievable. A Youth Council. How hard could it be to wrangle up a few students, have them do simple volunteer projects, and take a few photos? The answer, as I soon learned, was very.

My first attempt at a Youth Council was a failure, plain and simple. Last November, I gathered together an initial group of 10 students that whittled down to just 2 by the end of December. We had a few meetings and began planning a project, but it never came to fruition because it was too ambitious (a TEDx event at the local high school) for my level of experience (which was low) and the students’ buy in (which was also low). 

Continue reading “The Permet Youth Council Holiday Project”

A Slow Food Albania Feast

Sunday, December 9, 2018, 6:21pm

I love Albanian food. I love the warm, comforting stews, the soft, dense breads, and the simple but delicious cheeses. Maybe my Iowa palette’s to blame, but I also love the lack of heavy spices and complex flavors. 

Here in Albania, no one does traditional, Albanian food quite like the members of the Slow Food organization, which is an international grassroots movement to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions, counteract the rise of fast life and combat people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat.

December 10th is Slow Food International’s Terra Madre Day, and it celebrates the day the organization was founded. In 1986, protesters in Italy rallied against the opening of the first McDonald’s in Rome, demanding “slow food” to counter the growing fast food invasion into Italian culture.

Here in Albania, the Slow Food movement has three main components.

  1. The Convivia – groups of like-minded businesses and restaurants that share the Slow Food philosophy of local, traditional cooking (including chapters in Elbasan, Fishta, Gjirokaster, Korca, Permet, Sofra e Kelmendit, and Tirana)
  2. The Presidia – an international database that catalogs native breeds and local plant varieties to preserve unique traditional processing methods
  3. The Chefs’ Alliance – a network of chefs that defend food biodiversity across the world
Continue reading “A Slow Food Albania Feast”

Halloween in Permet

To celebrate the Halloween, 4 very motivated students prepared a community event with face painting, games, and arts and crafts! We were overwhelmed by the number of participants, but glad we were able to share the holiday with others!

Saturday, November 3, 2018, 8:54pm

Today’s Halloween event turned into a carnival of screaming children, exploding yarn balls, and endless requests for water. But when all was said and done, the girls and I laughed as we shared our favorite memories from the chaos, and we all agreed that it was worth the stress.

We all agreed that it was worth the stress.

A few weeks ago, one of my students, Eni, mentioned the idea of doing something for Halloween. I’d let the holiday pass by quietly the year before, but Eni was determined to do something for the community this October, and we decided on a community event with games and activities.

Together with three other girls, Serena, Emi, and Krista, the four students created a short lesson on the history of Halloween and prepared decorations, four dozen cookies, and the other activities. Serena decided to lead face painting, Krista set up a Pin-the-Smile-on-the-Pumpkin game, and Emi created a spider-themed craft with yarn. Since Halloween was a Wednesday, we decided to move our event to the following Saturday.  Continue reading “Halloween in Permet”

Outdoor Explorers 2018: Bredhi i Hotoves

After a summer of outdoor excursions, we took our final trip to the national park Bredi i Hotoves! We traveled to the village of Frasher, learned about the environment, and had lunch in the mountains!

The morning of the final outdoor excursion in Bredhi Hotoves dawned bright and clear. There was some rain in the forecast, but luckily we missed the slight afternoon showers and stayed dry the entire trip.

We all piled into the furgon at 8:20am, and the students squeezed themselves like sardines in the backseat, unwilling to be parted from their friends for the drive into the national forest. As the vehicle bumped along the rocky, unpaved roads, the students sang songs at the top of their lungs almost the entire way. 

The view along the mountainside was absolutely gorgeous as always. We passed the characteristic sea of evergreens on our way up the steep mountain paths, and as we drove into the forest cover, it felt like we’d entered another, more enchanted world. Brianne commented later that she felt like she’d returned home to West Virginia.  Continue reading “Outdoor Explorers 2018: Bredhi i Hotoves”