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Peace Corps History
Main article: History of the Peace Corps in Albania
Albania began the transition to a democratic, open-market nation later than the other Balkan states. Former Communist leader Enver Hoxha headed an isolationist and authoritarian regime from 1944 until his death in 1985, and it was not until March 1991 that Albania and the United States reestablished diplomatic relations (after a 35-year break). The Albanian government invited the Peace Corps into the country soon after, and the first group of 21 Volunteers arrived in June 1992 to begin teaching English at secondary schools and universities. The Peace Corps program was expanded with a small business development project, and 12 Volunteers working in this sector arrived in April 1993. The program was expanded again in 1995 with the addition of 15 Volunteers for an agroforestry project. A group of new Volunteers was scheduled to arrive in February 1997, but a breakdown in civil order and public safety precipitated by the collapse of fraudulent pyramid savings schemes led to the evacuation of all Peace Corps Volunteers and U.S. staff in March 1997 and the closure of the post. At the time of the evacuation, 73 Volunteers were serving in the three Peace Corps projects.
Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyle
Main article: Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Albania
As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Albania, you will have to adapt to conditions that may be dramatically different than you have ever experienced and modify lifestyle practices that you now take for granted. Even the most basic practices— talking, eating, using the bathroom, and sleeping—may take significantly different forms in the Albanian context. You will need to learn to live on far less money than you are now used to, give up most of your privacy, and adapt to different ways of socializing. You may not be able to go out of your house much after dark or have an opportunity for dating within your community. Women will have many more restrictions than men. You will come to Albania to assist people in their efforts to improve their lives, which will be difficult. It will be up to you to adjust to Albanian lifestyle and work practices—Albania is what it is and it won’t adjust to you. If you successfully adapt and integrate, you will in return be rewarded with a deep understanding of a new culture, the establishment of new and potentially lifelong relationships, and a profound sense of humanity.
Main article: Training in Albania
You will participate in an intensive 10-week training program that will begin immediately upon your arrival in Albania. The weekly schedule is Monday through Friday with some Saturday mornings for language training and special events. You and a few other trainees will live with host families in a small town or village. You will participate in many of the training activities with that small group. One or two days each week, you will travel to a central site where you will participate in training activities with the entire group of new trainees. Pre-service training focuses on learning the Albanian language, cross-cultural, community skills development, technical skills development, safety and security, and health. The training period is a time for you to reexamine your commitment to being a Volunteer in Albania. It also gives Peace Corps/Albania the opportunity to get to know you and be assured that your skills and attitudes are a good match for the program here. Throughout the training period, you and Peace Corps staff will measure your progress in meeting the training goals.
Health Care and Safety
Main article: Health care and safety in Albania
The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of every Volunteer. Peace Corps medical programs emphasize the preventive, rather than the curative, approach to disease. Peace Corps/Albania maintains a clinic with a full-time medical officer who takes care of Volunteers’ primary healthcare needs. Some additional medical services, such as testing and basic treatment, are also available in Albania at local clinics and hospitals. If you become seriously ill, you will be transported either to an American-standard medical facility in the region or to the United States.
Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues
Main article: Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Albania
In Albania, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyle, background, and beliefs are judged in a cultural context very different from their own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in Albania.
Outside of Albania’s capital and a few larger regional towns, residents of smaller towns and rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What people view as typical American behavior or norms may be a misconception, such as the belief that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. Albanians are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners; however, members of the community where you live may display a range of reactions to cultural differences that you present.
- Possible Issues for Female Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color
- Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Volunteers
- Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities
- Possible Issues for Married Volunteers
Frequently Asked Questions
Main article: FAQs about Peace Corps in Albania
- How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Albania?
- What is the electric current in Albania?
- How much money should I bring?
- When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
- Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
- Do I need an international driver’s license?
- What should I bring as gifts for Albanian friends and my host family?
- Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
- How can my family contact me in an emergency?
- Can I call home from Albania?
- Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
- Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
Main article: Packing list for Albania
This list is based on the experience of Peace Corps Volunteers generally. You will need an assortment of clothing for work, play, and socializing. Keep in mind that Albanians dress stylishly, even if their clothes are worn. Don’t expect to replace clothing at the same rate that you might in the United States. You also will need your own money for your purchases. Many Peace Corps Volunteers throughout the world end their service with the same clothing (albeit well-worn) that they started with.
- General Clothing
- For Women
- For Men
- Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items
The normal way of getting around Albania for volunteers is by bus or furgon. A furgon is a van that travels regularly on a particular route, for instance Tirana-Elbasan. Typical furgon protocol is that the driver will cruise around in the town of origin, looking for passengers, and not leave until the furgon is full. By contrast, a bus leaves at a specified time regardless of passenger load. In spite of this, a furgon trip tends to take much less time than the equivalent journey by bus. It is also more expensive, costing sometimes as much as twice the equivalent bus fare.
Buses and furgons regularly carry a stash of plastic bags (qese) for the use of carsick passengers.
Until recently, the Albanian education system divided the grades into 1-8 (shkollë tetë-vjeçare, "eight-year school") and 9-12 (shkollë e mesme, literally "middle school", but corresponding to high school in the American system). This changed with the 2008-2009 school year: grade 9 was moved to the elementary division, thus yielding a change in nomenclature from shkollë tetë-vjeçare to nëntë-vjeçare ("nine-year").
Students in Albanian schools typically have all their classes in the same room, while their teachers move from room to room. There are some exceptions to this, in particular language classes at foreign language high schools, which may have separate rooms designated for specific language classes.
Lessons in the Albanian language (Shqip, pronounced roughly "shcheep") consume a large part of Pre-Service Training. This can be both a blessing and a curse, as mastery of the language is a tremendous asset in nearly every aspect of volunteer life, but hours upon hours spent in Albanian class tend to wear on all but the most language-focused trainees. Every trainee is tested in a language interview near the conclusion of PST, and Peace Corps Albania policy is that every trainee must attain at least the level of Intermediate Low. In practice, failing to meet this standard only means that the volunteer in question will be officially required to hire a language tutor (reimbursed by Peace Corps) upon arriving at site.
Some peculiarities of the Albanian language include the existence of both a definite and indefinite form of every noun, including proper nouns (thus both Tirana and Tiranë); a nominal case system similar to that of Latin; the existence of clitics (pronominal forms that coexist in the same sentence with their antecedents, for example Unë e njoh pronarin: "I know (him) the owner"); and a few sound contrasts that can be difficult to distinguish reliably for a speaker of English (q/ç, xh/gj, l/ll, y/u). Of these, the distinctions between q/ç and xh/gj may be safely ignored in speech, as there are very few word pairs distinguished only by the difference between them. Furthermore, there are regional varieties of Albanian in which these two sound distinctions have disappeared: thus a northern Albanian speaker or a Kosovar may write qfar for çfarë ("what"), hearing no difference between the two.
One fact that is an occasional source of amusement for Albanian learners of English is that the Albanian homophone of the English word car, with the R pronounced as in American speech, is an extremely vulgar word in Albanian.
It is sometimes incorrectly stated that Albanian is unrelated to any other language. In reality, it is a cousin of almost every other language of Europe and more distantly even many of the languages of India, forming its own branch of the Indo-European phylum.
Peace Corps News
The following is automatic RSS feed of Peace Corps news for this country.
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PEACE CORPS JOURNALS
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Contributions to the Albania Country Fund will support Volunteer and community projects that will take place in Albania. These projects include water and sanitation, agricultural development, and youth programs.
- List of resources for Albania
- Albania sites
- Volunteers who served in Albania
- Friends of Albania
- Pre-Departure Checklist
- Inspector General Reports
- Current Albania volunteers