Wow, first of all, let me just say WOW! Never in a million years would I have imagined my blog to go viral in the way that it has! In the past three days, my blog has received over 25,000 views and counting! Thank you for taking time out of your day to read, comment, and share my “50 Unique Observations about Albania” blog. Your shares on Facebook and other media outlets helped get my post out, so thanks! Maybe I should have added a point in my original blog about how much Albanians love social media 😉 (I know that I sure do too)! I really hope that my wonderful, new readers/friends can spread the word about this response blog as well. Please share this with your facebook friends.
People from ALL OVER the world have read my blog now! People from 109 countries have taken the time to read my observations – WOW!
My blog stats.
My “50 Unique Observations about Albania” post has received over 20,000 views!
Before I delve into some of the feedback that I received, I would like to reiterate why I am in Albania and what my role is as a Peace Corps volunteer. I chose to come to Albania and live here for two years. I want to help people, work together, and learn from the people here.
The Peace Corps is an American organization that works in countries all across the world. Volunteers work in Africa, Asia, Central America, South America, the Middle East, Pacific Islands, Caribbean, and Eastern Europe. Volunteers work with schools, local agencies, health centers, and governments to address needs in many different areas.
In Albania, we have three primary sectors – community and organizational development, teaching English as a foreign language, and health education. I am a heath education volunteer. Most health volunteers in Albania work with health promotion units at the local Department of Health. Many community and organizational development volunteers work with Bashkias, and some work with local NGOs. And most of the teaching English volunteers are placed in the high schools, with a few serving in the 9- year schools as well.
The Peace Corps mission has three goals:
- Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
- Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
- Helping promote a better understand of other people on the part of Americans.
These three primary goals bring me to the reason why I started my blog. My blog was originally to help promote goal #3. I wrote the “50 Unique Observations about Albania” post to share with my friends and family back home parts of my experience here. The stories and things depicted in my blog reflect my own experiences in Albania and are not necessarily reflective of the country as a whole. I am not writing this blog to help promote tourism or as a tourist. I am writing to share my successes, triumphs, observations, and struggles as a volunteer in Albania. I live in Albania and will continue to live here until May 2015.
Now, I feel it is important and necessary for me to respond to some of the feedback that I have received in the comment portion of my blog. I read each and every one of your comments and I really enjoyed the different perspectives and advice how to make my blog post more applicable to the country in its entirety. To anyone that I offended or hurt in my writing – I truly am sorry, it was never my intention to hurt anyone’s feelings. I appreciated all the feedback that I received, even some of the negative criticisms. Most of the feedback I received was very positive and THANK YOU so much for that. I am very glad that many Albanian-Americans were able to share this post with some of their American friends/spouses as well. It was nice that many people found parts of my blog entertaining and realistic. It really meant a lot to me to read some of the encouraging things that people had to write, and it definitely helped to have the positive reactions when some of the other rude commentary made me want to cry.
If anything, I feel that my blog has provided a place where Albanians can engage in a dialogue about some of the realities of this country. In the end we all want the same thing – a better Albania. Now the real question is, what can we do to change these things that aren’t working? No country is perfect, but it’s important to sometimes take a step back and look at things from another viewpoint. Believe me, I know there are MANY things that are not going well in America and I would be the first to admit our faults. Admitting those faults, helps us grow and learn how to make things better.
Here are some criticisms and my responses.
This blog does not reflect Albania. It is mostly referring to “village life” or life in smaller cities.
- Yes, you’re right. My blog is not describing how life is in Tirana. Peace Corps volunteers are often placed in smaller cities and villages. And although life in Tirana is different, I think it is important to remember that many Albanians are still living outside of the bigger cities.
The blog post includes a lot of generalizations, stereotypes, and not enough explanation.
- The blog does include some generalizations and stereotypes and I realize that not every Albanian or every city fits into the descriptions I provided. Each city and every person in Albania has their own fun, unique characteristics. This is the same for when it comes to generalizations about America. Not every American is a fat, wealthy, stingy, workaholic that eats McDonalds daily. While generalizations can sometimes be hurtful, there is often a bit of truth behind them. To those that were upset that I didn’t go into more detail regarding certain points it was mostly because my blog was already fairly long to begin with and I wanted to dive deeper into certain points in later blog posts.
You need to travel more around Albania and visit Tirana.
- I agree, I would love to travel around Albania more! As of now, I have been to close to twenty different cities around Albania including: Pajove, Elbasan, Rreshen, Lezhe, Librazhd, Durres, Tirana, Kavaje, Berat, Ksamil, Saranda, Lushnje, Vlore, Korce, Pogradec, Borsh, and Himare. I hope to continue my travels around this beautiful country as my service continues. I can’t wait to visit more cities/villages and meet more amazing Albanians. You have all taught me so much about life.
Turkish toilets are not common in Albania.
- I have a Turkish toilet in my apartment, which is why I chose to include a point about the toilets. Many toilets in Albania, especially in the bigger cities, are not Turkish anymore.
What about futbol and Albanian music?!
- You’re right! I definitely should have added something about futbol and Albanian music! I will include that in one of my future posts! Did I mention that I LOVE Albanian music – especially Alban Skenderaj. 🙂
Here are some of the comments/responses to think about:
- “People here don’t like being criticized. As you may have noticed we are experts in a lot of fields, we are always right, and have no defects as a country( at least that’s what we think) . As lots of people have pointed out here, this ( your list) is not true for all parts of Albania ( as a whole), but all are true for Albania. As the saying goes, denial is the first symptom, acceptance is the first step of healing.”
- “And yet we criticize ourselves more than any other country ever could. Face it, most of us don’t like others to do the criticizing. It’s an inferiority complex rising from the hatred that we’ve faced from our neighbors ever since we opened our borders. But it’s facing yourself with honesty the starting point to becoming better.”
- “Although I agree that many of what is written refers to the small villages, I would like to remember to all Albanians here that the bigger part of Albania is made by small villages. You people should have a walk 10 km from your houses with modern toilets, to see what is going on cuz it seems you are all living in Mars. If you live in Tirana and you think that Albania is Blloku, try going in Babrru, Kamza and Paskuqan, which are so close to the capital. I would also like to remember those who commented that this is offensive, that not far in time, but in 1995 in big cities we used to have most of these habits. And that was only 15 years ago. Cheer up Albanians, and stop pretending we are this big modern and civilized country. The sooner we understand this, the sooner we will be able to improve ourself and our dear country.”
- “Jill, this is a good post. I find the comments especially interesting as only Albanians that are literate in English can understand the article and reply. Not surprisingly, most of them come from big cities and find some of your observations don’t apply to them.”
- “Everything she wrote was about her observations and not in a “murica” point of view. I myself am Albanian and was born there and live in the U.S. She managed to sum up most of what goes on in Albania. I am sure the whole point of learning about Albania as a whole, is to first start off in the rural areas rather than going directly to the city, such as Tirana, where it is pretty advanced compared to other places. Anyone can do that, but to live in a place where it’s still not as technical, is def. a much more learning experience and kudos to you Jill. Anyone can live in Tirana and have a great time, but to live in a village and experience the “village life” first hand and still find it fascinating is amazing.”
- “I read this article and I absolutely loved it! I love your sense of humor and the way that you have a positive outlook even though there are a myriad of things that should be improved in Albania. It is really astonishing that in such a time that you have lived in Albania, you have grasped almost every traditional aspect in regards to living there and I really applaud you on that. I loved every single observation but the 50th was the one that made my day, because even though Albania may have its downsides, like any other country you still managed to look past that and referred to it as a gorgeous gem in the Balkans, which is what it is. I was reading some of the previous comments and found it really upsetting that many people said that these observations do not pertain to Albania at all when I found a part of my culture mirrored in each and every one of your observations. We need to learn to accept our country for what it is and to accept that change is necessary and is on its way. We need to love and embrace it with its perfections and imperfections, like you have done! In my belief, what distinguishes Albania from other cultures is mostly life apart from that of the urban one where authentic traditions are not faded away by time and other factors, because urban life in Albania does not really have a unique or original aspect in it so to say. I really applaud you Jill for your work, your open-mindedness and your respect for a culture that is very different from your own. As an Albanian would say: Te lumte!”
- “I don’t understand why we get so defensive while we all know/ understand that this is the reality in Albania. This blog gave me a good laugh as I could connect to the truth and I don’t believe she was trying to descriminate us, on contrary she simply said that Albania is no better or worse than America, just different. being Albanian myself, I was not ashamed a bit to share this blog on my FB as all her observations listed are what make us “unique”. She loves Albania and it is obvious she enjoys very much being there. Just because we don’t like to be criticized it doesn’t mean that she is stupid or is not aware of America’s life style. Great article!”
Ilir Shkurti says:
- “Thank you for your service to my home country. From my freshman through junior year of high-school (95-97) I was taught by two remarkable U.S. Peace Corp volunteers, to whom I am eternally grateful not only for the English language I was able to speak before I arrived to the States, but for a larger window into the world, as I had until then been living in a small northern town in Albania with little exposure to much else. You make many accurate observations which can be hard to take for us proud Albanians, but which should serve as lessons (such as cleanliness of the outside, etc). I would suggest that your impressions will be more complete of the country as a whole once you have visited some of the larger cities, but for the most part, your experience is spot on (regardless of what some suggest, life in the larger city of Tirana is not necessarily representative of the country as a whole, as much as we would like it to be.) I see several co-patriots here take offense at some revelations that may appear embarrassing. I can only assume their tone of reply is more a reflection of a frustration they have with some shortcomings of our country rather than your observations. Above all, I hope you have gotten to know first hand what is the most remarkable aspect of our country: its people. I hope you find us as we know we are: intelligent, open and thirsty for continuous improvement. I applaud your service.”
Now the real question is – where do we go from here? I hope that blog can provide a stepping point for future conversations with friends, family, coworkers, and other people within your communities about how we can continue to better Albania. I am turning off the comment portion of this blog because I feel that this is a conversation you should have within your communities.
If you’re interested in hearing more about my service in Albania please follow my blog, add me on Facebook at Xhilli Xhastin, follow me on instagram at @jilljustineeeee, and follow me on twitter at @jilljustine.
Here are some other volunteers blogs (with their permission) that you can check out as well. These volunteers are doing AMAZING work in their cities! You should check out some of the great projects that they have implemented with their awesome Albanian counterparts. None of the work that volunteers do here would be possible without the great work of Albanians!
Kate – English volunteer
Joyce – English volunteer
Mary – Health volunteer
Jenny – Health volunteer
Danielle – English volunteer
Kat – Health volunteer
Heather – Community and Organizational Development volunteer
“See the positive side, the potential, and make an effort.” -Dalai Lama
Te gjitha te mirat!