Last week I had the opportunity to travel down to the southern beaches of Albania to celebrate the 4th of July with a bunch of other volunteers. I stayed in the small tourist beach town of Ksamil with a fellow volunteer who is posted there. It was nice to celebrate the holiday with friends, but nothing can compare to the wonderful 4th of July memories that I have from the states – especially those nights I spent in the mountains at the lake watching fireworks with my family.
My site-mate Kate and I traveled down together, which was nice because even though Albania is a small country it still took us quite some time to get from Kavaje to Ksamil. We walked about 10 minutes to the highway near Kavaje to try and catch a furgon to Saranda. We waited on the side of the highway for about fifteen minutes and finally found a furgon to take us down south. Luckily, it was a comfortable ride, so that was definitely nice. Sometimes furgons can be quite uncomfortable because of many different factors including how many people are crammed into the car, how hot it is outside, how hot it is inside the furgon, if the people next to you are wearing proper deodorant, and the reliability of the vehicle. Kate and I had never traveled that far south before, so neither of us had any idea where we were going (this is a common theme for me living in Albania). We ended up taking a route through Gjirokaster and other central cities and in Gjirokaster we switched furgons and got into a different car. I have no idea why we switched furgons, but as I mentioned before, traveling in Albania is confusing at times. After transferring furgons we finally made in down to Saranda five hours later and out thirteen dollars. Believe it or not, thirteen dollars is a VERY EXPENSIVE furgon ride, especially on my small Peace Corps budget. Once in Saranda, we met up with other volunteers and took a short bus ride to Ksamil. We hung out on the beach and relaxed near the beautiful sea. The water in southern Albania is very different than the sea water near Kavaje. In the south the water is crystal clear beauty along gorgeous white sand beaches. It was definitely a beautiful place to celebrate the holiday.
The next day was the 4th of July and I went down to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Butrint. I explored the ancient ruins and tagged along with a tourist group for a while listening to the guide speak about the history of the ancient beauty. They were definitely the best ruins that I have seen thus far and I am glad that I went. After Butrint, I met up with the rest of the volunteers and enjoyed the day on the beach with great volunteers, great spirits, and great views. Even though I missed the majestic Colorado mountains, I have to admit that the picturesque sea with new friends was just as special. After our festivites, I headed back up north and stopped in Berat to hang out with Dan. Sometimes life in the Peace Corps can get kind of lonely, so having friends that I can count on to just hang out with is really essential. Luckily, I have several of those friends, including my site-mate and others who are very close by (and by close by I mean within 3 hours).