Last weekend I traveled with a few other PCVs to explore a double waterfall south of Gramsh in central Albania. It is incredible what amazing natural features are just waiting to be discovered here in the seeming middle of nowhere. In all the trip was a great release and escape to a beautiful spot. The hike was short but the water was cool and refreshing. We ate cherries off the trees and enjoyed a fire and each other’s company.
A few Albanian friends of the volunteers in Gramsh came along and opened my eyes to what “camping” means in Albanian. They brought with them a large stereo system, computer and generator with which to run them both up the mountain on donkeys. It was ridiculous and made the whole experience very unlike any camping trip I’ve ever been on before. At first thought I dreaded the accompaniment of Albanian pop music on one of the few true escapes I get from its pervasive presence, but then when we started circle dancing in the firelight it fit so well with the mood and festivity of the evening. As I saw at the Bektashi festival last summer, pop music and a coffee are, even on the tops of mountains, never far away when Albanians are involved. The whole experience struck me as a normal part of what my life here has become. Something that may have surprised or even bothered me a year ago is now something I just shake my head at, laugh at and join in.
This next week I’m headed to Erseka in the south to help with the Outdoor Ambassadors summer camp. It’s been a long few months of planning as an OA committee member and recruiting and making sure that kids can come as a local club leader. We have 5 great students from Lezhe going and there will be 50 students from OA clubs all over the country. There’ll be everything from canoeing to community projects to a recycled clothing fashion show. And yes, we will take them all camping. While there won’t be a stereo system or cell phones allowed, I’m sure it’ll be an interesting experience as we share Albanian and American versions of what it means to “camp,” to escape into nature. For most of the students I think it will be their first time in a tent. I’ll have a great update when I return.