Blood Feuds

I spent the last 2 weeks with a group of incredible young teenage women from Shkodra. My counterpart and I took them to her beach house in Velipoja for the country’s first ever sleep-away English language intensive summer camp. And I can honestly say I’ve never been so inspired in my life.

In a country that places such social restrictions on the roles of women (like not being allowed out after dark, not being allowed to date, having arranged marriages, etc), it was amazing to see so many young girls take this opportunity to push the boundaries. The first surprise was that their parents allowed them to come at all. So while I was with them- living, eating, sleeping, and learning in English- I took the chance to ask them about real life in Albania.

One of the girls happens to be a child-star actress who had just finished her first movie and will be leaving this fall to act in her second film in Italy. Her movie is called “The Forgiveness of Blood” (and its filmed right here!) so if you haven’t watched it yet, you should. It won lots of international awards and is still in theaters in the U.S. so if you want a little glimpse into why I’m here, doing what I’m doing, check it out. It’s a real life story about the blood feuds here in Albania and how they affect the day-to-day lives of ordinary people who were born with a death sentence.

Blood feuds are such a unique and scary part of Albanian culture and history that my service here would not be complete without trying to understand them. And even more interesting, is that my city- Shkoder- is at the center of it all. So here is the trailer for my student’s movie and a fascinating article about the blood feuds here…because they all put it into much better words than I can.

Her movie trailer:

the article:

 
 
 
 
“It’s not better. It’s not worse. It’s just different.”
 
 

Where is all the water going

Albania is a country that is rich in many natural resources…but like most developing countries it has yet to figure out how to harness them. So for me, an outsider looking in, it is so incredibly confusing to watch them struggle through in the meantime.

Lots of regions in this country have water restrictions, meaning they only have running water for about 3 hours a day- one hour in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one at night. So if you want to have water to wash you dishes later, you better set your alarm clock and start filling up buckets when it kicks on at 6am. And if you want to do laundry, you better be home at 7pm on the dot to press go on the machine so it can finish the wash cycle before the water shuts off at 8pm.

Luckily in Shkoder we don’t have this problem and I get running water all day long. But I hear these stories from volunteers all over the country about how they are living in a city on the lake or in between two rivers, and yet somehow they don’t have running water throughout the day. It must be so mind-blowing to look out your window at vast bodies of water but have nothing come out of the tap when you turn it on. Someone needs to invest in water pipes, that’s for sure. But like any country, water pipes are not “sexy politics” so it’s really hard to scrounge up the money to fund it and the politicians to make it happen.

 

“It’s not better. It’s not worse. It’s just different.”

Gazpacho in Albania

Being in Albania this summer reminds me of the Spanish heat I endured while living in Madrid

a few years ago. There’s something about the insufferable sun beaming down on you and the lack of air conditioning indoors that makes you dream of cold, cold things. Ice cream. Iced coffee. Iced…anything. So who wants to cook a hot dinner? Surely not me. So I recalled one of my all time favorite meals in Spain that truly hits the spot when the heat has gotten the best of you- gazpacho! And luckily the ingredients are just as easy to find here in Albania. Gazpacho…I have a feeling its’ what’s for dinner for the forseable future.

 

Traditional Spanish Gazpacho

(serves 2)

3 tomatoes, chopped

1/2 cup of tomato sauce (optional)

1 cucumber, peeled

1/4 onion

3-4 cloves of garlic

1 hot pepper or 4 jared jalepeno slices

1/4 cup of olive oil

1 slice of crusty bread

salt and pepper to taste

Add all the ingredients except for the oil into a bowl. Using your food processor or blender, blend until smooth. Slowly stream in the olive oil while you continue blend. Refridgerate for a few hours to let the flavors marry. Serve with slices of cucumber or peppers.