Archive for the ‘From Catherine’ Category
A nice Canadian just sent me this picture with the name “Albania snaky cliff road” – asking where it is. Does anyone recognize it?
Alfred guesses “Logara?” and says “It’s Great!”
Free beer when you get here, if you can tell us where it is!
A Belated-ly Published Post from Ellie Burnett, International Volunteer Extraordinaire (IVE)
Our little family of two has a tepid relationship with signage. We are always first in line to commend a place for clear, legible, eye-level pedestrian signs. I have a distaste for billboards, not only aesthetically but also in terms of injury prevention: they cause accidents. For his part, Ian’s pet topic of “traffic calming” paradoxically asserts that the less information a motorist has, the more likely they are to behave civilly on shared roadways. Our first introduction to sign pollution was also the one and only traffic violation we have together. We were mistakenly driving against traffic in a one way parking lot in Canyonlands National Park when a not-so-friendly park ranger pulled us over. According to her, we were perpetuating sign pollution by ignoring existing directionals. Never mind that we were committing lots of other environmental and aesthetic pollution in that parking lot. Bitterness over paid tickets aside, Albania has turned me into a bit of a sign pollution vigilante.
For example, on the nearest overland border from Kosovo, there are two adjacent identical large maps of Albania posted on the roadside facing the same direction. There is nowhere to turn off for a pedestrian to have a look and the signs are not eye level, making them entirely inaccessible. The type is too small for motorists and there is no ‘you
are here’ message. These signs only offer the shape of Albania to newly arrived motorists and block a pastoral view. At my most optimistic, I believe the signs mean “Yes, yes. Bunkers. We’re not that paranoid anymore.”
That said the UN’s various agencies seem to be the single largest purveyors of polluting signs in Albania. After an initial day of trailmarking with Catherine, my mental state quickly devolved from pleasantly painting the town red to wondering if anyone will be able to understand the system to considering starting over with cairns to seriously contemplating what sort of human being shows up in another country and starts polluting. How does Ban Ki Moon sleep at night?
Well rested and feeling more hopeful about the signs’ intended audience, my sign-hating-in-a-nuanced-sort-
My first summer here was marked by a stately progression of bugs. Each different bug managed I would say to dominate for about a week. It’s all a bit jumbled now, but I remember a week of Gigantic and furry Cecropia moths which seemed particularly fond of the upstairs corridor, then a more modest period of electric blue beetles (sort of Batman black – blue when the light hits it). Some lemony yellow butterflies. Something I would call June bugs. Tiger moths. It was all too rich, so I just looked forward to the next year, when of course I would carefully note each kind of bug, its arrival and length of stay — draw and diagram each one, that sort of thing. Then last year, weirdly, there were no bugs. At least, not in that way. I didn’t see a single bearlike moth or even one of the carnival colored pink and green grasshoppers. There were bugs of course, there are always bugs, but not that marching pantheon.
This year is much better. Every morning there’s a litter of moths to pick through – we seem to be going through a period of green and silvery white ones. A few days ago a kamikaze beetle crashed into the table in front of Alfred, rattling the crockery. It turned out to be this rhinocerous-horned, polished-furniture colored beetle. There’s also a bizarre outburst of parti-colored beetles, of the sort (Cerambycidae I think) that usually show up here all in stately undertakers black. Just in the last week I have seen one gilded gold, and one whose antennae were bright blue ringed with regular filips of cute black fuzz – a more frivolous antennae I’ve never seen . . . .
Just a quick e-mail to let you know that we made it up and over the top (photo attached) and are now back in the UK. The top took us 5 hours from the farmhouse and then 2 hours to Thethi.
Many thanks again to you and everyone at Rilindja for your hospitality and assistance.
Kind regards, Graham
We’re oh so pleased to be bringing you this guest blog post about weeks 1 and 2 of our three week stay in Valbona Valley. After doing a bit of research into the tourist mapping situation in the Balkans, we were kindly offered a spot in the Journey to Valbona family in exchange for a little cartography expertise. Ian is an urban planner with map making skills and Ellie is a public health nurse.
What an adventure this has been! We arrived with our sights set firmly on the goal of making 1 really fantastic tourist map and have ended up flexing our muscles in, among other things, sheep care, chronic disease management, and trail maintenance.
The map is in its final editing stages (yay!) and after having all sorts of Albanian language inside jokes that are not actual place names removed, it will be ready for your consumption here at Rilindja.
… as a friend once asked me.
“Er, fall in love?” I answered.
“NO! We Clean!”
As she was visiting at the time this seemed a little bold, even to me, but then she did manage to deconstruct the very dead xmas tree that had been cluttering up my 4th floor apartment (I was afraid to move it, for fear of the shower of sharp, dry, weirdly-odorless pine needles which I knew would – and did – ensue).
Anyhow – Here in Valbona we really DO clean! May 18th was the Second Annual “Pastrimi Pranverore” (Spring Cleaning) during which all the local school children, teachers, Shoqata members and yours truly picked up every bit of trash we could find.
Stay tuned for photographs of the ensuing Feste!
(And yes, those are happy hedgehogs on the poster!)
Kled showed up here yesterday, and talked m’ear off for 45 minutes. (I’d been mentioning Alfred’s (ridiculous?) suggestion that if I can’t find a house soon, I should get an apartment in Bajram Curri until something turns up). (I should clarify that Alfred means well, and I know it. But one does not leave NYC to live in Bajram Curri. Fond though one is of it!) AT ANY RATE. The point is that Kled said “Oj! Bajram Curri!” and told me how he’d been sitting in a cafe in Bajram Curri, and heard the waiter tell two tourists that their total for a lemon soda, coca cola and one coffee would be 500 lek. ”Pese MIJE Lek!” said Kled, over and over again, still in shock. (of course, that’s 5 THOUSAND lek, which is still how people figure here – in Old Lek, pre-re-valuation. The re-valuation was in 1972. Any day now, “new lek” may catch on.) (But probably NOT.) As this is actually double the real price, and a TON of money in Tropoja, Kled was appalled. So what did he do? Young Kled fixed the waiter with a steely eye, waved him over and said simply: “I’ll pay that.” This, I think, is a very good example of Malesori honor in action. Maybe you only GET a culture of honor in a culture of tricksters? But Malesori’s prediliction for establishing their honor by buying things for foreigners sometimes confuses visitors. There were two nice girls here last summer who confided in me that they were appalled that a gaggle of Malesori had bought them Red Bull drinks at 8 o’clock at night. ”We didn’t sleep a wink all night!” Well, I said, you know why – they weren’t trying to keep you awake, it’s just that that’s the MOST expensive soft drink! It was a compliment. Anyhow, Te Lumsht, Kledi! (or however you spell it – ‘well done, Kled!’) Oh. The waiter charged Kled 250 lek. Ha.