First and foremost, I'll be working with the Ministry of Urban Development and Tourism hoping to help out in researching on how to better develop the tourist sector. The first week I decided to spend with family (half the time) and getting better acquainted with the city gird of Tirana--the capital city of Albania where I was raised until the age of 5--as well as my co-workers and colleagues (the other half). I cannot say I remember anything about this city and so for me, it might as well be a completely different city that I have never lived in before.
[Selfies with Nena Reja (Grandma Reja--she's a relative of mine from my father's village of Peza)]
I happen to be Albanian and so the culture isn't a total shock--still, there are things that strike me about the city scene and personal interactions since I consider myself just as American as I do Albanian, considering I've lived in the US for 16 years and have not returned to my native land until now. So for me, this experience to develop the sector of tourism isn't a conflict of interest by any means, but more so an educational experience that is heightened by my personal understanding of the heritage and as an Albanian citizen who resides outside of Albania. I have more insight into the Albanian mentality and how work habits differ here than in America--they're more laid back and more personable--or even hospitality for that matter, which happens to be a big part of the tourist sector. The people often talk over each other in office settings and what sounds like shouting is just a typical argument amongst colleagues. But, I cannot say that I wasn't already aware of this--other countries = different ways of settling debates or even speaking--and tone might throw off those who do not understand Albanian.
[ "Piramida" a communist building from Enver Hoxha's time (the former dictator)--a landmark that is under consideration for demolition. I took a picture in front of it on the first day of work. An old lady walked by and proceeded to yell at me about how foolish it was of me to take a photo in front of communist remnants and now graffitied buildings--mind you I used to climb this pyramid structure only 16 years prior, as a child in Tirana. ]
I will be doing my best to offer the Ministry judgement from an American perspective and since I am practically a tourist here due to my limited knowledge of the landscape and infrastructure, as well as my prolonged detachment from the nation. I am just now furthering my understanding on the history of the nation as it pertains to tourism and historical attractions, museums, national sites, geography, etc. In the ministry thus far I have been working with touristic analysis and statistics and that will allow me to further inquire on the quantitative side of tourism--aiding profoundly in my travel experiences to key touristic cities that will allot for qualitative understandings. For now I've been reading the more recent Albanian governmental reports and drafts on tourism and doing my best to understand the legislation in place versus the legislation needed to further tourism development in Albania. In addition, I shall be translating Albanian text into English when need be--though most of the staff does understand English to variant degrees.
Right outside the Ministry building on day #2 of work!