Monday, May 25, 2009

Where is Illyria?

Oh, yeah, that's right, it's Albania . . .

This weekend I went to a nearby town (by nearby I mean only 5 hours away!) to see a performance of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, directed by my friend Sarah. They adapted the language quite a bit (honestly now, Shakespeare is usually difficult to understand even for most native English speakers), but I think that they did a great job with the adaptation in making it still sound formal and Old-Englishy but understandable. The kids did a great a job- I was sooooooooo impressed with their acting and comedy as well as their memorization (now tell me, could you do a two hour play in a foreign language? No? Neither could I!). They used physical comedy well, were generally easy to understand and seemed really comfortable in their roles. I really have to give a shout out to Sarah because she has done great work with these kids. I saw some of the same kids perform A Christmas Carol last fall and although that was also a good show, I have to say that there was great improvement in this production. It was easier to understand, funnier and better acted.

So if you didn't remember (been a while since you read Shakespeare . . . ) Twelfth Night takes place on the mysterious shores of Illyria when a ship wreck washes up on shore. And just in case you didn't know, the mysterious shores of Illyria are now the (not so mysterious) shores of Albania (and also parts of Croatia and Montenegro). Albanians in general are really proud of their Illyirian heritage, especially that the Albanian language is supposedly the last of the Illyrian tongues (and why the Albanian language is different from all the other languages surrounding it- not Slav, not Latin, not Greek, but Illyrian!). The name that most of us use when referring to this country (Albania) was actually the name of an Illyrian tribe that lived here (the Albanians themselves call the country Shqipëria, the land of the Eagles). Anyway, so the costumes for the show were traditional Albanian clothing (kostuma populore), which, when you think about it are probably very accurate as far as period clothing goes- it is much more likely that the Illyrians (at any point in history) would be wearing traditional Albanian clothes than they would be wearing Victorian English clothing . . .

One of the best parts of the show was a guest appearance of another PCV, Dan. He had a non-speaking background role, but for the PCVs in the audience he was a dose of extra comedy in an already funny show. First, seeing any American in Albanian garb can get a chuckle, but he was also playing a çiftelia, prancing around stage during scene changes and making eyes at the high school girls . . . At the end of the show, the students did a special presentation for Dan as he is leaving in a few weeks. Many of them were also on the MUN team that he ran and he took some of them last year to a theatre camp in Texas with another PCV. Their words about his effect on their lives teared up almost everyone in the audience.

Anyway, great job Dan and Sarah and the Rreshen Theatre Company!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

This feels like when my seniors graduated . . .

When I was a freshmen in high school, I was adopted by some seniors. They had known my sister and they must have thought I was cute or something (like a kitten) and so they allowed me to follow them around for the year. I had friends in my own grade too, but particularly that year, I hung out mostly with older kids. When it came time for graduation, I nearly had a breakdown. I mean, the people I had gotten closest too in that year (and remember high school is hard) were all of a sudden leaving, and many of them were going far away to scary places like California and Colorado Springs. I was afraid that I would never see them again! Of course, that didn't happen. I e-mailed with some of them regularly, hung out with them when they came home for holidays and when most of them moved back to Denver at some point after college, we became close again. In fact, a few of these kids are still some of my closest friends more than 10 years later.

Right now, the volunteers from Group 10 are getting ready to leave. This has a big impact on me since my sitemate (read platonic husband) is in this group. I was worried when I first moved here that Kenji and I would not get along. Of course this didn't happen and we have become great friends. I'm really excited about having a new sitemate (Dylan, I'm sure you'll hear about him soon) but I'm sad that Kenji is going to be leaving. And just like at the end of high school, this time is full of goodbyes, parties and questions (that I'm sure they are tired of answering) about what will come next. Most of the group is doing some sort of traveling before eventually ending up back in the states, although a few are either staying here and looking for jobs or going to some other far off land. The first of them left last week (I miss you JK!) and there is a big group leaving this weekend. Kenji won't leave until the middle of June, but that seems to be coming faster every day.

The difference between when my seniors graduated and the group leaving now is that my seniors (for the most part) all ended up back in Denver for a time (some of them went off again for grad school or jobs), but with this group there is a good chance that they will be far flung forever. This is not a bad thing really, it just means I will have lots of people to visit in the future . . .

Anyway, good luck to all of G10 on your next big adventure wherever that may take you and I hope our paths cross again someday . . .

Monday, May 11, 2009

Why haven't you visited me yet?

It turns out that Albania is the new, hip and cool place to take a vacation. At least according to all these guys:

The Guardian
National Geographic
The Daily Camera (Yes, the one in Boulder. Actually from their community blog, but cool nonetheless!)
Lonely Planet Slide Show
Reuters (not really on tourism, but on general development)
The Independent
South Eastern European Times

So seriously- why haven't you visited me yet? There is only so much time left when you can say "I visited Albania before it was cool to visit Albania" and actually be telling the truth! You may even be too late! I have a couch and will travel . . .

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

In lew of anything real today I am going to point you in the direction of the blog of an American guy that has been living in Albania off and on for the past 9 years. He is really funny and has some great insight on Albanian culture. A few key posts:

On women and men: Beauty and the Beast

On tourism: Tourist Boom?

On religion: Life in a Muslim Country

On traffic: A Dance with the Devil and on roads: Highways of Death

On money: Who wants to be a millionaire?

On superstition: Very superstitious

He also has quite a few good pics of the country and links to lots of articles about the increased appeal of Albanian tourism. Anyway . . .