Life in Albania is slowly growing on me. Last weekend I visited Jeff, a volunteer who is serving in Gramsh. We spent a day in Gramsh and watched a soccer game before embarking on a tour of Southeast Albania. We spent a day in Korca and stopped in Pogradec on the way back to Gramsh.
Gramsh is a medium sized site of about 10,000 people. The population increases every summer when college students home but is usually about 10,000 people. Most villages in Albania are slowly disappearing as the younger generation realizes that there are not many opportunities available to them and so they leave for bigger cities. Gramsh is lucky because an Austrian company, Devoll, has chosen to build a hydroelectric dam near the city so that will help create jobs. Gramsh is extremely isolated but very beautiful. During communism, Gramsh was home to a prison for political dissenters and free thinkers as well as a munitions plant.
After a day in Gramsh we took a trip to Korca. Korca is a larger city and has several universities. The road we took to Korca was according to Jeff, the worst road in Albania. We spent four hours driving down hill through the mountains on what was little more than a dirt trail. Imagine riding on a slow wooden rollercoaster and you might have an idea how rough our ride was. I don’t know how they did it but some locals actually fell asleep on the bus! This trip was also interesting because we stopped at a couple small villages to pick up passengers on the way to Korca. The people riding the bus from Gramsh were obviously not pleased to be in the presence of the villagers. One lady wouldn’t give up her seat so the could sit down, forcing them to stand on this awful road. One villager sat next to her anyway forcing her to move over! On the way back, we stopped in Pogradec. Pogradec is probably my favorite city in Albania. It is a resort town on a lake across from Macedonia. We met up with some volunteers there before heading back to Gramsh.
The exciting new for the week is that we were locked in our school! The doors are padlocked from the outside so even though we had a key we couldn’t reach the lock. Luckily we were able to get some kids playing soccer behind the field to help us out!