Archives for the month of: October, 2012

Chapter One: “Hard to be Free”
“Expose yourself to your deepest fear…”
-Jim Morrison

Just under two months ago, I started working with students from Nikola Koperniku, a small private high school here in Elbasan, who were tasked with discussing freedom.  The subject: “Hard to be Free,” but at times I thought, “More like ‘Hard to Grasp.'”  It was quite the undertaking for students, teachers and volunteers involved and we all felt challenged at times.

As I said to an audience of friends, family and others who gathered to hear the debate last Monday, Oct.  29, “The subject being debated today is one that has challenged great philosophers, politicians, and thinkers of the ages.  Men and women have devoted their entire lives to the subject and only scratched the surface.  I am amazed by the intelligence and courage the students have applied to this monumental topic.”

Over two hours they presented definitions, compared the legal and constitutional frameworks of the United States, European Union and Albania, and debated topics related freedoms and individual rights including speech, religion, sexuality and gender, movement, etc.   Despite nerves, sweaty palms, and multiple deep breaths, they all handled the topics well and did an excellent job.

For everyone who participated that day, I only hope the conversation and dialogue continues.

As a side-note, the teams surprised me with a b-day cake.  Super-fun!

Chapter Two: Model United Nations
the United Nations: a fundamentally symbolic organization founded on the principles of high-minded rhetoric and empty gestures.
-Prof. Cligoris, “Geography of Global Conflict” Community

Birthday celebrations were set upon by multiple work activities, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.  The actual day of (October 19), despite being a national holiday in honor of Mother Theresa, was spent with the Koperniku kids, getting them ready for their debate the following Monday.  Sandwiched between was the Model U.N. Mini-Conference in Librazhd.

Delegations from China (Librazhd), Erseke (Togo), and Azerbaijan (Elbasan) gathered for the conference, and I had the pleasure of serving as the Chair for the Security Council, with Melia as my co-chair.  A much smaller group of kids, than what will be at the December conference in Tirane, it was really an opportunity for the students to start meeting one another, make friends, and really get a taste for what is in store.

I think they’ll be ready in time.

Chapter Three:  Language Refreshed
If you don’t like it, alter it, and if you can’t alter it, put up with it.
-D.H. Lawrence , Sons and Lovers

Last week all the group 15 volunteers gathered once again at Hotel Univers, here in Elbasan.  Like the days of PST gone-by, we were exhausted by language and cultural lessons but still managed to party into the wee hours of the morning.  If anything I am reminded of how much I need to apply myself and study.  Winter hibernation will provide ample opportunity, and my friends – winter is coming.

Additional highlights included a relatively successful meeting of the Gender Equality (Barazia Gjinorecommittee, a short and succinct VAC meeting and best of all a fantastic talent show, MC’d by yours truly with music and co-hosting by Brendan, technical and planning by Danielle and some fantastic and surprising talent.  To wrap up the weekend in the rain, Hal found a new home and some of us went down to Berat for a Halloween fiesta extraordinaire.  Now the question is – where to host Thanksgiving?



Today, most inexplicably and quite amazingly (though really without ever having any doubts of it) I am, by great achievement of mind, body, and will, though with no small amount of gratitude to numerous beyond numerous persons be they friend, family, acquaintances, colleagues, or from a random assortment and collection of people non-categorized, have attained that great aged height (though a minor rung in the grandest scheme of all things “being” and “essence”)  this most felicitous affliction of the anniversary of my nascency.  Indeed my fellow readers, on this alignment of temporal ephemeris, I am:

Heavens be praised.

Hello, hello, hello and hello,

So many things to tell, so much to catch up on, and hardly the space nor the attention span.

Chapter One: ACT Now
“A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct.”

Albanians Coming Together (ACT) Now is an initiative of the U.S. Embassy and of particular interest to Ambassador Arvizu.  You can read his comments from the launch on June 21, 2012, but essentially it is an effort to motivate the citizens of Albania to be involved in civil society and government, and push for their voices to be heard.  It is a soft attempt at galvanizing the community to organize. He said,

“You have the power to change things.  But, in order to do so, you have to believe in yourselves, and you have to believe in the power that you possess to improve the lives of all Albanians.”

In an effort to begin educating citizens about the possibilities, my fellow Elbasan volunteer, Melia, led plans to have a citizen fair here in Elbasan, with many of the nonprofit organizations present to not only talk about their organizations and services, but to raise awareness among people and hopefully get them engaged.  About 14 organizations were present with information booths, and among them the Mayor’s office, which featured a board on which citizens could make comments about what they wanted for the future of Elbasan.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

But now what?  [I am open to suggestions]

Chapter Two: Diplomacy
“Often I must speak other than I think. That is called diplomacy.”

I have been helping at a local school, Nikola Koperniku.  It has been a great experience so far helping the high school students I work with prepare for their upcoming debate.  The subject is quite broadly, “freedom,” what with this being the centennial of Albania independence.

It’s a little daunting, and I’ve done my best to remain neutral and not impose my thoughts but rather lead the students to different sources of information and let them work it out on their own.  Paç fat , kids.

In all the readings and preparation, with the flurry of U.S. politics railing in the background, I think I have a better appreciation for the U.S., or at least my own understanding of what I think the U.S. means and stands for.  That the constitution was founded on the principles of Enlightenment thought (not Christian religion, or any sect, though there may be overtones in thought and principle is inescapable) which hold that an individual is born with innate rights, among which are , as my favorite John Locke would say, the rights to Life, Liberty, and Property.

I think, though I am not a constitutional expert nor claim to be, that the language of the document allows that it is fallible and that U.S. institutions are fallible.  I think there was a blind faith that Americana would recognize in each other their humanity, which is why they included Amendment 9 that reads: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”  It was also I think a failsafe, but as my father is always so keen to remind me (being a lawyer and all), “always get it on paper,”  and clearly there have been a necessary number of ‘course corrections’ to remit the mistakes of the past (i.e. 13, 14, 15, and 19 to mention a few).

There will never be absolute agreement, but one hopes that one day we can recognize the humanity of others without having to write out what it means to be human. That of course is all naïve poppycock, but it’s nice to think.  Speaking of which – soapbox:

The debate is in a few weeks, and I’m hurrying to prepare the students as much as I can.  I don’t think they or I have a clear idea of what to expect.  This should be fun.

Chapter Three: Hal “Little Shit”
“Parting with friends is a sadness. A place is only a place.”

This is Hal.  He was born about 8 weeks ago, and was the scaredy cat of the three.  I guess the role had to fall to someone.

The last of the brood, since he was unadopted by anyone, the honor was going to fall to me.

I admitted last time, I don’t like cats.  The mom was especially loud, demanding and grating.  Hal was just a kitten who couldn’t poop without a turd dangling from his behind.

After realizing Cat wanted to take him out and about, I started leaving the door open at night so they could do just that.  This morning Hal didn’t come back.

With the hustle and bustle of the morning market street it’s hard to say what happened to a terrified little kitten.

Even though this may be the natural order of things, I’m a little i mërzitur.

Chapter Four: Next up
“Not knowing what you said, you said it.”

This last week, I made presentations in each of the 14 high schools in Elbasan about a new Youth Council we’re forming. More on that soon!

UPDATED [8-10-2012]  Hal is back this morning.  After kitten rampage on the city he turned up, a bit dusty and hungry but unchanged.  So has Cat.  Time will tell how well this tripartite household can stand.