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?