Monthly Archives: June 2014

Albanian weed

Albania has no natural resources to export.  Sixty years of communism destroyed most records of land ownership so when communism ended in 1991, every individual was given a small plot of land.  Farm plots are so very small that farming is still done by hand using trowels and scythes.  It is amazing to watch.  Oil rights have been bought for 30 years for a Canadian firm as have other mineral rights.

Albania does export a tremendous amount of marijuana.  In fact, Albania is assumed to be the primary supplier for all of Europe.  However, weed is still illegal here so no taxes are collected.  The town at the center of the business, Lazarat, is off-limits to Peace Corps volunteers  because Albania law enforcement can’t get with in five miles of the town limits.  Lazarat has its own security force

But now weed is legal in two states in the US and it is increasingly tolerated across Europe.  Weed could be the cash crop Albania has needed for centuries. 

Yesterday, the Albania militia attempted to breach the security around Lazarat.  Official outcomes have yet to be reported.


Day out at Vlore

Goofing along the Adriatic with Teresa

Fish puppet!!

This is the Koran, the endangered fish that Albanians eat while Macedonians work to protect. This puppet is bigger than the other animal puppets and it is glamorous fish-wise.
Imagine if the Koran became something Albanians revered instead of consumed? This fish could become a touristy schtick on T-shirts, fridge magnets, baby booties….this could be great fun.
Pogradec’s could rock the Koran!!!

Pogradec Puppet Theater

Pogradec has a puppet theater that has been in operation for 65 years. I love this stuff and am working to learn more about Albanian folklore.
Next week, Pogradec hosts an international puppet festival. No one seems to know anything about it? I have asked at the theater but I still don’t have the language skills to find out much. I ask elsewhere in town and the English speakers don’t know or don’t much care about puppets.
How can you not care about these gorgeous puppets?

If only I could delegate self-care…

So I like to think I have this self-care thing all figured out.  I have carefully watched my diet, made sure to get enough sleep, continue to meditate and exercise, all the things I know to do to take care of Bonnie.  I have even reduced my running to avoid injury.  My hamstring flared up recently and I carefully researched crossfit, making sure to pick out only those low impact exercises that would not aggravate either hamstrings or shoulders.  I did a minimal set one day and felt fine.  The next day, I did a second set.  Day three I could barely get out of bed.  My back was in near complete lockdown. I promptly moved into denial mode and got on a four hour furgon ride.  Returning home a couple of days later I was nearly immobile and went to bed.  Hours of contemplation later, I wondered if maybe I was a bit more stressed than I realized.   

Through an ibuprofen haze I remembered those magic words, “Did you stretch?”  And I thought of my standard retort.,  “Of course not.  I have always believed stretching would improve my fitness.  I am not going to do it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe it would make a difference”

So I stretched.  And I felt better.   Imagine my surprise.  Now if I can just not over do the stretching…..



Apparently having an American Peace Corps volunteer present lends credibility to the entire process. So my contribution is to be…decorative?

Territory reform

Albania is the geographic size of Western Washington. With a population of only 2.8 Million, Albania has fewer people than the population of the greater Seattle area. However, in that population of 2.8 million exists 372 government structures. This is like having 372 country seats in Western Washington. EU candidacy requires that Albania reform this structure. Current proposals reduce the number to only 70. The challenge will be that reducing government always means reducing jobs and unemployment in Albania already hovers around 50%.
Una Gruas, an NGO based in Pogradec is one of many NGOs providing oversight and civic transparency for this territory reform project.