January 8th, 2017

p1110367It’s winter. And days are long and slow and boring, and silent. And sliced up by sudden changes between sloth and imperatives. When the wind blows, and the snow falls, and various natural things howl, the electricity is prone or likely to go out. In which case, at which time, a small wood stove is all that stands between me and death – I guess. Although even at such times, which I’ve lived through now, more than once, I don’t SLEEP by the stove. Alfred and I did that – one winter or two – in some distant romantic days. I suppose we thought we were being practical. It all seems now like some big adventure, which we should have appreciated more, at the time. As I say, I don’t. Left to myself. Perhaps I should. Maybe I’ll try it. Instead I stalk doggedly (though there are no dogs now – they’ve all left, they didn’t like it here, and I don’t blame them) up to my cabino. There’s no heating, but it’s a place, my place where for once – inside years and years – I got to make . . . something. I climb the ladder, I crawl into the bed. I take off my boots, but leave everything else on – pants and socks (horrendous and repeatedly frozen and sweatsoaked and not realized except on the rare occasion of a thaw, in which case the smell – a sort of rich warm muggy microbe smell gives them away, and my feet get slippery, and stick to the carpet) and sweaters (numerous) and coat, and TWO hats. I pull the blankets (numerous) over my head, and wait for sleep.
That’s sloth. The imperatives are to chop wood, to carry wood, to push the wheelbarrow full of wood though snow. It sticks, I plant my legs and shove. I win. I carry more. I don’t know how long the wood will last. If Alfred were here, there would be an imperative for food. But alone, I don’t really need much, I find. And so much less work.
The imperatives are not to go mad, and not to feel stupid. So I do things. I write. I find my old bird book, and put out muesli and watch the birds. Through binoculars, through the window. I look like a mad old lady, in training if not quite yet in fact. I follow fox tracks in the snow. As if I’ll find them. I try to guess, at lives. At lives, being lived, around me. I let the cat in. I put the cat out. I can’t stand the crying, and I let the cat in, again.
I sit down, I write this, and I think about Robinson Crusoe.

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On the Dubious but nonetheless Glorious Triumph of Being [Recognized]

March 10th, 2016

About 7 years ago, I uprooted my (hurly-burly) life in NYC and moved to this small, remote, isolated village in Northern Albania. I did this quixotically, with no planning or financial strategy, in a few suitcases. And no legality. After 6 years of uninterupted life here, I am now (I guess) firmly illegal everywhere. Not only in Albania, for visa reasons, but I imagine in America, for simply not existing there, by which of course I mean not paying taxes (not that I’ve earned anything – I haven’t! I swear!). Quite possibly, I will end my life like Baron Corvo, breathing my poverty-stricken last under an upturned rowboat – the thought does in all sincerity haunt my early morning waking hours.

This is a fact.

On the other hand, there are other facts. I noticed today that someone posted something in facebook – a journalist in some Balkan language I do not (to my shame) recognize. The post contained a picture of me and the journalist, and there were some few comments. The first of them was by an Albanian who wrote simply (in English) “Katrina is one of us.” I don’t even know this person. And yet he wrote with complete confidence this statement of (as he perceived it) fact. My heart swells. I feel grateful, I feel humbled, I feel indebted, I feel reconized. I feel . . . loved.

I’m not sure anyone in America, my birth place, would ever have written “Catherine is one of us.” I’m not sure there is an “us” in America, to refer to. I’m not sure how I feel about the fact that I needed to move to Albania, in order to feel adopted. In order to feel recognized. In order to find a place that I would fight for. But isn’t that the definition of home, beyond what you do with your hat? The place you would fight for? Oh not with guns, or arms, or stones or sticks – although in truth I imagine I would pick those up, if offered enough reason, for this place. I would. But fight for. On bad days, I wake up thinking “oh god, I can’t,” but then I do, because after all, you can’t lie in bed all day. On good days, I can’t wait to bounce out of bed, to get to the computer, to go to the school, to see the children, to be with people, to fight.  To live.  On good days, I am even cheerful about the dishes, the laundry, the sweeping, floor-mopping, the fires to be lit, the bread to be baked, and all the other things that are part of everyday life here, if you’re a woman, which, as it turns out I am.

But besides “about,” I do know how it feels, exactly. It feels right. Despite, in all honesty, how cranky I might be about the cleaning and cooking, if Albanians are happy to have me, then I am happy to be theirs. Yours my dears. Heart and soul, as I would say. Or Blood and Salt, Bread and Home, as you might say, as I could say now, perhaps barely understanding, but beginning, and hoping, and promising.

What does it mean when someone claims you, when someone you don’t even know says “she is ours”? It means you can’t possibly answer anything else, but “Yes. Yes I am. I am yours.” For better or for worse, for now and for always. We’ll fight together, learning from each other, for this home.

Me buke e kripe e zemer tone.

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What Passion Feels Like

February 12th, 2016

This is how a tree thinks2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Long Dark Days

December 10th, 2015

The electricity was off all day.  I ate at noon, got sleepy, and went back to bed. My nose was cold, so tucked everything under.  Woke up at 3pm.  Just in time to feed the trout, before so-called “sun-down.”  Started writing a book, and drew this, as first illustration: Fig. 1.  The dogs are barking.  Subject of book: Botanical exploration.  Stay tuned for Chapter 1.December Window

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Edward Lear Memorial* Breakfast Nonsense

June 20th, 2015

CrepaO Krepa, Krepa – Nice and Round

Your effect on me is quite profound

So to the chef let’s all bow down

And touch our heads upon the ground

 

*As some of you no doubt know, Edward Lear was a runcible traveller in Albania.  I hereby inaugurate some extra nonsense on our website in his loved memory.  Please feel free to send your own and we will post (with crappy line drawings, please!)

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From Ashes . . . What Comes Next? We decide.

April 17th, 2015

Pavlin's FireDear Friends.  A few days ago, strong spring breezes blew a few sparks from a fire into the house of Pavlin Polia in Theth.  It is chillingly easy to image the small quiet minutes, seconds, that rapidly turned into the conflagration that destroyed not only his 300 year old house, not only everything he and his family own, not only leaving him, his wife, and their two small children (aged 5 and 3 years old) homeless – well, as homeless as any Albanian can be, but also robbed Albanian Mountain Tourism of one of our most successful and important guesthouses.  Pavlin and his family are exactly the sort of people you dream of having develop mountain tourism:  young, educated, intelligent – after beginning successful lives, they chose to return to Theth, and invest their passion in growing a business based around their old family home.  Pavlin has long been one of the most active members of the Theth community in environmental issues, working with a number of foreign NGOS to develop hiking trails and protect and strength Theth as a National Park.  The idea of his family not being there anymore is horrible, and frankly unacceptable.  Right now everyone is running around being shocked.  Aida Gjecaj tells me she was on the phone with her father as he helped try to carry things from the burning house, but she could barely understand him as he was sobbing so hard.

Can we all think together how to help the Polias in the upcoming season?  We hope to have some practical suggestions soon.  For now, donations can be made through this ‘fundly’: https://fundly.com/pavlin-polia-guesthouse-reconstruction.  Although I suspect $3,000 will not be sufficient to rebuild the house, it is at least a beginning . . . .

We hope to soon have a practical list of more concrete help that people can do.

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Gezuar Viten i Ri – Happy New Years, the School Party

December 23rd, 2014

P1070214The room is large, and painted white, so it’s full of light. At the far end are black boards, and above them, slightly squiffy, hand colored drawings on A4 paper demonstrate the Albanian alphabet from A to Z (or Zh?). Q is Qukupiku, which I know! To the left, the wall is full of windows, while down here, at ground level, the room is ringed with a circle of desks. Behind the desks are ranks of children – boys on one side, girls at 90º and littlies to the left (under the windows). I am given a seat with the teachers, at the far end of the room, opposite the blackboards, next to the wood stove. To my left is a New Year’s Tree in a bucket, decorated with tinsel and balls. It looks beautiful.

I arrived in a jumble, late as usual. At home, waiting to parcel off our guests, I wasn’t worried about being late. I’ve volunteered, or stuck my oar in, at the school for 4 years now – and after 4 years they’re used to me being late. I’m always late. Everyone in Albania is always late, but I am always later. The children calculate this in, I think, which is something terrible I’m teaching them, I guess. I am even late on a grand scale, as in this year, where I only turned up at the school last week, 4 months after the school year actually started. We had a grand meeting (4 months late) to discuss everything we would try to do this year – or rather, everything I think it would be fun to do, which they will take what they want from, I suppose . . . . but what they did tell me was that today, Tuesday, they would be having a party, and would I come? Wouldn’t I come? Did I promise I would come? Was I definitely coming? Yes, I said, and yes, yes. I promise. But, I thought this morning, as the day got later, well, they know me. I’m sure it doesn’t matter that I’m late. So there I was, driving up, an hour late, I thought. The school, except for the thread of smoke coming from the chimney, looked quiet, abandoned. ‘I hope I haven’t missed it,’ I thought – a little disingenuiously, since I am as lazy as the next person and maybe even more so. I parked the car. I got out my camera, and checked my pockets – telephone, keys, 3 packets of sparklers I thought would make nice presents. The window on the near side of the school slid open, and Drita leaned out ‘O moi Ketrin!’ she called (oh my Catherine!) Ku je? (where are you?). Dona appeared around the side of the school, no coat, to lead me in. ‘EVERYTHING,’ she told me (in English) ‘is very Good. Very Good’ and tucked her arm in mine to lead me in.

P1070348Through the somehow NOT broken front door, the blasted corridor, around the corner, in the room, and . . . . there is EVERYONE, sitting in front of full plates of food, untouched . . . . they are waiting for me. And there is a massive round of applause as I enter, and I find my seat amidst laughter and good cheer, not with the children as I expect, but with the teachers(!), and everyone tucks in.

This is my Albania. That is what suddenly occurs to me. This is MY Albania. Zemra ime. My heart. Not because I chose it, but because they chose me. Because we chose each other. Because they accept me, and here I belong. Here I am wanted. Here I am loved, and can love. Here I am accepted.

This room, full of children and beautiful young people who are suddenly barely children, although I knew them when they were still too little and shy to speak, and the new little ones whose growth in a year or two I will also be shocked by, the teachers, who have shown up every day, through every regime for this school, for this building, for these children who don’t even remain children long enough to understand what a feat of devotion this is, has been, remains . . . . I am settled. The feast progresses. One teacher leans over and whisper-yells to me ‘Take pictures! We want to post them in the hallway!’ I take pictures. This is so new. Or is it? Four years ago, the school was exhausted. It was beginning to fall down around them, had no electricity – but still these teachers showed up every day. Or almost every day. And the students showed up, every day, or almost every day. In the old environment, I was a curiosity. Even the children didn’t know what to make of me, for the first year. Why? Why would she? What is in it for her?

And then we began to know each other. And then we became friends.

Now we have had a little victory. There is a new head of school, and he’s heard how Alfred and I have been successful at doing things for the school. Which isn’t hard. Mostly we only have to be receptors, because so many people who visit here would like to help, and offer to help – one sends a camera, many drop notes into a jar labelled ‘Donations for the School’ – so many offer to bring something, and when we say ‘bring something for the school’ they bring books, colored pens, notebooks . . . . some go home and think of bigger ways to help, so that the school is suddenly receiving help from around the world. Well this new head of school has heard of this, and so he says ‘Give me this money you’ve collected, to fix the school.’ He says this to me, alone, when he comes to our home for coffee out of nowhere. ‘Fixing the school is a good idea,’ I say, ‘But this is the Children’s money.’ I say ‘You’ll have to ask them.‘ He says ‘We’ll put a sign in the school for you,’ and I say ‘That is very nice, but really unnecessary.’ I say ‘I haven’t really done anything.’ I think and believe ‘at best, I am a portal.’ He says ‘but we will put a BIG sign, with a photograph.’ Sigh. I hold him off for two days, while Alfred is busy, and then I say ‘Alfred,’ I say, ‘the new head of school wants to take the donated money for the children to fix the school.’ I hold my breath. ‘There is a meeting,’ I say, ‘on Friday, to discuss.’ Alfred seems to sort of inflate. Air goes in, and he goes bigger. There is a pause. ‘NO WAY’ is what comes out. Alfred is not given to excitement, or hyperbole, or any of my normal modes of expression. So this is BIG from him.

This is the meeting that happened last week. The head of school came, and Alfred came, and I did too, and a bunch of teachers and all the kids, and the head of schools proposed his idea, and I was talking to the children, who couldn’t have been less interested in him, so I didn’t really hear, and Alfred stepped in to argue with him and point out that the state should be fixing the school and several parents and teachers were shouting, and really, I don’t know what happened, because I was talking to the children, and they said: ‘No Way.’ I said ‘He also says it would be good if other teachers could use this library we’ve made for classes.’ Not even a pause. ‘NO WAY,’ they said. ‘This building is FULL of empty classrooms,’ they pointed out. ‘We took one, and made this. Let them fill another.’ ‘Fair enough,’ I said (while secretly exulting), ‘But think of it the other way – we made this here, and now it’s the prettiest room in the school. Meanwhile teachers like Drita and Lazer and Mysli have less nice rooms – it’s not fair.’ They looked thoughtful. ‘So if you want to keep this room for yourselves,’ I said, ‘I think we need to fix the other rooms.’ A slight pause, while they thought about it. ‘Okay,’ they said, ‘why not?’ They even said ‘Maybe we can use a little of our budget?’ Which rapidly turned into a discussion of how this wasn’t necessary at all, since there is plenty of money around, if you know how to ask for it.

Anyhow, that was the background to the party today, which was mostly just children eating potato chips and oranges and apples and turkish delight, and getting up to recite variously dramatic snatches of poetry, and getting up to dance around. I was so relieved to be the official photographer, to be seated with the teachers . . . . I know the children. They are my friends. I hope I am theirs. But I don’t really know the teachers. Or didn’t know I did, until today, when they all waited for me.

My Albania. Shqiperia Ime.

And as the beautiful children danced around, as they squirmed in their seats with hands thrust in the air “Can I recite now?” The teachers were talking. At first I didn’t listen, but “ha ha ha, head of schools, ho ho ho’ penetrated even my thick brain. They were laughing, triumphant. These good teachers, these good children. At one point, one teacher leaned over ‘I told them,’ she said, ‘Catherine doesn’t care about anything – only the children.’

So there I am, sitting at my end of the room, the New Years Tree in a bucket by my side. Drita, who taught Alfred in his day, though she looks too young for this to be possible with her beautiful blonde braid down her back, sits beside me. The children laugh and pose for me, they take the camera, and snap their own. Someone hands me a baby.

I am home.

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Something New is Happening : The Albanian National Park of the Alps

November 18th, 2014

Ecran meeting 1Today is the day after. And like Cinderella I am back in my sloppy house clothes, sitting here in the morning, in front of the computer, thinking: I should tell someone! After the excitement and rushing around, we slept late today – the long peaceful sleep of the justly satisfied – but this also means that my head is full of fluff, so I can’t think where to begin. Well, begin at the beginning. What am I talking about?

With Alfred, as well as Mark Lamthi, Kelmend Selimaj, Fatjon Ismalaj and Sami Hysaj, I spent the last three days sitting in Vllaznimi Hotel in Bajram Curri, attending the “ECRAN Inception Event and Situation Analysis Workshop on the process of elaborating a ‘Participatory Management Plan’ for the National Park of the Alps.” ‘What?’ I hear you saying. ‘What’s THAT? That’s IT? What’s all the excitement about?‘ Well, stay with me, and I will explain.

First of all, as some of you know, the law making Theth a National Park was signed in 1966. Valbona has been a National Park, and the upper half of Gashi Valley a Strictly Protected Area, since a law passed in 1996. In the intervening 50 or 20 years, however, none of these recognized national treasures have ever had a staff, nor a budget, nor any kind of management. The National Parks are simply lines on maps, “sitting on shelves” as Sissi Samec said.

But if they were managed, what would that management look like? Well, in some ways, as I understand it, a protected area functions as its own little state. It is created with the understanding that there is something so special about a particular area, that its interests justify it being ‘managed’ somewhat independently of the rest of the surrounding countryside. A National Park would usually have clearly posted boundaries (so you know when you’re in it). It would have a set of rules, for example regarding activities which can (and cannot) take place within the park, for how things should look, not just now, but 20, 50, 100 years from now. All these rules would be made in order to make the Park safe, its nature, its culture, its character, because it is recognized that this area is a treasure, not only for the people who live there, and not only for all Albanians, but for the whole world, for all foreseeable time to come. And of course, it would need to have a staff, dedicated to ensuring that it is operating in harmony, for the benefit of all. And of course, all this costs money, so it would have a budget, too. And how ALL of this is to be done must be written up in the beginning, in a clear and thoughtful Management Plan, which sets out every possible aspect of organization.

This is exactly what none of the protected areas in Albania have ever had.

Two years ago, we heard a rumor that a Plan was being written for Valbona. Of course this filled us with a mixture of excitement and fear. Because we live here. The confusion, inefficiency and corruption of previous Albanian government was enough to make us worry very much what additional rules and regulations might look like. Would the new Plan recognize that there were people living inside the park? What about the fact that 80% of privately owned land is in some kind of dispute and has no legal documentation? How would it affect tourism, our only real source of income? Would the new Plan protect all of the inhabitants of the Park, or would it add a new level of difficulty for everyone? Alfred and I set out to try to answer some of the questions, but despite numerous trips to Tirana, we were never able to get anyone to give us any real details, nor did anyone show any real interest in involving the local people in the process.

Here I should make a point clear. Of course there is a spectrum of opinion among local people, and of course this spectrum varies. Some people are worried that their children will find it difficult to live here in the future – will they be able to build a house, when their children have children? Some people recognize that the wellspring of tourism is the nature, that the ‘wildness’ of the area is what people travel here to see, so it is good for us if that is protected. A surprising number of people – pretty much everyone – are concerned for our culture. Will a managed park protect our culture, or harm it? If we are not allowed to graze animals, if the stans and bjeshk are closed off inside ‘strictly protected core zones’ where no one but scientists are allowed to go, how will our culture survive? The land has shaped and formed us, just as we have shaped and formed it as we carved out our little homes – how can either of us survive without the other? Or will the Plan do enough? Will it do what we cannot do for ourselves, like put an end to the hideous rock quarry currently chewing away at our hillsides, right in the entrance to the park? Our beautiful mountains are being destroyed one tractor bite at a time, ground up and trucked away to god-knows-where, to make money for someone not from here. Will it stop the lumber trucks which rumble down the road from Cerem in the middle of the night, filled with our beautiful forests, hacked down and slashed into logs, to make money for someone not from here.

ValbonaWe are a suspicious people. We find it difficult to trust outsiders. Even me, who has only been lucky enough to live here for 5 years. We are suspicious for very good reasons. Too often, things are done to us, even when they are being done under the guise of being done for us. In some ways, perhaps all of us have come to live here, because at some point someone saw it as a place where we would be left alone in peace. The Plan threatened to change all of that. Were we afraid? We were very afraid.

So this was the situation last June, when a forestry department vehicle pulled up at the door of Rilindja, and a handful of people struggled out. We recognized Blerant Lushaj of the forestry department, another one of our heroes. The others, we didn’t know. They turned out to be a handful of people from the Ministry of the Environment, including Silvamina Alshabani (Yes, another hero!), as well as Sissi Samec from Austria, who was sent to us via the EU, who had contracted her to oversee a new project. Sissi deserves a title even better than hero. Perhaps I will call her our fairy godmother. I can only say that from where I am sitting, she seems to be the best thing that’s happened to Albania in quite some time.

Why were they here? They had come to have a look around I suppose, but also to tell us about a new process that was beginning. It was a lot to take in, out of the blue, and to be honest, I’m not sure how much I understood at the time, but as I’ve come to understand it, it amounts to this: back in 2014, the Ministry of the Environment passed a resolution stating the intention to combine the 18,000 hectares of Theth, Valbona and Gashi and increase their area to include more than 30,000 ha to form a National Park of the Alps. Of course, this means a new Management Plan. In a completely separate EU process (the ‘Environment & Climate Regional Accession Project’), the drafting of this management plan was selected by the EU who had an idea to chose ONE project out of all seven countries in the region currently undergoing the accession process to join the EU (those 7 being Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Kosova, Bosnia, Serbia and Turkey). This chosen project would be overseen by a EU contracted Expert, who would ensure that the project was conducted according to EU standards and regulations, which means that this project would be done using a ‘Participatory Approach.’ And this is where it gets exciting.

The EU requires that all Management Plans (and maybe everything, for all I know) are written with the full involvement of everyone who feels like they’ll be affected by it. In other words, if you care about it, you have a right to be part of writing it. Can you imagine how revolutionary this is? Well and good. Did we want to be part of it? Yes of course, we said, happy to help.

To be honest, we expected it to be like every other project that’s ever arrived here. They come, they tell us about a project. They say they want us to take part, and then they go back to wherever they came from and make their plans, and our ‘involvement’ ends up to amounting to sitting still for whatever they’ve decided to do. Thus a few of us are grudgingly subjected to a training on ‘Cheese Making’ which we neither need nor want, instead of the ‘How to Identify Edible Wild Mushrooms’ Training which we dream of, and would actually really appreciate and flock to take part in. Simply because no one ever bothers to ask us what we think we need. So, in short, we didn’t expect much.

Fast forward to the end of June, when I received an email from Sissi (and here her role as fairy god-mother begins to emerge). “I’m very sorry,” wrote Sissi, because she thought it would be impossible for us to attend, but she wanted us to know that the First Meeting of this participatory-process of writing-a-management-plan would be taking place in Kukes, at the beginning of July. “I’m sure it’s far for you to travel, at a completely impractical time” she wrote (4 hours away, with 2 border crossings, at the height of the tourist season, when we’re all terribly, TERRIBLY busy), “but,” she said, “I thought you should know.”

Once again, to be honest, I didn’t really understand what the purpose of the meeting was, but if it was about a Management Plan, I knew we wanted to be there. “Is it a public meeting?” I wrote back. “Can we come if we want to?” Being utterly correct, and as I’ve seen, ever-careful to make sure that the local people (in this case the Ministry) are the actual authors of the destiny, Sissi checked with the Ministry, and confirmed that we were welcome.

So at 4 o’clock in the morning, not only Alfred and I, but Mark Lamthi representing Rrogam and Kelmend Selimaj representing Valbona Qender, piled into a car and began the 4 hour drive to Kukes, in order to arrive in time for the 8 am start of the meeting. We didn’t even really know what it was. We arrived to find Sissi and Silva, as well as Edit from the Minisitry. The entire rest of the participants were from the forestry departments of Kukes (for Valbona and Gashi) and Shkoder (for Theth), including Blerant, of course! Everyone looked vaguely surprised to see us – except for Silva and Sissi, who greeted us with huge hugs.

Ecran meeting 2The point of the meeting turned out to be a workshop (meaning a working meeting, with the intent to produce results) to “identify stakeholders.” In other words, to make a big list of everyone who should know about the Park and about needing to write a Management Plan, and who should all be invited to take part in whatever part of the process interested them. Writing about this now seems so simple, but a huge part of the day was devoted to simply drumming into all of us the reality that if the Park, any park, is to be a success, it must involve everyone in creating the reality. Everyone should have a voice. That reality is not to be written by a few privileged – or even a few harried and underpaid – individuals, but that we must all join together in writing our own reality. And that not only is this how it should be, but that – if we were willing to step up to the task – this is how it would be done. So who could we think of?

Amazing stuff. None of us expected it. Credit must go to Sissi and Silva and Edit for so gracefully walking us through it, for taking an idea we didn’t even know existed, and converting it to a new reality within a few short hours.

Here there is another adventure that happened that day, to do with what we learned along the way about the Management Plans that had been drafted for the existing Protected Areas. But I won’t go into that here. Suffice to say that we were introduced that day to the Management Plans that had been written for the area, old-style. Under-budgeted (which is a generous exaggeration), in unrealistic time frames, the proposed Management Plans were admirable in form, but ridiculous in practicality. Puffed up by encouragement to participate, I believe everyone from that meeting spoke out against the plans. And a week or two later we learned something incredible. The Management Plans, based on our criticisms, had been rejected by the Ministry.

The Management Plans, based on our criticisms, had been rejected by the Ministry.

A simple statement, but you who have read this far, must be able to imagine how revolutionary this was for us. The people had been heard. The people had a voice.

So with all this information, with all this history, perhaps you can understand why it is that I feel that I should – that I must – begin writing this little history, of the process of drafting the future of Valbona. Why I am sitting here in my sloppy clothes, bathed in a glow of happiness.

Four days ago, the second meeting took place. Thanks to the work of the July meeting, we now knew who to invite. And invite them we did. (And notice, already I am writing “we” and not “they”). And we came. From Valbona, from Tirana, from Theth, from Austria and Germany and Brussels we all came, to sit together in one room, and hammer out a vision for the future of these treasures of nature and culture. These treasures which are ours, which are us.

So! I will write more about this. I will write more as it happens. I will write, so that you know, because you – whoever you are who are reading this – should also have a voice.

What you need to know right now is that the point of this second meeting was to make a vision for the future of the Park. To write a short paragraph which will be our reminder in times to come for what we, all of us, hope to achieve, and which will be our gift to the future, to our children, of what we dreamed for them. And it will be an expression of the seriousness with which we all take our responsibilities, responsibilities which we shoulder ourselves, and which we hope our children will be able to live up to. To guard all which is most precious and admirable in our world. For ourselves, and for all time to come.

The Albanian Alps National Park is an inspiring example of the harmonious coexistence of man and nature. As part of a larger cross-border park and the European network of Natura 2000 sites, the Albanian Alps Park is a leading model of conservation, sustainable management and successful educational and recreational use of our unique heritage of biodiversity, culture and landscape.

 

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