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Monday, September 1, 2014

Enxhi Merpeza; Tirana, Albania; Twelfth Week

This week marks the end of our internship for two reasons: first of all, everyone is on vacation or just about to leave, and secondly the ministry is undergoing MAJOR construction (including the stable office space we had been assigned). Between coffee shops and our bedrooms, we finished up the translations given to us the week prior and also wrote some final emails and prepared some future email templates for the National Coastal Agency. We also, double-checked with them on the questionnaires regarding the beach clean ups that they will be handing out to beach goers and tourists.  

Last day at the Ministries!

It was emotional to say goodbye to the staff, the directors, the ministry and the people we had gotten the closest to. As hard as we tried to arrange drinks or dinner with our fellow colleagues, it just wasn’t possible between the European vacation schedules of August and the work schedules (everyone was trying to finish up duties before vaycay!). But we promised that if we were ever in the area again, we’d visit them and go out for dinner! The personnel in the ministry were a pleasure to work with alongside all the directors, our supervisor Mejvis, and the Minister herself! The fact that this internship was a learning experience, not only for us but for the Ministry itself as it positions itself for future interns, made us realize that this opportunity allotted to us by the University of Michigan is the beginning of a new chapter that begins with the creation of ties between U of M and Albania. We cannot wait for others to come out and experience all the beauty that lies in this tiny and culturally rich Balkan/ Eastern European nation!!

Enxhi Merpeza; Tirana, Albania; Eleventh Week

Ejona and myself were the only ones in the office for the first few days as Kledia was still nursing herself back to health. While she was away I was given a new job to create a new ad campaign for Albania’s coming surge of tourism…we don’t know if it will be used but I think the work I did on imaging—with the help of my roommates and colleagues, was pretty bombastic, especially for someone who doesn’t usually deal with graphic design. I learned something new about myself—I love designing graphics and layouts for pamphlets…new skill to add to the resume.

Next we were given a translation depicting historical and architectural merit for various cities of Albania—Kledia did the bulk of the translation while I was doing the ad, but we managed to get a good start on it. Still, it was very convoluted text. It was a different type of translation than the others because it was going to be given directly to people who were interested in investing in Albania—but the language was flowery and poetic—never fun to translate since words and expressions aren’t direct translations of one another. To top off the week, we were given an urgent document directly from the Prime Minister’s office and it was to be translated within the day…we worked diligently and without stopping to get it done. It was to be handed to a group of German officials upon the PM’s conference with the group…no other information was relayed to us. 

Forests and Beach... :)

Sunset in Velipoj

Even though I shouldn't have been provoking my seafood intolerance...


We went to Velipoj for the weekend, a beach city bordering Montenegro. It was too crowded for our taste, which made sense since we visited at the peak of peak season. Understanding the locals took more effort as they have much thicker dialects than the middle part of Albania and to the south. The layout of the beach of Velipoj was well thought out, but the crowd made it very unappealing to me—despite it’s mountain-beach beauty. It made me appreciate that each nation will have things you like and dislike, and both are necessary to not take for granted each journey that you make in that new place. It was lovely to see the northern part of Albania, and just as before. The mountains were astounding and then some (the north is renowned for its mountains and with good reason too!).

Enxhi Merpeza; Tirana, Albania; Tenth Week

After a consistent job well done with translations, the Ministry decided to give us all the important translations needed, whether it was for Portugal’s Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry’s monthly newsletter (presenting a new city each week) or drafting the law on tourism, we became the go to gals—the power team from Michigan! It felt to be appreciated for a job well done, and we also learned that if you do something right the first time…all the rest of the work would be landing on you lap as well. The good thing was that the week went by quickly because we were constantly moving along from one piece of translation or law draft to the next.

 It was most of the Harvard Team Members’ last week in Albania and we were invited to attend a conference that was held in collaboration through various ministries along with Harvard themselves. It was a chance for the Harvard team member from our Ministry to present the tourism package we had helped her do research for as well as laws and provisions we had helped the staff members of the ministry come up with. It was nice to see our work presented and to see how government collaborations work as well as how law drafts are presented.

Almost time for presentations!

Kledia and I sitting cheerfully, waiting!

The rest of the picutres are Dhermi, Palas, and Jale, Albania.

Me, Ariel (my friend from Italy), and Kledia!

Had to oversaturate it just for you to see the real colors of the Ionian Sea!

After the conference was over we took a weekend trip to Dhermi, down south located in the Albanian Riviera. One of my good friends from U of M who happens to be studying abroad in Italy, joined us on the trip so we provided all the pieces of the puzzle as any good intern of tourism should! We had a long weekend all thanks to the National holiday in observance on Monday, meaning all government offices were closed for Bajram/Eid. It was just our luck too, the weather held up BEAUTIFULLY. We ended up swimming in Palas, Albania…AKA THE MOST AMAZING/CLEAR turquoise water I’ve ever seen—part of the Ionian Sea. The only downside is I had the 24 hour stomach flu on the way back from the South to the Capital, Tirana, which was probably brought on through a combo of sea, sun, and seafood. It was no fun to have to nurse myself back to health—but that is just one of the many perks of traveling. Kledia didn’t have the same luck as me and was sick for far longer.

Enxhi Merpeza; Tirana, Albania; Ninth Week

This week we didn’t end up staying in Tirana for work. Instead we spent the majority of our week in Vlore—a coastal city where it is said the first Albanian flag was raised and one of the oldest municipalities in Albania. In comparison to Tirana, Vlora is calm and as a coastal city it is vibrant with people who don’t take themselves as seriously, but instead focus on enjoying the day ahead of them and diligently completing the tasks ahead of them, without the added stress level that Tirana brings.

Captain Enxhi ;)

I felt that I could slow down immensely in Vlora because it didn’t require me to be full-faced-masked with makeup and uphold my posture at all times like a young business professional should. First of all, this was an atypical work trip considering we’re usually in Tirana running promotional activities from a laptop and cellphone in hand in an office space at the Ministry. That being said, I cannot say one is better than the other—clearly each capitol city serves the function of being the head administrative site of any country on Earth—so Tirana is stuck with that duty. In addition, the Tirana daily living also requires a lot more energy out of a person because the activities are plentiful—even at night, the city doesn’t shut down completely (but it’s still not comparable to an NYC urban place that never sleeps).

We started off the week with more promotion materials for the National Coastal Agency then transitioned to working on coordinating with the French expedition ship Tara Mediterranean and their convention/visit to the Vlore port and University of Vlore “Ismail Qemali.” It turns out Tara is affiliated with the University of Michigan and our biology department and we’re one of the only Universities that funds them on their expeditions, which was a huge surprise to us, but also to be expected given the reputation of our science department.

With Ejona!

Look how beautiful the port is, add the mountains and it's magnificent!

Along with Tara Mediterranean’s crew we ended up coordinating 3 orphanage trips from Durres, Tirana and Saranda (called Jetimore in Albanian). We coordinated activities for the children to do and we figured that the thee of us would each host a group onboard Tara and translate to them from English to Albanian as the crew and scientists explained their expeditions to us. Many of the acitivies, besides for the visit onboard, didn’t come to fruition, but all is to be expected since weather delays and time constraints prove to be problematic in organizing functions. Regardless, the kids thoroughly enjoyed the visit onboard as well as being able to try out some of the sails and expedition gear. Tara is an artic ship that is made for extreme polar conditions, and its current Mediterranean sails are atypical of what its cabin makeup was designed to withhold—so it gets quite hot in the cabin!

After we had coordinated with the Tara expedition ship, we were able to enjoy our weekend that we had off and we fancied the beautiful Adriatic/Ionian Seas and the Sandy/Rocky combo of the two that the Vlora beaches offer!

Tara Mediterranean on the Left side!

Enxhi Merpeza; Tirana, Albania; Eighth Week

This week we were swamped with work from translations, to promotional activities, to emails-galore (I think I sent 30 content-based emails in one day on Monday). Needless to say it was productivity to the max. I learned a lot about how to relay messages via email etc. We had helped with an ad campaign for the National Coastal Agency and we had to relay it to various media sources, including the US embassy of Tirana, which featured it on its cover page of its newsletter, Peace Corps Albania, and of course the Ministry’s own media outlets. The poster is promoting the new volunteer camps that are being assembled around the coastline, 10 different sites, to get volunteers that would like to assist in the clean up of the beaches. In return they’d get all accommodations paid for, for as long as they volunteer.

At the end of the week we visited the UNESCO protected city of Berat, most famous for its Castle and Mount Tomor, a very large mountain range that is tied with many a Greek myth. Berat is a 2000+ year old city with lovely architecture and rich history. Its cobblestone streets add to the antiquity and authenticity. The homes of ancient Berat—Ottoman styled—give it the name “The city of 1000 windows”. The ambience of the city was peaceful and traditional, the locals were very lovely and the tourists were wide-eyed with amazement, as were we! The top of the castle was beautiful and HUGE, as well as the city views from atop the mountain. The castle is at the very top of the mountain and we walked up…SO TIRING! But definitely a must see if you ever get to go to Albania.